Farm. Food. Life. Hi Nico, Quick question: Should I germinate my seeds before planting? If so, what's the best way to do it? Thanks, Cori W. Hi Cori, thank you for writing Planting germinated cannabis seeds is the method least taxing to your nerves. Click to read about how to plant germinated weed seeds like a pro!
How to Grow Cannabis In Your Garden
With weed well on its way to being legal, it’s high time we talk about how to grow the stuff in your garden.
With weed well on its way to being legal, it’s high time we talk about how to grow the stuff in your garden.
The federal government still considers it a crime to grow or possess cannabis, but 30 states have now legalized it to varying degrees. Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska, Nevada, Colorado, Maine, and Massachusetts have decriminalized weed for recreational use, and similar legislation is under consideration elsewhere. Pardon the pun, but it is high time we talk about how to grow the stuff.
The old-fashioned way – outdoors – is easiest. The trend towards indoor cultivation is more a product of, one, a desire to hide what you’re doing (no longer necessary in many locales); and two, to exert total control over growing conditions for the sake of producing enormous buds with maximum market value. But if your sole goal is just to have a bit of decent weed around to occasionally enjoy, you may as well plant it alongside your zucchini and basil.
Growing a successful cannabis crop is a bit more complicated than your average vegetable, but not much. Before you get carried away, familiarize yourself with your local laws – NORML provides a comprehensive list here . Horticulturally speaking, here’s what you need to know.
Plenty of mail-order firms have sprung up to fill the demand for legal plant material. There are thousands of varieties, with all the trippy descriptions you would expect. If you want a cerebral high and non-skunky citrus flavor, there is a breed for that; if you want something that is good for anxiety, low in THC, and grows less than 3 feet tall, you can find that too.
Most importantly, purchase seeds for varieties suited to outdoor conditions, rather than those bred for indoor grow operations. Any reputable supplier will specify that information in their varietal listings. Most will also note mold-resistant varieties, which are a wise choice in humid regions, as well as those with a “short flowering period,” an important consideration in northerly latitudes (this is akin to the “days to maturity” listed on packets of vegetable seed).
Understanding Male and Female Plants
Cannabis is one of many species in the plant kingdom that produce male and female flowers on separate plants. Females produce fat flower “buds” rich in psychoactive compounds, while male plants produce spindly little flowers that aren’t worth smoking (or however you choose to partake).
When you plant cannabis seeds, you typically end up with about half male plants and half female plants. It is imperative to get rid of the males before the plants begin to flower, as the male pollen will result in female buds that are full of seeds, which is no good. It’s not that hard to determine the sex of cannabis seedlings – you can find instructions here – and cull the males.
But it can be even easier! How? Look for varieties labeled “feminized.” These are seeds that have been bred to produce only female plants and are highly recommended for novice cannabis gardeners.
Another option is to purchase “clones,” which are rooted cuttings of female plants. This is essentially like buying vegetable seedlings, rather than seeds, which saves you the time and effort required for germination, along with the trouble of weeding out the males.
Weed seeds require no special treatment, though they’ll germinate faster if you soak them in water for a few days before planting. As with tomatoes and other heat-loving vegetables, you’re better off starting the seed indoors in a sunny window in early spring, and then transplanting the seedlings outdoors once all danger of frost has passed.
To do well, cannabis plants require a minimum of six hours of direct sun each day and excellent drainage. They’ll do fine in a typical raised bed like you’d use for vegetables, though five-gallon pots filled with potting soil also work well for pot (hard to resist the punny wordplay!). Good air circulation is critical for preventing fungal diseases, so space the plants at least six feet apart (closer is ok for dwarf varieties) to ensure that they don’t resemble a dense hedge by the end of summer.
Cannabis plants love their nutrients, so plan to enrich the beds with composted manure, ideally at least one month prior to planting, if not the previous fall. Spread a minimum of 2 inches of compost over the planting area and work it into the soil. If planting in pots, you can rely on fertilizer, rather than compost.
Feeding and Watering
This crop is also a thirsty one, so be sure to irrigate whenever the surface of the soil becomes dry. Adding a layer of mulch once the plants are knee-high will cut back on the loss of soil moisture through evaporation and help to prevent other “weeds” from getting established in your weed planting.
If your beds are sufficiently rich, fertilizer is not required, though it will lead to better results (it’s a must for potted plants). Apply a high-nitrogen fertilizer every three weeks until mid-summer, as this will stimulate abundant vegetative growth. Then switch to one higher in phosphorus to stimulate dense and abundant flowers (buds).
Depending on the variety, outdoor plants can grow 12 feet or more in height. Most growers prune them, which makes the plants easier to manage and results in far more buds. Professional growers have perfected pruning to a fine art for the sake of maximizing yield, but for the casual grower is sufficient to cut back the most vigorous shoots from time to time. Simply clip off the outer 30 percent of each major shoot every few weeks.
