SEEDS OR CLONES?
There are two ways to start a garden—using either seeds or clones.
For most gardeners, it is faster and easier to work with clones than seeds. Just think of your home garden. You are much more likely to start with young plants rather than seeds. They are faster and easier to start than it is to germinate seeds. Also, plants of the same variety from seeds can vary in quality, but clones have already been selected and are uniform.
In many states where marijuana is legal or is allowed medical dispensaries sell clones. In Northern California at least, the clone companies produce infection and disease-free clones. If you have access to healthy clones start with them.
If you don’t have access to clones locally, look online where you will find many clone and seed sources that will ship to you. They provide a much wider choice of varieties including fabled strains not available locally. Although ordering seeds is not totally risk-free, the small package is unlikely to be detected because seeds have no odor and are shipped in “normal” envelopes that don’t raise suspicions.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Seeds and Clones
Seeds have several advantages:
•Plants from seeds grow a better tap-root than clones. The taproot is the equivalent of the main stem. It grows straight down with lateral branches growing along its length. A deep tap-root reaches the water table or moist soil at a lower level of topsoil or penetrable subsoil.
•Seeds are free from disease and pests, including viruses. Clones can transfer both pests and disease.
•You know you have the variety you wanted when it comes from the seed company.
•Seeds are the product of sexual reproduction so they inherit genetic characteristics from both parents. Plants from seed exhibit some genetic variation, so you can choose the best plant or the one you like the most. Growing from seed is more adventurous, because you are not sure exactly how the plants will turn out.
•Seeds of many varieties are readily available in shops, dispensaries, by mail and over the internet. When they come from a seed company, you can have conﬁdence in getting a variety with the basic characteristics you want.
•They are very portable and easy to store for long periods of time.
Seeds have several disadvantages:
•Marijuana has separate male and female plants. Unless they are used for breeding, males are of no use and are dangerous pollinators that endanger the potency of the female ﬂowers with the risk of pollination.
•Usually about half the plants are males that have to be detected and removed. This can be an arduous task and the consequence of missing one can be seedy buds throughout the garden.
Feminized seeds have been bred to produce only female plants. They are the solution to the problem of sexing males since all the plants are females.
Germinating seeds is a more delicate operation than transplanting clones.
Seeds take longer to grow and be ready to ﬂower because rooted clones are already biologically mature and have a head start on root development.
Plants from seeds don’t reproduce exactly their parents’ traits. Seeds from a variety you saw and tasted will not grow to be exactly the same as their mother, though it will be a close approximation.
Because you will discard roughly half of the plants once they can be sexed, growing from seeds can more easily put you over any legal plant count limits, or leave you with fewer plants than allowed or anticipated.
There are many beneﬁts to working with clones:
•Clones are taken from female plants so they are female, too. There are no males or hermaphrodites to mess with the buds.
•Clones get you past the germination “hump” that seeds present. Seeds take several weeks to catch up to a rooted rooted to replace plants as they are placed into ﬂowering.
Disadvantages of clones:
•Clones are only available commercially in some states that have medical marijuana laws.
•Clones of the particular variety that you would like are not always available, even where they are legal.
• Clones can carry diseases and pests that can infect your whole garden. Clones from friends are more likely to be infected than professionally grown clones.
Major disadvantages for outdoor growers:
• Clones do not grow as vigorously as seed grown plants, especially out-doors, because clones do not grow a taproot. They only grow secondary roots from the stem and subsequently most of their growth is lateral rather than downward. The main advantage of having a taproot is the ability to dig deep into the ground and reach water not available closer to the surface. The taproot grows lateral branches along its entire length providing the plant with a network of roots that occupies a larger three-dimensional area. The result is that there are more roots in several layers of soil so they can obtain more water and nutrients to support the plant’s growth. This doesn’t affect plants grown inside as much because the plants don't grow as large and the taproot isn’t as important in a container environment.
• The taproot on plants grown from seed is an extension of the stem so it anchors the plant and holds the canopy securely. Clone plants have a single layer of lateral roots. The stem ends close to the soil line, where it was cut. This doesn’t provide as much support as a plant with a taproot.
*Outdoors, or indoors with older plants, one or two lateral roots may become dominant and develop into short tap roots that help to anchor the plant and also produce lateral roots. Their connection to the stem is reinforced from layers of growth.