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A Simple Guide to Starting Seeds for Hydroponics

So you’re ready to get started in hydroponics and you’re about to start some seeds…

But you have no idea where to get started?​

You’re not alone — when I first started gardening, I was a soil gardener.

Starting seeds for hydroponics systems was unknown to me until I started to build deep water culture and ebb and flow systems. Once I built those, I had to learn how to start seeds hydroponically.

One of the main benefits of hydroponics is the absolute control you have over your growing environment. Knowing that, I didn’t want to germinate seeds in soil and then transplant into a my hydroponic system, adding a bunch of dirt to the system.

There had to be another way.

Here are just a few reasons why you want to start seeds in a hydroponic system as opposed to soil:

  • Much cleaner than starting seeds in soil
  • Seedlings grow faster after germination
  • Easy to transplant into a larger hydroponic system

That second reason is a cool one. As soon as your tap root pops out, a hydroponic system is going to help it grow faster than soil and prevent it from becoming rootbound.

Step 1: Get Your Materials

You don’t need much to get started. If you build your cloner yourself, the rest of the materials will cost you under $50 bucks and will last you for quite a while. If you decide to go with a store-bought cloner, it’ll bump up the cost a bit but you’ll also be getting a much higher quality product.

Seed Starting Materials List

  1. Hydroponic Cloner – You can either build your own or use something like the Clone King and starter plugs (#3 below)
  2. 2″ Net Pots
  3. Rapid Rooter Starter Plugs
  4. Seeds – find at your local nursery if possible, or buy many places online. A personal favorite of mine is RareSeeds.com
  5. Air Pump
  6. Air Stone
  7. Tubing

Step 2: Fill The Cloner With Water

Fairly simple step here. All you need to do is fill up your reservoir to just under where your net pots sit. Don’t worry about pHing your water or using reverse osmosis right now – standard tap water will be fine.

Step 3: Set Up the Air Pump

Place the air stone in the reservoir and connect the tubing. Connect the other side to the air pump and plug it in. You should see some beautiful bubbles start to come out of the air stone. These bubbles are what will keep the roots of your seeds moist and stimulate growth.

Step 4: Place Starter Plugs and Seeds

Soak each starter plug in some water and then place it in a net pot. The moisture will help the seeds germinate.

Drop 2-3 seeds in each starter plug. We use more than 1 seed because not all seeds will germinate and we want to make sure that every starter plug has a sprouted seed – otherwise we’ll have to replant!

Step 5: Maintenance

This system is very easy to maintain as your seeds sprout.

If you want, you can place a transparent cover over the top to keep in some moisture and increase the temperature of the system, but it’s not necessary.

Make sure to moisten the starter plugs with a few sprays from a spray bottle every day so your seeds have enough moisture to sprout.

When your seeds sprout, clip off all but the strongest seedling from each starter plug.

That’s it! Your seeds should sprout in 3-5 days for most plants and you’ll be ready to start growing some truly epic plants in your hydroponic system in no time!

Video Guide

If you’re more of a visual learner, I have a three part video series from my YouTube channel​ that goes into the entire setup in detail.

Part One: The Basic Setup

This is the visual version of the blog post. Helpful if you just need to SEE to learn (like me).​

Part Two: Making Sure Seeds Germinate

This part of the series talks about some of the maintenance and troubleshooting you might run into when starting seeds, including the infamous “why do they keep falling over” problem that a lot of beginners run into.​

Part Three: pH Water and Add Nutrients

This part of the series talks about the need to pH and add nutrients to your reservoir after the seeds have germinated. Because they feed off of their seed leaves at the start of their life, you can get away with not doing this until the seeds germinate.

By the way, I’m using the Bluelab pH Pen​ to fill all of my pH needs. It’s awesome!

Starting seeds for hydroponics doesn't have to be difficult. In fact, it's really easy! Learn how to do it in 10 minutes with this Epic Gardening tutorial!

Finding Seeds in Good Weed… What?

What does it mean to find seeds in your marijuana buds? Is it something to be worried about?

There’s a seed in my bud!

Seedy buds with calyxes popping open everywhere

What causes seeds?

Seeds are the result of pollination. That means the seedy cannabis buds (which come from a female plant) may have come into contact with pollen from a male plant. Therefore, it’s possible the grower didn’t identify and remove all the male plants before the released pollen. It’s also possible that the plant self-pollinated (sometimes called herming) which is often the result of plant stress during the budding phase but can also be caused by genetics.

Does it mean the weed is bad?

If it’s very seedy the buds may not feel as potent, though a few seeds here and there won’t make much difference in potency. The main problem with seedy weed is that you are getting less smokeable bud for the amount of total mass there. If it is seedless, you will get a lot more bang for your buck. Seedless bud (sinsemilla) is considered to be the highest quality and most potent type of weed.

Are seeds good to grow?

Example of healthy cannabis seeds

I’ve seen some growers get impressive results with bagseed, but overall results seem to be hit or miss. Plants can grow in odd ways and often either the yields or quality isn’t as expected. The problem is that seeds often don’t “breed true” to the buds that they came from. That is why many growers either stick to clones (which are exactly the same as the “mother” plant) or purchase seeds of a stabilized strain from a trustworthy breeder, where each of the plants will grow the way you expect, and buds more consistently have the smell, yield and potency they’re supposed to.

How can I tell if it’s a viable seed?

It should be dark and relatively hard. Very pale or white seeds, that can be easily crushed between the fingers, usually won’t sprout. However, I have been surprised to find some very flimsy seeds sprout and produce amazing plants (we aren’t breeding them for hard seeds after all) so when in doubt, I highly recommend doing the true test to see if the seed is viable – try to germinate the seed and see if it sprouts!

These are all viable seeds. Every one grew into a healthy plant!

Finding Seeds in Good Weed… What? What does it mean to find seeds in your marijuana buds? Is it something to be worried about? There’s a seed in my bud! What causes seeds? Seeds are