A continuation of Learning to Grow Marijuana: Seeds (Part 1)
Choosing the Best Planting Medium
If you intend to grow marijuana, you must first chose a planting medium. Cannabis prefers an aerated substrate, but can grow in most any condition. It is most commonly cultivated in a nutrient rich soil or “super soil,” that if mixed properly has all the required nutrients that the plant needs during its life cycle. As a seedling ages it requires more nutrients, some soil mixtures can contain too much food for young plants causing nutrient burn or worse, death. Some common super soil mixtures are Fox Farms Ocean Forest, Black Gold basement mix and Happy frog. These soils can be mixed with the following soilless options to reduce the nutrient content and improve aeration. the term “Soilless” is to refer to the lack of nutrients contained in the medium, requiring you to add nutrients to your water before using that water on your plants. Coco Coir, Peat Moss, Hydroton and Rockwool are common types of soilless mediums. There are organic soil options like compost that contain beneficial bacteria that will increase root growth as well as help produce essential hormones and antibodies. I prefer to plant my seedlings in a mix of compost:HP Pro mix at a 1:4 ratio.
Shown above are two plants suffering from nutrient burn, you can see the leaves have began to brown at the tips. If left untreated, this burning will envelop the entire leaf and eventually the plant as well.
Choosing a Container
It is important to have your medium prepared and in containers before handling your newly germinated plants, you should also have some water prepared at just above room temperature. When choosing a container it is best to keep the size below 1 gallon to help establish a healthy rootball. Without a thick cluster of starting roots your plant may have difficulty building root mass in the future. I prepare my containers half full so that I can back fill each one to reduce seedling stretch after the first few days of growth. Now using your finger produce an indented hole 1 inch deep on the soils surface that each seedling can call home.
Your seedlings should look like those pictured above. Each root or radicle long enough to begin to take hold into your new medium.
You should have your seedlings germinated and awaiting transplant into their first containers. Care must be taken when handling each radicle to ensure that this fragile taproot is not bruised, crushed or broken. Make sure that you wash your hands thoroughly before hand or wear gloves during this process as the oils on your hands can damage the fine root hairs. These hairs are what uptake water and nutrients from your medium and are essential to plant development. With this in mind begin moving each seedling to their new homes.
Gently cover each seedling with your soil mixture then lightly water making sure there is little to no run off. There should not be much soil covering the top of each seedling to ensure a fast start once watered. The top 1-2 inches of soil should be kept moist for the first week to ensure that the root hairs are at optimal health. If the seedling is planted too deep, or if the medium is kept to wet, the seedling can dampen off and die before or just after breaking the soils surface. (source icmag.com – after back filling your pot your seedling should have enough room to grow unhindered for the next few weeks.)
A seedling requires less light than it’s massive adult counterparts. and can actually be harmed by light if it is too intense. The same can be said for the reverse of this, not enough light can lead to spindly weak seedlings that do not want to branch or flower properly. It is best to keep these babies out of full light until they develop their first or second set of true leaves, You will be able to tell if your plants are at optimal health and light levels if they are beginning to grow their terminal branches during the first week. After the first set of true leaves develop I make sure to back fill the rest of my container with my soil mixture buying the elongated stem of the seedling making the first set of true leaves the new base of the plant. The seedling will grow roots into the new top portion of the pot and also has the added benefit of reducing the stem stretch of your new plant keeping its first set of branches low to the ground.
Above: Seedlings just starting their first true set of leaves. these will be ready to back fill in a few days
Above: A plant after its pot has been filled completely with dirt. it is ready to be topped and put into a larger pot for an extended vegetation period commonly refereed to as “Veg”
In Part 3 of this series, we will begin to discuss the required care of a plant to reach adulthood before flowering after germination, types of seedling varieties (Autoflowering, feminized, regular), and genetic mutations and other common deficiencies.