Nico’s Nuggets: Step-By-Step Growing: Part 1, Seedlings & Clones


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The Nico’s Nuggets Inbox is quite full these days, and after grouping many of the emails by subject matter it became quite clear that many of our readers are asking for basic step-by-step instructions for the first-time grower. Unfortunately, to attempt to answer this single “question” with start-to-finish instructions would essentially require the writing of a manuscript.

Instead, I am going to attempt to give such a tutorial for beginners in a four-part summary series of the basics to help the newbies get up and growing ASAP. Each week in the coming month, I will cover one basic element of cannabis cultivation as follows: Seedlings & Clones; Lighting; Mediums, Water & Nutrients; Flowering, Harvesting & Drying.

Of course, there will be some gaps that will require supplemental info that is not covered in these four parts, and for that I recommend using the search field on HIGHTIMES.com to find such answers as nearly every topic has been covered on this site over the years. As always, thanks to all our long-time readers and a big welcome to our new friends. – Nico

Seeds vs. Clones

The first step in any home grow set-up is to procure cannabis genetics. People rarely understand that the quality of your genetics is the single most important factor in determining the quality and outcome of your grow, hence it is of great importance to find and purchase the best genetics possible. To think that any old strain can be made into an excellent product with just good horticultural technique would be a mistake, so do yourself a favor and start out on the right foot – purchase your genetics from a reputable source.

Seeds offer some advantages, but take longer to develop. 

Cannabis genetics come in three forms: Seeds, clones or tissue samples (also known as tissue culture, or TC). The latter is rarely used and is generally reserved for advanced growers or lab work. The predominant method for securing genetics is via seed or clone purchase. Seeds can be bought from a slew of seed banks that carry hundreds of varieties from breeders all over the world. Nearly all seed banks are located outside of the U.S. where laws are friendlier towards the possession and sale of cannabis seeds.

Most purveyors of seeds will claim they are intended for souvenir purposes only and that the liability of purchasing and receiving the seeds is solely on you. Many of these seed banks will attempt to ship seeds to both the U.S. and Canada, though these seeds are sometimes intercepted by Customs or Border Control agencies. Usually, however, the seeds are merely confiscated and destroyed, with little repercussions for the buyer (other than being out a few hundred bucks). Still, always be aware of local laws and penalties for cannabis enjoyment. Clones, where available, are a much easier option for growers, but dispensaries that can legally sell them are located in only a handful of states in the U.S. (CA, CO, WA and AK).

Both seeds and clones have advantages and disadvantages. Seeds have what is known as “hybrid vigor,” meaning they are much more vigorous in growth and can provide excellent yield and potency. Clones may also yield big and offer high potency, but depending on the age of the mother plant they came from and how many generations the same line has been cloned (some growers take clones from clones from clones, etc. for as many as 20 years) a condition known as genetic drift may occur whereby the vigor and potency of the genetics begins to drop off. Remember, Mother Nature intends for cannabis plants to breed and create offspring. Long-term cloning is, in many ways, unnatural.

Should you decide on purchasing seeds, it is fairly easy to germinate them so long as you remember to keep them moist and warm. Seeds can be germinated either in your medium of choice or outside of a grow medium and then delicately transplanted into your medium. Most growers chose to germinate in small “plugs” of either peat or Rockwool, making the transplanting into the larger containers much easier. Seedlings will generally grow for two weeks before being transplanted into their new home. It is important to remember that one disadvantage of using seeds over clones is the additional germination and vegetation time required to raise the seedlings which could run anywhere from two to four additional weeks.

Clones are another popular method for propagation. Clones primary advantages are that they are exact genetic replicas of the mother plant they came from, meaning the grower knows exactly what genotype and sex of plant they are getting. Additionally, clones generally are sold rooted in medium and well developed, shaving off a few weeks of time that would normally be needed when starting seedlings. Some drawbacks associated with clones include the fact they are not as easy to find and purchase unless you live in a place where cannabis is legal. Also, purchased clones can introduce pests, diseases or mold spores into your growroom if they came from an unclean nursery. Clones, however, usually come ready to be plugged directly into the vegetation phase of growth whereas seeds will need an extra couple of weeks in a nursery before going into veg.

Once your seedlings or clones are ready for their vegetative cycle they need to be placed under sufficient HID (high-intensity discharge) lighting where they will be kept in a vegetative state for anywhere between two to four weeks (or possibly longer depending on the grower’s chosen schedule). Lighting will be covered in the next installment of this series followed by mediums and nutrients and then finally flowering and harvest.

Easy Cloning Technique

Making your own clones to replicate your favorite strains is also a great option and easy to do yourself. Clones must be taken from a mature (8 weeks minimum) female plant that has not yet flowered. To take clones you will need a sharp, clean and sterile blade, some rooting hormone (easily bought at any gardening center or grow shop) and some peat pellets or Rockwool plugs.

Clones and seedlings under vertical CFL bulbs.

To start, select a healthy and thick branch that is four to six inches long. Make a clean cut at a 45-degree angle using your clean blade. Trim off any leave sets that are near the bottom of the stem so that it fits deeply into the plug. There should be no less than two leaf sets still on the branch and no more than five.

Next, dip the angled stem into your rooting hormone and then insert the branch into a moistened plug. Be sure to keep a soft light such as a fluorescent lamp over the clones. It is also advisable to use a humidor tray and cover, as well as a heat mat underneath. Cuttings should take root in one to two weeks. Once firmly rooted, clones can be transplanted into larger containers and moved into a vegetative garden under HID lighting.

Stay tuned next week for Part 2 of this four-part series for first-time growers which will focus on “Lighting.”

Top photo: clones rooting in Solo Cups under fluorescent lights. 

Thanks for reading everyone and remember: Grow… And help the world grow, too!

Got questions? Email 'em over to Nico at NicosNuggets@hightimes.com and be sure to put “Nico’s Nuggets” in the subject line!

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