Here is something I came up with a few years ago when I was trying to build a better mousetrap WRT existing germination methods. I have tried quite a few, some work decently enough, some absolutely don’t but the key thing I noticed that they all work at first but each tended to not work as well over time. For example, the wet towels trick works great…if you can keep the moisture level constant over a 4-7 day period, the longest we hope anything would take to germinate. But if the towels dry out and you don’t notice or you over-soak them and “drown” the seeds, that ends that. Same thing for any of the other methods I tried. I will be the first to admit, I was testing the method but also my ability to operate it as well which is where some fails came from. Anyhow I decided to make something reliable so I didn’t have to keep watching it, refilling it, etc, it had to handle a dozen or more seeds keeping them sorted, it had to keep the moisture on the shell at a pretty precise level for days on end and as a bonus, I wanted to enrich the bath with light nutrients and oxygen, more to keep the tray cleaner.
Oh and it had to have an insanely high success rate on even the crappiest of seeds. I didn’t set small goals for myself. I am joking, I realize nobody here knows me yet…so I came up with my seed starter that I could make out of dollar-store components; along with a few things from Amazon. Finally this like all my stuff had to be easy for someone with disabilties to make and use.
Here is what I came up with; its cheap, easy to make and reliable as hell. My grow mentor now uses this method.
There are a lot of little things you can do to maximize your chances for a good harvest if you are disabled, one of, if not the key thing is: protect those roots. Yes they are cool to see and see grow but nearly anything can hurt them and unlike something damaging say a fan-leaf or even a bud, root damage can take out much or all of a plant. If you are a normal person, that’s already tough but if you are disabled and have shakes, poor eye sight or just plain poor motor skill control, this can be the kiss of death, where your grow is over before it gets going. So over time and experimentation, I have come up with two key…I am reluctant to use the words inventions but I do know I came up with them on my own for a specific purpose.
Magic Wisdom Law: The more you can protect your roots (right from germination) the better your plant will turn out. Every time. On the occasion the plant can recover, by the time it does so harvest time will have come and gone long ago, making it one of those “yeah its true but…kinda useless” situations.
I have been an inventor or experimenter all of my life, its just wired into me. What this means for this conversations is that I set about gaining hands-on experience with as many forms of growing cannabis as I could reasonably do and afford: hydro (DWC, ebb and flow, etc), duo-ponics (various combinations of hydro and soil or soil mix) and straight soil, even fooled with fog-ponics once, cloning, breeding, even tried my hand at tissue culture propagation. You know how on CSI, Greg in the lab was always taking a few cells and “growing” more DNA for testing? Same idea, the system was you could take cell samples from various places on a living plant, culture them, replicate them (still in culture dishes) and finally generate living plant starts to transplant into soil for a standard growth. The cool thing was, any strain you EVER grew, you could keep viable samples of in your freezer almost indefinitely, take out a culture dish when you need it, take a few pieces, replicate and then generate root systems, almost like mini-clone cuttings. This was some cool, intense stuff but it ended up requiring more than I had available. I had a choice to make so put my effort into more standard forms of growing. Was cool though.
Anyhow I used what I learned through all of that to develop a couple of tools or grow hacks that immediately raised my success rate and kept it there. The key through it all was: thou shalt not toucheth thine cannabis root. Ever-eth.
Not sure on the Latin translation of the last part but the rule is true as anything I have to present. But how to protect the roots? Starting right from the seed, common methods of germination require transplanting a very delicate root fiber to whatever your medium is, and your medium had better be the same temperature and moisture level with the same nutrient levels as it was used to or it will die almost certainly. Thats if you don’t rip the root in half due to tremors or poor eye sight resulting in a decapitated root…and then the plant is often transplanted at least one more time to a larger pot, depending on your situation, again a source of danger to the roots for all the same reasons.
So what I figured out was a method or system of growing where you had zero need to ever touch the root, right from germination, all the way through to harvest. Your root or roots remain safe in a medium and nutrient level they are accustomed to, reducing chances of plant shock. I have done it before; it ain’t pretty.
The Seed Starter:
The first thing I came up with was what I am calling my Seed Starter; I have a real problem with names so while some are lame (like this) many don’t even have names (like the next thing).
In making sure the seed must be protected from me as much as is practical, I needed some arrangement where the seed would remain at a very fixed level of moisture coming from pH balanced, aerated water, enhanced with plant vitamin B-1 (available everywhere). Further, I needed a way to be able to transplant the root tail to another medium w/o actually touching it.
