Seed to sprout

How to germinate your babies and start your garden growing.

You may find a good viable seed in your bag, but seeds acquired in this manner are likely to have been produced by hermaphrodites, and carry that trait.
Quality seeds may be purchased over the counter in Amsterdam and Canada. They can also be purchased from a number of seed companies in Amsterdam and Canada via mail order. One only has to look at the front of this magazine to see the rich and varied selection of different seed strains which Marc Emery and others sell through mail-order. Emery?s catalog also lists some basic security techniques to follow when ordering seeds. This is good advice to follow regardless of which company you might purchase from.

red devilred devilMarijuana seeds come in a variety of sizes and colors. They vary in size, from a range of about 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch. Their shapes are round to slightly oblong. Seeds range in color from brown to grey to almost black. Some seeds are plain while others have irregular shaped, different colored lines, such as "lightning" or "tiger" stripes.

A good sign that a seed is viable and healthy will be the fresh "waxy" sheen it displays on its outer coat. A white or light green colored seed is usually the sign of an immature seed. If a seed is black or dark brown and has a dull "non-waxy" appearance, the seed may be dead.

twilighttwilightMake a quick physical examination of each seed with the use of a magnifying glass, checking for cracks, molds and other imperfections, to eliminate any "bad seeds."
Germination

Regardless of the growing method you will ultimately use, the first thing you will need to do is to germinate your seeds. There are a few standard ways this is done.

sheherazadesheherazadePaper towels

One common and easy way to germinate seeds is to place the seeds in between the layers of a wet paper towel or a cloth such as a clean washrag. Tap water can work fine, but it is better to use store-bought distilled water for all stages of the germination process.

The damp, but not soaked, paper towel or washcloth is placed into a suitably sized plastic bag or simply covered with plastic wrap, and then placed onto a glass plate and kept in a warm, dark place.

bubblegumbubblegumThe temperature should be maintained between 80-90?F (27-32?C). Horticultural heating pads are excellent for this, however when using paper towels and washcloths you must check every day to make sure they do not dry out. Your germination medium should never dry out, as this will kill the fragile embryonic main root. However, also be sure to not over water. The seeds can drown if there is standing water in the bag or plate. The key words here are "constantly moist."

It is a good idea to place some type of B1 additive in the water used to germinate the seeds. There are a number of types of this vitamin supplement sold commercially. There is Ortho Up-Start, Super Thrive, Hormex, Power-thrive and a number of other additives which have this vitamin supplement. The additive should only be placed in the water the first time you moisten the towel, and should not be added with each subsequent watering.

white russianwhite russianThe moisture content of the towel must be checked regularly. It usually takes anywhere from three to twelve days for most seeds to germinate. Be patient, as some seeds can take even longer to sprout.

As the moisture enters the softened shell, the embryo within begins to grow and swell. Once the shell has broken open, a single embryonic root will appear. Next the first rounded set of leaves will emerge and throw off the split shell. Once this happens you are ready to carefully move and transplant the tiny sprouts into the medium of choice. This should be done carefully as not to damage the fragile sprouts.

stonehengestonehengeSoil

Some people prefer to germinate their seeds in the same medium in which the mature plant will be grown. However, I would not suggest germinating seeds directly in outdoor soil, even if the final destination of the plants will be outside. Your precious seeds will have a higher survival rate and be healthier if
germinated indoors.

afghani/kushafghani/kushThere are many different soil mixtures which facilitate seed germination. One of the best I have found starts with a gallon each of potting soil and coarse horticultural perlite. To this mix I add two heaping tablespoons of horticultural hydrated lime. The lime helps to balance the pH and will add secondary nutrients like calcium and magnesium. I also like to add a half gallon of some other nitrogen-bearing organic, such as pasteurized cow manure, pasteurized worm castings, or pasteurized bat guano. The organic ingredients will supply nutrients and their fiber will help texture the man-made soil.

white widowwhite widowThe materials are mixed together thoroughly. A mask should be worn whenever these ingredients are mixed. If they are mixed indoors, a fan blowing over the work area and out a window or door will be helpful. If the materials are moistened with the distilled water before mixing they will produce less dust as you work.

