Whether you’re a novice grower or an old-hand cannabis farmer, it all begins with the two basic forms of genetic information encapsulated in either a seed or a clone. Choose poorly at the onset of your grow and you may regret the wasted time and energy. Choose wisely and you could reap the rewards of better, quicker harvests and healthier plants.
“I’ll never grow from seed again,” says cultivator Jerry Tam. “I wasted a lot of time germinating, then culling all the males. Nearly half my Malibu Pie grow was wasted last year — I strictly grow from clones now.”
Unless buying feminized seeds, sexing a plant and culling the males is a reality you’ll have to deal with when you start from seed. However, when you buy clones, you are typically guaranteed a female that’s capable of flowering, and at least several weeks into its vegetative growth.
Still, some weed purists, like Jennifer Herringer, prefer the vigor of growing from seed. “I love seeds,” she insists. “There’s a sturdiness in plants grown from seeds that’s just amazing.”
This fork in the marijuana growing road has been debated by generations of cultivators in the US and abroad. Many of those growers — 50 or so years ago, when cannabis cultivation and engineering was gaining momentum — had little choice in the matter due to portability issues. Seeds simply traveled better than clones. And most of the good weed was growing naturally in Asia and Africa.
The popular hybrids we all know today — Blueberry Cookies, Amnesia Haze, Cherry Pie — feel a lot like American inventions when you’re cruising the shiny dispensary displays, but the truth of the matter is, their derivation came from faraway continents. For instance, the story of the legendary strain Northern Lights tends to highlight its 1980s US and Dutch ancestries, yet the true genesis of its heritage began in the Hindu Kush mountain range between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Meaning some industrious traveling seed breeder popped a few seeds into their pocket in the ’60s or ’70s, crossed them with other plants, and helped spark the marijuana revolution we know today.
But these days, there’s no longer a need to start from seed — the US is a virtual playground of hybrid cannabis cloning.
If you’re in the District of Columbia or any of the nine US states that are now recreationally legal, or one of the 30 states that has legal medical marijuana, you have some degree of access to cannabis plants. That means you also have access to the clones from those plants. For just a few dollars per plant, you can bypass a lot of time and energy and begin your garden with young starts that are proven female.
“I also like that I can look at a mother plant and see it’s health and vitality,” says Tam. “Or I can inspect a small clone I buy for 5 or 10 bucks and see that it looks strong.”
By comparison, it’s more difficult to inspect a seed for its health.
The bottom line is this: Unless you live in a region with no access to plants (in that case, your only choice is ordering seeds), your time and cash outlay are perhaps better spent on clones that you can inspect and scrutinize, rather than a roll of the dice.