Basics of Growing Autos in Soil from Seed to Harvest
An autoflower is a special type of cannabis created by mixing the genetics of the Ruderalis with Indica and Sativa.
Over the years, autoflowers have become stronger and sturdier enough to be grown by both commercial and home growers.
The biggest difference between autoflowering and photoperiod plants is that autoflowers begin to flower indepndent of the light cycle provided.
Therefore, an 18/6 light cycle from the very beginning until the end will work perfectly. Although autoflowers are easy to grow, it’s best to familiarize yourself with the basics before you start.
So, here’s a step-by-step guide to help you through the entire process of growing autoflowers in soil.
1. The Best Lights
When growing autoflowers indoors, even if you’re not growing in soil, light is a super important part of growing any kind of plant, including cannabis plants so it’s important you know what’s available and choose the best suited for your grow setup.
High-intensity light bulbs have been used since the beginning of cannabis growing indoors and are the most common light fixture used due to their low cost and effectiveness for home growers.
Light bulbs are essentially found in two types, Metal Halide (MH) and High-Pressure Sodium (HPS), each one of them is used in different stages of plant growth due to the spectrum emitted and the results are quite good.
A few years ago LEDs weren’t too good so growers didn’t even think about using them due to the high cost and because they weren’t as good as they’re nowadays.
LEDs have been in the market for a couple of years now, in the beginning, they weren’t worth it but they have evolved a lot, and nowadays are considered the best not only by home growers but also commercial growers.
These light fixtures can cost up to 10x more than light bulbs but emit a full-spectrum so, despite the high price, you can get better results and higher yields which ends up being worth it.
Obviously, there are several brands and qualities but most LEDs consume up to 60% of energy and growers say that their plants produce more trichomes, so depending on why you’re growing and if you can afford it, it’s definitely a good choice.
Lights When Growing Outdoors
If you’re growing autos outdoors you cannot choose a light fixture but lucky for you, the sun is the best light source so despite not having to worry about light intensity and spectrum, you have to make sure your plants are getting enough sunlight for them to develop properly and to allow the buds to fatten up nicely.ç
2. The Best Soil Mix
When growing autoflowers in soil, there are several mixes that can improve the medium in which roots grow, depending on the conditions you’re growing in, you may want to make your soil more oxygenated or provide more water drainage so you can find several additives that serve in different cases but all of them will end up improving your soil and consequently, plant growth.
|Coco fiber||Retains water and helps avoid soil compaction.|
|Perlite||Helps dry the soil faster and increases oxygenation.|
|Vermiculite||Improves soil quality and helps keeps soil moist.|
We recommend a mix of soil, perlite, and coco fiber to provide enough water drainage and oxygenation, resulting in the best soil for autoflowers.
3. The Best Nutrients
Nutrients are another vital factor for cannabis growers, there are several brands of synthetic and organic nutrients that offer basically the same results but they work differently and you should choose the best one based on your grow setup.
Synthetic nutrients are basically manmade nutrients extracted from minerals, they contain a specific ratio of macro and micronutrients, making it easier to use them, you just have to mix and water.
But the way they work is completely different from organic nutrients, while organic nutrients focuses on maintaining a living soil, synthetic nutrients just feed the roots directly so despite being easy to use, it’s also easier to overfeed your plants and cause deficiencies.
On the other hand, organic nutrients are derived from living sources and focus on maintaining the beneficial microorganisms in soil alive so they develop a symbiotic relationship with your cannabis plant, this way your plant feeds them and in return get more water and nutrients available for them to absorbs when they need to.
Now, organic nutrients can be quite expensive but they’re fairly easy to make at home, it may take time and you will have to learn how to do it properly, but there are several ways to make your own organic nutrients that will not only save you money but you’ll also learn a lot about cannabis plants and the nutrients they need.
DIY Organic Nutrients
Super soil is a technique used to make your own pre-amended soil that contains everything to feed your autoflower from seed to harvest, this method consists of only watering your plants to help the microorganisms break down the nutrients and make it available for your plants to absorb and grow.
Now, there’s no such thing as super soil for autoflowers, as long as you do it properly, you can use it to grow any kind of plant!
