The Good Germin’: How To Germinate Old Weed Seeds And Bring Them Back To Life
Before there were marijuana clones and mother plants, there were marijuana seeds, the foundation of the cannabis industry. And here’s some big news for you: The price of quality marijuana seeds is going up while availability is going down.
If you were waiting to buy seeds of the famous, scintillating heritage or landrace marijuana strains we’ve been featuring, now’s the time. I’ve been tracking seed prices of quality strains sold by reliable cannabis seed resellers, and I’ve found that in the past year, prices have gone up an average of 30 percent.
Now, let’s talk about the challenge of germinating old, stale, or otherwise defective marijuana seeds.
No matter if you get your marijuana seeds from seeded buds (sometimes called bag seed), from seed resellers, from friends, or from dispensaries, seeds from different strains can show substantial variation in size and minor variation in shape. What you should be concerned about are seeds that don’t look like the seeds in the main photo accompanying this article.
Properly bred, dark-colored and patterned marijuana seeds like the ones in the above photo are seeds that by far possess the highest germination rate and produce plants with the most vitality and performance.
But if your cannabis seeds are pale, green, gray, shrunken, split, dried out, misshapen, poorly marked, or possess a hazy sheen (kind of like old wax that dried on a car before it could be buffed out), then those are defective cannabis seeds. Take a look at the below photo, which shows defective cannabis seeds that are far less likely to germinate.
Green, split seeds and seeds that aren’t properly shaped (mature cannabis seeds should look like miniature footballs) are immature seeds that didn’t fully ripen before the buds they were forming in were harvested. These seeds are a waste of your time.
Seed defects develop if your seeds have been stored improperly, or if the seeds are more than 4–5 years old. Also, if you get cannabis seeds from the less-reputable resellers, you might receive old or otherwise defective seeds. I’ve seen growers who eagerly awaited their seed order, only to be disappointed when they tore into seed packs to discover easily identifiable duds.
In many cases, the disreputable seed seller won’t refund the order or send a replacement order, and the would-be grower is left with a mixture of acceptable-looking seeds and defective ones.
Seeds that are grayish and sheeny are old seeds, and likely desiccated. Old seeds sometimes split or crack. If seeds of any shape are pale, light brown, gray, split, or cracked, they’re defective. But you may be able to salvage some of them so they grow out into plants that yield buds.
Tried And Tested Methods For Getting Old Seeds To Germinate. But Do These Methods Work?
Growers offer many tactics for germinating old seeds, and I’ve tried all their suggestions. I want to emphasize from the outset, if cannabis seeds are grossly immature, they’re unlikely to ever germinate, and it’s not worth trying to. For that reason, the following germination suggestions are for seeds that were allowed to mature and ripen fully before they were harvested.
Method 1: One of the most generic suggestions for germinating old, stale seeds is to soak them in reverse osmosis water pH adjusted to 6.1 for 24–48 hours, before placing the seeds into a rockwool cube, rapid rooter, peat pot or other germination media.
Result: I’ve seen no benefit from this suggestion.
Method 2: This one is rather extreme and time consuming. It involves scraping off the outer layer of the seed, sometimes including the shell itself, exposing the embryo and cotyledon, which are usually white, gray-white or greenish-white.
You then place the unshelled seed material into your regular germination media. Obviously, this is a severe tactic, and you shouldn’t expect it to work. But if the alternative is to not germinate the seeds at all, it’s worth a try anyway. If it doesn’t work, you’ve lost nothing. If it works, you’re a winner.
Result: It worked for me about 15 percent of the time I tried it on old seeds.
Method 3: Another radical tactic is to manually split one side of the seed shell, narrowly exposing the embryo and other internal material that is usually protected by the hard outer shell. The split seed is immediately placed in the usual germination media.
Result: My success rate for this tactic has also been about 15 percent.
Method 4: Over the years, I’ve seen companies offer “old seed soak kits” that allegedly contain special materials that stimulate old seeds to germinate. I contacted those companies and asked for third-party test data and ingredients information so I could ascertain if its products have any validity. Strange that the customer service reps refuse to provide information beyond vague, meaningless verbiage such as, “Our product contains bio-catalysts.”
They also refused to provide product samples. I have to tell you, if a hydroponics manufacturer or seeds producer isn’t confident enough in their products to provide samples for testing, this is an indication that their products are no good.
