During its life cycle, cannabis passes through four main stages. These stages are germination, seedling, growth and flowering. Anyone who wants to cultivate cannabis needs to recognise these stages. Each stage brings its own challenges and problems. Can’t fully get rid of that cannabis strain you grew for so long? Learn how to store seeds and pollen to clear space in your garden and hang onto those favorite genetics for another day. Choosing Cannabis Seeds for Beginners So you’re new to growing cannabis? If you’re looking for your first strain, the choice can be overwhelming. Back in the day (or so I’m told) you had
The Life cycle of Cannabis: From seed to harvest
Cannabis passes through a series of stages in its life. The most important of these are the germination, seedling, growth and flowering stages. Each stage brings its own challenges. Novice growers need to be aware of these, to be sure of giving their plants the attention and care that they deserve.
Plants are living beings. They are at the base of the evolutionary tree, they heal our bodies and souls, they delight our senses. I think all our readers know by now which is our favourite plant: Cannabis sativa L. – a fantastic crop and medicinal plant, and one of the oldest plant genera in the world.
No matter why cannabis is being cultivated, to see with your own eyes how a small seed grows into a bulky plant, which then starts flowering, is a moving experience every time.
Cannabis is an annual plant, so its entire lifecycle takes place within a single year, with most varieties reaching the end of their life after between four and ten months. In general terms, the following four stages of life can be distinguished:
- Germination stage
- Seedling stage
- Growth or vegetation stage
- Flowering stage
A quick glance is usually enough to determine the current stage. Over time, it is not just the appearance of the plant that changes, its needs also change. Different stages require different quantities of light, water and nutrients. Furthermore, if you want to determine the sex of the plant or prune it, it is useful to know which stage the plant has currently reached.
1 – Germination stage (1 to 2 weeks)
All forms of life start from a seed of some kind. High-quality seed is the single most important factor for successful cultivation. Cannabis seeds should be hard, dry and brownish in colour. There are a number of different ways of getting the seeds to germinate. The easiest is the paper towel method.
In the germination process, the germ in the seed breaks through its shell and forms a root, which is known as the taproot. Germination takes anything from 24 hours to 7 days. Generally cannabis varieties with a high proportion of Indica germinate faster than pure Sativas.
The germinated seed can now be placed carefully into the growing medium. The plant will start to grow and force its way upwards.
While the first two cotyledons (seed leaves) are being formed, the plant shrugs off the protective seed husk. That signifies the end of the germination stage.
Top 5 Ways Cannabis Can Affect the Menstrual Cycle
2 – Seedling stage (2 to 4 weeks)
Particular care is necessary at this stage in the lifecycle. Seedlings are susceptible to illnesses and mould. Many novices get carried away with watering and give the seedlings too much fertiliser. Even if you plan to grow outdoors, it may be useful to give the plants a healthy start indoors, assuming that a location is available with adequate light (e.g. a windowsill). The plants need as much light as possible at this stage.
How long the seedling stage lasts depends on the variety and on the environmental conditions. The main focus of the plant is on developing a root system. This forms the foundation for its later growth.
Meanwhile the plant will grow its first “real” leaves with the characteristic marijuana shape.
The leaflets are long and jagged. Initially a leaf has just one leaflet, although a mature cannabis plant will have five to seven leaflets per leaf.
Once the plant produces the full count of leaflets for each new leaf, the seedling stage is over.
3 – Growth stage or vegetation stage (2 to 8 weeks)
Now the plant starts its main growing phase. Provided it receives enough light, it can grow up to two inches (5 cm) in a single day. It is obvious that the plant needs to be repotted if it is still growing in a small pot.
Leafy plants like a healthy soil that is rich in nutrients. The production of chlorophyll and proteins depends on a supply of nitrogen. It is worth investing in the right kinds of fertiliser or even producing them yourself.
As it grows, the plant also needs more water. Young plants are best watered close to their stem, but later on water should be distributed more widely so that the tips of the roots can absorb water more efficiently.
