Welcome the Pot Prof’s complete guide to growing weed!
Stage 1, Part 1: How to buy cannabis seeds (and everything else you need to know about cannabis seeds)
The decision to grow marijuana is personal. This undertaking will potentially affect many other aspects of your life. Of course, before you start, it is a good idea to get a sense of what it would take to get the project off of the ground. One of the most common questions people have when they are thinking about starting their own grow operation is: “how do I even get marijuana seeds?”
Acquiring marijuana seeds used to be very difficult. Back in the day, before the legalization of marijuana and cannabis cultivation in general, the only way to get viable marijuana seeds was to know someone who was already growing marijuana and buy some from them. That meant that very few people ever actually started growing weed, and those who did often knew each other or had friends in common.
That’s not to say it is not still a bit tricky. There are still many restrictions on payment and shipping depending on where you live. But the internet has made life a lot easier for purveyors of the magical mystery seeds, and with a bit of perseverance, you can find seeds and have them shipped to your door in just a few days.
Links to check out other stages of this guide:
- The Beginning: The 3 Stages Of Growing Cannabis
- Stage 1: Grow Room, Nutrients, Seeds And Germination (<– You are in this section!)
- Stage 2: Vegetative And Flowering Growth
- Stage 3: When And How To Harvest Marijuana
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW?
Buying seeds requires a bit of research and being savvy with various payment methods and international shipping.
- This section covers:
- Buying seeds: seed banks
- How to find seed banks
- Types of Seeds
- Feminized seeds
- Auto-Flowering vs. Photoperiod
- How to buys seeds that are good for beginners
- Buying seed for your specific growing environment
- Avoid Scams: Things to watch out for when buying seeds
- Buying seeds: seed banks
Finding The Right Seeds For Your Marijuana Garden
Finding the right seeds for your grow can be easier that you might expect. But the key to a successful grow is to take your time and do your homework. Make sure to choose seeds that are well suited to your skill level and growing environment, and then order them from a reputable seed bank.
Many growers buy low quality seeds from shady online seed banks, and still more buy strains that are simply beyond their skill level to grow well. The result is at best a poor quality grow with unhealthy plants, low yields, and low quality highs. At worst, you might lose your money altogether by buying from a shady retailer or buying strains that are too difficult for your skill level.
Remember: take your time, do your research, and do not rush into purchasing seeds until you are sure that you have a good idea of what to expect. At the end of the day, finding the right seeds for your grow is the most important obstacle to getting your grow started, so make sure to get this part right!
Buying Cannabis Seeds: How To Buy Marijuana Seeds
1. Seed Banks
Seed banks: what are seed banks and how do they work?
Seed banks come in all sizes and styles. Some are classy, others are like laboratories, and many are basically just warehouses. But what they all have in common is their shared commitment to storing, preserving, and distributing cannabis seeds.
Basically, a seed bank stores seeds that are harvested from plants grown by breeders. Breeders are growers who specialize in preserving various varieties of marijuana, called strains. Each strain has a specific genetic code that determines the flavor, quality, and effects of the buds it produces. Breeders preserve the purity of the genetics of each strain and sell seeds to the seed banks for distribution. In some cases, seed banks will cultivate their own stock of cannabis plants, but often the work of actually growing the plants and harvesting the seeds is outsourced to special growers.
Some breeders specialize in growing rare strains, and other specialize in creating new strains with new genetics. Depending on the size of the seed bank and it’s connections within the industry, many seed banks carry some standard strains, such as Kush strains and Haze strains, as well as more experimental or specialized strains. Of course, the rarity of the strain will impact the price of the seeds.
If you live in a place like Amsterdam or Colorado, then you will have no problem finding seeds. Seed banks are common, and many regular marijuana shops will carry seeds that you can purchase in the store itself. But not all of us are so lucky, and for those who do not have access to seed banks that we can visit in person, the next best place to find seeds is online.