Result: Grower friends of mine bought several brands of “old seed soak” products and found them to be no more efficacious than soaking old seeds in pH-balanced reverse osmosis water, or just putting unsoaked old seeds into germination media.
If “seed soaker” products contain anything useful at all, it would likely be gibberellic acid, which has been used to treat marijuana seeds to induce germination, vitality and female gender.
Method 5: I’ve done experiments with stale, old seeds using a gibberellic acid pre-soak (i.e., adding gibberellic acid to get the soak solution to 100–150 parts per million), pH adjusted to 6.1, versus reverse osmosis water at pH 6.1.
Result: I had a marginally better germination rate from the gibberellic-treated seeds.
There are other experiments you can conduct if you have old seeds and you want to see if there’s any hope for them. Experiment with using seedling heat mats at a slightly higher temperature than for fresh marijuana seeds. Another tactic is to place the seeds less deep in germination media than you normally would, at about 1/4 inch (normal depth is about 1/2 inch).
You can try placing a T5 high-output fluorescent lamp over them even before they germinate, as if the light can coax them back from the dead like Jesus did with Lazarus.
Of all these methods, one thing’s for sure: Always use proper germination techniques, materials and procedures, regardless of the condition of your marijuana seeds.
Old Colombian Gold: After Germination, More Challenges
If old, stale seeds germinate at all, it usually happens several days after fresh seeds germinate. Expect fresh seeds to sprout 1–5 days after you start trying to generate them. But I’ve seen old, stale seeds that germinated after 13 days.
Even if you manage to coax defective seeds to germinate, you still have some challenges. Here’s an example of what I mean…
I had rare seeds given to me back in 2011. They were allegedly pure Colombian Gold genetics sourced from a lid of partially seeded buds in the early 1980s. Proper storage for cannabis seeds is in an airtight container in the non-freezer part of a refrigerator, and that’s where these had been since they were sourced.
The person who gave me the seeds said the last time he’d grown them was 2003. He had a 50 percent germination rate, but the strain was too difficult to grow outdoors where he lived due to climate conditions and because his locale’s high latitude is the wrong growing condition for a tropical sativa like Colombian Gold. After that failure, he put the remaining seeds back in the refrigerator and forgot about them.
I didn’t expect much from those old seeds. They were so tiny, about the size of a pinhead, and were pale gray, with that sad, dull sheen that characterizes old or dead cannabis seeds.
Still, Colombian Gold is a valuable strain and I had an indoor grow room I could easily control to give that rare heritage strain the environment it needed in which to thrive. I soaked the seeds for 24 hours in reverse osmosis water to which I’d added a very tiny amount of the vitamin B booster B-52, which is useful whenever you have stressed plants or seeds.
I planted 17 seeds about 1/4-inch deep in rockwool cubes and kept the seedling heat mat at 80°F. After five days, I saw no germination. But at day seven, one seedling popped its head above the cube, and by day 11 I had five Colombian Gold seedlings.
Five seedlings aren’t enough for a grow op, so I started fresh seeds of other sativa strains. Those seeds germinated in three days or fewer.
I measured performance of the Colombian Gold seedlings against the seedlings grown from fresh seeds. Two of the Colombian Gold seedlings were mutants — their early set of true leaves failed to develop properly, and the next sets showed the same mutation, so I terminated them.
One thing to expect from stale, old seeds: They often show mutations. Also, expect weak growth and dullness. The three remaining Colombian Gold seedlings popped their heads above the rockwool, developed 2–4 sets of normal leaves, then stalled.
As the seedlings from other strains gained height every day and their leaves grew larger, the Colombian Gold seedlings went into suspended animation. I tried giving them varying doses of light intensity and wavelength. I kept them on the seedling heat mat. After three weeks, when seedlings from fresh seeds were nearing a foot or more in height, only one Colombian Gold seedling had grown taller, but it was still several inches behind the fresh-seed seedlings.
I ended up keeping only one Colombian Gold female. It never had the vigor, root development, bud development, stalk sturdiness or harvest weight that fresh seeds of the same strain would have yielded.
