Have you ever tried to grow your own medicine? Cannabis is a notoriously difficult plant to cultivate, even for the most experienced greenthumb. For many Canadians, their weed has taken over most of the garden – not to mention a lot of their precious time during growing season. How can you optimize your plants & cultivation techniques to be sure you’re harvesting the best plants in the neighborhood? Like any good plan, it starts with the seed of an idea…
Since the early 1900’s, Canadians have had a way with cannabis cultivation that is inexplicably superior to many other countries. Whether it’s legendary “BC Bud”, or ultra-potent “Quebec Hash”, or the modern-day “Prairie Pot”, Canadian weed has earned itself a reputation for high standards of quality, and well… a potent high. Not only do we Canucks grow some wicked dro, but our country was the first G7 nation to Federally legalize cannabis, both recreationally and medically. So, we set the bar for quality weed AND we’re also pioneers of the legal weed world? Yup, it’s easy to be proud of the True-North-Strong-and-Free, especially if you’re talking about the realm of marijuana.
Many of you reading this might already be expert growers – not to mention professional smokers – of cannabis, but many more Canadians are just wading into the green waters of the medical benefits of marijuana. Did you know that you’re allowed to grow up to 4 cannabis plants per household?! Since The Cannabis Act was put into effect on October 17, 2018, the “Four Plant Rule” has granted Canadians the right to grow their own weed. There are some caveats, of course, because they don’t want everyone exchanging their green grass lawns for greener “grass” (no matter how sweet that would be!). Four plants per dwelling might not seem like very much, but for the average Canadian family who is new to cannabis, this is a step in the right direction towards the proliferation of this potent and prominently positive plant.
If you’re interested in growing cannabis, but you’ve either never really smoked it before or you’re not exactly a professional horticulturalist, fear not… there’s a lot of growing guides online that can help you become a true dro-pro. Just look at these gorgeous, Xmas tree-sized weed plants! It might seem impossible at first, but you too can bask in the ganja glory of your bushy, vibrant, bud-covered plants… you just need a bit of tips & tricks from your friends at Haute to get you started. Growing weed from seeds is easy: the power to get started, quite literally, is in the palm of your hand.
First we’ll look at the different kinds of genetics and how they affect your choice of seeds. Secondly, we’ll show you how to germinate the seeds you’ve chosen, either in the ‘paper towel method‘, the cup-of-water approach, or how to plant marijuana seeds in dirt/soil. Finally, let us take you on a crash course of caring for your seedlings and where to buy seeds online in Canada.
GETTING STARTED: Choosing Your Seeds
If you’ve ever planted a garden, a flower bed or even a tree, you know that it takes precision, timing and a lot of care to turn a mere seed into a full-fledged plant. Accounting for the environment – whether you’re cultivating indoor or outdoor – can be a tall task even for experienced growers. Think of your cannabis plant as a vehicle: you need to give it the right fuel, combined with fine-tuning many parts, consistently upkeep its components so that it can perform, and manage the way in which you “drive” it to ensure longevity. If plants were cars, marijuana would be an expensive, rare sports car – it is a sight to behold, but to keep the engine purring takes a lot of personal attention and care.
Sticking with the automobile metaphors, the first thing you need to accomplish before you even start driving a car is to decide what make/model suits your lifestyle. This is an all-important and often overlooked step, but the same goes for choosing the marijuana seeds you’re going to grow. Sativa or Indica? High concentrations of THC, CBD, or both? What terpene profiles do you prefer? These questions are just a few of many that need answering before you even break ground and plant your seeds. Getting started is very commonly the most difficult step for any aspiring grower, because there’s just so much ground to cover (literally and figuratively).
To prevent this car from stalling, let’s cover the basics for seed selection so that we can get to the exciting part: growing the darn plants.
Before we even talk about the plants themselves, we need to make sure you understand the flavors, aromas, and effects that the many varieties of marijuana have on people who consume them. Cannabinoids (phytocannabinoids) are the active compounds produced by cannabis flowers, such as THC or CBD. There are hundreds of known cannabinoids, but due to a lack of sufficient research we didn’t really know that half of what they do, and how we can make use of them. For this guide, let’s focus on the two main culprits: THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol).
THC is primarily responsible for the psychoactive feelings you get from smoking weed along with the relaxation and “chill”. CBD, however, is non-psychoactive but instills a sense of focus or energy along with a number of other health benefits. These cannabinoids can be taken separately for their individual benefits, or together to take advantage of what’s known as the entourage effect – consuming cannabinoids & terpenes together for their synergistic effects on health. Think of the entourage effect as a hockey team’s powerplay: sure, each player on the PP is probably a talented star in their own right, but when all the top-dogs play together towards a similar goal within a certain timeframe, there’s a far greater chance of success. There’s a lot of research into the synergies between cannainoids – THC, CBD, CBG, CBN – & terpenes, and how certain combinations can lead to increased health benefits.
