Starting seeds for hydroponics doesn't have to be difficult. In fact, it's really easy! Learn how to do it in 10 minutes with this Epic Gardening tutorial! Full picture guide on how to germinate cannabis seeds for hydroponic growing. Foam collars and Rockwool cubes are used to protect the fragile taproot Follow these steps to start weed seeds for hydroponics and get your plants off to a healthy start.
A Simple Guide to Starting Seeds for Hydroponics
You’re not alone — when I first started gardening, I was a soil gardener.
Starting seeds for hydroponics systems was unknown to me until I started to build deep water culture and ebb and flow systems. Once I built those, I had to learn how to start seeds hydroponically.
One of the main benefits of hydroponics is the absolute control you have over your growing environment. Knowing that, I didn’t want to germinate seeds in soil and then transplant into a my hydroponic system, adding a bunch of dirt to the system.
There had to be another way.
Here are just a few reasons why you want to start seeds in a hydroponic system as opposed to soil:
- Much cleaner than starting seeds in soil
- Seedlings grow faster after germination
- Easy to transplant into a larger hydroponic system
That second reason is a cool one. As soon as your tap root pops out, a hydroponic system is going to help it grow faster than soil and prevent it from becoming rootbound.
Step 1: Get Your Materials
You don’t need much to get started. If you build your cloner yourself, the rest of the materials will cost you under $50 bucks and will last you for quite a while. If you decide to go with a store-bought cloner, it’ll bump up the cost a bit but you’ll also be getting a much higher quality product.
Seed Starting Materials List
– You can either build your own or use something like the Clone King and starter plugs (#3 below)
- Seeds – find at your local nursery if possible, or buy many places online. A personal favorite of mine is RareSeeds.com
Step 2: Fill The Cloner With Water
Fairly simple step here. All you need to do is fill up your reservoir to just under where your net pots sit. Don’t worry about pHing your water or using reverse osmosis right now – standard tap water will be fine.
Step 3: Set Up the Air Pump
Place the air stone in the reservoir and connect the tubing. Connect the other side to the air pump and plug it in. You should see some beautiful bubbles start to come out of the air stone. These bubbles are what will keep the roots of your seeds moist and stimulate growth.
Step 4: Place Starter Plugs and Seeds
Soak each starter plug in some water and then place it in a net pot. The moisture will help the seeds germinate.
Drop 2-3 seeds in each starter plug. We use more than 1 seed because not all seeds will germinate and we want to make sure that every starter plug has a sprouted seed – otherwise we’ll have to replant!
Step 5: Maintenance
This system is very easy to maintain as your seeds sprout.
If you want, you can place a transparent cover over the top to keep in some moisture and increase the temperature of the system, but it’s not necessary.
Make sure to moisten the starter plugs with a few sprays from a spray bottle every day so your seeds have enough moisture to sprout.
When your seeds sprout, clip off all but the strongest seedling from each starter plug.
That’s it! Your seeds should sprout in 3-5 days for most plants and you’ll be ready to start growing some truly epic plants in your hydroponic system in no time!
If you’re more of a visual learner, I have a three part video series from my YouTube channel that goes into the entire setup in detail.
Part One: The Basic Setup
This is the visual version of the blog post. Helpful if you just need to SEE to learn (like me).
Part Two: Making Sure Seeds Germinate
This part of the series talks about some of the maintenance and troubleshooting you might run into when starting seeds, including the infamous “why do they keep falling over” problem that a lot of beginners run into.
Part Three: pH Water and Add Nutrients
This part of the series talks about the need to pH and add nutrients to your reservoir after the seeds have germinated. Because they feed off of their seed leaves at the start of their life, you can get away with not doing this until the seeds germinate.
By the way, I’m using the Bluelab pH Pen to fill all of my pH needs. It’s awesome!
Germinate Seeds for DWC (Hydroponic Germination)
This guide will show you how to germinate seeds for DWC (Deep Water Culture) growing.
Starting from clones is much easier than starting from seed when it comes to DWC. Seeds are fragile and require extra care when being propagated for hydroponics. This is probably the one area where soil growers have an edge over DWC. Since soil typically contains trace nutrients simply plopping a seed in moist soil is usually all it takes to get a healthy 3-4″ plant.
Materials Required for DWC Germination:
Paper Towel Germination
Start your DWC germination using a moist paper towel. Wet 2-3 sheets of paper towel using tap water. I don’t bother with adjusting pH this early into the grow. Ring the paper towel out so that it is moist but not dripping.
4.4g dry weight, 35g wet weight for the nerds out there
Spread the seeds out over the paper towel and fold over so that the seeds are sandwiched by at least two layers of paper towel. Work with clean hands and minimize air exposure after soaking.
