Early care for plants
Germinating (“cracking”) seeds
Ideally, you want the taproot of the germinating seed to go straight down, keeping the plant’s growth energy from being unnecessarily expended having to re-orient itself. This is the reason that growers often germinate in a paper towel rather than directly in soil or grow medium. The downside of paper towels is that they can dry out easily, and the root could potentially be damaged during transplantation.
Many products are available to take you from sprout to seedling, including peat cups. These are good for direct planting to outside, but they can dry out very easily. It becomes hard to navigate between overwatering and letting the cup dry out too much. Planting the germinated seed in a small container and then changing it into a 1 gallon, and from there into the desired final size pot or garden, is best practice.
Seedlings need airflow to develop strong stems, but blasting air at them can also be too much after a while—remember they’re babies! Let them dry out between waterings. Putting them too close to the grow light can kill them, yet putting the plants too far from the light will cause them to stretch, producing lanky weak plants. About 18 inches from the lights should be good, but your results may vary depending on the type and wattage of light.
To produce forking for more than one top, which is the first stage in several grow techniques including lollipopping/manifolding, wait until the seedling has 4 sets of leaves (including the starter leaves that are rounded). Then, using a sterilized sharp blade, cut off the very top of the plant as close to the set of leaves below it as possible. If you get a decent clean cutting, you could try to clone it, although it may die because it is very small. In a couple days, you should see an increase in side growth and two new tops next to where you cut. The plant can be cloned when it has fully recovered from the first cutting and has shows significant growth in the side foliage.
In our next post, we’ll discuss how to begin low stress training at the 1-gallon pot stage of growth.