Before you can be met with bountiful hauls of dank buds, there are several stages of cannabis growing that take precedence. Unless you can successfully germinate cannabis seeds, you will not have a plant to harvest.
Germination is the process in which a new plant begins to grow from a seed. Also referred to as “popping”, germination is the very first step in starting your cannabis garden.
Picking out good quality seeds
Cannabis seeds can be acquired from an array of sources but most commonly they are purchased online. There are many different online seed vendors so it is important to find a reputable one.
Regardless of where you get your seeds from, it is best to give them a delicate inspection before planting. Most of the time, seeds will germinate; however, poor-quality seeds will produce a weaker plant. Unfortunately, that is something you will not find out until well into the vegetative and flowering stages.
When acquiring seeds, you want to make sure they are matured and that they appear dark brown with lighter accents and a hard feel. You do not want a seed that feels fresh and looks green, which indicates that the seed has not reached full maturity.
Once you have your cannabis seeds, make sure you have the space necessary to allow your plants to grow and be healthy.
Preparing to germinate cannabis seeds
Germination itself is a crucial aspect of cannabis cultivation. The seed germination process is the foundation of every cannabis plant, and steps can be taken to boost successful popping. For example, some cultivators improve germination attempts by soaking seeds in 1 percent hydrogen peroxide or a compost tea for 12 hours beforehand to kill any dangerous pests.
The environment in which seeds germinate also plays a role in the outcome. There are many methods of germination, but they will all require:
- Moisture to help the seed expand and break through its shell.
- Minimal interference so that the delicate structures are not accidentally broken.
- Temperatures that mimic springtime (between 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit).
With the presence of moisture, a single root will take shape before slowly developing into the cannabis plant we know and love. In the right conditions, seeds will begin to develop within 12-36 hours of moisture being introduced to them.
Timescales can vary, as it all depends on how ideal your germination environment is. Even the worst grower could make a seed germinate, but it may take a few weeks and, of course, increases the risk of a weaker plant.
How to germinate seeds in soil
Planting your seeds in the soil that you intend to grow in is the most common and often, most successful method of germinating cannabis seeds. This method is perfect for ensuring young seeds have minimal interference since the fragile root is protected by the soil. It is also the most natural way for plants to grow.
When using soil, first make sure you use the right type. Use mildly fertilized potting soil or a seed starter. It should have a pH of approximately 6. This type of soil will have spores and minerals that help young weed plants thrive. Be sure not to add any nutrients at this stage; potting soil has enough nutrients for at least the first two weeks of the plant’s life. If you add any more nutrients, you risk killing your seedlings due to a nutrient overdose.
Place the soil in a small pot and use your finger or a pencil to push a small hole in the dirt, a little more than half an inch deep. Insert the seed into the hole and bury it with soil. From this point on, do not touch your seed. The young plant is fragile and knows how to position itself in the soil bed.
If you have already germinated, the seed will have a root. Place the root facing downward.
Gently water the soil with a spray bottle and situate your pots under a fluorescent lamp. Keep seeds away from the windowsill, as the temperature is too volatile for germination. In general, you want to keep the temperature of the soil around 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
Monitor your soil every day and keep it moist. Within 4-7 days, you should see tiny stems sprouting from the soil.
When the seedling stems reach 2-4 inches in height, it is time to transplant your cannabis into larger pots with more room for roots to spread down and out. After doing this, you have successfully germinated your cannabis seeds into proper, young plants.
How to germinate seeds in water
You can also germinate your seeds by placing them in water. It is slightly faster than the soil method, but you need to adjust your environmental factors accordingly. Remember, successfully germinating seeds requires a perfect balance of ideal growing conditions. When germinating in water, seeds need only 24-48 hours to pop their stems, though cultivators can keep them soaking for up to a week as needed. Water germination is faster because the seed gets all the moisture it needs immediately, and the shell softens and cracks more easily after soaking.
To employ water germination, fill a glass with tap water and let it sit until it reaches room temperature or around 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Add 2-3 plant seeds per cup and allow them to sit, watching for any changes. Check the temperature of the water every couple of days, making sure it stays around 68 degrees.
The seeds should start sprouting in about 2 days, though older seeds can take up to a week to sprout. You can remove them from the water and place them in the soil at any point once they have sprouted. Once the roots are about 5 millimeters long, they need to be planted.
The downside of water germination is that once they have popped, you will need to maneuver them into their growing medium manually. This is a delicate process, as germinating seeds are extra fragile, and any harm risks the development of your plants. Make sure to place the seed roots downward in the soil when you transfer to a pot.
How to germinate seeds using paper towels
The paper towel method is also a common way cultivators pop their seeds. Some even use this method with cotton pads instead of paper towels, but the necessary steps are the same.
To germinate seeds this way, lay one paper towel on top of a countertop, place a few seeds, and cover them with a second paper towel.
Use a spray bottle to moisten the paper towels and then store the cushioned seeds between two plates, under a face-down bowl, or gently place them in a plastic bag. Maintain a temperature of about 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit, keeping the paper towel wrapped seeds in the dark and away from a windowsill. In 2-5 days, the seeds will pop inside the paper towel sandwich and emit tiny roots, ready to plant when they reach about 5 millimeters in length.
Like the water method, germinating with the paper towel method also has its risks, as the fragile seedlings can be damaged during the potting process. The tiny roots can also get tangled in the paper towels, so make sure to move the seeds to potting soil before roots grow too long. Use your hands or tweezers to gently remove each seed from the paper towels and place them in a prepared growing medium.
How to germinate with starter cubes and seedling plugs
A more innovative way to germinate seeds is to use specifically-made starter cubes and seedling plugs. These plugs make cannabis germination easy. You simply place the seed in the cube or plug, add water as directed, and seedlings automatically get the perfect conditions for germination. This is one of the easiest germination methods and does not leave a lot of room for error.
Each cube or plug already has a hole specifically for you to place your seed. Just stick your seed into the precut hole and pinch the top closed a bit with your fingers. Do not worry, you cannot mess this part up. As long as the seed makes it in there, you should be good.