Greetings and salutations from the southern coast of Oregon. Germinating your seeds is actually a very simple process, truly a KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) dynamic. But once they are above ground, this is a stage in their lives where they are reading their environment and learning to leverage it; not unlike the early stage of life for any living thing on Earth. So, it is important to give them a proper environment in their youth, allowing them to grow up being uber hearty, healthy, and highly adaptable.
This benefits us as growers along the lines of larger yields, higher resin production, more powerful aromas, and flavors, and greater resistance to parasites and stress. Hang out with me here for a few and wrap your domes around this stuff—cheers, and on with the show.
The First Transplant
I like using a decent sized spoon as my tool of choice for moving/scooping new seedlings into new containers. As far as my choices regarding containers at this stage, you can see in the photo above my basic pots to choose from. I don’t like putting small little plants into large containers at this point; for some reason, this always “Goes South” on me and I have problems—involving overwatering or underwatering, would be my guess here, but I really can’t be sure. Okay then, my container choice is based on the cannabis variety I have sprouted, for something super hungry and thirsty, like say an Afghanistan Hashplant, I would use the larger size container in the photo above.
Here is an important little piece of advice, ready? If you currently use the plastic cups (see photo) for growing containers, you may want to rethink this one, seriously. No need to take my word here, simply do your own little side by side comparison. Choose a (roughly) 16 oz. sized legit growing container and next time you transplant into your 16 oz. plastic cups, transplant a couple into the real growing containers as well. You’ll see a big difference in growth rates, health, and happiness. The problem is those plastic cups suck badly for aeration of the soil; even with a lot of holes in the bottom of them, they still can’t match the superior aeration dynamics of real growing containers.
Dampening Off is a problem for some with little sprouts, and they basically rot through at the base of the stem, the sprout falls over and dies. This is fungi that do this, but the fungus is not the real problem here, it’s your moisture levels being too high—overwatering, etc.—and/or a lack of good air movement/circulation.
A Great Soil Mix for Seedling Stage Plants
The first and by far most deceptively important parts of your transplanting session are things like stopping yourself from compacting the soil mix in the containers; you literally just barely need to do this, just barely; this makes a bigger difference than you may think. Also, your soil’s aeration amendment, perlite or pumice is all good here, make sure it is at least 20% of your soil mix by volume. Another thing here that’s important is making sure your plants are starting to get used to your personal soil mix you use on most of your plants, flowering or vegging. These plants are young and learning how to make use of all the things at hand, and the soil’s ratio of elements and microlife are two of those things.
Perlite does not absorb water and pumice does, so pumice aerated soil will weigh more when moist and will also hold more water. Pumice is PRIMO and soil microlife love this stuff. Perlite works a bit better than pumice when it comes to aerating wet soil, so if you tend to overwater, I would go with perlite. Perlite also attracts microbial life as pumice does, offering a neutral pH “coral reef” for microbe colonies to thrive around.
PIC: Agricultural Grade Perlite is Fairly Easy to Find Locally Almost Anywhere
I sprout in basically a 50/50 mix of good bagged soil (like Ocean Forest or G&B brand) and my custom TLO soil mix, and that blend is then cut by 30% with earthworm casings. But just good bagged soil works fine here to germinate them in if you want. For the seedling stage (first transplant) we want to start getting the plants used to your soil and the microlife that inhabits your soil. The standard mix below works fine but is definitely subpar to the custom mix below. A better standard mix would use 2 parts soil, 1 part earthworm castings/compost, and 1 part perlite or pumice; but I know castings or compost are hard for some of you to come by.
SEEDLING STAGE CUSTOM SOIL MIX
- 1-part good quality bagged soil
- 1-part your personal soil mix
- 1-part perlite or pumice
- 1-part earthworm castings or high-quality finished compost
SEEDLING STAGE STANDARD SOIL MIX
- 3-parts good quality bagged soil
- 1-part perlite or pumice
Lighting & Photoperiods
The lighting for seedlings is actually very easy to understand. It needs to be intense, not anything like “shop” style florescent lights, or little household type light bulbs, etc. Make your seedling light(s) at least 200-watt, and 300-watt to 400-watt lights are better (best); 1,000-watt lights are a tad overkill but still beautiful to use here for this stage. You also need/want full-spectrum lights, and as close to 5,500 K (kelvins/color temperature) as you can find. Essentially you want the plants to “learn” they have tons of light energy to use, along with learning to make use of the full spectrum of light waves. Basically, what you want here are lights that are as close to the Sun’s spectrum and color temperature you can get.
The HLG 300 LED light in the photo above is full spectrum and is rated at 4,000 K (kelvins) and it is also one of my very favorite LED lights for the last 3 or 4 years now, great for full term and flowering. Visit horticulturelightinggroup.com to see their LEDs.
This way when your plants get to their vegging stage they can power-veg because they are already familiar/have adapted with having an intense lighting source for energy. When they get to the flowering stage the same things are true there as well. Plants started out in funky soil and/or using weak lighting will need extra time to adjust to the higher end things during veg and flowering, and the time and energy they use adapting to much more powerful lights and higher quality soil could be better used towards bigger yields and higher quality. Now keep reading, because lighting intensity also plays a large part in allowing you to be able to sex your seedlings at about 30 days above ground.
PHOTOPERIODS: I would normally recommend one of the standard vegetative stage photoperiods here for your seedling plants, like 16/8 or 18/6, but, I highly recommend using a standard flowering photoperiod here (12/12) for the plants’ first 15 days above ground, after the 15 days under 12/12 simply switch the photoperiod to one of the standard ones listed above. Using intense lighting allows your plants to mature more rapidly and a 30-day old plant raised under intense lighting is more mature than a 30-day old plant raised under weaker lighting—full stop.
Using the 12/12 photoperiod for the first couple of weeks above ground and then changing the photoperiod to 18/6 simulates Spring turning into Summer for the plants, keeping them very happy and stress-free. The best reason for this photoperiod voodoo is that it allows you to be able to sex your plants when they are 30 days old—give or take 4 days. This works for me like 95% of the time, and longer flowering sativas—like ones that flower for more than 10 weeks—should be kept under the 12/12 photoperiod for about three weeks before switching to 18/6 photoperiod, and these will more often show their sex in 5 weeks of age; give or take 4 days.
Hope you all enjoyed this and got something good from it, thank you all for the awesome support and kind words lately, remember to grab my latest book on Amazon: True Living Organics 2nd Edition, that would make me smile for miles—cheers and I’ll catch you all on the flip-flop 😊