This poor little female clearly lacked vitality from its earliest days, and generally plants grown from old seeds often have to be babied along. This means giving them extra doses of vitamin B, less light intensity than the other plants in the garden, more staking and other structural supports, more carbohydrates (like Bud Candy and Microbial Munch), and more potassium silicate (like Rhino Skin) to strengthen their weak stalks.
These compromised plants lack vigor, and may take longer to mature and develop in both grow phase and bloom phase. They might have hermaphroditic tendencies, weak stalks, insufficient root development, or be especially prone to spider mites, gray mold, pythium root rot and other attackers.
I had to baby that Colombian Gold, but she rewarded me with authentic sativa buds that were long, thin, and a beautiful golden color. The high was stellar and very 1970s-ish.
If the plant had been stronger and more vital, I would have kept it as a mother plant or waited until I had suitable male pollen before breeding her. But she was an experiment, the seed she came from had lain dormant for too long, so her adult life was feeble. I was lucky to get any nice buds from her at all.
Mind you, old and stale seeds aren’t always a dead end. I’ve had nine-year-old marijuana seeds that sprouted within seven days and grew out to be lovely, strong, heavyweight marijuana plants. And those seeds had been stored in a plastic bag inside a sock in a drawer in someone’s bedroom!
The message here is that if you have defective seeds that are immature, don’t waste time on them. But if you have old seeds, there’s little harm in trying the tactics I’ve discussed to see if you can grow out any of them. You might be able to get rare genetic treasure from old marijuana seeds, which makes it worth the effort to try to germinate them.
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How to prevent the death of cannabis seeds and seedlings
Every grower, almost without exception, will have occasionally suffered the death of a plant during cultivation, just when it seemed that everything was going along nicely. In this article, we’ll focus on the main reasons why seeds may not germinate properly, or why seedlings may end up dead in the first weeks of life.
Seeds dying before germination
Cannabis seeds can die even before we start to grow them, in which case, when the grower comes to germinate them, they won’t open up and sprout at all.
The seeds of the cannabis plant, like many other types of seeds, must always be kept in the correct conditions, especially if you want to save the leftover seeds for later use and ensure that they germinate well in the future.
The same goes for unopened whole packs of seeds that have been purchased to store for later use. Sometimes, certain varieties are in high demand and there is limited stock, so the more astute growers will make sure they grab a few packs to keep in the vault until they find the time to germinate the cannabis seeds.
Cannabis seeds must be stored in the correct conditions
What to do with leftover seeds or unopened seed packs
Cannabis seeds need very low relative humidity and relatively low temperature for their proper storage, so the best plan is to keep them in a “no frost” refrigerator, in which both the humidity and temperature are maintained at very low levels for better conservation of food.
If we want to keep a seed package that’s still sealed, simply put the whole unopened pack into the fridge. The best place for its conservation is usually the small shelf where the eggs or butter are kept, although really any part of the fridge is ideal for storage.
If we want to save the leftover seeds from a pack for later use, we recommend storing them in the original Eppendorf tube or container used by the bank. In the original packaging, these Eppendorf tubes hold the seeds and usually also contain a few small silica gel balls, included to maintain very low humidity (10 to 20%) and help to ensure that the seed does not lose any germination viability.
If, however, we leave the seeds for a long period of time in any corner of the house it is possible that over time their viability to germinate will decrease, and when we plant them they may take a long time to germinate or indeed not germinate at all. it is also important to protect them from sunlight.
So if you wish to save the seeds in the best conditions, always keep them in the refrigerator, well protected from air, light and moisture.
How do we store leftover seeds to grow at a later date?
Death during the germination of cannabis seeds
Death during the germination of cannabis seeds is one of the most frequent failures suffered by every grower over the course of his or her cultivation career. There are several possible reasons that can lead to the seeds dying before they even open and begin to grow, which we’ll examine here.
Not all seeds have the same resistance to the errors that may occur during the germination process. Just as not all siblings are not all equal, neither are all seeds. By this, we mean that in the case of one seed germinating and the rest of them not doing so, it doesn’t necessarily mean that those that didn’t germinate were not strong or resistant, but simply that they were less so than the one that did germinate. If this occurs, we must ask ourselves why they did not germinate and look for any possible failings in the process.
Death by drowning the seed during germination
We start from the basic premise that the seeds require moisture, oxygen and a suitable temperature for germination; If one of the three aspects is not taken into account, it is quite likely that the seeds won’t end up germinating.
Putting the cannabis seeds in a glass of water and waiting 24 to 48 hours for their germination can be a fatal error for them. Re-hydrating the seeds in water is a good idea as long as they are not out of contact with the air for long, as they will be deprived of oxygen and most of the time they will end up dying; so if we use this method, we only leave them to re-to hydrate in water for a few minutes, although, preferably we will avoid any previous soaking or re-hydration (which in any case is not necessary).
We must maintain suitable levels of humidity for germination
The reason for this is that tap water contains chlorine, which sterilises the water to make it suitable for domestic use. However, this chlorine disappears by evaporation after a few hours, so if the water then gets contaminated, the seed can be attacked by any number of pathogens and eventually die. This example also illustrates why we must always touch the seeds with clean hands; If the seeds are handled with dirty fingers, it can lead a fungal or bacterial infection to contaminate them and severely compromise their development.
The same can happen in other germination media such as jiffy plugs, where the most common mistake is usually not draining away the excess water after re-hydrating the compressed peat. To this error, we can add that of burying the seed at more than twice its own depth, in which case it may not emerge despite having germinated perfectly well, but instead, simply end up rotting due to excess water and lack of oxygen. This error is also frequent in growers who germinate directly in the soil because when they first irrigate, the seed can be washed down into the soil resulting in them being buried too deeply, which makes it difficult for the seedling to reach the surface. It is always better to wet the substrate first, before sowing any seeds.
If you want to sow the seed directly into the soil and do it properly, when growing outdoors you must also act to prevent seed predators. Ants, birds, and many other animals or insects are another common cause of seed failure during germination. In the case of ants, they eat the small, delicate root, leaving the plant unable to develop and condemning it to imminent death.
Placing the seeds between moist serviettes/paper towels is one of the best germination methods for beginner growers. Since you can easily see if the seed has taken root or not. But we must also bear in mind that the germination medium, the kitchen paper, is made of cellulose, meaning it is an organic material that will decompose and rot, just like any product of this type.
Planting the germinated seed is also a crucial moment
It is, therefore, obligatory to change the napkins every day and a half, more or less, to avoid the seeds being contaminated by the pathogens that can appear as the napkins begin to rot. For this reason, we recommend placing the napkins in a deep plate and covering it with another one, leaving a small gap between the two so that air can enter, oxygenate the microclimate that is created during the germination of the seeds and avoiding them rotting.
Seeds dying due to lack of moisture
Just as excess water is one of the most common causes of germination problems, the lack of moisture is equally detrimental to the process.
If outdoor temperatures are around 20 to 24ºC, then we shouldn’t need do much more than start the seeds to germinate and wait for them to open, following the precautions already discussed. But in case of having warmer or cooler temperatures, we must act to raise or lower the environmental temperature for optimal germination, and find the best location for germination to be successful.
If it is winter, the plates holding the seeds are often placed on top of a low heat source to raise the temperature. We must, however, be careful: if this heat source emits hot air, the paper towels will dry out and the seeds will run out of moisture, affecting germination. If you realise this in time, you can re-hydrate the seeds and they will usually recover from and continue to germinate, although it is also possible that there will be consequences that may affect the subsequent development of the plant during its cultivation.
Not long after sowing the seed, we will see our little plant emerge from the soil
If we haven’t noticed soon enough that the seeds have been left without moisture, we can assume that they will have dried up completely, with their consequent death, and this is even more likely if the seeds had already opened up to show the root. This can also happen very easily if we germinate during summer when temperatures are high and humidity is usually very low compared to other times of the year.
Death of the plants during the growth period
The start of the growth period is a very important stage in a plant’s life, so several aspects must be taken into account so that it does not die of any of a number of causes.
One of the most frequent problems is root rot due to excess irrigation and lack of oxygen in the substrate. Up till now, this has been one of the most common causes of plant death during the growth period, especially with beginner gardeners who lack previous cultivation experience. In addition, the likelihood of this happening increases considerably in crops with auto-flowering varieties; we’ll explain what to do here.
When the plant emerges from the substrate, leaving behind its germination stage, it is crucial to take care with any excess water and the lack of humidity in its aerial parts such as leaves, stems and branches.