Composting is very similar to making super soil but it’s usually made with the food scraps you’re left with after cooking and basically consists of burying the leftover scraps in damp soil, this way you activate the microbial life and make the nutrients available for your plants, you can also add worms to accelerate the process, it’s a super-effective technique called vermicompost.
KNF is another way to get minerals found in plants and vegetables but unlike super soil and composting, it consists of fermenting the vegetation that contains the nutrients your plant needs for each stage.
In this technique, you end up with a couple of liquids suited for the vegetative stage, flowering stage, others that act as natural pesticides, and natural sources of Calcium and Magnesium that are used just like synthetic liquid fertilizers but completely organic.
So, to start growing autoflowers in soil you’ll need:
- Good quality autoflowering Seeds
- Potting soil containing equal proportions of peat moss or coco peat/coir, compost, perlite, vermiculite (optional), or a commercial potting mix
- Use fabric pots containers that are at least 12 Liters.
- Good quality light fixture like HPS or LED, or at least 12 hours of sunlight if you plan to grow outdoors. Use CFLs during the seedling stage
- Nutrients for vegetative and blooming phases.
It’s pretty easy to germinate cannabis seeds. You can sow the seeds directly in the pot, but if you don’t have a lot of experience or are impatient like the rest of us, soak the seeds in plain water for 24 hours. It’s common to see a tiny taproot after a day of soaking but it’s alright if you don’t see them.
Many growers use nail files to gently scratch the surface of the seeds, but do not do this if you’re fairly new. A scratch on the seed coating allows water to penetrate the shell and the seed develops a taproot faster. Place the seeds in moist paper towels for 2-3 days until you see long tap roots. The next step is to plant seeds in their final containers and wait for them to push through the soil.
Here’s a quick video to help you with germination:
5. Week 1
The first week is extremely crucial for autoflowers. It’s important to NOT use any fertilizers in the seedling stage since the plants are very tender. You risk burning them, and a single mistake now might prove very costly later. The seedling will have two cotyledons (sometimes 3) that are almost round in shape when they just appear.
There are various products that can be used on seedlings, but they are not necessary because they will be fine even if they are left alone. At this point, you can use CFLs or fluorescent lights to ensure that the seedlings don’t burn under powerful lights.
However, many growers wing this by adjusting the distance between the lights and the seedlings so that a single LED light is used for the entire cycle from seed to harvest. Water the seedlings sparingly only when the pots are almost dry. Overwatering or under-watering seedlings can either stunt or kill them, so it’s recommended that you water only when the plant needs it.
The seedlings develop at least two leaves apart from the cotyledons at the end of week 1.
6. Week 2
You can use nutrients at quarter strength once the seedling is comfortable with at least two leaves. Continue using nutes at quarter strength at this point, but regulate the pH and maintain the range from 5.8 to 6.5 at all times. Some growers use half-strength but it depends on how big the plant has grown.
If you see more than 3 to 4 nodes on week 2, use nutes at half strength. Monitor the plants carefully to detect lockout or deficiencies. As always, water the plants only when the pot is almost dry. Shift the lights closer to the plant if it starts growing too lanky.
7. Week 3
Now that the plant is on week 3, use the nutes at full strength. Some plants like LSD-25, for example, need a lot of nutes whereas others may not require too much. “Less is more” when it comes to nutrients in autoflowers, so use nutrients at full strength only if the plants have responded positively until now.
Check out the basics and tips for growing Autoflowers in soil, from seed to harvest!
Germination Guide for Autoflowering Seeds
Seed germination is the first part of a successful grow cycle, to help you start your cannabis plants with the right foot, here’s an autoflower germination guide that can be used not only for cannabis but for tomatoes, mangos, strawberries. you name it!
So here’s how to germinate cannabis seeds with the best-known methods and a couple of tips that will get you harvesting in no time.
1. First Things First: Know the anatomy of your cannabis seed
The process of autoflower germination can take up to 10 days, in order to do everything correctly and know if everything’s going well, we need to know a little bit more about the seed.
First of all, we need to understand the anatomy of a cannabis seed.