Put this somewhere warm, 80F is ideal for germination but in my experience, anything above 65F will work fine.
Top of the fridge is an oft-recommended spot but when I actually tested surface temperatures in my house the top of my fridge was about 5 degrees colder than the top shelf in my pantry
If you live in a very cold climate like me and my fellow Canadians you can put the seeds in the oven with the light on to generate a bit of heat. Goes without saying you should put a sign up if you are using the oven method!
After 1-2 days the seedlings should crack and the taproot will begin growing. Leave them a few more days.
After 3-5 days the taproot should be over 1″ long. This is when they are ready for transplant. The seeds were a freebie so I’m ok with the 66% success rate. Typically, you should have 90% or greater germination rate for high-quality genetics.
EDIT: Since writing this post I have tried inserting the rooted seedling directly into the foam collar and found it works just as well. IMO the rockwool sleeve is not necessary.
What I do next is something I came up with out of necessity. A full rockwool cube I find to be unnecessarily large. If you’ve read my DIY Cloner article you’ll know that I feel Rockwool can create a low oxygen environment where pathogens thrive.
Rockwool serves a purpose for hydroponics germination. It helps protect fragile taproots and holds water between spraying.
Start by soaking your Rockwool in pH 5.5 water.
Take a Rockwool starter plug and cut it into 4 long strips. Use a clean knife to cut a slit in these strips.
Place the germinated taproot into the slit that you created.
Rockwool Sleeves for Foam Cloning Collars
As per my DIY cloner article I prefer foam collars over neroprene. The foam holds up better and surprisingly absorbs less water.
Trim the foam collar to create room for the Rockwool sleeve
Aeroponics Cloning Nutrient Solution
- 1 Gallon Water (Target pH 5.5) (1 mL each Micro, Gro & Bloom)
- 1.2 mL of Rapid Start
A few drops of pH Down gets me down to 5.5
Unlike soil (which has trace nutrients) cloning/germination in hydroponics requires immediate additions of nutrients. Once you get the pH to 5.5 add:
- 1.2 mL GH Rapid Start
- 1 mL of FloraGro
- 1 mL of FloraMicro
- 1 mL of FloraBloom
My starting ppm was 100 and the final ppm was around 300.
From here the process is the same as with clones. Simply run the pump on a cycle timer and let nature do its work.
The plants will not look happy on day one, but don’t worry they will perk up quickly under the light.
Rockwool Watering (Why I started using aeroponics for germination)
aeroponics cloner I needed to water the seedlings multiple times per day, even with the humidity dome! You can also see why I have the plants so close to my light now. Fluorescents are not very strong and can cause extreme stretching if they are not within a few inches of the plants.
How to Start Weed Seeds for Hydroponics
Now that it’s legal to grow your own weed in dozens of states, many people are moving to hydroponics for their seed growth.
There are various benefits to this form of seed germination, but the process has to be done correctly in order to get your cannabis seedlings to form healthily. If you put the time and effort in at the beginning, you’ll create a hydroponic system that does most of the work for you later.
Creating Cannabis Plants From a Hydroponic System
Sure, it’s easier to buy an already germinated seed rather than taking the time to do it yourself.
But the costs add up quickly, whereas germinating cannabis seeds hydroponically yourself gives you a solid return on your investment.
Rather than buying sprouted seeds and adding them to your water system, you can have a successful germination rate. This process also takes away all the disadvantages of the seeds you get in the store.
Why You Need Hydroponics in Your Life if You Grow Cannabis
If you don’t want your cannabis seeds limited to what other people sell, growing seeds is the way to go.
Plus, you can avoid the concern of picking up diseases from store-bought marijuana seeds and spreading them to your young plants.
Once you get the hang of how to germinate cannabis seeds and tend to your hydroponic system, you’ll never want to grow seeds through any other growing medium.
Turning Quality Seeds Into Cannabis Plants
Because the root system in hydroponics never connects to the soil, any seeds sprouted stay safely floating until you’re ready to use your marijuana plants.
So, any sprouts emerging from your system stay healthy and untraumatized.
How do you take a few seeds to germinate, design a hydroponic system, and start growing marijuana yourself?
Here’s all you need to know about germinating cannabis seeds for the maximum yield possible.
Starting Your Hydroponic System
Ready to see how good it feels to watch your cannabis seeds germinate into a young plant?
Sprouting seeds is a simple way to increase your healthy plant yield. You end up with multiple cannabis plants rather than one healthy seed bought from a store.
To ensure you germinate seeds that can successfully grow into a cannabis plant, you need a hydroponic system.
It doesn’t have to be fancy, but the costs at the start will be more expensive than buying a sprouted seed.