I accomplished all of the above on a budget…it was cool because I could “see” the solution in my head but there was one part that I could not envision what I could use as a lifting tray for the germinator, and that final part came to me as we were leaving IHOP (breakfast place in the US) with left-overs…and folks, the tray they give you at IHOP (or iHOb now…how stupid) was perfect and I was hooting with joy all the way home; the seed starter was complete.
The Seed Starter can be made with very simple materials yet it has a germination success rate I would put up against any other method. No sanding of seeds or secret formulas of stuff, just plain science. Aside from the other problems, one major issue I found with almost every other germination method out there is that it is so important that the seed and in time, seed plus root tail remain at a pretty precise and pretty constant moisture level all through germination. Every other method required something to be topped off or re-moistened and even then, the medium you were germinating in (for example, moist paper towels) had to remain evenly moist or part of the seed or tail would dry out and kill the life inside. This eliminates all that worry.
In this example you start with a one-dollar (literally from the Dollar Store) 9-muffin plastic tray. Square, has clear top and latches for all four sides. This is important as you want to seal in moisture as much as possible. Then you take the black plastic bottom of the IHOP to go tray (after washing it naturally) cut a notch in one side from the bottom to the top of the lip.
Get a drill with a 3/8 inch bit (keep it around, I use that bit for everything) and drill a hole just below the lip of the bottom of the cupcake carry tray. Through this hole run some flexible 1/4 inch hose connected to an air pump. Once through the hole, stick an airstone of any kind on the end so it sits about in the middle, finally placing the bottom of the IHOP container upside-down over the airstone; now you see what that notch was for.
OK almost done. As you can surmise, the idea is to use the bottom of this as a reservoir where you can put maybe four cups of pH balanced water, but as you also probably know, sticking the seeds right in the water will drown them and on the other hand if they don’t get exactly enough they can wither and die within hours. So I had to find a way to get the nutrients to the seeds, and that is where the capillary mat comes in. Capillary mat cloth you can get from Amazon for like a 1x6 yard roll is maybe 10 bucks I think. This is great stuff because its perhaps an eighth-inch thick and wicks water or nutrients evenly and reliably. So I cut a piece of this cloth about 12 x 18 inches; you would do well to measure your own muffin carrier, this is just how mine worked. Anyhow take one of the short edges and tuck it under the far side (side away from where the air comes in) of the IHOP bottom so that there is just enough cap mat on top to just cover the IHOP container. Trim if need-be.
OK this will wick enough moisture up to do the trick and there is enough fluid in the bottom so you never even need to open this until you are ready to use the seeds. To bring it home, we need a way to handle the seeds w/o handling them, while still keeping the moisture around them to a pretty specific level. To the rescue comes the neatest of starter mediums, the Rapid Rooter plug. These are made of shaped peat moss I think but they come 50 to a bag, pre-moistened for I think 15 bones and they will last you a long time.
So your seed starter is almost ready, you have the bottom filled with nutrients up to just below the air-hose hole, and you have the cap mat tucked in and distributing the nutrients to all corners of the cap mat. Say you have 8 cannabis seeds to germinate; take four of the rooter plugs, cut them in half width-wise and then partially cut through them all so they end up like weird taco shells. Into the “pocket” of each, place one cannabis seed, and then place the whole thing on the cap mat. You have now touched the seed for the last time.
Once you have placed all eight seeds into the rooter plugs, just clap on the lid, plug in the air and place the whole thing where it won’t get disturbed for a few days. As long as your seeds are bad or really old, you can expect all of these to have root tails, ready for transplant in 48 hours or less.
Here is a PDF I made on how to construct one.
OK I have a pair of videos to go with this but my fog is setting in so will complete this later. Check back they are worth it for cementing ideas…
OK poop. Like the comedian said, I had to tell ya that story so I could tell ya this one…
My grow room is like a mad scientist lab, or it was and so the end of Seed Starter pt two talks about using the NetPot Jumpstarer I figured out for jump-starting pure-play hydro starts from the Seed Starter but I haven’t explained it here yet so you haven’t missed anything, forgot it was there, will add something in a day or so to explain WTF I am on about in the video…you know, I went into the neurologists office reaking (no reason to care) and I get the stink-eye from these obviously old people so I made this t-shirt up and they leave me alone now: