Spring and 420

Amethyst, my first ever cannabis plant. It was a patient and resilient teacher.

It has been an unusually cool and wet Winter and Spring (so far) in the mild weather bay area where I live and garden.  In past years I’ve had to resist the urge to plant my cannabis seeds by now.  Usually our weather is full-on brilliant sun with temps in the 70s by mid March, and so it’s very tempting to get those cannabis plants in the ground sooner than later. But each of the past several growing seasons has impressed upon me the need for patience.

The first year I grew weed in my small backyard garden was one of learning: aka I learned a LOT of what not to do just by doing it. For instance, I planted a tiny little seedling and one clone in mid March. The clone did exactly what it should have. It flowered immediately, while growing only about a foot tall, and then promptly died by the first of May. But that little seedling? It persisted, struggling through a couple weeks of coldish nights and warming days as the earth silently rotated through the Vernal equinox. That little seedling turned out to be a magnificently healthy plant, and my first harvest ever. It was my best teacher about what works, and what doesn’t, in the outside cannabis garden. And it was my first step to becoming a cannabis educator and author.

This season I’ll sprout my seeds in early May – two whole months later than my first season. It took me resisting my natural impatience and the false warmth of a California spring to learn that when I sprout cannabis seeds later I get healthier, younger plants at harvest. While this means that each plant is smaller as September dawns, it also means that I have less problems with diseases of the aging plant: powdery mildew, brown rot, even bud worms.  

As April dawns (it’s almost 420!) I am delighted that the pandemic has released its grip enough that I can do public events in person. I have four upcoming events, just in time to get people ready to grow their own cannabis in their gardens. April 15 noon at Berkeley Horticultural Nursery, April 16 1:00 pm at Flowerland Nursery in Albany, May 7 1:00 pm in a private East Bay home with Wondering About Weed, and May 21 with the San Francisco Botanical Gardens. Check out my Events and Collaborations page for more info. If you can make it to any of these events please introduce yourself to me!

For us all, I hope that the 2023 growing season is one of bounty and learning. Cannabis belongs in the garden, just like we do.

Sprouting cannabis seeds

cannabis seeds emerging from the soil

I’m preparing to plant my 2022 cannabis garden tomorrow! It’s such a thrilling time of year for the gardener. Planting seeds is an act of hope. It can also be a fraught time for gardeners, especially if your seeds cost $10 each – the going rate for good quality, feminized seeds at dispensaries. There is a lot of conflicting information available about how to sprout seeds – some of it helpful, some of it confusing. If you give it what it needs to grow, then you’re going to do well. Here are a few pointers:

  1. Soak the seeds in lukewarm water in small, clean glass containers for 12 to 24 hours. This will hydrate the seeds and encourage quick sprouting. Don’t allow them to soak for more than 24 hours (give or take) because they need oxygen as soon as they begin to sprout – even before you can see signs of sprouting.
  2. While the seeds are soaking, prepare your sprouting pots. Fill small pots with moistened seedling mix. Be sure these little pots have drainage holes.
  3. Plant one seed in each soil-filled pot, about ¼ inch deep.  Cover with soil, label, and place in a warm spot: 75 degrees F is great.
  4. Wait and watch – keep the soil evenly moist, but never soggy. Germination can be within a couple days to 2 weeks! It all depends on the age of your seeds, temperature, and strain. Be patient.
  5. When the tiny plant emerges from the soil, make sure your baby plants get plenty of light – 8 hours of direct sunlight per day. Natural sunlight is ideal, but artificial light is a fine alternative.

Remember that cannabis is a hardy, easy to grow, annual plant. Do not be intimidated by the opinionated, conflicting voices on the internet. Sprouting cannabis seeds is simple, straightforward gardening.  All of your seeds might not sprout, and that’s to be expected when dealing with living beings, which is what seeds are. All you’re doing is approximating what nature would give these seeds – a bit of moisture, warmth, light, and soil. They will do the rest.

Cannabis Seeds – it’s planting time!

Cannabis Seeds from my 2020 harvest – my cross

It’s early March, and that means Spring is coming — at least for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. For the cannabis gardener, that means getting your seed game on. You may have heard “Time to pop your seeds” or “Let’s crack some seeds”. What’s up with that? These are just different words for sprouting your seeds. I just LOVE this time of year. It’s all about potential – and seeds are the embodiment of potential. A seed is a tiny nascent genetically unique plant folded between two food sources, covered by a protective seed coat. Seeds are alive, and are quite aware of their surroundings. They will stay put in their little seed coats until they sense that conditions are right for them to sprout — they’re waiting for just the right combo of warmth, soil and moisture. The sprouting process could hardly be simpler! Just place your seeds into a small pot of seedling mix, cover 1/4 inch deep with soil, water, and set in a windowsill (keep the temp around 70° f). The seeds should all sprout within a week. Then give them nice, strong light, temps around 70° f and they’re off to a good start. I cover this in detail in The Cannabis Gardener.

One common question I receive is “Where can I get good cannabis seeds?” followed quickly by “Why are cannabis seeds so expensive?” The answer is that because cannabis is still (ridiculously!!) Federally illegal in the US and in much of the world, seeds can be scarce and tricky to find. You’ll need to buy your seeds either online or – my preferred way – at a local dispensary. A couple of things to consider:

  1. Standard or Feminized: Both are good, but standard seeds will contain both female and male seeds — generally, you want to grow just the girls.
  2. Harvest date: Good growers will list the date that the seed was harvested. Make sure your seeds are fresh — especially because they are expensive (like $10 per seed expensive)
  3. Call before you go to a dispensary! Be sure you know what’s in stock before arriving to avoid disappointment.
  4. Genetics matters – sort of. If you’re not too picky about your cannabis, and someone has free seeds — go for it! I’ve had great results from unknown crosses. If you’re interested in more particular weed, it’s a good idea to do your research before purchasing seed. My go-to is Humboldt Seed Company. They are an excellent source for quality genetics and healthy seeds, sold at many dispensaries.
  5. Trade! Most seeds are sold in packs of 10. But few home gardeners need that many of one cultivar. I recommend that you and a couple friends go in on a couple of varieties and then trade. You’ll be able to grow a couple different sorts and save cost overall.