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How To Grow Cannabis: Starting Marijuana Seeds

The 2016 gardening season is booming in North America, and it’s high time to start some tiny seeds that can grow into potent plants, says Jorge Cervantes, veteran marijuana cultivator and author of The Cannabis Encyclopedia. Below, Cervantes shares his process for germinating seeds into healthy sprouts.

Photo: Cannabis seeds. Via: Eric Limon | Shutterstock.

1. Soak seeds overnight in a glass of plain water. They may float on the surface at first but should sink to the bottom in a few minutes. Make sure seeds get good and wet so that water penetrates the outer shell and growth is activated. Do not let seeds soak for more than 24 hours, or they might get too wet, suffer oxygen deprivation, and subsequently rot.

2. Remove seeds from glass of water. Pour water out onto two paper (or cloth) towels on a dinner plate. Fold the towels over the seeds to cover them.

3. Drain the water from the dinner plate by tipping it to the side.

4. Place the seeds in a warm location (70°F–80°F; 21°C–27°C), making sure they are in darkness. Some gardeners go so far as to set the plate in a vertical position (so taproot grows downward). The seeds can also be set on a grate for drainage and air circulation.

5. Check moisture level of towels several times a day, watering once or twice to keep them evenly moist. DO NOT LET THE TOWELS DRY OUT! Let excess water drain away freely. The paper or cloth towels will retain enough moisture to germinate the seeds in a few days. Each seed contains an adequate food supply for germination. Prevent fungal attacks by watering with a mild 2 percent bleach or organic fungicide solution.

6. In a few days, seeds will sprout. Once seeds have sprouted and each seed’s white rootlet is visible, use tweezers to carefully pick up the fragile, germinated seeds and plant them. Do not wait for the white rootlets to grow more than 0.25 inches (1 cm) before planting, or growth could slow. Plant each germinated seed with the white root tip pointing downward. Take care not to expose the tender rootlet to prolonged light and air. Cover germinated seeds with 0.25 to 0.5 inches (1-2 cm) of fine, moist planting medium.

Photo: Cannabis seedling. Via: suthiphong yina | Shutterstock.

Watering Issues

Over and under-watering are the biggest obstacles most gardeners face when germinating seeds and growing seedlings. Keep the soil uniformly moist but not waterlogged. Do not let the growing medium’s surface dry for long. Setting root cubes or planting flats on a grate allows good drainage.

A shallow flat or planter with a heat pad underneath may require daily watering, while a deep, 1-gallon (3.8 liter) pot will need watering every three days or more. A properly watered flat of rockwool cubes needs water every three to five days when sprouting seeds.

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When the growing medium’s surface is dry (0.25 inches [1 cm] deep), it is time to water. Remember, there are few roots to absorb the water early in life and they are very delicate.

Photo: Setting root cubes on a grate allows good drainage. Via: Mr. Green | Shutterstock.

Some seeds have a very hard outer shell (testa) and are difficult to germinate. Such testy cases can be softened or scarified to allow water to penetrate. To scarify, line a matchbox with a piece of fine-grain sandpaper or emery board. Put the seeds in the matchbox and shake for 10 to 15 seconds. Remove the seeds and make sure they have been scuffed a bit. Just a little scuffing will allow water to enter and set germination in motion.

1. Set seeds in a matchbox with an emery board or sandpaper on the bottom.

2. Close seeds inside the matchbox.

3. Shake matchbox for 10 to 15 seconds to scarify the seeds.

This is an excerpt from The Cannabis Encyclopedia by Jorge Cervantes, world-renowned indoor, outdoor and greenhouse cannabis cultivator. A veteran marijuana grower, Cervantes brings 30 years of experience traveling, studying, and writing to bear in his best work to date.


Seed Germination is the first step to growing cannabis. This is the process that allows the seed to develop and the radicle will emerge. There are many methods of germination and therefore quite a number of common mistakes which can be easily avoided.

We will explain what you should not do during germination in each method. The method Dinafem Seeds recommends is germination in Jiffy, this is the easiest and has the lowest error rate.

