Ready, Steady, Grow! Part 2

Welcome new plant parents! This month we're covering the germination and seedling stages of the cultivation cycle.

Words: Tiffany Jordaan, Founder of Grow With Us Club

Congratulations, you’re about to become a proud plant parent! This is a fun, exciting and educational journey and I’ll be with you every step of the way.

I have broken the cultivation cycle into six main stages. In this month’s article, we will cover the germination and seedling stages.

The 6 Stages of Cultivation
Before we dive into the basics, let’s cover some general info about cannabis and what canna-babies do and don’t like. 

Important things to know about cannabis seedlings:

  • For the first week after planting, seedlings like high humidity
  • After that, they like their roots to soak and then dry out. Roots must never sit in stagnant water.
  • Rather under, not over, water. When in doubt, spray them instead of giving them a proper water.
  • Cannabis loves an acidic environment, so the type of water you use is very important. The lower the PH, the better. See notes below specific to water.
  • Keep your grow area and utensils clean - you don’t want to grow germs and bacteria too.
  • Treat baby cannabis plants as you would yourself - if it’s very hot, bring them into the shade and give them a bit more water. If it’s windy, or raining, move them under shelter.
  • Plan to start your grow when you have enough extra time to dedicate to your new babies. Try not to go away for the first month or so, unless you have a very good canna-babysitter, as they are vulnerable and need extra attention during this time period and can easily die if neglected.
  • They easily outgrow their pots so rather upsize earlier rather than later.
  • Be on the alert for pests and catch them before they’re a problem as they can be hard to get rid of. Look under the leaves where they like to hide.
  • Diatomaceous Earth is a great, organic, food-grade powder that helps keep the bugs at bay. You can sprinkle it on the grow medium. Try mixing a teaspoon of Diatomaceous Earth into your water bottle and spraying your plants in the evening. Spray with clean water in the morning.

A Side Note: How Many To Grow

  • You’re working with nature so be realistic and always start by planting at least double (if not triple) the number of seeds that you hope to end up with; especially if you’re growing “regular photoperiod seeds” which have a 50% chance of being male and unable to produce any flowers. Males are still useful but won’t provide the potent medicine most growers and consumers are after.
  • If you’re wanting to make oils and concentrates, you’ll need a lot of flowers. Take this into consideration when planning how many plants to grow.
  • Remember that there are laws in place around how much you are legally allowed to grow at a time and, as we are growing outside, you’ll only harvest annually, in Autumn/Winter, so your harvest has to sustain you for an entire year. For more info on the legal aspects of growing, visit Fields Of Green For All for the latest updates.

Next, I’m going to talk you through the first month of your babies’ lives. 

The Science of Water
Water is the most important element to sustain any living thing and cannabis is no exception. Cannabis is surprisingly picky about the type, frequency and amount of water it receives.

Type: Cannabis loves its roots to be in a slightly acidic, low PH, environment, especially when grown in coco peat. That’s why, as babies, I recommend using filtered, distilled, spring or Reverse Osmosis (RO) water (buy this at retailers like select Food Lover’s Market and the bigger Pick ‘n Pay or Spars). All these types of water are free from chemicals like chlorine and have the perfect PH for your babies to thrive.

Frequency: It’s important not to overwater. A good guide would be to put your finger into the grow medium: if the medium feels dry and hot, it’s time to water but if it’s wet and cold up to the second crease of your finger, it’s all good. As you progress in your grow process, you’ll start to learn what your plants look like when over-or-under-watered: try to avoid both ends of the spectrum. And remember, it’s important for your roots to dry out thoroughly between waterings as this is when they grow the most.

Amount: You must control your water pressure and stream. I suggest pouring water into a cup or glass and watering around the edge of the bag, in a circular motion. Don’t water near the stem. This will force your roots to spread out looking for water which will encourage your plant to grow bigger. You want to water until “run-off” - this means until the water runs out of the bottom of your container. This will ensure the entire medium is thoroughly soaked.

Read more about the science of water here

How To Germinate Seeds

There are a few methods to germinate cannabis seeds. I’ve found the Paper Towel Germination Method to be the most effective as it takes into consideration what key factors the cannabis seeds need for the best possible start.

  • Remember that seeds hate light, so always grow in a dark, warm place.
  • Soak your seeds in water for 24hrs. Cannabis seeds have a thick, waxy coating, so the soak helps to break the shell and start the process.
  • Place the seeds between damp paper towel (not toilet paper or cotton wool). Cannabis seeds love a humid environment, so the paper towel is the perfect first home for them.
  • Keep them in a 90% closed container for a few days until they crack open and grow little tails, and remember to mist them regularly during this time.

Read more about the soaking process here

And the Paper Towel Germination method here

Once your seeds have germinated, it’s time to give them a new home. I suggest using jiffy pellets and biodegradable cups.

Read more about planting your babies into Jiffy’s here

Once successfully transplanted into their new Jiffy homes, you will want to keep your babies in a protected environment. They’re not ready for full sun, heat or wind so place them on a windowsill for one week before slowly moving them to a sheltered, shady and cool spot in the garden.

Spray regularly, whenever they look parched, and move them inside in the evening before the temperature drops.

Remember, seedlings love humidity so if you’re in a dry part of the world, you’ll want to make them a little dome home. Learn how to do it here

If you see your plants trying to stretch for light, you can pack a bit of the jiffy medium around the stems for support or use some garden wire and a skewer to make a small splint.

Once your cannabis seedling is about 5 - 10cm in height, you’ll want to re-home it again, this time in a fabric grow bag with a growing medium made from a coco, perlite and vermiculite mix for healthy, happy roots. Mix up your medium before filling your bags. Then tear off your biodegradable pot and plant the jiffy pellet straight into the new grow bag. This helps to not disturb the roots and the roots can easily grow through the Jiffy pellet mesh.

My top tip: transplant at night when the babies have the cool of the evening and 12 hours of darkness to recover. Give them lots of water for the first day in their new homes as their roots will still be adjusting.

Read more about transplanting here

Once your cannabis babies are in their new grow bags, you will see them start to grow and stretch to fill their new containers. As soon as you start seeing the first set of true leaves (serrated and pointy), start to feed your plants using a cannabis-friendly plant food. There are also great organic methods available, if you’re interested in these, research Korean Natural Farming and learn to make your own food for your plants. When growing in coco, you’ll want to feed your plants every second watering. Read more on how to feed your cannabis babies here

You’re now set to get through the basics of the germination and seedling phase.

Be sure to check back next month for Part 3 of the Series, where we'll investigate how to increase yields, recognise the difference between male and female plants and what to do about nutritional deficiencies. 

If you need more information before then, visit Grow With Us or DM me via Facebook or Instagram. I’m happy to help!

If you're feeling inspired and either haven't started your growing journey yet or want to give the gift that keeps on giving, shop our grow kits here

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