If cannabinoids are the instigators for the effects (both good and bad) of cannabis consumption, terpenes are the flavors and aromas that are unique to each kind of cannabis strain. We were talking about cannabis in terms of vehicle metaphors, but let’s switch gears to marijuana and wine. Terpenes, like the bouquet of a rich, fruity and velvety dark red wine, make up the tastes, smells, textures and color profiles of a cannabis flower. These aromatic metabolites are found in the oils and resins of the flowers, stored in the trichomes (little white hair-looking protrusions that make the buds look like they’re covered in “sugar”). Cannabis and other plants evolved terpenes as a means to defend themselves from the environment & pests but also to attract pollinators. They also conveniently store all the cannabinoids we so-covert in the trichomes and oils of the flowers, making it easy for humans and animals to get the health benefits by consuming the buds. Some examples of terpenes are Linalool, Myrcene, Pinene, Caryophyllene and Limonene.
There’s three primary types of cannabis out there, with a fourth we’ll touch on a bit, but the trio that most marijuana proponents choose from are Sativa (Cannabis sativa), Indica (Cannabis sativa indica) and Autoflowers (Cannabis ruderalis). Sativa is a tall growing species of cannabis, with long and narrow lighter green leaves typically fanning out as 7-9 leaflets. Sativa has a large root system, is very sensitive to nutrients in its soil, and enjoys a warmer environment like those found in South Asia or South America. Sativas come in many variations, but they’re typically on the fruitier side of taste/aroma. These fruity associations are one of the hints at Sativas’ dominant terpenes, such as limonene or pinene. Limonene, like its name suggests, is associated with lemons or limes (citrus) flavors and aromas, often sought out for their therapeutic, enervating or uplifting feelings. Limonene is also know as an excellent anti-stress terpene, helping to stimulate peoples’ bodies & minds rather than causing the stigmatized “dopiness” of marijuana.
Pinene, also not a far cry from the pine smells it is known for, is also very prevalent in Sativas. The herbal tastes and smells of Pinene are very reminiscent of sage, rosemary or basil and they’re relied on for inducing creativity and a distinct euphoria when consumed. These are just a few terpenes to summarize the effects of smoking/consuming a Sativa strain, but to check out more about the world of cannabis’ tastes and smells we recommend our friends over at Leafly.
Where Sativas are typically lanky, very green and prefer warmer, subtropical climates, Indicas are the polar opposite (no pun intended): shorter, bushier, sturdy, robust, vibrantly colorful flowers and can inhabit higher elevations and colder climates. Indica leaves are thick, very fan-like with 5-7 leaflets, have more condensed root zones and typically display darker greens, bordering on purplish hues. Originating in Central Asia and the Indian Subcontinent, Indicas are known to growers for their pungent aromas and shorter Flowering periods. Similar to their differences in shape, size and climates, Indicas are opposite Sativas in that their dominant terpenes are more relaxing, chill-inducing and have more sedation effects on the mind & body. Terpenes like Myrcene – a musky, herbal tasting body “high” – and Caryophyllene – the woody, clove & spice pain reliever – and even Linalool – the sweet, lavender-floral mind relaxer – are associated with Indicas. An ‘Indica-high’ is more of a subdued, relaxed or even dopey experience compared to the uplifting high from a Sativa. This isn’t to say that Indicas are only for winding down – many people rely on Indicas for anxiety, stress, sleep and mood balancing – but these strains are definitely noticeable as a mind or full-body high.
Ruderalis, also known as “Autoflower”, is a less popular species of cannabis but it is definitely suited to life in Canada. Ruderalis is a very hearty plant, capable of thriving in colder climates – it originates from Northern Asia & Eastern Europe, where temperatures and sunlight are on the lower spectrum. This type of cannabis earned the nickname “Autoflower” because unlike other cannabis species Ruderalis initiates its Flower cycle on a consistent schedule, regardless of environmental controls. For this reason – as well as its survivability in more Northern climates – Ruderalis is also called “Wild Cannabis” as its more likely to be found in the great outdoors than an Indica or Sativa.