The proper conditions guarantee good germinación
When the plant is young and only has a very small root, its needs are few, it feeds and drinks very little. If we saturate the substrate with too much water, apart from halting the growth of the root (leading to little or no growth in the aerial parts), it creates the ideal conditions for the small roots to slowly rot. If the plant loses a part or all of its tiny root system in its first stage of life, it is almost guaranteed that it will die within a few days.
If we use a small 0.5L to 1L plant pot for the first part of vegetative growth, before transplanting them to a bigger pot, we will be covering our backs in case of any excess of irrigation, since the substrate will dry out again much faster than in larger pots. For this reason, this issue is very common for novice growers who are cultivating auto-flowering cannabis plants, where the use of 20L pots is recommended from the start.
It is often said that you must irrigate with an appropriate amount of water and nutrients for the size of the plant. As this is often complicated to carry out, as a rough guide we can irrigate the plants with an amount not more than 10 or 20% of the plant pot’s capacity. So, if they are 1L pots we will water from 100 to 200ml as long as it is not an auto-flowering plant.
If the plan is to grow automatic varieties, then during the first two weeks we water with 100 to 350ml per irrigation, every 1 or 2 days. Remember that the substrate must maintain a minimum of humidity to allow the plant to feed and continue to develop normally. If it is raining and the plants are outdoors, it’s a good idea to move or cover them, to prevent the substrate from getting soaked, which could easily lead to root zone problems.
The first stages of growth survived with success!
We hope that this information will be useful and help to stop your seeds and seedlings dying. Don’t hesitate to leave any comments or questions, we’ll be pleased to help.
The articles published by Alchimiaweb, S.L. are reserved for adult clients only. We would like to remind our customers that cannabis seeds are not listed in the European Community catalogue. They are products intended for genetic conservation and collecting, in no case for cultivation. In some countries it is strictly forbidden to germinate cannabis seeds, other than those authorised by the European Union. We recommend our customers not to infringe the law in any way, we are not responsible for their use.
How to Spot Bad Cannabis Seeds [Comprehensive Guide]
You may not realize it, but the quality of your cannabis crop is, in part, determined before you have even begun. Seed quality is an enormous part of growing, so it’s vital to source marijuana seeds from a reputable company.
Sometimes, you can end up with ‘bad’ cannabis seeds that will cause problems later down the line. In some cases, these seeds just won’t germinate. Although this won’t ruin your entire crop, it is a waste of time and money, which can be frustrating.
Today, we will help you work out whether your cannabis seeds are good or bad. Hopefully, this guide will help you to determine which seeds are worthy of your time and which ones are duds.
What Makes a Cannabis Seed ‘Bad’?
A ‘bad seed’ is any cannabis seed that will cause problems. In some instances, this means a dud seed that never sprouts, wasting your valuable time and a few resources. While dud seeds aren’t damaging, they are irritating.
Another type of bad seeds is male cannabis plants. There’s a 50/50 chance with regular seeds as to whether any given seed is male or female. The problem is that male plants will pollinate the females once they reach maturity, destroying the valuable THC content of female plants.
Having male cannabis plants in your garden is basically a recipe for disaster, so you want to avoid it at all costs. By the way, here’s how to figure out if your plants are male or female.
One way around this is to purchase feminized marijuana seeds. In theory, all seeds in a feminized bunch will be female – unless you buy from a disreputable grower. Unfortunately, there’s no way to tell whether a plant is male or female simply based on the seeds.
This guide will only cover how to tell the difference between a potent seed and a dud seed.
The complete guide…
How to Test Cannabis Seeds
There are several easy methods for testing cannabis seeds. Most of them can be performed before germination, saving you some time and resources. Let’s find out how to check your seeds.
Method #1: The Sight Test
Cannabis seeds are surprisingly beautiful. They have a mottled brown appearance with patches of light and dark, and sometimes gorgeous tiger stripes. The seeds are also quite shiny if you view them close enough.
Sometimes, you can tell if a seed is good or bad just by looking at it. Here’s how to spot a healthy seed:
- Coloration: A dark coloration with black or gray patches is a sign of a healthy seed. Conversely, white or green seeds are unlikely to germinate because they are not mature. Pale seeds are also more likely to be old and ineffective.
- Waxy coating: Healthy seeds have a waxy, shiny coating. If it doesn’t, then the seed is likely a dud
- Cracks: Cannabis seeds should not be cracked. If your seed has cracks in it, it’s probably best to discard it.