There are several factors that you should consider when evaluating online seed banks. Not all seed banks are created equal, and some of them are not reliable or are downright scams. So, it is very important to investigate the following before placing your orders:
Shipping is an eternal problem when it comes to seed banks and ordering seeds. Many of the best seed banks are located overseas and may not ship to your country. Moreover, some seed banks have flashy looking packaging that customs and border agents will snag in a heartbeat. So when it comes to shipping, make sure that the seed bank you choose offers discreet packaging and has a good track record of completed shipments to your area.
Unfortunately, it is often very difficult to actually pay for the seeds you want to buy. Credit cards often are not accepted, especially Visa and Mastercard. Most seed banks do not want to deal with bank transfers or money orders, and cash is not usually an option when purchasing seeds online. Often, the best way to buy seeds is by using a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin.
3. Customer Service
Many things can go wrong between the time you place your order and the time when the seeds arrive on your door step. Orders can be confiscated during transit by authorities. Seeds can be swapped accidentally during packaging or mislabeled in the warehouse. By the time you receive the seeds, they have travelled through a gauntlet of potential hazards.
Therefore, it is very important to make sure that the seed bank you order from has a good history of high quality customer service. A good seed bank will often work with you to solve any problems, and sometimes send free or discounted seeds to make up for any mistakes.
Our recommendation: Seedsman.com
There are many reputable seed banks across the world to choose from. Many offer worldwide shipping and most offer discreet packaging. Try Seedsman if you are looking for a good place to start.
- Seedsman offers the following advantages:
- Seeds come from famous breeders such as Sacred Seeds and Sam the Skunkman
Straightforward payment with a variety of options including cryptocurrencies
- Discrete packaging that is less likely to catch the attention of authorities during transit
- Good customer service who will work with you to solve any problems that come up
- Wide selection of strains and varietals specifically tailored to your growing environment
2. How To Choose Seeds: So Many Options, So Little Grow Space
How to choose cannabis seeds for your growing pleasure
In a perfect world, where grow space is infinite and monetary concerns nonexistent, it would not matter how many seeds you bought. All that would matter would be the type of high you were looking for and the strains that could provide it. But unfortunately, we do not live in such a world. For the vast majority of us, our grow rooms will only accommodate a limited number of plants, and growing conditions may not be perfect.
Thankfully, breeders and bud tenders have been hard at work for decades, researching new marijuana strains for every growing situation imaginable. Whether you are living at high altitudes up in the mountains or just looking for maximum yield using a minimum of space, there is a seed out there just waiting for you to find it and put it in some soil.
For most growers, especially first time growers, the best marijuana seed for your purposes will come from hardy stock, be forgiving of mistakes (PH balance is off for a day or two? NBD), and produce a balanced mix of large yields and faster growing times. Here are the top five most important factors to look at when choosing seeds.
1. Good For Beginners
Believe it or not, there are a plethora of strains that have been genetically bred for beginners and new growers. Strains in this category are very hardy and can endure a lot of stress from things like over- or under-watering, high PH levels, and nutrient imbalances. The plants will recover well from most of these classic beginner mistakes, and allow you to still produce a good amount of high quality bud on your first or second try.
Example Strains: Bubba Kush, Afghan Kush, Original Skunk # 1, White Widow, Jack Herer
2. THC and CBD content
For those of you who do not already know, there are two main chemicals in marijuana that create the effects that make the plant famous: THC and CBD. THC, or tetrahydocannabinol, is the main active ingredient in cannabis, which just means that it is the compound responsible for getting you high.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is actually family of chemicals that provide the quality of the high from marijuana. There are 113 CBDs known to humanity so far, and they each create a different feeling. CBD is what is responsible for effects such as body highs, alertness, sleepiness, numbness, tingling, pain relief, etc.
Before you buy seeds, make sure to check the balance of THC and CBDs in the cannabis so that you get get the effects you want.