Ruderalis is a very short, stocky and its leaves are uniquely narrow, stubbier than Sativas or Indicas. As we mentioned, it does thrive in colder climates, and its automatic Flowering makes for a very short seed-to-harvest period – as quick as 30 days up to 100+ days for a full life-cycle. Autoflowers are typically on the darker scale of green exhibiting very Northern color schemes with lots of white, orange and reds. Ruderalis cannabis plants are not very popular in the professional marijuana community because they typically have lower THC or CBD values than their counterparts. Nevertheless, many cultivators-in-training grow Autoflowers because of the shorter life-cycle and the plant’s ability to survive environmental changes.
The fourth kind of cannabis is not technically a species at all, but Hybrids are a prominent figure in both the cultivator and consumer communities. Cannabis Hybrids are simply cross-breeds of Sativas, Indicas or even Ruderalis. Humans have taken Landrace cannabis species – “landrace” refers to the original, natural progression of cannabis genetics, without human intervention – and applied specific breeding or genetic manipulation in order to breed specific plant traits, such as higher THC levels or optimized terpene profiles. Hybrids are very popular in the cannabis market because they are specifically bio-engineered for targeted results.
Once you understand the differences between cannabis species, strains, and their effects, you can start to make informed buying decisions for what kind of seeds you want to germinate. Like choosing a dog-breed that works for your lifestyle or family, genetics can play an important role in determining the success or failure of your relationship; however, it’s not all up to DNA, you still have to be a good “owner”, or in this case a cultivator. How you treat your plants ultimately leads to success or failure, so choose the seeds you want but also the seeds that suit your cannabis needs.
Now that you have an expanded view of the world of cannabis biology, it’s time to turn those beautiful little plant kernels into vivacious, healthy marijuana plants.
HOW TO PLANT SEEDS: PT, Cup, or Dirt
Seeds are the essence of plant life, and it’s up to us – the cultivators – to provide a stable environment with favorable conditions in order to grow healthy plants. Once you’ve determined the type of cannabis you’d like to grow and obtained the seeds, planting them can be a simple step in the long journey from seed to harvest. Although planting seeds isn’t necessarily the tough part of growing, it does require your full attention and a close eye for details – the slightest changes can lead to failure. First of all, before you germinate your seeds, storing them properly is very important.
Moisture and darkness are the catalysts for starting seed germination; it can be tough to manage light or the absence of it until you’re ready to germinate your seeds, so moisture is the element we can more obviously control. Make sure your seeds are stored in an airtight, sealed or waterproof container (tupperware is fine, but try to use only ones with rubber seals or vacuum-sealing options). Temperature is another factor, also easily controlled by modern technology. Using a mini-fridge (not too cold, mid-low settings) is great for storing seeds because it checks off both the cool temperatures and the moisture management elements for proper seed storage. Try not to move, manipulate or change the environment for your seeds – the less changes in conditions, the longer your seeds will remain viable.
Seed viability is very situational – it can depend on the genetics, the storage conditions, or even just poor/good luck. If you’ve kept your seeds stored properly, once you’re ready to begin the germination stage you’ve got three main options for getting things started: the “Paper Towel” method, “The Cup”, or planting the seed directly into a growing medium (sometimes called “Traditional”).
The Paper Towel Method is a simple, accessible way to germinate your seeds at home with zero equipment or much know-how involved. Simply dampen some paper towel with water (neutral temperature, not ice cold, not too hot), place your cannabis seeds on the wet paper towel and fold it over, covering the seeds on top & bottom with moisture. Next, place the paper towel into a sealable bag (ziplock) and store the bag (horizontally, flat as possible with nothing on top or underneath the bag) in a warm, dark environment. Check on your seeds every 24 hours, and when you notice the seed casing has split and the root is protruding you are ready to plant your seedling into your choice of growing medium.
If you’ve got some stubborn seeds that won’t take to the paper towel trick, or if they’re older seeds, the Cup of Water Method might get your plants going. Simply take a small cup and fill it 1-3 inches of water, being careful to not make the temperature too hot or cold (neutral is best) and submerge your seeds in the water. Store the water-filled cup and seeds in a warm, dark environment and check on them periodically (try not to put direct light or heat sources on the seeds). Within 24-36 hours, you should notice the seed casings bulging or the root begin to extend out of the seeds. Be extra careful not to over-soak the seeds as you can suffocate/drown them if left too long in water. Once the root shows itself (even just a small portion), remove the seeds from the water carefully and go through the Paper Towel Method, continuing onto your growing medium with your seedling once the root is fully exposed.
