Growing Cannabis: Sowing Seeds or Cutting Corners?
When you decide to grow your own cannabis, there are many decisions you need to make. One of the first is choosing whether to grow from seed or a cutting. Rich Hamilton explores the merits of both methods.
The amount of strains of cannabis seeds is growing all the time, so the first thing I would advise is doing your homework and deciding what your needs are, then pick a strain that meets them. Take your time, research, and when you buy, get the seeds from a reputable retailer or breeder. Seeds can be expensive but remember, you get what you pay for. A good quality batch of seeds handled correctly can get you almost a 90 percent successful germination rate.
Spend on Quality Seeds
Buying from a reputable breeder will guarantee your seeds come from a healthy disease-free mother plant and environment, which can put your mind at rest through your grow cycle as you’ll know what to expect from your plants.
Another bonus point with seeds is you can buy different types depending on your needs and experience. Feminized seeds, mixed seeds, and autoflowering seeds are all available. If you are just starting out, I would advise you to use feminized seeds to keep things simple.
In cannabis growing, what we are interested in is the female plant, as that’s the one that flowers and produces the beauty buds we want. So, the more female plants we grow, the bigger yield we will have. Feminized seeds are treated/modified to increase their chances of growing into a female plant. There are no guarantees, but most times, you’ll get a female, which can produce phenomenal results. The only negative is treating or genetically modifying the plant like this can result in its overall stability or yield being affected. But there is no proof of this, and when looking at the bigger picture, I would still recommend the use of feminized seeds.
Mixed seeds are natural, untreated seeds. The pros of using them are you may find the females in mixed packs are more stable and yield more than those in feminized packs. They are also a perfect choice if you are looking to grow as organically as possible and do not wish to use seeds that have been genetically modified. On the negative side, it is difficult to identify male plants unless you are very experienced and know exactly what you are looking for. It's a risk using mixed seeds as just one hermaphrodite or male can ruin a whole crop. In a mixed pack there will be a roughly 50 percent split of males and females, so although the female plants may yield more than their feminized counterparts, overall your yield will probably be less than if you had a whole crop of feminized seeds. It will be a lot more work too.
Autoflowering seeds have been genetically modified/bred to flower automatically after the plant reaches a certain maturity regardless of what light cycle you currently have the plant under, be it vegetative or flower. Autos are great as obviously they grow and flower faster than other seeds; perfect if you are impatient for results. They are hardy and more resilient than unmodified seeds, so they may stand up better to any potential threats from disease or pests. The downside is because they flower earlier, they will be smaller in size and the yield, in turn, may be less than other types of seeds.
There is the other alternative of using pre-rooted cuttings which are popular mainly due to their convenience. The first part of the process has already been done since you don't have to germinate your seeds, raise them to size, and then transfer for propagation. They come pretty much ready to put straight into veg, which can save you up to two weeks of time. They can be expensive but again, I would advise you to buy quality from a reputable seller, even if it does cost more.
If you are taking a cutting yourself, it is essential you are educated on the best way to do it. If you cut incorrectly, then it can have knock-on effects for your plants down the road. Learning how to take cuttings properly means in the future you will be able to utilize generations of the same strain instead of buying new seeds or cuttings each time, saving you money in the long run.
It is not an exact science, however. Remember, with both seeds and cuttings you will find there are always genetically stronger and weaker variations from the same source. Some may be stronger, taller, weaker, etc. Even exact genetic copies of a plant can and will develop different characteristics depending on their environment and feed.
Axillary vs Terminal Cannabis Cuttings
There are two main types of cutting: axillary and terminal. To make sure your cutting is as genetically strong as possible, I would advise taking or buying terminal cuttings only. Terminal cuttings are taken from the main stem of the plant and from the secondary branches shooting off the main towards the top of the plant, where it receives the most light and, theoretically, where the leaves should be strongest and healthiest.
Axillary cuttings are taken from much lower down the main stem and have not received as much light. I find terminal cuttings grow more consistently and are easier to manage. Axillary cuttings are unpredictable and can have more diverse (both positive and negative) characteristics which can give you numerous headaches throughout your grow.
Seeds and Cuttings: Pros & Cons
Seeds and cuttings both have pros and cons. Using cuttings will reduce your workload and produce results quicker. It’s the same with autoflowering seeds. Starting a crop from seed, germinating it, and going through propagation are essential skills that make you a better grower in the long run and give you a greater understanding of the plant and what you are doing. The same can be said for learning how to competently take and treat a cutting.
Whatever route you decide to begin with, you should be looking to expand your skillset and knowledge once you have more confidence. Once you've tried cuttings and are comfortable with that, why not try starting your next crop from seeds? Or vice versa. The smallest of variables can have a significant Impact on your end product in a positive way, once you see it on one level, you will always be striving to reach the next.
Written by Rich Hamilton | Writer, Consultant, Author of The Growers Guide
Rich Hamilton has been in the hydroponics industry for more than 20 years, working originally as a general manager in a hydroponics retail outlet before becoming an account manager at Century Growsystems. He enjoys working on a daily basis with shop owners, manufacturers, distributors, and end users to develop premium products.