The paper towel method is also a common way cultivators pop their seeds. Some even use this method with cotton pads instead of paper towels, but the necessary steps are the same.
Germination itself is a crucial aspect of cannabis cultivation. The seed germination process is the foundation of every marijuana plant, and steps can be taken to boost successful popping. For example, some cultivators improve germination attempts by soaking seeds in 1% hydrogen peroxide or a compost tea for 12 hours beforehand to kill any dangerous pests.
Lay one paper towel on top of a countertop, place a few seeds, and cover them with a second paper towel. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
How to germinate seeds using paper towels
So, you’ve decided to grow your own cannabis plants. You purchased a pack of seeds, assembled cultivation materials, cleared a space in your garden, and are ready to grow your first cannabis crop . With everything in hand, it’s time to begin the very first step of cannabis cultivation : germinating seeds.
When a seed enters an environment with enough moisture, it will increase in size and slowly break out of its shell. A seedling or germ forms from which roots will emerge, helping the baby plant absorb nutrients from the soil. Seeds naturally develop roots facing down and stems stretching upward, allowing the young cannabis plant to simultaneously feed off light and earth.
Use a spray bottle to moisten the paper towels and then store the cushioned seeds between two plates, under a face-down bowl, or gently place them in a plastic bag. Maintain a temperature of about 72 degrees Fahrenheit, keeping the paper towel wrapped seeds in the dark and away from a windowsill. In two to five days, the seeds will pop inside the paper towel sandwich and emit tiny roots, ready to plant when they reach about five millimeters in length.
You can also germinate your seeds by placing them in water. It’s slightly faster than the soil method, but you need to adjust your environmental factors accordingly. Remember, successfully germinating seeds requires a perfect balance of ideal growing conditions. When germinating in water, seeds need only 24-48 hours to pop their stems, though cultivators can keep them soaking for up to a week as needed. Water germination is faster because the seed gets all the moisture it needs immediately, and the shell softens and cracks more easily after soaking.
Removing the ridge not only makes it easier for the seed to open, it helps with water absorption.
As cannabis seeds age, their protective outer shell hardens and prevents water from passing through. Unless the tiny, dormant embryo that lives inside the shell detects moisture, it doesn’t know that the conditions are right to sprout. As a first step, pre-soak your old cannabis seeds for about 12 hours to see if that does the trick.
In a life or death situation, surgery may be the only option. Meaning—only do this if nothing else has worked because this technique ruins as many seeds as it saves.
3. REMOVE THE RIDGE
When your old cannabis seeds don’t want to pop, one of these four techniques could come to their—and your—rescue. Aging seeds are more difficult to grow than fresh ones and we’ll explain what you can do to help germination.
The older a cannabis seed gets, the harder it is to pop. But hard doesn’t mean impossible. If you’ve been saving your seeds for a rainy day and it finally started pouring, these tips could help you get most, if not all, of your old beans to germinate.
If you’re going to keep seeds more than a year or two, proper storage will dramatically increase the chances of late-stage germination. Place them in an airtight container. Put the container in a refrigerator set at 6–8°C with 20–30% relative humidity. If excess moisture is a concern, add silica gel packs to the container.
To scarify your seeds, line a matchbox or other small container with sandpaper. Drop the seeds inside, shake vigorously for 30–60 seconds, then remove. You may not notice much of a difference, but the small micro-abrasions are sometimes enough to let water breach the shell and trigger germination.