Germination of seeds is necessary if you plan to grow from seed. Starts or clones are often a better idea, but it can be hard to come by good starts sometimes. To germinate seeds, use sterile soil. Do NOT use a peat cube such as a Jiffy cube. In my own experience, I have found that these cubes stunt the growth of the plants from a young age. Vermiculate is the best material to plant in, as it allows for the most oxygen to get in. Also, the roots grow very easy in Vermiculate, so plants will look strong and large after only about a week.
The most important part of germination is keeping the seeds moist at all times. You don’t want to drown the seeds, but you should make sure there is constantly enough moisture in the soil. You can plant in normal soil, vermiculate, or Rockwool cubes. Once the seed has sprouted, you can place the Rockwool cube into a larger cube. That way, you don’t have to transplant, which usually weakens the plant if not done correctly.
A lot of people use paper towels to germinate seeds. This method works, but you should know that paper towels dry out extremely fast. The best way to do this is to place a paper towel in a small bowl that is
saturated with a weak concentration of nutrients. Next, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, so that it keeps the moisture in. Place the bowl in a damp area, such as on top of a gas stove or water heater, or above heat-producing lamps. You want to keep out light while the seeds are germinating, so covering with black paper or something similar is a good idea. You should check the seeds every 12 hours religiously. You want to plant the seed as soon as it germinates, as the roots can go bad if left out too long. When you do plant your seedlings, don’t touch the roots. It’s a good idea to use tweezers for planting.
Transplants can be rough on plants, especially seedlings. So, try not to transplant too much. I recommend growing your seedlings in the containers you plan to keep them in for the foreseeable future. I recommend planting in Rockwool or vermiculite. When you use Jiffy cubes, about 50% of seeds will germinate. With Rockwool, I’ve found that up to 90% will germinate. Plant food will also help seeds germinate, and stimulate the roots, making them stronger. 5-55-17 formula plant food is ideal. Peters Professional is a good brand to use. However, germinating seeds are weak, and you don’t want to use too much plant food. Use about 1/3 the recommended concentration, and dilute the food with pure water. Also, remember that temperature has a very large impact on germination success rates. Try to keep the temperature at 72-80 degrees. To do this, you can use a heating pad turned on all the time, or a shelf with a light shining on it. However, make sure to keep the light away from the actual seeds, with black paper or another light-blocking material. Once seedlings sprout, then they can be moved into the light.
Ideally, you shouldn’t transplant more than once or twice between germination and harvest. Use the biggest containers possible for the space you have. If you continuously transplant plants, they will become weak and take longer to mature. 2-liter bottles work excellently. They don’t take up too much room, but they provide plenty of space for the roots to grow.
Remember to cut holes in the bottoms of your growing containers, and fill the top few inches at the top of the container with just vermiculite. Vermiculite holds water very well, so placing a layer at the top will help seedlings take root and get off to the right start. Plus, vermiculate allows for plenty of air to get into the roots, which benefits the plant greatly. The roots need a certain amount of oxygen, and if the soil is never left to dry, it will cause problems. So don’t water too often.
My favorite brand of potting soil is SuperSoil. It is sterilized, and works very well for growing marijuana. Also, remember to sterilize whatever containers you plan to grow in, preferably with bleach.