What is the best way to start growing my own medical marijuana? Seeds or clones?
A: The choice to use seeds or clones to start your cultivation project isn’t about which is better…or is it? The truth of the matter is that you can’t have one without the other. Clones are made by taking a shoot or cutting from a plant and using rooting hormone and specially prepared media to encourage the growth of roots, thereby creating an exact genetic copy of the plant it was taken from. A seed is not an exact genetic copy of anything. It is the progeny of male pollen contacting female flowers and voila … sexy plant love makes a baby! That baby or seed will have some of the characteristics of the mother and some from the father. These seeds can be either male or female.
So why would one decide to use seeds or clones if they had the choice to do either? I grew my first eight years from seed only. Granted, this was 1987 to 1996 and there wasn’t really any place to buy clones or seeds. So after being given the most amazing Northern Light #5 x Hash Plant seeds I began to breed my own. Necessity forced this upon me as I had nowhere to turn after my bag of seeds ran out. This required choosing a male which would be allowed to pollinate the female or females in the room. Selectively choosing specific females for breeding is usually the best option. It’s better to pollinate one or two plants since you can get hundreds, even thousands of seeds from just one. Seeded marijuana hasn’t been saleable since the 80s.
I would isolate my male somewhere before it starts to throw pollen. When my selected female(s) have reached mid-flowering I would introduce the girls to the boy, install a fan and let nature take its course. As I became a little more knowledgeable I realized you could collect the pollen from the male and apply it more precisely to the flowers using a Q-Tip.
Keep the female plant away from the rest for 24 hours. This allows time for the baby-making. Then spray the entire plant surface including the pot and media with clean water. Water renders the excess pollen inactive so you can return them to the garden without seeding your entire crop. When you plant these seeds they will grow a plant which is unique. Each seed can have dramatic variations, or can be quite similar. Successive generations of breeding with the same female and/or male can produce stability over a seed line.
Cloning is a whole different story. It ensures that every plant you plant will be female and also be relatively similar if not identical in growth characteristics and the finished product it will produce. This is the way to go for most new cultivators.
Cloning helps minimize the amount of resources you’ll have to invest. Simply purchase the number of clones you need, take them home and transplant. Because they’re already rooted plants and ready to grow, for the novice it can be a little easier to get them thriving.
With clones you may never have to worry about males, pollination or wondering if the seeds will pop. But there are drawbacks. Seeds grow stronger plants which are more resistant to disease, pests and negative stress in general.
Clones from over hybridized strains will sometimes get weary over time and being cloned over and over. Some people refer to this as genetic drift. I believe it to be symptomatic of cutting clones from less than optimal mother plants.
I suggest doing a little research online. There are several comprehensive online strain databases which can be found with a simple search. They provide details on hundreds of popular strains. Things like flowering time, potency, even a description of some of the reported benefits attributed to each strain. Making your own clones is easy as well. You just need a mother or donor plant that you can take cuttings from. A cutting is usually taken from the upper, more vigorous part of the plant. I like to take cuttings that are around five inches long. When they’re cleaned up and ready to dip in rooting hormone they’re around four inches.
Only take strong, healthy cuttings that won’t be likely to wilt shortly after you stick them.
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