3. Maximum Yield
Some of us just want to get the most out of our gardens. If that’s you, then check out strains that are built to be the work horses of cannabis cultivation. There are specific genetics that allow a plant to maximize output when treated properly, and these strains will allow you to produce significantly more bud in significantly less space. They will often allow for the best value for money in terms of the cost of the seeds, grow systems, other equipment, and supplies, vs. the total grams harvested.
Example strains: Bubba Kush, Cheese, Amnesia Haze, Critical Purple Kush, Blueberry, Jack Herer
4. Time to flower
Not all of us have the time to wait around for months for our plants to complete their grow cycle. After all, a stash can only last for so long, and eventually you will need to re-up on bud or else you will run out. For quick cycle times and fast production rates, check out strains that have been designed specifically for speed and short life cycles. These are also good strains for beginners who are excited and looking for a fast payoff for their efforts.
Examples: Lowryder #2, Ogre, White Widow Fast, Jack Herer Fast, Northern Lights, Original Skunk #1
5. Plant Height
Finally, measure your grow space with a ruler and look for strains that will fit the height of your grow tent. Too often, new growers will underestimate the height of the plants they are growing and end up with not enough room at the top for their colas to sit comfortably far away from the grow lights. This can lead to burned buds and bud rot.
First Choice: UK Cheese Auto
Auto UK Cheese is an auto-flowering version of the famous Cheese strain in the Skunk #1 family. Originally hailing from London communes, it has a pungent aroma and relaxing effect. It is very forgiving and easy to grow, making it perfect for beginners.
- Good yield: 35-125 gr/plant
- Type: autoflowering (requires less skill, easier for beginners)
- Height: 50-120 cm
- Slower growing: 12 weeks
Second Choice: C99 X Blueberry Fast
C99 X Blueberry is a cross between two famous strains: Cinderella 99 and Blueberry. Crossed again with a Fast cannabis plant, it produces huge colas in under 2 months. It is a Sativa dominant hybrid with Thai and South East Asia genetics.
- High yield: 350-450 gr/m2
- Fast growing: 6-7 weeks
- Type: Photoperiod (requires a bit more skill, more complicated for beginners)
- Height: 80cm – 1.40m (not really a con for most people)
3. Feminized Seeds Vs. Regular Seeds
What are feminized seeds? What is the difference between feminized seeds and regular seeds?
One of the most common questions that beginners have about growing marijuana is this: what are feminized seeds? The basic answer is this: feminised seeds are genetically designed to produce only female plants.
Why does that matter? One reason: female cannabis plants produce flowers, while males do not.
Allow me to explain…
Male vs. Female Cannabis Plants
If you have any knowledge of botany, you might already know that there are different types of plants, and each have different ways of procreating. Some, like coniferous trees, have only one sex, while others, like ferns, have many sexes. Plants are complicated like that.
However, one type of plant, namely flowering plants, have two sexes. Each sex has different roles to play in the life cycle of the species, but only the female plants produce flowers. Cannabis plants are flowering plants, which means that only female plants produce flowers, while male plants do not. Male plants are useful for breeders, but for regular growers, all we want are the female plants and their delicious flowers.
The problem is that regular cannabis seeds, the kind you might find out in the wild, produce female and male plants at a ratio of roughly 50/50. As a grower, that means that it is impossible to ahead of time which seeds will produce males and which will produce males. And since males are not useful to us, that means that roughly 50% of the regular seeds you buy will be unusable.
Back in the day, growers used to mitigate this problem by planting double the amount of seeds they needed, and then culling the male plants during the growing process. Unfortunately, the only way to know which plants were male and which were female was to wait until the female plants started showing the sex while going into the flower phase of their growth stage. That meant that growers had to waste time and resources growing double the number of plants only to chop down half of the crop in the middle of a grow cycle. It was a huge waste of time and money.
How are cannabis seeds feminized?
The fact that only 50% of regular seeds produce female marijuana plants means that only 50% of the grow will produce smokable buds. That is a huge problem.
