As a beginner grower, you can quickly become overwhelmed by the latest and greatest genetics. There are more seed banks than ever before, and some companies charging over 100 euros a pack. Before investing time and money into your next project, below are my top tips to consider when choosing genetics.
Indica, Sativa Or Hybrid?
When you pick a strain you will want to know a little bit about the strain, before spending up to 12 weeks watching it grow. New growers will often refer to a strain depending on if it is an indica, sativa, or hybrid, yet may not fully understand what each of the three mean.
Indica varieties of cannabis will be short, stocky and grow during the vegetative stage with little internodal spacing. Typically indica cannabis strains will have a short flowering time between 50-60 days. When flowering they will stretch a small amount, while producing dense, golf ball-sized buds, at every internode. The effects of an indica will be heavy and narcotic. Usually a starting point for medical patients who desire therapeutic relief. Indica cannabis strains are known for small yields, so it is advised to grow these plants for longer in the vegging phase before flowering.
A sativa variety of cannabis will be the other end of the spectrum, regarding grow characteristics. Growing elongated, compact, nugs which have long, frosty calyxes, sativa strains will take around 70-84 days to flower. The effects of a sativa strain will be uplifting, energetic and will improve focus, creativity, and motivation. Growers can expect large yields, however, must be patient.
A hybrid is a mix of indica and sativa genetics. A cross of these will often express what is called hybrid vigour. Concerning appearance, a hybrid can offer the grower the best traits of both parents and will often produce large yields. The effects will usually be a blend of heavy bodied and a strong head high. The flowering time of a hybrid can range between 55-70 days, depending on the parental lineage.
Male or Female?
The seed game is the strongest it has ever been, with so many growers having the option to grow out reliable female seeds. Deciding if you want to grow from regular seed or feminised, almost seems counterproductive. After all, it only means sexing your plants is required, which can result in a significant loss in plant count, during the pinnacle stage of flowering.
Regular seeds have many pros and cons, just as female seed do. Deciding if you want to grow regular or feminised should not be a case of having to sex the plants out of practicality, like in the old days.
Regular seeds have the following advantages:
• Better than female seeds for selecting a mother plant to clone
• There are no female chromosomes implanted in the seeds DNA
• Options of male and female seed for breeding
• Allows for a better pheno hunt from regular seeds
• Cheaper to buy than female seed
Feminised seeds cover over 90% of the seed market, with such a high end reputation in terms of germination, performance and strain variety, many growers happily invest in feminised seeds.
The advantages to growing out all female seeds are:
• There is no need to sex or lose plant count during flower
• Utilises full space of a hydro system or indoor garden
• Is guaranteed female and no males will be present
• Can have a wider variety of strains growing at once
A crucial factor to consider when growing any strain. This is especially important for selecting a strain that will be grown outdoors. When growing indoors, there may be variables that impact how much of a time frame you have. Perhaps the grow room you have is not as secure as you would like, so the idea of getting in and out may be on the front of your mind. On the other hand, you may have been inspired to grow the plants for long in the vegetative stage, so need to consider adding another 14 days or so on to the completion date. Depending on skill level also, can dictate if a grower can achieve an early harvest or require extra time, as they hammer the plants with nutrients to make up for the lack of growth, during the final few weeks.
This is especially important for bedroom growers, who are fortunate enough to have a secure wardrobe or grow tent in their bedroom or another part of the house. Before selecting what strain you wish to grow, you should firstly measure the grow space you have then think about the following:
• Space for pots
• Space for lighting
• Space for a carbon filter
• Space for fans
Once you have calculated your growing space, minus the above, you will then need to think about if you are growing indica, sativa or a hybrid variety. Will you be training the plants, or letting them grow naturally? Selecting a sativa strain or hybrid, that can stretch out of your control as a beginner grower, can be a waste of time and money. It can also be a confidence breaker and leave you on the back foot financially. Here you should evaluate if growing a large plant or many small plants is more convenient and practical to your set up, skill level and grow space.
If you are new to growing, then you will have heard about automatic strains. These high performing strains are extremely popular throughout Europe and South America. Automatic varieties can grow themselves with little maintenance, making them an ideal solution for an outdoor crop. The benefits of growing automatic strains outdoors are:
• Multiple cycles outdoor
• Stealth sized plants
• Can grow in a Sea of Green (SOG)
• Will flower under any light regime
• From seed until harvest within 60-80 days
As this guide is written for beginner growers, gaining experience has to come from somewhere. Once you have a few successful grows under your belt, or have a certain strain dialled in, then you are ready for a more advanced strain, regarding growing difficulty. It is recommended to grow a strain that is total indica or an indica dominant hybrid. A good ratio would be 60% indica / 40 sativa or 75% indica / 25% sativa. This will ensure that the plants will grow will a short, compact canopy, that is easy to control when flowering.
You may have seen some incredible grows that were a SCROG, and thought this is the only logical way to grow. If you choose to take on this format of growing, then you should be prepared to grow the plants for as long as possible. It is a good idea to read up on which strains are better suited for a SCROG than others. Usually, hybrid varieties and sativa varieties work best, as indica strains can be better suited for a Sea of Green set up.
High THC Strains
My only advice here is not to be caught up by THC levels that the seed companies quote for their strains. There are so many incredible strains of cannabis that are not considered because they do not hit the 20%+ THC mark. The outcome of what a plant will test at, as well as the skill level of the grower, are two huge factors. Many of the top buds from social clubs in Barcelona tested between 10-17% as do the ones sold in coffeeshops in Amsterdam, who are honest enough to tell you the test results.
If you are growing cannabis to produce your own medicine, then selecting the strain is what the entire project is based on. In this instance, you will not be considering a large scale commercial grow, or a bedroom homegrown head stash. The case is more you will want to make extracts from the medical strains, to help improve the quality of your life.
An excellent tip here is to research CBD rich varieties of cannabis. Many seed companies now offer CBD rich strains that are a ratio of 1:1, 1:2 and so on. This means there may be a THC rating of 10% and a CBD rating of 10%, meaning this medical strain counts as a 1:1. Depending on the reason for seeking out CBD rich strains, it is a good idea to consider what amounts of THC and CBD you are comfortable with, especially in extract form.
One Plant or SOG?
The question that is still debated across forums and amongst growers. Is it more advantageous to grow many smaller sized plants, with a short veg time, or a large plant that has been vegged up for a period and trained to promote maximum yield?
Sea of Green growing has the following advantages:
• Small vegging period
• Full grow room
• Multiple cycles
• Uniform, small plants
• Consistent yields per plant
• No Plant training required
Growing one sizeable sized plant has the following advantages:
• Long growing phase to produce a large canopy
• A grower can be more hands-on
• Incorporate plant training
• Can use hydroponics
• Easier to deal with the deficiency
• More comfortable to deal with pest/insects
Good Luck with selecting the best strains for you…
By Stoney Tark
Photos courtesy of Dutch Passion