Pruning encourages a bushier form (rather than a tall, spindly plant) by stimulating the growth of numerous small side shoots, each of which will produce additional buds. Just be sure to stop pruning by mid-summer, so as not to interfere with flower production.
Buds will begin to form in late summer and should be ready for harvest during the month of October. You’ll know they are ready when the flower pistils – those wispy hairs that emanate from the buds – turn from white to reddish-brown.
Cut the buds from the plants, leaving 6 or 8 inches of stem below each one, and trim off all the leaves. Hang them from their stems to dry in a warm, shaded place for about a week. The weed is now ready to use. Trim the buds from the stem and store in a glass jar.
Seed Germination & Planting
Hi Cori, thank you for writing us! Your question is pretty simple to answer, but sometimes not so simple to do! In short, yes, most growers tend to germinate seeds before planting them into their grow medium of choice.
To be clear, however, germination of seeds is not necessary prior to planting in medium. You can sow seeds directly into the medium and they will also germinate there, but not always with the same success rate. The reason growers choose to germinate outside the grow medium is because it is easier to control the conditions surrounding the seeds. This leads to the second part of your question, which is the best-case practices for germinating seeds – this leads to the harder answers.
There are many different ways to germinate seeds. Probably the best methods involve keeping the practice as natural as possible. The simplest methods use water, warmth and darkness – all conditions the seed would naturally encounter underground. Many folks simply lay some seeds down on a paper towel on a flat plate, cover them with another paper towel, then moisten the paper and place the plate in a warm dark place. A popular hiding spot has always been on top of the refrigerator, while more professional growers employ heat mats that lie flat beneath seedling/ clone trays. Heat mats are an excellent and inexpensive aid for seed germination. Whatever you decide, the temperature should be 10-20 degrees above room temperature, or range between 78 – 90F.
Of course, there are always the tricky strains or the old seeds that are quite fussy and refuse to pop. These seeds require a bit more attention and creativity. Some people prefer to soak the seeds for a short period before placing them in a moist and warm place for germinating. Some people go as far as to use mild chemical solutions to help soften the shell and prod the seeds. Other growers will even use very sharp and sterile razors to carefully slice seed shells or tips to help induce germination. These practices are all risky and should only be used as a last resort.
Once a seed cracks open, the taproot appears. This taproot will become the plants primary root from which all other roots will grow. Technically, the seed is germinated once you can see the white of the taproot. Some grows prefer to wait until the taproot is 1-2 cm long before planting the germinated seed into a medium. Once you are ready to do so, be sure to place the seed about a half-inch below the surface of the medium with the taproot point downward and the seed shell on top. Be sure there is some space for the seed shell to push upwards through the medium, towards the light. At this point, the very young seedling still needs moisture, warmth and a bit of light now to direct its growth in the right direction. The seedling will likely be in this medium and container for a few more weeks before the seedling is ready to be transplanted into a larger container for vegetation.
Thanks for reading everyone and remember: Grow… And help the world grow, too!
Planting Germinated Cannabis Seeds The Right Way
Planting germinated cannabis seeds means making them crack and show the taproot between paper towels or in a similar setup, and then gently transferring them into the medium. Knowing your seeds are viable and alive gives you the peace of mind to patiently wait for the sprouts.
It’s possible to plant pot seeds the way nature intended: straight into the medium. However, planting germinated cannabis seeds is the method least taxing to your nerves and that gives you maximum control.
Planting Germinated Cannabis Seeds: Why And When?
For experienced growers, germinating marijuana seeds is something done almost on cruise control. However, first-timers may find this a nerve-wracking ordeal. They start to panic and make all kinds of mistakes. Nonetheless, germinating cannabis seeds before planting them has its benefits.
Why Germinate Seeds Before Planting Them?
Planting marijuana seeds after germination, not before it, is the least traumatic germination method not only for the grower, but also for the plant. When the seed is awakening, the conditions should be just right. Otherwise, you can run into problems:
- The medium can be made too moist, and this can lead to damping off and similar issues.
- After a couple of days, the soil begins to dry out, starting from the surface. If the seed hasn’t cracked by this time, it won’t crack at all due to the lack of moisture.
- If you plant the seed too deep, it can suffocate, especially if the soil is soaked with water.
- Some seeds take longer to sprout. Inexperienced growers lose their patience and begin to excavate, damaging the seed in the process.
Because of all this, it’s always safer to germinate your seeds first and then put them in the ground.
Best Soil For Growing Weed
When To Plant Germinated Marijuana Seeds
Suppose you’ve placed weed seeds between moist paper towels. The seeds may crack and show taproots after only 12 hours, but this usually takes longer – typically, a day or two.
You don’t have to rush and plant them as soon as you see that your seeds are alive and well. Provide a few extra hours for the taproot to become a bit longer – a half-inch (about 1cm) is okay, although more than an inch (2.5cm) is too much and should be avoided.
Planting Germinated Cannabis Seeds Step By Step
The whole process is actually very straightforward, quick, and seamless, but for your convenience, we’ve broken it down into separate steps.