Have you ever heard of topping, super-cropping or lollipopping? Using these techniques you can train cannabis or manipulate the shape of the plant. Growers use them to develop stronger plants with more buds. Opinions vary, however, on whether these techniques actually deliver results. They are only necessary for special cultivation methods such as the Screen of Green (SCROG).
How long the growth phase lasts is not a simple question to answer. Autoflowering cannabis varieties move automatically on to the flowering stage within 2 or 3 weeks. Regular or feminised varieties only start flowering once the days become shorter (outdoor cultivation) or the grower reduces the lighting period to 12 hours (indoor cultivation).
Preserving Cannabis Genetics: How to Collect and Store Seeds and Pollen
Sometimes a grower has to move on from a certain strain. Maybe you’ve been growing the same strain for a long time and it no longer makes as much money as it used to, or maybe you just want to mix it up and start growing something else and don’t have the space for it.
It can be bittersweet saying goodbye to old genetics, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. You can take clones or keep a mother plant, but those aren’t ideal because they require a lot of care and maintenance, especially if they aren’t producing flower.
Fortunately, preserving genetics for long-term storage is easy and will save time, money, and space in the long run. Through seed and pollen collection, you can hang onto those genetics that you can’t fully get rid of and safely store them for future use.
The Benefits of Long-Term Storage
Cannabis genetics are often sourced from external companies and organizations such as nurseries and seed banks. For the individual grower, saving seeds and pollen removes this reliance on external companies. This is especially true with pollen, as very few (if any) companies offer pollen to the public.
Saving space is a big reason to consider long-term storage of seeds and pollen. Mother plants lay dormant in a vegetative state and take up lots of space. Maintaining this extra space is time-consuming and takes extra resources like water, soil, nutrients, light, and other costly elements, all for something that doesn’t produce flower. Even keeping clones of an old strain around will take up space and resources.
A grower or breeder can also freeze the progress of a breeding project for months or years without losing any of the long, hard work. Endeavors such as phenotype hunting and maintaining desired mothers for breeding and cloning can all be saved for later through genetic preservation. This process is like backing up work on a hard drive.
How to Collect Seeds
Cannabis is for the most part dioecious, meaning that the male and female reproductive organs exist on two separate plants (although hermaphroditic plants do occur). It is also a wind-pollinated plant, so pollen must be transferred from a male stamen to a female pistil via the air in order for pollination to occur and seeds to form.
A female cannabis plant that has received pollen from a male will produce many seeds over the course of its maturation cycle. Upon senescence, when the female plant is fully mature and ready for harvest, its seeds will be ready for stratification and collection.
To collect seeds, it’s important to wait until they are fully mature and ready for harvest. Cannabis with seeds takes longer to mature than cannabis that only produces flower.
To tell if a seed is mature, take a look at its shape and color. Premature seeds will be small and light in color, taking on a beige hue. Fully mature cannabis seeds are more full in shape and size and have a much darker brown hue, sometimes accented by black tiger stripes.
Deseeding cannabis can be done by hand or machine. This process typically takes place after the plant has been dried for one to two weeks after harvest. This way, seeds will have reached their maximum maturity and plant material will be brittle enough to break apart with minimal effort.
When collecting seed by hand, use a fine screen to help catch trichomes that will break off during the process. This material is valuable and it would be a shame to waste.
To release the seeds, simply break up the dried buds over a screen and they will fall out. You can release the seeds en masse by rubbing the flower between your fingers and lightly breaking it apart.
Separate or sift seeds over the screen to remove any unwanted plant matter from the seeds themselves. Brush off the seeds—they should be completely free of any remaining plant material such as leaves, stem, or trichomes, as these elements put seeds at a higher risk for contamination and spoilage during long-term storage.
Male cannabis plants will produce pollen several weeks into their flowering cycle. Once their pollen sacs have opened up and released, the plant will begin to senesce and eventually die. It is important to collect pollen right as the sacs are beginning to open up, as this is the time pollen is most viable.
The best way to harvest pollen for storage is to remove an entire male flower cluster and place it in a sealed storage container for several days. After the cluster has dried, place it over a micron screen with parchment or wax paper underneath, and give it a light shake. This will allow the pollen to separate from any remaining plant matter and fall through the screen and onto the wax paper.