The cannabis seed has a dark brown, hard, and often striped, shell, this shell is what protects the insides which are extremely fragile.
When germinating, we need to hydrate the seed, this will soften the seed’s shell and allow water to reach the embryo, when the water reaches it, the embryo will “activate” and start developing.
Have in mind that it’s possible to drown the seed, so we need to keep an eye on moisture levels, also making sure it doesn’t dry out.
With a softened shell, it will be easier for the radicle to come out and this is when you’ll see the white taproot slowly appearing, and once it reaches 2-3cm, it’s time to plant it.
As soon as the seedling comes out of the medium, you’ll often see the shell stuck on top of the cotyledons, which are the tiny round leaves that you’re able to see once the shell has detached from the seedling.
Those leaves are responsible for feeding the plant until the first set of true leaves appear.
Also, there isn’t the best way to germinate marijuana seeds, you can do it any way you want, as long as you keep proper conditions, your seeds will germinate.
So, if you’re wondering how do you germinate autoflowering seeds? Read along for the best methods.
2. The Best Conditions For Germinating Seeds
As you may know, cannabis plants need certain conditions depending on the stage they’re in, maintaining these conditions are the best way to ensure your plants will thrive, and when talking about seeds and germination, it’s no different.
Obviously, you can grow cannabis plants in less-than-ideal conditions and they will still grow but it may end up affecting the yields or quality of your harvest.
When talking about germinating auto seeds, germinating in less-than-ideal conditions will decrease the chances of sprouting, so unlike growing cannabis in bad conditions, which will still grow but can affect the harvest, germinating in bad conditions can end up killing your seeds.
So when germinating autoflowers you should keep the temperature between 21-26°C and the humidity as close as 90% as you can.
3. Top Tricks For Germinating Old Seeds
As said above, germinating in the ideal conditions will guarantee a successful germination but sometimes seeds may be old or have been kept in bad conditions and can be hard to germinate.
So, to help you germinate old seeds, here are a couple of tricks that will increase the chances of germination.
But first of all, you need to know the best conditions to avoid these problems.
How To Properly Store Seeds
If you are storing seeds for your next grow cycle, you need to keep them in ideal conditions.
If you’re going to germinate them during the next couple of days there’s no need to do anything extra, other than keeping them in a cool place and in complete darkness but if you’re planning to store them for months or even years, you should keep them in the fridge.
You should keep your seeds in an airtight container in a fridge set at 6-8°C with a relative humidity of between 20-30%, if you can’t set your fridge to the temperatures mentioned, just keeping them in the fridge will increase the chances of germination.
Just have in mind that the better the conditions, the longer your seeds with last.
Soak in supplemented water
As cannabis seeds get old, the shell hardens and can make it hard for the water to reach the embryo, and if the water doesn’t reach the embryo, your seeds won’t sprout so if you’re dealing with old seeds, you can soak them in supplemented water.
To do this, you can fill a glass cup with water and add around 30ml of hydrogen peroxide and leave your seeds soaking for 12hs, this should do the trick.
You can also use germination boosters that you find in grow shops but usually, hydrogen peroxide works, also, make sure the water is around 22°C and it’s not getting direct sunlight.
Scarification is a method used to make ridges on the seed to help water pass through, to do this properly, you will need a piece of sandpaper but you can improvise and do it with a matchbox.
The goal is to thin out the shell so that the water can reach the embryo easily, just make sure you don’t overdo it and end up harming the embryo inside.
Slightly Open The Seed
As you may have seen, the seed is made out of two halves and has a ridge around it, if your seeds are old, that ridge may end up hardening too much and the seed won’t sprout.
So to help your weed seed germinate, you can use a knife or any other tool with a thin point to gently insert it in between the ridges and slightly separate it, after this process, you can soak your water and germinate it like you normally would.
4. Paper Towel Germination Method
The paper towel method is the easiest of all methods. You’ll need :
- 2 paper towels
- a plastic container or plates
Moisten the paper towels and wring them out so they’re damp but not completely wet.
