Ah, March. The beginning of cannabis season. We start seeds in batches, staggering the planting dates to buffer against the vagaries of spring weather here in Northern Mendocino. If it’s a warm, dry spring like the last few have been, our later started seeds will be ideal for planting out when we are ready to do so. If it’s a cool, moist spring, then our earlier starts will be more appropriate for planting out in mid-April.
How to Prep and Plant Early Seeds
We used to pre-soak the seeds with moist paper towels in Ziploc baggies. This year we did that with our first two batches of seeds but this last one we just stuck straight into the 4” pots. The reasoning is if we start some 60,000 vegetable seeds with success we ought to do the same with cannabis. If pre-soaked, I plant as soon as they crack open, point down, divot up.
The cannabis seed has a divot that marks the end that separated; when planting, put the seed point DOWN, divot UP. It is my experience that the root will shoot out downward from the tip of the seed, which will then push upwards and the seed coat will open up and out. I plant so that the divot ends up as close to the soil surface as I can get it without it being exposed. This way the root doesn’t have to push too hard to shove the seed coat up so that it can flap open as the cotyledons unfurl.
This year, we started our first batch of seeds for full-season plants on March 8, our second batch on March 12/13 and we will start a final batch soon. We also started some early seedstock for genetic testing to figure out what our best potentials for the year are. If the tests turn back something incredible, we’ll have time to take cuttings from that plant and propagate them this season.
Planting Begins Once Sexes Identified
As soon as the plants sex, we start planting. We take females from their pots in the greenhouse and put them into their final home in the terraces below the greenhouse. We do our spring prep early, getting the terraces ready so that we can plant a vegetable crop prior to the cannabis. We’ll plant out tender spring greens in February or March and we’ll put a simple hoop-row cover of ½” PVC, baling wire purlin wrapped on rebar end stakes with the 14’ frost blanket so there is plenty to wrap in fence posts to hold it down.
Cannabis Plants Perform Best With a Stress-Free Life
The irrigation is already laid out; we create a stable, sheltered microclimate that allows the plants to excel without ever being stressed. All it takes is one day of too warm and dry in the greenhouse to affect the final potential. Plants don’t like to be stressed and cannabis is no exception. It is our goal to keep the plants from shocking in any way, giving them an unimpeded run from start to finish. Master Cultivators remove the potential stumbling blocks to give their plants a clear run to the finish. The most we can ever do is help the plant express its genetic potential.
Can You Start Seeds Earlier?
I wish it were as simple as “go as early as you can”, but it isn’t. We used to try to push the envelope, starting seeds earlier and earlier and what we found was that if you start too early, plants will go into flower and then senesce, which means they return to vegetative growth. They’ll finish out, but they won’t produce in abundance or quality what they would have had they never shocked. Our motto over the years has become, “when in doubt, pull it out.”
This brings us back to our staggered start program. We watch our plants with a careful eye to make sure they maintain vigorous growth. A stall-out often means that the plant has flipped (sometimes you can’t even see it) and is renewing its growth pattern. Stalled plants should be yanked if there is an appropriate replacement, which again points out the need for staggered plantings.
Update: Read more about starting the season early in Part 2.