With recreational marijuana initiatives on the ballots of 8 more states this November and a recent 9th circuit appeals ruling against the Fed’s ability to prosecute medical marijuana cases against defendants in compliance with state laws, there has never been a safer time to grow weed. Big tobacco companies have had marijuana cigarette brand names trademarked since the 1960’s but regardless of what happens post-legalization, there will always be a market for high quality cannabis; and what better way to ensure quality than to grow your own? In this article, we’ll take a look at the first and most critical stage of growing marijuana— germination of seeds.
So you’ve decided to grow your own bud but you’re lucky enough to have options— you can get some seeds or you pick up some clones. Which should you choose?
While clones are a convenient way to skip the first few weeks of growth and not worry about sexing (males are usually undesirable), they don’t exhibit the same vigorous growth or fruiting of a plant grown from seed. Additionally, clones have the genetic age of the plant they were cut from and can often be older and more susceptible to disease and undesirable mutations (as well as hermaphroditism).
Growing from seed is not only incredibly easy but plants grown from seed exhibit faster, more vigorous growth and a greater tolerance for the conditions they’re grown in (particularly important if you grow outdoors in hot, dry areas). While clones are often susceptible to “shock” under changing conditions, seed-grown plants rarely exhibit such a slowdown in growth thanks to more robust cell structure in the roots— that’s why we recommend all connoisseurs and especially newbies grow from seed! Cloning is really a technique to be used in large-scale production, not for the “private reserve.”
Cannabis seeds come in a truly astounding number of sizes and colors
Three Easy Methods
When it comes to germinating seeds there are three techniques that almost everyone uses; the traditional method, the paper towel method, and the cup method. First you need check the viability of your seeds— the most reliable way to test viability of a seed before planting is to squeeze it between your thumb and forefinger. If it cracks, the seed was probably not going to germinate, if it doesn’t crack under the pressure then you likely have a viable seed! Cannabis seeds come in a truly astounding number of sizes and colors, some with markings and some without, so it’s important to use the “squeeze test” and not rely on looks alone! Once you’ve separated viable seeds from non-viable seeds, you’re ready to germinate.
The Traditional Method
The traditional method is, as you might have expected, just to plant the seed in some moist, high quality organic soil about 1/4” to 1/2” deep. If you keep the soil moist and in a warm place (perhaps on a windowsill), seedlings are likely to pop up after 3-5 days! Some seeds can take a little longer, especially if they’ve been sitting around for a few years (we’ll cover a few tricks for those at the end of this article).
The Paper Towel Method
A favorite among pot growers for decades, the paper towel method allows you to see the taproot pop out of the seed before you put it in your growing medium. This is ideal if you intend to use a soilless medium like rock wool cubes where you need the taproot to point downwards. Simply fold your seeds inside a paper towel so it’s wrapped around them like a pouch and then wet the paper towel with some tap water. Allow the excess water to drain from the towel (you should be able to see your seeds wrapped inside) and then place the paper towel and seeds inside a ziplock bag to prevent evaporation. Check every 24 hours for a taproot and then remove any seeds that pop as soon as possible to prevent the roots from gripping on to the paper towel (if they do don’t worry, just remove the seed with the little bit of paper towel attached and plant that. Do NOT try to rip the seed off the paper towel as that can damage your fragile taproot!). Remember to be especially carefully of the taproot, avoid touching it with your fingers and make sure it faces down when you plant it so the seed doesn’t spend energy flipping itself over!
The Cup Method
Perhaps the easiest of all germination methods; simply drop seeds in a cup of water and cover. If left undisturbed, seeds will float on top of the water and sprout a taproot in 24-72 hours. If left longer, roots will grow downward without any negative effects (which is what makes this easier than the paper towel method). The one thing to be careful of is that after 24 hours seeds can sink and drown if disturbed too much. Again, once the taproot appears, plant in the desired medium with the root facing down.
Old, Stubborn Seeds
While almost all marijuana strains germinate within two weeks (unlike some of the hottest peppers which can take a month), some older seeds need a little more love to get them to germinate. A 24 hour water soak is almost always beneficial to germination of cannabis seeds and sometimes a light sanding of the outer shell— called “scarification”— can help water penetrate the husk to reach the germ in the seed. Some people choose to put their seeds in the freezer for a few days prior to germination to simulate winter and bring seeds out of dormancy. Regardless, if its been three weeks and you aren’t seeing a root or any swelling within the seeds, its time to throw in the towel and start over!
You Can Do It!
Hopefully this post will help some of you curious dabbers break into the wonderful world of home growing! After all, you can’t blast live resin without some fresh frozen buds… and what better way to get some fresh buds than to pick ‘em yourself? Stay tuned for more growing tips and keep dabbin’