In this article, I will be covering the different ways to germinate cannabis seeds. Many people have trouble during the germination stage, especially beginner growers. I have compiled this guide to help you germinate your cannabis seeds in the most effective way possible. Following the steps below is the best way to increase your success rate.
Throughout the article, I will cover the most ideal environment, water temperature, time length, equipment, etc. to use during germination. I have worked with farms on a large scale and on a small scale. I will cover the steps for each type of grower, whether you’re simply a hobby grower or an industrial hemp farmer. This guide will benefit you!
Why Should You Grow From Seed?
Growing from clones can appear more simple for first-time growers, but I do not recommend shying away from using seed. When you grow from seed, your plants are guaranteed to be more healthy. Plants that are grown from seed contain healthier roots. These roots start with a healthy tap root. A tap root is the central part of a plant’s root system. Growing from clones does not produce a tap root. Growing from seed will limit the amount of genetic variation between plants. This means that your strain will have uniform characteristics between each plant. Clones will begin to show signs of variation past the first generation of plants. Clones typically yield less flower at harvest as well.
This section will directly apply to hobby growers and mid-scale cannabis growers. The steps mentioned below will work for hemp and psychoactive marijuana seeds. The equipment needed is listed here:
1) Fill cup with lukewarm water. Leave 1 inch of room at the top of the cup.
Drop seeds into cup. Not all seeds will sink immediately. It may take some time for the seeds to completely sink.
I recommend tapping the seeds with a pencil every 6-8 hours to push them to the bottom.
Once seeds are completely submerged, wait 24-32 hours before moving to step 2. In this step, it is best to label your cup with the specific variety using a sharpie.
2) After seeds have been submerged for 24-32 hours, it is time to drain the cup. Simply pour out the water, slowly, making sure not to pour out the seeds.
You may begin to see tap roots coming out of a few of the seeds. This is a good sign, as this means you have healthy seeds! Feel free to plant them if the tap root is long enough, if not, I recommend moving on to step 3. If your seeds haven’t “popped,” don’t fret, you will begin to see signs of a tap root after step 3.
3) Take 2 paper towels and run them under lukewarm water. Once paper towels are fully saturated, squeeze out the excess water.
You want the paper towel to be moist, not drenched. Next, use sterilized tweezers to move seeds from the cup to the paper towels. Avoid squeezing the tweezers too hard. This may harm the seed.
Once seeds are evenly spread out on the paper towels, fold over one side of the paper towel to create a sandwich with the seeds in the middle.
I recommend placing the seeds in a sealed ziploc bag to create a humid/moist environment. This is ideal for seeds to germinate.
Once in ziploc bag, place between 2 paper plates.
Put paper plates in the same spot as the cups. Ideally in a warm, dark, and dry area of your house. Some recommend that this space has a temperature between 70-90 degrees fahrenheit. This process typically takes between 24-48 hours. Some people have experienced waiting as long as 4 days before their seeds germinated. I recommend checking the paper towel every 12 hours after the original 24 hour waiting period.
4) After the step above, you will begin to see your seeds “pop.” Healthy tap roots will begin to grow longer. Congrats! You have just succeeded in germinating your seeds. However, now is the time to plant the seeds!
The next step will require organic seed starter soil and a spray bottle. You will use the ruler in this step as well. First, poke holes in the bottom of the cups, unless your seed pots have holes for drainage. Next, fill solo cups or seed pots with soil. Lightly pack the soil. Water the soil with a watering can or cup to ensure that the entire cup of soil is moist. When ready, measure a quarter of an inch from the eraser side of your pencil. Mark with a sharpie.
Next, use the pencil to create holes that are a quarter of an inch deep.
Once complete, use the tweezers to transfer seeds from the paper towel to the holes in the soil. Always drop seed in soil with tap root facing down! Once the seed is in the hole, lightly pack loose soil on top. Mist top layer of soil with water.
5) Once the seed is planted, it’s time to wait. Place the cup or pot outside into sunlight or under a grow light. Water the soil with a spray bottle to keep the soil constantly moist. During this step, I recommend placing a ziploc bag over the soil container to create a humid environment and prevent dryness. You will begin to see a seedling sprout within 1-3 days, sometimes even 5 days. So be patient!
When conducting a large-scale cannabis operation, you may not have time to follow the methods mentioned above. This can be timely, and it requires additional labor. Although, following a similar method as mentioned above will increase your germination rate.
With that in mind, I will discuss a few methods for large-scale operations to maximize their success rate and save time. The equipment needed is listed here:
1) Seeding trays vary in size, but they all share similar depths. In this step you will fill the seeding trays with soil. Make sure to lightly pack down the soil. I recommend watering the trays to ensure even moistness in the soil.
2) Once trays are packed, use the seed poker or pencil to create holes that are a quarter of an inch deep.
3) Next you will take the bag of seed and drop one seed in each hole. Make sure that the seeds are quality and dark brown.
4) Cover the seeds with excess soil. Makes sure the layer isn’t too thick. Evenly spread layer across the tray.
5) Mist the top of the trays with “mist” nozzle attached to hose. Maintain misting to prevent dryness.
6) Place seed trays under grow lights or outside in the sun. You may want to consider using a shade cloth in this step to prevent burning. Seeds are very sensitive during this stage. I recommend minimizing the direct exposure to the sun, especially if you live in a hot climate.
7) You will begin to notice seedlings pop up through the soil within 2-3 days. Record your germination rate per tray, to compare it to the seller’s germination rate listed on the label. Some growers may have the ability to seek restitution if their germination rate is lower then the listed rate on the label.
Depending on the size of your operation or the resources available to you, there are other options for speeding up the process. I will briefly mention the new equipment below.
Recently, we have started to see “seeding” machines that will pack your tray and fill the holes with seed. This drastically minimizes the labor needed and the time used. If you have the money, this could help speed up your operation. Some of these machines can seed more than 200 trays in an hour. They typically cost anywhere between $2,000-$15,000.
There are low budget options available. The company “Seed E-Z Seeder, Inc.” offers many innovative products. I recommend the “E-Z Seeder.” This machine will vacuum your seeds into holes to then be placed on top of the trays. Once on top, you turn the vacuum off to let the seeds fall into each individual hole. You can find a video explanation here.
What’s Best for You?
All in all the method you choose depends on the size of your operation and your expectations. Are you a first-time grower? Do you have a limited budget? What success rate are you expecting? These are all factors you need to consider before deciding which method is best for you.
I hope you found this article helpful. Please don’t hesitate to ask questions or post updates in the comment section below. Good luck with your crop!
Sean Huber has been working in the cannabis industry for five years. His experience includes hempcrete construction, cannabis cultivation, social media marketing, and cannabis accounting services.