Both grow sites and user forums advise new growers to germinate their precious (and expensive) cannabis seeds in damp paper towels. And, those same beginners complain year after year about seeds that either won’t crack or don’t thrive once they touch dirt.
Do yourself a favor and leave the paper products in the kitchen where they belong.
Here’s how you should germinate seeds!
Buy Starter Cubes
Buy some root starter cubes – not compressed peat pots or rockwool. The most popular brand is Root Riot, but there are a few others out there. Starter cubes are little, tapered blocks made out of peat moss. They come sealed in a bag, already damp, PH balanced and ready to use. They have a spongy feel with a consistency that delivers exactly the right ratio of dampness and airflow to the seed.
If your starter cubes dry out, soak them in some PH’d water and they’ll be good as new. Don’t worry about saturating them. Once you take them out of the water bath, they’ll air dry in a few minutes and be ready to use.
Put The Seed In The Cube
Most starter cubes have a wide top, tapered sides and a slightly smaller bottom so they can fit snugly in a germination tray. Look for a small hole in the center of the top. If you don’t see one, insert a blade tip and give it a little twist. Insert your seed in the hole about ¼ inch, just far enough down that you can’t see it. It doesn’t matter what end faces up or if you put them in the dark.
You can use starter cubes to make clones too. Flip them upside down, use a skewer or other thin, sharp instrument to make a deep hole, and insert your cutting. Easy!
Control The Humidity And Wait
Keep the cube damp so the seed will germinate. The easiest way to do this is pop them in a germination dray and cover with a humidity dome. But, no worries if you don’t have one. You can put the cubes in a cup then cover with any type of plastic. Zip lock bags or plastic wrap will work, but I like to use the plastic drink cups they use at fast food joints and gas stations. The tops hold in the moisture and the straw hole is a perfect vent.
Most seeds will show roots and green cotyledon’s within five days. The taproot usually emerges from the bottom of the cube first followed by a seedling at the top the next day. If your cube isn’t kept vertical, either may emerge from the side of the cube.
If you don’t see a tiny weed plant start to form within a week, don’t lose hope. Older seeds and beans with thick shells can take up to two weeks.
Once the seeds germinate, give them a week or two to develop a robust root system before transplanting to soil or hydro. Multiple roots will emerge from the bottom and the sides of the cube, and the taproot may show multiple little branches. Water lightly as needed to keep the cubes moist during this time.
Why The Paper Towel Method Is A Bad Idea
Germinating cannabis seeds in a wet paper towel is the easiest way to kill them. The little white tap root that first emerges from a seed when it cracks is very fragile. Handling it, even if it doesn’t break off, traumatizes the seeds. Some will be strong enough to survive, but not all.
This idea has been propagated all across the web, but that doesn’t make it right. Think about it. What other type of seed would you try to start in a wet paper towel?
Can’t I Just Put The Seed In The Dirt?
Yes, you can. And it works. That’s how nature intended us to plant all types of seeds. Starter cubes just give you a little more control and keep you from drowning your seeds.
Start off with a germination tray that’s been sectioned off so that each seed has it’s own little cube of soil (similar to a starter cube). That way, you will be less likely to over or under water, and the seed won’t get lost in an ocean of dirt.
Where Can I Buy Viable Cannabis Seeds?
New seedbanks pop up all the time and they disappear just as fast. Go with a reputable source like KillaBeez Seedbank. These guys are friendly, knowledgable and they stand behind their products. The selection is small, but they personally curate each bean before they decide to sell it. Generous freebies, free shipping, special deals and all the standard perks are available, too. Check’em out!