The pH of any medium should be kept between pH 6 (slightly alkaline) and pH 8 (slightly acid), or as close to the marijuana?s ideal pH of 7. This is a neutral pH ? it means your pH is perfectly balanced. A hand held pH meter will give an accurate reading of most mediums you will use. Commercial soils are usually never alkaline, if anything they are closer to neutral or acid. This means that you may sometimes find that your pH is slightly higher than it should be. If this is the case, put a tablespoon of horticultural hydrated lime into a gallon of water, and pour it over the medium. The next day check the pH and see how it has changed. Add more solution if needed, and check the pH of your medium every few days.

carefully adding soil to seed potscarefully adding soil to seed potsSeeds germinated in soil should be germinated in smaller two to three inch containers. The most common of these are the peat moss cups or plastic cups. The soil mixture is placed in the cup almost to the top. The mixture is lightly pressed into the cup. The medium should be watered until water drips out the bottom of the container. If peat moss cups are used, the peat cup should be moistened with tepid water.

I like to place the cups in 12 inch x 24 inch germinating trays or flats. Each flat will hold a certain amount of containers. The flats will help the containers retain heat, and can be placed directly on top of heating pads. These trays are also sold with plastic see-through tops, which will create a greenhouse atmosphere and raise the humidity.

Non-heated plastic cups will hold heat better than non-heated peat moss cups. The evaporation of moisture from the peat moss will lower the temperature of the sides of the peat cups. For this reason either a heating pad or some other assurance of temperature control should be used. The seedlings require an 80-90?F (27-32?C) ambient temperature.

A small device such as a chopstick is used to make a hole approximately 1/2 inch deep in the center of the pre-moistened medium. The seed is placed in the hole, pointed end down. Cover the seed with soil using your finger. The container of medium is then lightly watered with a solution of a vitamin B1 supplement.

seedlings sprouting in lava rockseedlings sprouting in lava rockRockwool and others

Some growers will want to germinate their seeds in rockwool cubes, coconut fiber cubes, lava rock or Oasis felt-type cubes. This is easily done. These items are all porous materials, which have the ability to hold water for a long period of time.

Rockwool is a heated and spun material, which has some environmental concerns. Rockwool cubes should be pH balanced before use. Coconut fiber will biodegrade faster than rockwool. The Oasis cubes are made of a pH neutral, porous felt-type material, and are one of my favorite mediums for germination. They may be purchased as 12 inch x 24 inch slabs, which fit perfectly into similar sized rooting flats.

Regardless of whichever of these mediums is used for germination, the process is the same. First place the medium in the flats and moisten them to saturation point. They are watered in the flats and if needed a hole is punched in the center top of each cube. A seed is placed point end down. The cubes are watered a second time. This time with the vitamin B1 root stimulant, after which any extra or standing water is drained off.

Plastic covers may or may not be needed to maintain additional humidity. The flats are placed on heating mats, and placed in a dark place. Water as required. The cubes are kept moist but there should be no standing water in the trays. Always pour off any excess water after watering.

flat trays of happy seedlingsflat trays of happy seedlingsThe light of life

Once your seed has germinated it is a seedling. It is now very fragile. The lower end of the young sprout is a single main root. This root will aim itself downward as it follows gravity. On the opposite end of the sprout are two rounded leaves called the cotyledons. If the seedlings were germinated in a paper towel they should be immediately moved into some kind of larger container, such as a two or three inch container of man made soil, or a similar sized medium.

Once the seedlings have sprouted they are ready to begin photosynthesis. This means they will need some light.

flat trays of happy seedlingsThe seedlings may be placed under metal halide or fluorescent light. The lights are left on for 18 to 24 hours a day ? I prefer 18 hours.