A few decades ago, some smart cannabis growers figured out that they could force female plants to reliably produce only female seed by interrupting the light schedule of a flowering female plant. This interruption stresses out the female plant, and in response, the plant pours its resources into producing feminized seeds since these are the seeds that will perpetuate the survival of that plant’s genetic codes. After all, evolution and natural selection are not sentimental, and the only thing that matters to nature is the survival of the species, which only female cannabis plants can ensure.
These days, breeders use chemicals like collodial silver or thiosulphate solution. These chemicals inhibit the production of a hormone called ethylene, which is key to flowering. Without getting into too much scientific detail, the result is that the treated female plants produce only female seeds.
Why grow feminized Cannabis seeds?
The basic take-away is that feminized seeds will produce flowering female plants (the kind you want) every time with almost 100% guarantee. Meanwhile, regular seeds will produce a 50/50 mix of female and male cannabis plants, which means that half of your grow will be unusable.
- Feminized seeds:
- Guarunteed (nearly) 100% flowering female marijuana plants
- Genetically or chemically treated to produce only the plants that grow buds
- No male plants, which can ruin your harvest
- Regular seeds
- Contain roughly 50/50 mix of male and female seeds
- Similar to what is found in nature
- You will have to waste time, money, and resources growing twice the number of plants only to cut down half of your crop when the flowering phase of the growth stage begins
4. Autoflowers vs. Photoperiods
What is the difference between autoflowers and photoperiods?
When you read about marijuana cultivation across the internet, one realization that you will quickly come to is that there is an inordinate amount of confusion surrounding the differences between photoperiods and autoflowering cannabis plants. Some will tell you that autoflowers are the opposite of feminised plants (???) while others will simply tell you that autoflowers are a good choice for beginners but not why that is true.
The confusion here is a sad missed opportunity to tell an incredible story in the history of cannabis cultivation. Complete with the discovery of a new species of cannabis by a revolutionary Russian botanist and the eventual genius of Dutch breeders, the story of how autoflowering cannabis strains came to be is one of the great, paradigmatic stories of international agricultural botany of the 20th century.
So, without further adieu, let’s set the record once and for all, and tell the fantastic story of D. E. Janischewsky and the discovery of C. ruderalis.
What is Cannabis ruderalis?
In 1924, the young botanist D. E, Janischewsky was traipsing around the banks of the Volga River. He was studying the properties of wild cannabis, potentially looking at its suitability as an agricultural product, namely hemp. Hemp is the non-flowering version of the cannabis plant. It is not psychoactive and grows in the wild across most of the continents of the world.
While examining several specimens of wild hemp collected from the region around the Volga River, Janischewsky noted their odd appearance. Rather than the usually tall, lanky stalks of the C. indica varieties found farther South along the temperate regions of Europe and India, these specimens displayed short, hardy stalks, presumably to endure in the harsher climates of Northern Russia. The plant’s seeds also differed from the usual appearance of the other cannabis specimens. Most curiously, the plants seemed to bloom as soon as they reached maturity no matter what the lighting conditions were, unlike C. indica, which only bloomed as the seasons changed. It soon occurred to Janischewsky that he had discovered a new species of hemp. He named it Cannabis Ruderalis, derived from the Latin word rudera, meaning rubble, lump or rough piece of bronze.
In the 1980s, seeds of C. ruderalis made their way to Amsterdam where breeders started tinkering with the new genetics this strange species of cannabis contained. The cross bred it with other cannabis strains, boosted its naturally low THC content, and incorporated its unusual “auto-flowering” property into other cannabis strains. The results were the first autoflowering strains of cannabis. They were stronger than other strains due to their Northern origins, and while they did not produce as much bud per plant as the regular ‘photoperiod’ strains (namely, strains that only flower when light patterns change), they were far easier to grow and cultivate for beginner growers. These new autoflowering strains quickly spread across the globe over the coming decades.