Remember, though, that getting a few seeds over time will end up costing more than investing in and creating your own method of germinating seeds at home.
What Every Cannabis Seed System Needs
In a cannabis plant’s life, there are four main components.
As long as you learn these factors and use them in an organized manner, you won’t have to add too much more equipment or do a lot of work after the initial setup.
Germinated seeds in hydroponics don’t need soil growers like your average growing plants do when you use potting soil.
Instead, they just require the essentials: oxygen, water, a light source, and heat. As you start seeds in the system, the proper lighting and the right temperature are crucial.
A Simple Beginning that Anyone Can Do
Let’s begin the process of designing your first greenhouse hydroponic system starting small.
You’ll need a grow tray, some starter cubes, and a humidity dome to monitor the temperature and moisture levels.
Starter cubes aren’t necessary, but they do make a massive difference. They have the ideal nutrient solution, like peat pellets, to help those first seeds sprout.
Once the young seedling reaches the stage where it’s able to be transferred, you can easily move the planted cubes without disrupting the roots.
This helps prevent root rot from excess water and gives you the maximum yield possible.
Adjusting the Temperature
Within the dome, your grow tray helps your plants grow from feminized seeds into healthy cannabis plants ready for the flowering stage.
For your role, you have to monitor the temperature and humidity. If you see water dripping from the side of the starter cube or dome, there’s too much moisture.
A heating mat under the grow tray helps avoid cold temperatures messing with the starter cubes and the seedlings.
Because even warm water turns cold, this heating mat keeps the grow tray at the ideal temperature to nestle the seeds inside and encourage them to grow.
Finding the Right Light Source
When it comes to adding lighting in the room, you don’t necessarily need more light. You need something that the germinating seeds grow toward.
In the case of cannabis plants, many experts recommend a hydroponic LED grow light system.
Cannabis is a green plant, so it must have the ideal environment to encourage photosynthesis. Seeds sprout naturally when the lighting initiates this process.
Then, the plants capture the light and use it to change the water and the given nutrient solution into oxygen and the compounds you desire.
These little seedlings need intense light, which is found in an LED grow lighting system.
Enough light at the right intensity will ensure you get the maximum yield possible from younger and older seeds.
Sprouting Your Seeds
Now that your environment is set up, it’s time to start the process of germination!
First, take your starter cubes and let them soak in clean tap water. In an hour or so, take two or three seeds and add them to the cube.
You should use enough to ensure at least one germinates, but not so many that if they all do, they’ll be overcrowded. As they begin to grow, any plants that look like they aren’t as healthy as the others can be thinned out.
Move the Starter Cubes
Next, take your grow tray and add an inch of half-strength nutrient solution.
Place the lighting source and mat where they fit best, then add the dome to keep the temperature and moisture at optimal levels.
Add your starter cubes into the tray, add a little water (not too much, you want to avoid root rot), and that’s it!
It will take a few days for seeds to germinate, but you’ll see whether your system is working or not by the fourth day.
Get Ready to Transport!
The seeds are germinating, and you can see roots daintily hanging out of the cube’s bottom. It’s the moment you’ve anticipated since you started your basic hydroponic system.
It’s time to transplant your young plant!
Chances are, it’s only been a month or less, but it can feel like forever as you’re checking and double-checking the plant’s health.
Now, it’s the real thing, and you’re moving your seedling into your actual hydroponic area.
This is the bigger tank or pond where you’re going to hold your nutrient solution and let your plants thrive until you’re ready to cultivate them.
Gently Move the Cube
Once you have a place for the cube, use the paper towel method to hold under the roots as you gently pull it from its grow tray.
There isn’t anything that connects the roots to a soil system, so a wet paper towel is all you need.
The roots are going to need a little time to get used to their new environment.
While they try to absorb the system’s nutrients, you can add a little water to the top or use those wet paper towels to cover the cube.
As the paper towel dries out, you know it’s time to add a little more moisture. Within a day or two, your new seedlings should be enjoying their hydro system without help, and you can drop the paper towels.
Enjoy Your Hard Work
You’ve taken your cannabis from small, non-germinated seeds to a young, healthy, green plant. From there, you guided it and monitored its growth as it flowered.
Now, it’s time to cultivate the good parts and turn the leftover cuttings into more cannabis seeds.
The return on your investment starts now. Rather than heading back to the store to find more cannabis seeds to germinate, you have everything you need to repeat the process.
Your grow tray is ready to house some more starter cubes. Your light source is still intensely shooting out waves of photosynthesis-inducing light, and your humidity dome is set at the ideal temperature and moisture.
Go ahead and take those new seedlings from the plant you nurtured and turn them into new young plants. You’ll never have to buy your cannabis stash again!
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