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How To Harvest Your Own Cannabis Seeds

If you’re growing your own cannabis, there is no better or more rewarding feeling than growing from your own seeds, ones that you created. Here are some simple suggestions for making seeds on isolated branches without risk of pollinating your whole crop.  These are tried and true methods I’ve learned and are used by many cannabis farmers here in the Emerald Triangle.

Controlled Pollination of Cannabis

Using fresh pollen is always best. I’ve collected and stored pollen in the past and, although it works, it’s more complicated to deal with. Nothing beats fresh pollen pulled directly from the male flowers of a healthy, live cannabis plant.

You can keep your males in the woods a good distance away from your garden and you shouldn’t have to worry about pollinating your crop or your neighbor’s. If you’re really concerned about the pollen getting into your garden, you can build a small hoop house in the woods to keep your males in once they start to release pollen. Keep in mind, you will need it to be in a mostly shaded area as the sun directly on your hoop house while it’s closed would be too hot an environment for the males to remain healthy and produce lots off pollen.

Delaying Pollen Release

As the males bloom, you can continually cut back their flowers throughout the season until your ready to collect pollen to use on your girls. Once your male is root-bound in a pot, it will most likely start flowering soon. Give them extra root space and put them in 7-12 gallon pots or so to prevent them from flowering too early and cut them back as needed.

Because they will flower so early, before your females are ready for pollen, you’ll get a good look at their flower and branch structure, smells, and pollen production. You can keep a few males of one strain and learn a lot from them before you decide which you choose to keep for making seeds.

If you can’t keep your males in the woods, you could put them indoors. Keep them out of the way in a closet or in the corner of a bathroom. Make some nice house plants out of them. A window view is great but just a little light left on in the bathroom will keep them alive if it’s the best you can do.

How to Pollinate the Female Cannabis Plant

Females are ready to be pollinated after it’s stretch of early flowering and when they have developed large clusters of pistols stacking hard and forming decent size buds. Cut a 4-6 inch piece, or several pieces of a blooming male flower into a long thin paper bag, similar to bags for bottles of wine. It’s always funny going to the liquor store in Southern Humboldt in late August-early September and asking them for wine bags. They seem so confused as to why all of a sudden everyone is asking for so many of these bags. They run out and have to order extra every year.

Before you pollinate, wait until a part of the day when the wind is low in your garden. You don’t want to risk the pollen blowing off in the breeze onto another one of your plants, creating unwanted seeds.

Prep a lower branch on the desired female by removing almost all the fan leaves, exposing mostly the flowers. This way you have less risk of wasting your pollen by having it end up on your leaves instead of on your buds. Carefully slip the paper bag with the fresh pollen over the female branch. Close the bottom of the bag tight over the stem/stalk of your female branch, hold it on tight and shake, shake, shake.

You can very carefully remove the bag right away but leaving it covered for a couple hours with a few more shakes may give you better results.

Neutralize Stray Pollen

If you’re worried about additional pollen blowing around, spray the surrounding branches with water to neutralize any rogue pollen. Spray the pollinated branches 48 hours later if you’re really worried about it.  By then, the pollen will have fertilized a seed embryo within each calyx that received pollen that was snagged by its pistols (white hairs on the bud) and the creation of a seed is underway.

I’ve never had a problem with this method and have made a lot of seeds this way.

Save Your Pollinated Plant from Harvest Time

Make sure to tag and label your branch to differentiate it from the rest of your crop.  I use green plant tape tied around the branch.  I write the name of the male used and what date the branch was pollinated on the tape.  Tell every one “Do not cut these branches at harvest!”  Unfortunately, every year someone will always cut one.

Ripening Cannabis Seeds

Once pollinated most seeds will take 4-6 weeks to fully ripen. I test seeds to see if they’re ripe by removing one and pinching it to see if it will break.  If it’s solid and no longer light in color it’s usually done. Seeds with stripes are usually a good indicator that it’s ripe but not every strain has stripes on its seeds.

Also remember seeds of different genetics come in all different sizes.  Some strains seeds are tiny and this could be misinterpreted as unripe.

These days, I still keep some males from spring planting to make seeds on stand-out plants, branch by branch, using this same method. Now I also do a summer seed planting just for breeding and open pollinate in enclosed areas.

You Can Be Your Own Cannabis Breeder

Making seeds is fun and with a good sense of observation and good starting genetics, anyone should be able to have their own quality seed stock and never need to buy seeds again. Unless it’s for fun and you want some new genetics to try.

Every cannabis grower, from hobbyist to commercial farmer, can and should make their own seeds.  Make some seeds this year and share them.

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