Properties of Cannabis Ruderalis
Today, autoflowering cannabis, sometime colloquially referred to as “autos”, are some of the most popular types of cannabis to grow because they require very little maintenance. You can simply plant them, water and feed them, and they will start producing large colas on their own within 2-3 months. For many growers, that makes them a far more attractive option that photoperiod strains, which require careful attention to nutrient balancing and light schedules in order to induce flowering.
One downside of autoflowers is that they do not respond to cloning at all. But as long as you are willing to continue growing from seeds, these plants more than make up for this small defect with their other benefits.
Summary: Autoflowers vs. Photoperiods
The main thing you need to know is that autoflowers will begin to flower no matter what when the reach maturity, while photoperiods can be grown in their vegetative state indefinitely, and will only begin to flower when forced to do so by changes in light schedule.
- Great for beginners
- Perfect for anyone looking for low maintenance, plug and play growing
- Quick grow cycles: 2-3 months from seed to harvest
- More advanced growing
- Can be cloned
- Far higher yields than autoflowers
- Longer time to flower and harvest: 3-4 months
5. How To Avoid Scams And Fake Seeds
How to avoid scams and fake seed banks
One of the biggest problems that new growers face is locating reliable seed banks and distributer. Due to the continued prohibition on cultivating cannabis in many countries and states, selling seeds is often illegal. As with anything that is illegal but for which there is still demand, there is a thriving black market. The internet is especially unreliable, and there are more scam artists selling fake seeds than there are real world purveyors of these precious agricultural gifts.
There are a few ways to make sure that you are buying good quality seeds from reputable sellers. Thankfully, the situation is not as sketchy as it once was. Even just 10 years ago, the internet was a hit or miss marketplace for cannabis products and seeds. Nowadays, it is much easier to find a trustworthy source. Here are some tips for doing so.
1. Avoid eBay, Craigslist, Amazon, and other online marketplaces
Gone are the days when you could purchase seeds on eBay and have a reliable chance of receiving real honest-to-god marijuana seeds. Platforms such as eBay, Craigslist, and Amazon have cracked down heavily of seed distributors. It’s best to stick with tried and true seed banks like Seedsman.com
2. Be wary of the dark web
Sure, it’s fun to go on the Dark Web marketplaces and look at all of the illegal things you can buy. In the wake of the shutdown of Silk Road and more recently Alphabay, numerous smaller marketplaces have sprung up in their place. The sellers on these marketplaces might be legit, or they might not be. But because they usually require you to pay with cryptocurrencies, you can easily be scammed and never get your money back. (Note: we are not recommending you buy seeds if you live in a place where doing so would be illegal or if you are underaged or unlicensed.)
3. When in doubt, save your money & stay safe
It’s never a bad idea to save your cash and wait until you find a reputable seller. If you have a bad feeling about a website or a local seed seller, just wait. The best piece of advice you will ever get about growing marijuana is to save your money and be patient. There is no rush. Growing is a relaxing art, and there will be other opportunities to buy seeds down the road, so no need to take risks or stress out about the process. If you have a bad feeling, listen to yourself, and just wait until you find a better option.
4. If the seeds are white or open, they are fake or dead or male
Unfortunately, you can’t plant seeds from the marijuana you buy from a dealer. Viable female seeds have a very specific look to them. If the seeds are white, cracked, or otherwise strange looking, then they are most likely not viable seeds. Sometimes, scammers will try to sell hemp seeds (male cannabis seeds) as real female seeds.
And whatever you do, if the seeds look anything like the picture below, then stay away (these are coriander seeds :).
Avoiding Scams and Fake Seeds
The most important piece of advice you will get is to stay safe and take your time when buying seeds. If you are not sure about what you are getting, then do not buy it.
- Tips for avoid scams and fakes:
- Avoid large online marketplaces like eBay, Craigslist, and Amazon
- Avoid the dark web and stick with known seed banks
- If you have a bad feeling, then save your money and find a different seller
- If the seeds look white or are cracked open, then they are either dead, hemp, or fake
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