If you’ve ever planted a garden and you are confident enough to go directly into soil, then by all means skips the silliness of growing seeds in your kitchen – after all, nature made seeds to germinate in dirt, not man-made environments. You can choose the kind of growing medium you use – propagation pucks, soil, propagation specialty mediums, each have their own advantages & disadvantages. Simply moisten your medium, and using a toothpick or pointed implement, like tweezers, make an insert about one knuckle’s worth of your finger (everyone’s fingers are different sizes, but this is generally 1-inch into the medium). Place your seed into the insert and gently close up the opening, ensuring you’re not packing the medium down or firmer the soil around the seed (aeration is key! air = oxygen, space for moisture). Store your growing medium and planted seed in a warm, dark environment and check on it periodically.
IMPORTANT! Don’t get impatient and dig up or check on the seed’s progress! You risk damaging the very fragile root. It can be tough to wait – especially if you paid a lot of money for these seeds! – but you have to wait for the seedling to establish itself in the medium first.
There’s a lot more risks involved in planting directly in soil, such as humidity (too much/too little), planting too deep in the medium and choking out the seed, lack of moisture or oxygen, and so on. It is also difficult to monitor the progress of your seed’s germination as the growing medium obscures our vision, but regardless of our need for control, it’s the natural way and it usually works just fine. If you’ve got some particularly pricey genetics, or some seeds you want to experiment with and require more visibility/control, stick to the paper towel/cup of water methods. Otherwise, let the plant do its thing in its natural environment, and watch your cannabis plants sprout from some healthy soil.
SEEDLINGS & SPROUTS: Early Stages of Cannabis Cultivation
Once the seed has germinated and begins to sprout from the medium, pat yourself on the back: you’re now a proud parent of a cute, baby cannabis plant! Like human babies, these little seedlings require our constant love and protection, but thankfully unlike our own kids cannabis sprouts don’t require food or diaper changes. Simply ensure the growing medium is kept moist with water, being extra careful to maintain a balance between over-watering and under-watering. A good rule of thumb – pun intended this time – is to test the soil/medium with your thumb or finger; if it feels scratchy or bone-dry, add water… if it’s moist and spongy, leave it be for now. This is an oversimplification, but nonetheless cannabis propagation takes lots of practice before you learn to read your plant’s behavior.
Seedlings/sprouts need to be kept in a moist, warm environment as much as possible. Many people invest in “grow domes” – translucent plastic coverings with growing trays – because they’re cheap, easy to use and you can monitor your cannabis babies without altering the environment. However you choose to let your seedlings grow, ensure you’re paying close attention to them. Once the cotyledon leaves begin to sprout (the first set of leaves, not the iconic cannabis leaf structure but ridged and pointed) your seedling will begin to grow quicker. When your plant has a handful of leaf sets (not including your cotyledons), and a healthy, visible, white and hairy network of roots throughout your propagation medium, you’re typically ready to transplant your seedling into the next size of pot for the start of the Vegetative Stage. We won’t be covering the Veg or Flowering Stages in this article, but for more information from the growing professionals of the world weed web, check out Leafly.com.
A little cultivation pro-tip: Don’t forget your roots! It’s an old expression, but one that’s vital to successful cannabis growing despite the fact that it’s commonly overlooked. Your plant’s roots are tough to monitor if you’re growing in a soil or equivalent medium, but you need to support root growth or you’ll risk wasting all that time, effort and money. Think of the roots like straws – they fan out in the growing medium, seeking nutrients they can uptake and deliver nutrition to the plants. If these channels for essential nutrients like Nitrogen, Phosphorus or Potassium get kinked or cut-short, your plant’s ability to feed itself is diminished and therefore all the fertilizers, sunlight and positive environmental conditions you’ve established are all for naught. Keep a close eye out for root rot (mould, decaying root matter), pests or other inhibiting factors on root growth (such as improper pot size, moisture levels, etc) and help your plant thrive by feeding the roots beneficial fungi like mycorrhizae.
NOT QUITE READY TO GROW YOUR OWN?
GET YOUR WEED AT HAUTE HEALTH
Growing your own cannabis involves a lot of learning, hard-work but its also very rewarding. If you need to get your hands on some solid seeds, check out the numerous online seed distributors in Canada – this country has some of the best cannabis genetics in the world. If you’re just getting into the growing game, but you can’t wait until harvest for your fix of Mar J, check out Haute Health for all your weed needs. $3 grams – $8 grams and they’re always stocked with high-quality flowers, and potent oils, edibles & concentrates. Haute Health even has a wholesale option for the bulk shoppers of the weed world: Shatters, Resins, Hash, even Phoenix Tears, it’s all online with Haute.
Haute Health is known for its incredibly fast shipping, and they often have promotions for FREE SHIPPING all across Canada, so you can get the medicine you need, fast. Haute is the perfect example of why buying weed online in Canada is so much better than relying on other sources of cannabis.