Place the seeds on the paper towel, fold it over the seeds and place it in a plastic container, cover it with the lid to keep moisture in (can also use two plates instead of the plastic container, place the paper towel on a plate and use the other one to cover).
Place the container in a slightly warm and dark place.
Remember to check on it daily, we must ensure the paper towels never dry out, the seeds need to keep absorbing moisture, it’s likely that the seeds will never germinate if they don’t.
Sprinkle a little bit of water if needed, you’ll know they’re ready to be transplanted when the radicle is around 1-3cm long.
Tip: If the paper towel starts having a bad smell, it’s a sign of too much water, let it dry for a couple of days, and if the papers continue smelling bad, change the paper towels.
5. Soaking Overnight In A Glass Of Water
After many years of experimenting and looking for the best way to germinate our Fast Buds seeds, we must say that this is definitely one of the most effective ways.
This method is especially effective for seeds with a harder shell or older seeds. You’ll need:
- Glass cup
As the title says, grab a glass cup and fill it half with water.
Place the seeds in the glass and leave it in a dark place, let the seeds soak for up to 32 hours.
Most viable seeds will sink after a couple of hours and you should see the radicle after a couple of days.
Remember that some seeds may need longer until you see the radicle coming out.
If they haven’t sprouted after 72 hours, add a few drops of hydrogen peroxide to kill accumulated bacteria in the water and return to the darkness for 2 more days.
6. Using A Germination Chamber
When you get a bit more experienced, you’ll wanna look for more professional tools and the germination chamber is one of them.
It consists of a plastic base with small square cells (can come with up to 256 cells, each cell supports 1 seed), on top of a heat mat, also comes with a humidity dome, basically looks like a small greenhouse. They’re very cheap and you can make one at home.
The chamber can be used with any type of medium, Rockwool cubes, peat pellets, coco fiber, perlite, or even soil and they keep the best environment for sprouting seeds and the first days of the seedling.
To start germinating, make a small hole (1-2 cm) in moisten medium, cover without applying pressure, turn on the heat mat and spray the humidity dome, it should take a couple of days to see the seedling coming out.
7. Rockwool Cubes And Peat Pellets
Rockwool cubes are small cubes made of rock and sand fibers, with the consistency of cotton candy almost, they absorb a lot of water and usually are used for germinating seeds and clones.
Using them along with the germinating chamber has an advantage, being easy to transplant to the next medium or container.
They also can be used along with clay pellets in hydroponics. One of the bad aspects of Rockwool cubes is you can easily overwater and get root rot.
Peat pellets are similar to the Rockwool cubes but are made of compressed peat moss and come in a small disc shape.
To germinate in either one of them, we will use the same technique explained before, moisten the Rockwool or peat pellet, make a little hole (1-2cm) and place the seed inside, cover it gently without applying pressure and you’re all done.
You can place the pellet or cube directly in any type of medium or hydroponics chamber, after sprouting, the roots will continue to grow down, even if they reach the end of the Rockwool or peat pellet.
8. Planting Directly In Medium
Sometimes the simplest way is the better way. As it happens in nature, we can also sprout our seeds in our medium of your preference (coco, soil, perlite, etc..)
Just grab a pencil, or even with your fingers, make a little hole (1-2cm deep), and place the seed in it, the medium must be moist but not soaking, then cover with soil without applying pressure.
Every time you transplant a seedling, it needs some time to readjust and can cause stress, thus one of the biggest benefits of this method is you don’t have to worry about damaging your seedling when transplanting or shocking it because it already is in his final place.
9. In Conclusion
Successful germination is considered when you see the first leaves, known as Cotyledons, cannabis seeds germinate correctly with relatively high temperatures and humidity. To successfully reach the flowering stage you’ll have to use different techniques, not only for sprouting but to keep the plant happy and healthy until harvest.
Whether deciding which germination method to chose or getting ready for your first successful grow setup, our advice for beginner growers will be to start with autoflowering strains. If you look for something easy, quick, and easy to maintain, like Zkittlez Auto and Gorilla Glue Auto, there’s nothing better than choosing to grow autoflowers.
The most known methods to sprout your seeds and get your grow cycle going in no time.