Rows of outdoor cannabis plants photographed at a farm near Portland, Oregon.

Shango Los

Cannabis Genetics: Every Grower’s Starting Point

This time of year, many growers are in planning stages or already getting started on their outdoor gardens. These early decisions can play a big role in how your season goes and, ultimately, in your final yield. However, choosing your genetics is probably the most basic — yet extremely important — decision you will face.

Do you want to pop seeds or do you want to grow from clone? Many growers keep “Mother” plants of their favorite strains around to take cuts from. Then, there’s the question of whether to run all tried and true, high yielding strains (Blue Dream) or would you like to grow some of the more popular — maybe newer — trendy flavors that everybody is talking about (Sour D, Cookies, Gelato, etc.)?

One thing is for sure: the genetics that you start with can and will affect everything from your plants’ health to your final product. All seeds or clones of any particular strain are not the same. The further away a generation of clones or seeds gets from the original, the weaker the genetics will be. You will still have the strain you want, but it may not grow with the vigor and all of the original properties that the first generation cuts have.

Clones sit on a shelf inside of a Washington-based commercial cannabis grow. Photo credit: Sarah Climaco

The best way to make sure you are getting good genetics is to source them from reliable and reputable breeders. They can get more pricey than the $5 “Trainwreck” clones you will find on Craigslist, but it will be well worth it come harvest time. Clones, especially, are something that you want to be vigilant about. The cute little baby plant can bring with it all sorts of unwanted and unseen bugs, pests, and mold. Powdery mildew (PM) is systemic, which means it lives inside of the plant — and if the mother plant had PM, her offspring will as well. Bringing babies into your grow environment that have mites or mold can infect your whole room and bring down entire crops — so make sure you are being smart about where your clones come from and maybe consider spending the few extra dollars on some reliable babies.

Seeds most likely (hopefully) are not going to bring anything into your grow that will infect your plants. However, sourcing is just as important when it comes to acquiring your seeds. Yes, it is fun to throw your random bag seeds in the ground and see what kind of goodness emerges.  But if you are serious about your garden and getting the most out of it, strong and reliable genetics are what you want to start with. Do your research, look for the companies who have the strains you want, see if they have them feminized (guaranteed female), and check what people say about their product. You do not have to buy feminized seeds, but make sure if your seeds are not feminized that you know what to look for in a male plant and how to safely remove it from your garden without pollinating your females. If you start with good seeds and take care of them properly, you will be happy with your end result.

Every grower is different. I know guys who have been growing from the same mothers for years. Some growers like to collect seeds. There are old timers out there that have been growing the same cut since the 1970’s. Everybody has their own technique, their own preferred equipment, and their own ways of deciding how to start their gardens. The one constant of every grow is that when the grower starts with strong genetics, they will have a happier, healthier, and heavier crop.

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