Metal halide light is powerful, and you must be careful when using them with seedlings. A stationary 400 watt light should be placed with the bottom of the light about three feet above the top of the seedlings. The seedlings should be monitored every few minutes for the first few hours, for damage by burning. The light may be lowered six inches a day, until the light is about two feet over the top of the seedlings.flat trays of happy seedlings Seedlings should be carefully monitored after each light lowering. Any indication of burning means to immediately raise the lights to their previous setting.

I like to start my seedlings under two tube, four foot, 40 watt fluorescent lights. Horticultural grow lights may be used, or a combination of one Cool White tube (blue spectrum) and one Warm White or Soft White (red spectrum).flat trays of happy seedlings These lights may be placed with the bottom of the tubes about two inches from the tops of the seedlings. As the seedlings grow, the lights are raised equally, keeping the tubes close to the top of the seedlings. If more than one of these fluorescent lights is being used then they are placed parallel to each other, about six inches apart.

This seedling was sprouted in soil placed within a rockwool cube.This seedling was sprouted in soil placed within a rockwool cube.Rapid growth

Once the seedlings become exposed to a light source they begin to grow at an accelerated rate. The single embryonic root begins to form lateral rootlets. These lengthening rootlets absorb more
nutrients and water each day. These young roots may be damaged by a lack or excess of water, as well as exposure to light, heat, cold, or rough treatment.

The roots like access to air, to breathe. So the plant is watered, and then the medium is allowed to almost dry out. The medium is allowed to dry to the point where it is not completely dry, it is still just slightly moist. This drying of the medium allows air to be drawn into the medium. The medium is never allowed to dry out completely! Just before the medium can dry completely, the medium is watered again, and allowed to almost dry again. This process is repeated.

Seedlings are often started under fluorescent lighting to avoid burning.Seedlings are often started under fluorescent lighting to avoid burning.The rounded cotyledon leaves are soon joined by a pair of the more recognizable serrated leaves. The new plant aims upward as it reaches for the light. Upward growth will continue as more leaves are created. As each new set of leaves appear on the plant, the space between the sets of leaves will lengthen. The spaces between the sets of leaves are called the internodes. The growth areas where these leaf pairs and lateral growth appear are called the nodes.

The stem of the plant carries nutrients and water up the plant, where they are used on the way and also to create new foliage. If the seedlings have an oscillating fan blowing on them, the plant will produce internal cellulose to create larger and thicker stems as the plant attempts to compensate for the additional environmental interaction. A thicker stem now helps support bigger buds later. A light misting of water a few times a day during lights-on time will help to keep the surfaces of the leaves clean. This will help the leaves with their processes of inhaling and exhaling, as well as photosynthesizing.

The relative humidity should be kept around 50%, and the ambient temperature should be lowered to around 73-78?F (23-26?C) This lower temperature is more conducive to the vegetative state of the larger growing plant. The seedlings may be fed a standard full-spectrum vegetative feeding of any organic or chemical food. Most packaging on vegetative food will indicate the proper amount of the food to give to the seedlings, but remember its always better to give too little than too much.

A male (left) and female plant enjoying some foreplay before getting jiggy with it.A male (left) and female plant enjoying some foreplay before getting jiggy with it.All feedings must be done with a full spectrum fertilizer containing all twelve essential elements. Regular fertilizers contain only the three primary nutrients: Nitrogen (N), Potassium (K) and Phosphorus(P). A full spectrum fertilizer contains the proper proportions of all the secondary elements and trace elements. Remember to use full spectrum only.

After the seedlings are about two weeks old they should have developed some nice roots and created some lush foliage. The seedling?s roots will have used up most of the space they have in the smaller containers, and may already be overrunning them. It will be time to move and transplant them to larger living quarters. If the seedlings are still under fluorescent lights, now is the time to place them under the metal halide.

Congratulations, your plants have survived the most difficult and dangerous part of their lives! With some strains you can start them to flowering almost immediately, or you might prefer to grow them larger first, or to use these plants as clone mothers. Whatever your preference, you are now well on the road to growing yourself some excellent marijuana.A male (left) and female plant enjoying some foreplay before getting jiggy with it.

? Hans is the author of Sea of green and Organic Hydroponics, and also a series of cultivation and pot-cooking videos.

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