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Germinating Cannabis Seeds

Growing your own cannabis is easy and fun! The first step is germinating your seeds. Here are some tips!
Written by
Frank Burroughs
March 3, 2023
August 21, 2021

By Frank Burroughs

You have decided you are going to grow your first cannabis plant and are anxious to get your seeds sprouted. Congratulations! You are about to embark on a journey that has been an incredible source of joy in my life—one that happens to also provide relief. Before you can begin enjoying the fruits of your labor, you will first need to germinate your cannabis seeds and cultivate them into lush, healthy, thriving plants. This article will explain the process, how it works, and offer tips to ensure your success!

Getting Ready

Germination begins when seeds are exposed to moisture, heat and light. In order to increase the likelihood of a successful germination, many growers, including myself, prefer to “pre-germinate” by starting the process using water and heat before planting in soil. The purpose behind these methods is to jumpstart the tap root and ensure that you are not wasting time planting seeds that are not viable.

Before doing so, I like to lightly “scuff” the seed's shell coating, which helps water penetrate and activate the seed. To do this, place a small piece of fine grit sandpaper cut to fit the inside of an empty match box. Put the cannabis seeds inside the match box and close. Shake the seeds gently for approximately thirty seconds, and then proceed to one of the methods below:

Paper Towel Method

  1. Place seeds on a paper towel that has been folded into quarters. Spray seeds and paper towel with distilled or RO (reverse osmosis) water until the towel is very moist but not soaked.
  2. Fold the towel over the seeds a couple times so that it becomes a moist “packet.”
  3. Place the towel/seed packet in a plastic storage bag to keep moist but do not seal.
  4. Keep in a warm (high 70s) and dark location for 24 hours or until the tap root emerges. Furnace and mechanical rooms work well.
  5. If the environment is too cool, a seedling heat mat can be used to provide the necessary warmth.
  6. When the tap root emerges, plant seedling 1⁄4” deep in a styrofoam cup filled with soil mix. Be sure make plenty of drainage holes.

Germinating in the Soil

Many growers feel the above “pre-germination” steps are a waste of time and prefer to plant seeds directly in soil. I completely understand this because extra steps obviously take time and seeds germinate in nature without any extra help.

If you would prefer to germinate directly in soil, I suggest using biodegradable Jiffy Pots or styrofoam cups filled with a soil/perlite mix. Don’t forget to make drainage holes in the bottom of the cup. Make a small hole in the soil about 1/4” deep, and drop the seed in the hole. The tap root will emerge from the narrow pointed end of the seed, so it is helpful if that end is pointed down, if possible. Cover the seed lightly with soil and spray heavily until very moist.

Place seed containers in a humidity dome or cover with plastic wrap to help retain moisture. Place under a light 24 hours a day until seedling emerges. Be sure to keep them moist but not wet. When the seeds have sprouted, remove from the humidity dome and set light timer to 20 hours on and 4 hours off.

Congratulations! You have now successfully germinated cannabis seeds!

A Final Thought

Germination is the most delicate and often the most frustrating part of growing cannabis, in my opinion. The fact is, despite the best of efforts, some seeds simply are not viable and will not germinate. Even when they do, tender seedlings need very careful attention. I am personally much more comfortable when the plants have rooted and enter the vegetative stage. I absolutely understand the frustration of germination problems, especially when using expensive, perhaps award-winning strains purchased at premium prices. Don't get frustrated, and keep the faith! Practice makes perfect!

Frank Burroughs:

Frank Burroughs is a cannabis cultivator, advocate and aficionado who firmly believes that cannabis saved his life.  He drank to the extreme for over thirty years, which caused numerous health problems, obesity, as well as severe nerve damage.  After literally hundreds of attempts to end his addiction to alcohol and regain control of his life, the only thing that worked for him has been using cannabis.  He has been growing his own medicine for over eight years and enjoys learning new cultivation tips and techniques.

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