Hopefully all of you aspiring growers have been able to get your seeds so we can move to the next step: germination.

Take great care handling seed and seedling. Most flower and vegetable seeds are simply planted directly in the soil, but because of the value of cannabis seeds, germinating seeds prior to planting is encouraged. Growers can achieve a much higher survival rate by germinating in a non-soil medium and then transferring the seed to soil once the tap root has emerged from the seed.

Here is one of the simplest and most successful methods: Put a double layer of paper towels on a dinner plate, then thoroughly soak the towels with water and tilt the plate to drain off the excess. Place your seeds on top of the wet towels and cover with another double layer of soaked paper towels. Be sure excess water is drained off—you don’t want the seeds to be swimming.

Cover the plate with an upside-down plate or pot lid. A plastic bag or plastic wrap also works. Don’t make the seal tight—you want to leave some openings to allow air flow.

Keep the germinating seeds away from direct light. For best results, keep them at about 75 degrees Fahrenheit. A radiant heat source, like a heating pad, helps expedite the process. If you’re using a heating pad, be sure to keep the heat setting on low and place a folded hand towel between the heating pad and plate: Direct contact between the plate and heat source can cook your seeds.

Under the right conditions, seeds usually open in one to five days, so check them daily. Do not allow the towels to dry, and add water as needed to maintain moisture. Some seeds can take as long as 10 days to germinate, but if seeds have not opened within 10 days, they are not viable. 

When the seeds open, the first thing to emerge is the root. Once the root sprouts it can grow quite fast.

When the root grows to a few millimeters in length, the seed is ready to be transferred to soil. Always take great care not to damage the tap root when handling. The best soil to use for a sprouting baby ganja plant is a “seed starter” or “seedling” mix. These are light neutral blends with very little fertilizer. Heavily fertilized soils will kill seedlings quickly, and cannabis seedlings prefer loose, aerated soil that their roots can easily penetrate. A bag of good starter soil is easily identifiable: When you pick it up, it should feel light and fluffy. Soils that are heavy and compact are not good for seedlings. 

Now, on to potting (no pun intended). A healthy seedling will be ready for transplanting into larger container, with richer soil, in about a month. A 16- to 20-ounce container is ideal for a seedling’s first home (many growers use a Solo cup). The container must drain, so punch some holes if needed. 

Fill your container with pre-moistened soil and create a hole about a half-inch deep for your seed. The tip of a pencil works well for making the right sized hole. The seed should be about a quarter-inch below the surface.

Place your germinated seed, root down, into the hole and cover lightly. Do not pack the soil on top of the seed; a light protective layer of soil is all that is needed. 

Once they sprout in one to three days, new seedlings will need lots of light, and fluorescent grow light works best. Give your baby ganja plants 16 hours of light per day. 

It’s very important to have a breeze on your plants immediately. A fan placed at the proper distance and speed should create a breeze just strong enough so your plant “dances,” but not so strong that it’s bent in one direction.

Without a breeze, indoor ganja plants won’t receive the stimulus needed to develop sturdy stems and branches, which the plant will need to bear the weight of big, sugary buds.

The Potanist is written by Bud Baker and Herb Green (yes, those are pseudonyms; yes, they are real people). Reach them at potanist@washcp.com.

Graphics by Stephanie Rudig

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