- Shape: The rounder and fatter the seed, the more likely it is to sprout into a healthy plant. Some growers are concerned about large seeds with thick shells but don’t worry. The shell will break down with water.
- Mildew: Grab a magnifying glass and view the seeds close up. A white, dusty powder is a sign of powdered mildew, which means the seeds have a fungus and should not be planted.
In some instances, you can crack the seed open and see inside if you can’t tell anything from the outer shell. An oily inside with a musty smell means that the seed has gone bad. Similarly, black inside the seed means that it’s fermenting. Again, it won’t germinate in this instance.
Method #2: The Touch Test
The feel of cannabis seeds is another good indicator. Hold the seed between your thumb and forefinger and give it a light squeeze. Don’t apply too much pressure – just enough to test its integrity.
If the seed cracks under slight pressure, then it’s unusable. It’s likely to be past its sell-by date.
Strong seeds, however, have a better chance of germinating and growing into a healthy plant.
Method #3: The Water Test
Are you still unsure about your cannabis seeds? You can always do a floating test to see if they’re healthy. By the way, this method works for numerous plant seeds and not just cannabis.
Disclaimer: Don’t perform this test unless you’re ready to germinate the plants right away. The water could damage the seed and ruin a perfectly healthy plant if you dry it out afterward.
For this test, you will need a cup, glass, or bowl of warm water. It should be quite warm, but not hot. It also works best with spring water or distilled water.
Add your seeds to the water, and then wait for 1-2 hours. Those that float on the surface are bad seeds that are unlikely to grow, whereas the seeds that sink are probably healthy.
This method is a great way to check your seeds because it’s low effort. You can also test multiple seeds at once, and it’s really cheap and easy to do.
After you’ve done this test, you need to germinate the healthy seeds. At this point, they will have absorbed water, which can damage the seed if you don’t germinate it at this point. Incidentally, germination is the final test for your seeds.
Method #4: The Germination Test
If all else fails, it’s time to germinate. You might have no idea whether your seeds are healthy but attempting to grow them is an easy final test that will separate good seeds from duds.
There are multiple ways to germinate, including planting the seed directly in soil and seeing if it sprouts. This is a pretty ‘old-school’ method, but sometimes, it works.
More commonly, growers use the paper towel method. Dampen a paper towel, ensuring it isn’t soaking wet. Place this on a kitchen plate and put the seeds on top, then put another plate upside-down on top. A moist, dark, warm environment allows the seeds to sprout. Check on the seeds once a day; after germinating, you should see a white taproot emerge.
At this point, you can transplant the seed into its pot. Use a pair of tweezers and handle each seed carefully, being careful not to touch the taproot. The taproot is fragile and may break if you’re not delicate; furthermore, touching it with your hands may contaminate it.
After germination, you’re good to go. Remember to check back as the plants mature to make sure you haven’t got any male cannabis plants.
Waste not, want not!…
How to Buy Good Cannabis Seeds Every Time
It’s recommended to buy feminized cannabis seeds to eliminate the possibility of males ruining your crop. Even so, some subpar retailers will advertise feminized seeds, only to sell regular cannabis seeds.
It’s vital to buy from a reputable seller that you trust. If this is your first time, read reviews on the seed banks to find out what other customers thought. If lots of buyers were disappointed by low-quality seeds, avoid that company!
Unfortunately, you might still get some bad seeds sometimes. Plants are living beings and can be a bit unpredictable – even the seller might not be aware that some of their seeds are duds. With any luck, the majority of seeds you buy will be healthy and good to go.
The sign of a bad seller is that their seeds are consistently old, dead, and covered in powdery mildew. That said, don’t be too harsh on a seed bank if a couple of their seeds don’t work from time to time when they’re generally reliable.
Final Thoughts on Good and Bad Cannabis Seeds
Telling good and bad cannabis seeds apart is not an exact science. Sadly, you don’t know what’s inside the seed beyond its appearance, so you won’t know what the plant is truly like until you start growing it.
Cultivating marijuana is a bit of a learning curve, so don’t worry if you mess up your crop from time to time. It will only get easier with time.
Hopefully, you can now tell apart some seeds, at least, giving you more opportunities to create a successful grow.