Mistakes made germinating cannabis seeds in Jiffy

Jiffies are peat discs, pressed into a biodegradable mesh, when this is moistened, the jiffies become tiny sacks of earth. Below are some potential things that could go wrong with this method :

  1. Pouring too much water to the Jiffy: the disc must be moistened so that it swells, but it should not be drowned. The aim is to keep the soil moist during the germination process. Some growers water the Jiffy too much and end up drowning the seeds. Excessive amounts of moisture prevent the correct ventilation of the seed and this will stop its germination.
  2. Covering the Jiffy in an airtight container: the Jiffy should be protected, but some people shut it away in a greenhouse or in a Tupperware container with holes, which will lead to the growth of fungi.
  3. Planting the seed too deep: The cannabis seed should be planted one centimetre from the surface. Pushing the cannabis seed to the bottom of the Jiffy makes it difficult for the radicle to find the light. Just use the tip of your finger, making a tiny hole and covering it lightly.
  4. Not providing the seed with the right light amount: during the germination process, it is far better to provide more light rather than not enough. It is important to make sure that the light does not dry out the soil.
  5. Changing temperatures: It is important not to subject the jiffy to changing temperatures, for example from 26 degrees (indoors) to 6 degrees (on a terrace) will make germination impossible.
  6. Putting too many seeds in the same Jiffy: the jiffy is not big enough for several seeds. You should use one for each seed that you want to germinate.
  7. Keeping the seed in the Jiffy for too long. The Jiffy is small and can only be used for a certain time period before more space must be given for the roots to grow in a pot or in the soil.
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Mistakes when germinating cannabis seeds in damp cotton wool

The method of germination in damp cotton wool consists of moistening the cotton wool and wrapping the seeds in them. It would be advisable to put the wet fabric in a germination greenhouse or Tupperware container with ventilation in order to have a constant temperature throughout the process. What could go wrong during this process?

  1. Radicle growing too much: if the root becomes too long, it could end up getting caught up in the cotton wool and could then break when detached before being transferred to the substrate. The way to avoid this is to do two things. Firstly, don’t let the root grow too long. Secondly, do not use pure cotton wool but rather use cotton fabric pads.
  2. Exposing cannabis seeds to temperature changes: exposing them to different temperatures, the seeds will not germinate. The seeds should be placed in a warm environment, between 25 and 28 degrees Celsius, and the temperature is kept stable until it is transplanted in the substrate.
  3. Air contact on the root for too long: if the root is left in contact with the air for too long the root will oxidize, which will kill the plant. When the cannabis root begins to grow, it is advisable to transfer them to the substrate immediately.
Mistakes when germinating cannabis seeds directly in the substrate

Planting the cannabis seed directly into soil or pot is another option for seed germination. These are usually what is done incorrectly leading to the cannabis seeds failing to germinate.

  1. Planting the seed too deep: Seeds need to only be planted one centimeter below the surface.
  2. Over-fertilising: the soil where the seed will germinate should be porous and light in nutrients. The substrate used for the flowering cannabis plant is not the ideal choice for the germination of the cannabis seed. Juvenile marijuana seedlings cannot be fed the same amount of food as an adult marijuana plant.
  3. Using a soil composition that is unknown: It is important to know the composition of the substrate used. And when a random soil is used it may contain many minerals, nutrients, or a lot of fertilizer. It is important to use a substrate whose composition is known.
  4. Overwatering: a seed that is too wet can be detrimental for germination and for the seedling’s first few weeks of life.
  5. Putting many seeds in the same pot: each seed needs its individual space to allow the roots enough room to develop and not hinder the development of others.
  6. Directly planting the seeds in the ground where the climate is not appropriate: if the temperature is too cold, too hot, too dry, or too wet it will be difficult for the seed to germinate. It is important to have a controlled temperature to allow for germination.
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Mistakes when germinating cannabis seeds in water

This method involves putting the cannabis seeds in a container with warm water and waiting for it to germinate in the days following immersion.

  1. Seeds left in the water for too long: once the seed has germinated and the radicle has appeared the cannabis seed must be transferred to the substrate. Water can be used to germinate your cannabis seeds but should never be grown in it.
  2. Hydrogen peroxide overdose in the water: if you include hydrogen peroxide it is important to pay attention to the concentration level. An overdose can prevent germination.
Common mistakes of any germination method
  1. Breaking the radicle during the process of separating the shell from the bulb. Once the cannabis seed has germinated, the seedling will generally separate the seed shell itself. Let nature take its course and intervening only if it is really necessary,
  2. Hygienic handling of seeds, radicles, and seedlings with dirty hands. Wash your hands before carrying out any of the germination processes. This hygiene applies to all of the tools that have been in contact with the seed during the germination period.

Dirty water. Use clean tap water/bottled water at all times.