There is a common misconception that darker (and shiny) seeds are the best guarantee of good quality seed. This is not entirely true; lighter coloured seeds can also be of good quality. There are currently three main types of seed available:
Regular can be female or male seed, but male plants are a waste and can ruin your crop unless you’re looking to produce seeds yourself (for this reason it is advisable to germinate 3-4 times as many seeds as you think you’ll need, to allow for failures). You’re supposed to be able to see if a Regular seed is male or female; We don’t know if this is true or not. But it makes no difference to the germination whether it is or not.
With Feminized, they are 100% female and there is no reason to worry that you’ll end up with a male plant. But there is a small chance and it does happen from time to time that a hermaphrodite (male and female characteristics in the same plant) is raised. With both sex parts there is the danger of self-fertilization. Badly produced Feminized seeds have a higher chance of producing a hermaphrodite than regular seeds.
So now we're going to talk about the seed germination.
The first technique is the technique we recommend. We recommend to use the 'Smart Start' to germinate seeds. A lot of mistakes are usually made using the second and third germination technique.
1. One variety of seed germinates more easily than the other. Using special cutting soil is not essential for germination. They can be plonked straight into regular soil. This method is actually my preference. The rootlets are extremely vulnerable and can quickly be damaged during the journey from wet wads to soil. And just observing nature, seeds are underground and here it is nice and dark (hence my preference for not exposing to light). Simply plonk the seeds into cutting and seed compost (c. 0.5 cm deep), again being careful when covering with soil. After around 3-7 days the first shoots will appear above ground. Here again, for the first few days do not give them any nutrients, though root stimulator can be useful in this phase. Once the plants are 5-10 cm in height, you will be able to see clearly which plants are better looking and stronger than the others! Move these over in to bigger pots or open soil and give them plenty of water at first (but not too much). After 2-3 weeks you can slowly start to feed them; you can tell if they need it by looking at the leaves – the edges will start to turn a little yellow. It is not advisable to leave the seeds in front of a window, as the temperature must be around 20 degrees; soil by a window will not reach this, so wet wads certainly won’t. And a good temperature is essential for them to germinate. There are also proponents of higher temperatures; it’s true the germination can take place a bit quicker, but it’s also been suggested that too warm a temperature creates a bigger chance of males developing.
2. Here again there are plenty of conflicting opinions, with one saying in the light, and another saying in the dark. We are of the latter opinion. The simplest way is to make two wads of cotton wool or kitchen roll wet, and place the seeds between these two wads (be careful to check the moisture of the wads each day; not too wet and definitely not dry). A few (2-3) days later you’ll see rootlets peaking out and then you pop them (with the rootlet pointing downwards) in the cutting soil as described above. Then keep it moist and warm and give it 18 hours of light a day. Moist means not drenched. In the first few days don’t give any extra nutrients, just plain tap water. And here again there are various ways of doing so. You can lay the wads in a small saucer with an upturned saucer on top of them (say proponents of the in the dark method of germination), and after 2-3 days the seeds will open. Others take a saucer and stretch some cling film over it (with a few holes pricked in it for air). Some of these proponents of germination in the light even place a lamp above.
3. You can simply toss the seeds in glass of water, and change the water daily. There’s not a lot else to watch out for. It is advisable to keep the water at about 20 degrees. After a few days (3-5) you will see little white dots appear as the seeds open. This is the beginning of the root and once these are 2-3 mm you can very carefully take the seed or seeds out of the water and pop them into cutting soil; this is special soil for cuttings and is available from grow shops. It has extra trace elements and minerals. Plant these germinated seeds carefully in the soil, each in a separate pot, in a pit about 0.5 centimetres deep and cover it carefully with some soil. It is important not to give it too much water, in fact it’s a good idea to do it with a spray bottle for more careful dosage, and provide some extra lighting in the form of a fluorescent lamp hung close above it.
There is also a range of opinions about this depth; some swear that 0.5 cm is sufficient and some reckon 2-3 cms. Personally, I stick to 0.5 cm since the deeper the planting the more difficulty they have in emerging from the soil. And if they spend too long underground there is a greater chance of rotting. On the other hand, there is the drawback that is they are not deep enough then the stem does not develop sturdily enough (it has not had to work hard enough) and there is a chance that the stems will be fairly limp and could break (the famous skinny blades, although this is usually caused by light). In short, everyone should choose to act as they best see fit.
To add a last point about germinating in a glass of water, it really is possible to germinate in this way, even if it sounds illogical (there might not be enough oxygen under water, for example), but we have in the past with our silly head done it this way and they do indeed germinate (though not all of them). And it cannot be any simpler.
Our advice at a glance:
Place the seeds directly in the cutting compost and position a lamp above them. If you’re working with wet wads, do so in the dark, at around 20-22 degrees (soil-water temperature), then refresh/add water daily. For the first few days after the seedlings emerges, only give them (not too much) water with no nutrients, but a splash of root stimulator can be useful. Once they are around 10 cm you can transplant them to larger pots or into soil (outdoors, around April). After 2-3 weeks you can gradually begin to supplement with nutrients, and you can also rely on the leaves to tell you when this is needed by watching for when the edges turn yellow.