Moisture is a death sentence for pollen viability. Because of this, many breeders opt to mix flour into their pollen at a ratio of 4:1 (flour to pollen) when storing it long-term. This additional step will help keep pollen dry for a longer period of time.
Seed and Pollen Storage
Long-term storage requirements for seeds and pollen are similar. Both require cool, dark, dry, and oxygen-deprived environments for optimal preservation.
When storing seeds, place them in an air-sealed container that doesn’t have any light leaks. Film canisters, medicine bottles (non-translucent), and any sealable storage jar will work fine. The idea is to reduce the amount of oxygen present in the storage space as much as possible. You can also add uncooked rice to the storage container, which acts as an absorbent, to reduce moisture content.
For a cool environment, store seeds in either the refrigerator or freezer. Seeds need a consistent temperature without fluctuation to remain dormant long-term.
As mentioned above, the best way to reduce moisture in pollen is to mix it with flour. For long-term storage, it can be kept in a sealed vial or freezer bag. You can keep it in the refrigerator or freezer, though for optimal long-term storage, the colder the better.
The Shelf Life of Seeds and Pollen
You can expect cannabis seeds that have been sealed and properly stored to last for several years, and in many cases, longer. Seeds may be dormant, but they are still alive. Over enough time, they will lose their viability.
It’s important to continually practice germination testing to be sure your stored seeds haven’t lost all viability. To test this, periodically plant a seed and document its ability to germinate.
Fresh seeds should have a germination rate close to a 100%, whereas older seeds will see a significant drop off over time in their ability to germinate.
Out in the open, pollen may be viable for one or two weeks under normal conditions. However, when frozen and sealed, it can last up to a year and even longer. Pollen is more unstable than seed and even under the most optimal conditions, it isn’t expected to have as long of a shelf life.
For both seeds and pollen that have been frozen long-term, it’s important to avoid defrosting until they are ready to be used. Fluctuations in temperature and moisture content will quickly destroy their viability, so maintain a steady temperature for as long as possible. Warming and freezing multiple times isn’t good.
When it comes time to use frozen seeds, remove them from their container and let them sit out on a dry surface for several hours. Letting the seeds reach room temperature will help ensure a successful germination.
Pollen should also be placed at room temperature before using. Since pollen can be much messier to handle, it’s best to carefully transfer a sample from its long-term storage container to a fresh container before using it to pollinate a plant. This way, you don’t have to use all of the pollen and saved pollen can go back in the freezer with minimal exposure to warm air.
Choosing Cannabis Seeds for Beginners
So you’re new to growing cannabis? If you’re looking for your first strain, the choice can be overwhelming. Back in the day (or so I’m told) you had essentially two options – Skunk, or Northern Lights – but these days, things have moved on somewhat. There are a mind-blowing number of strains available, and many potential pitfalls that you, as a novice, are likely to run into. But with the right advice you should be able to avoid most if not all of them. Just remember, your first attempt will not be perfect. So don’t panic if and when something goes wrong.
This is important. It can be sorely tempting (especially if you have money in your pocket) to buy the most expensive seeds on the market. After all, if they’re more expensive they’re bound to be better, right? Well, not necessarily, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing.
When you’re starting out, it’s best to leave the top shelf strains to the experts, at least for your first crop. You need to remember that, no matter how much research and reading you’ve done, you are not an expert, not when you haven’t even got one crop under your belt. There are many things that can go wrong, and even the best growers still experience problems like pests, or mould. It’s going to be a lot more painful to lose a crop you paid £12 per seed for than one that cost you £20 for 5 or 10 seeds.
So keep it cheap, for now. Get a few practice runs under your belt and you’ll be moving on to the high grade in no time.
Best Value Cannabis Strains
- Great value strains mean if you don’t do everything right the first time, you won’t lose too much
- Despite being cheaper, these seeds are high quality and have great reviews
Indica or Sativa?
This one is a little trickier, and depends on your circumstances to some extent. The accepted wisdom is that indicas are a safer bet for novice growers, due in large part to their shorter flowering time. When you’re new to the game, it can already seem like it takes forever to grow, harvest, dry, and cure your buds to a point where they’re ready to be consumed, so adding on the extra time needed for a sativa to flower is not generally considered a good idea. If nothing else, more time spent growing means more time for things to go wrong.
Indicas are also generally more forgiving of mistakes than sativas, and as I keep mentioning, you are likely to make a few. But having said that, it may well be that your choice depends on your needs. Not everyone likes the couch lock effect that is associated with indica dominant strains, and some need sativas for medical reasons, so to some extent this is down to you.
But if you’re not specifically in need of a sativa, your best bet is to play it safe with an indica. You can always mix things up a little in future grows.
Quality Indica Marijuana Seeds
- Indica strains are more forgiving than sativa strains
- Want a shorter flowering time? Indica strains may be what you are looking for
Feminised or Non-Feminised?
If you’ve taken on board what I said in point number 1, and are now scouring the web for the cheapest strains available, you’re going to need to slow down. It’s not quite as simple as that.
One of the first things you’ll notice is that some strains are labelled ‘feminised,’ whilst others are called ‘ regulars.’ Regardless of how tempted you are by the often low prices of regular seeds, I wouldn’t recommend going for them for your first grow. You want to keep potential problems to a minimum, and one of the easiest ways of doing that is by paying a little extra for the piece of mind of knowing that your plants are all going to be females.
The last thing you want is to not notice a male plant in your grow, and to find after weeks (if not months) of hard work, that he has ruined everything for you.
Popular Feminised Cannabis Seeds
- Novices are recommended to buy feminised strains
- Regular strains are cheaper but not always easier
A third option is to go for autoflowering seeds. These are a relatively new phenomenon, and can be a great option for a novice grower as they combine pretty much everything you’re looking for in a plant – they’re usually fairly cheap, feminised, and indica dominant, and are extremely forgiving. They’ll grow pretty much anywhere, and quickly.
The downside is that the plants they produce will be smaller, and will therefore yield far less bud. Again, this does come down to personal preference. My advice would be that if you’re a recreational user experimenting with growing your own supply, autoflowers are a great place to start. But if you’re a medical user, or just need a large yield, they’re probably not for you.
Quality Autoflowering Strains
- Autoflowering strains are cheaper, more forgiving and suit many climates
- Remember, that autoflowering plants will produce smaller yields than feminised or regular plants
Indoor or outdoor?
Whether you choose to grow indoor or outdoor pretty much comes down to where you live, and whether you’re prepared to put in a little extra effort. In terms of making it easier for yourself, indoor is definitely the way to go. It allows you much greater control over the environment in which your plants are growing, but it does have drawbacks. Namely the initial cost of setting up, and the future costs of electricity and what your increased energy usage might be doing to the planet.
Once you’ve made a decision on where you want to grow, you will have narrowed down your choice of seeds somewhat. Certain strains are better suited to outdoor growing – these are usually the more traditional, landrace varieties from the Middle East, Africa, and the Himalayas – whilst more modern hybrids have usually been developed for indoor growing. That’s not to say you can’t switch them around, but it’s a good rule of thumb, which you need when you’re just starting out. Once again, you can always experiment later.
Armed with this information, you should now be able to make an informed decision about which seeds are right for you. But remember, this is just a guide, and will by no means guarantee success. You might also choose to ignore me, which is entirely up to you, especially if you have money to burn and a soft spot for American hybrids that cost a fortune and are only available as regulars.
At the end of the day, it’s your choice, but the important thing to remember is that even with all the planning in the world, things can – and probably will, at some point – go wrong. Don’t despair when they do, there’s always next time, and practice does indeed make perfect.
Best Growing Outdoor Strains
- Indoor allows for greater control over your plant
- Setting up plants indoors can be expensive
Recommended Indoor Strains
- Traditional, landrace strains are more suited to outdoor set ups
- Setting up plants outdoors will require less financial input.
Germination and cultivation of cannabis seeds is illegal in most countries. Seedsman.com sells cannabis seeds as a collectable adult genetic preservation souvenir only and offers advice only to customers in countries where the germination and cultivation of cannabis seeds is legal.