Nowadays, when there are more strains available than the average grower can keep up with, it can be hard making a choice on what to add to your garden. It is no longer like back in the day when your mate would give you a handful of mystery seeds and wish you luck. The vast quantity of strains on the market today allows for custom tailoring of your garden. Each strain has it’s pros and cons. Each one produces different effects. You do have to ask yourself a few questions when selecting your strains. Why are you growing cannabis? For recreation? For relief? Do you know which strains will go well together in your garden? Every grower needs to ask themselves these 9 questions when looking to restock the garden:
1. WHAT KIND OF GENETICS DO YOU WANT?
This seems like the most important question of all, doesn’t it? This is where you get to decide which genetic and lineage you want. Do you want an indica? Do you want a sativa? A hybrid maybe? This brings us back to why do you want to grow cannabis in the first place. What are your goals? Do you want something easy for a beginner or a high maintenance heavy yielder? Asking yourself why you are growing will be the biggest factor in determining which genetics you want. If you are looking for plants that are good for their relief properties, you might want to choose an indica. If you want to be rocked to your core and ground to the couch for the night with heavy cerebral highs, then a sativa may be what you are looking for.
- Generally grows denser buds
- Grows short and bushy as opposed to quickly growing tall. Indicas usually do not stretch much after being switched to the flowering stage
- Tends to produce a more “heavy” or “couchlock” effect, though it varies by strains
- Tends to be more cold resistant
- May not be able to cope well in very hot weather
- Many Indica-dominant strains have relatively higher levels of CBD (1-2%)
- Some sativa-leaning strains tend to produce less dense buds. You may end up with very long buds as opposed to small thick nuggets like with some indica-leaning strains
- Tends to grow very tall, with a big stretch after being switched to the flowering stage (often doubling, or even tripling in height after the switch to flower)
- Can provide a cerebral “daytime” or “trippy” effect that many growers love.
- Usually can’t cope with cold
- Often very heat-resistant
- Often low in CBD (less than 1%)
- Usually carries a mix of Indica and Sativa characteristics, since all auto-flowers have been mixed with other cultivated strains
- Short life cycle – seed to harvest in 2-3 months.
- Tend to stay small, so lower overall yields.
- Sometimes called “Lowryders” or “Ruderalis” strains.
- “Auto-Flowering” means these strains don’t need special light cycles to initiate budding.
2. MEDICAL OR NON-MEDICAL STRAINS
Cannabinoids such as THC are what give cannabis its effects. Here are the ones we know most about:
THC stands for “Tetrahydrocannabinol,” which is a fancy word to describe the main cannabinoid in cannabis that produces much of the euphoria and other mental effects. For medical marijuana patients, THC seems to be one of the most important cannabinoids when it comes to reducing pain.
CBD stands for Cannabidiol, a non-psychotropic cannabinoid that has recently been in the spotlight for its medical effects in fighting seizures. It does not cause the psychoactive effects of THC, and may have lots of other beneficial effects for medical marijuana patients.
CBN stands for Cannabinol, another known cannabinoid. CBN causes milder mental effects than THC, and more of a body relaxation effect. CBN levels do not have a lot to do with strain – they are raised by harvesting buds later.
When shopping around for cannabis strains, you’ll often be able to get information from the breeder about THC and CBD levels.
Medical cannabis is what many patients are looking for Low THC, High CBD – Examples
High THC – Examples
Lack of Appetite
Avoid “dabs” or waxes as they can contain contaminants that aren’t appropriate in a medical setting
When shopping around for strains, many breeders will give you information about the THC and CBD levels of the buds produced by this strain of cannabis. If they can’t give you specific numbers, I recommend avoiding that breeder if you’re a medical cannabis patient.
- High THC, Low CBD – Examples
- Psychedelic, more “trippy” effects, but can cause anxiety for some people
- Medium/High THC, Medium CBD – Examples
- High THC, Medium CBN (by harvesting plants later, especially effective on indica strains)
- “Couchlock” (very relaxed, almost sedative effects)
3. WHERE TO GET SEEDS
Always get your seeds from a trusted source. I don’t mean from your mate whose bud always has huge clusters of seeds. I mean from a known and reliable source whose job it is to provide highly reliable and consistent seeds that won’t cause problems for you down the line. There are some reputable seed banks that are known for producing excellent quality seeds. And better yet, you can just point and click and in no-time,your seeds will be at your doorstep. There are sometimes different versions of strains by different breeders. When there are several versions of popular strains, each version can grow wildly different from each other and produce different results. “White Widow” from one breeder may be completely different from “White Widow” by another breeder.
3. GROWING INDOORS OR OUTDOORS
Answering this question should be easy. Finding strains that will thrive in the environment you provide for them is key to success. All strains love the sun but if your only space to grow is in your basement, then you will want to find strains that have learned to thrive indoors. Some strains, due to generations of crossbreeding, have adapted to the conditions present in a typical indoor garden. If you are fortunate enough to have an acre out back, it opens up a world of strains that are rugged and will thrive outdoors.
5. HOW MUCH TIME
For a lot of cannabis growers the most important thing when it comes to strain choice is to get the most cannabis bud as fast as possible. Luckily, there are lots of cannabis strains and breeders that cater directly to this market. You don’t necessarily have to give up quality for quantity.
If you want to get bud the fastest possible, you want to get an autoflowering strain. These strains will automatically start making buds after about 3 weeks, and can be ready to harvest in as soon as 8 weeks from seed. With a regular strain you may be able force your plant to harvest in the same amount of time (by using the 12/12 from seed method) but you will get terrible yields.
With an auto-flowering strain you will get from seed to harvest in 8-12 weeks (depending on strain) and still get decent yields. I got over 2 ounces per plant in my last autoflowering grow under a small grow light. I planted in mid-October and was able to harvest the first plant before the New Year.
6.GET THE BIGGEST YIELD
If you want to get the biggest yields possible, you need to get a high-yield strain. Some strains are popular for their effects or appearance, but don’t yield as high as others. You’ll usually get the best yields with photoperiod strains.
Most breeders will list expected yields with their strain descriptions, so you can find the strains that yield the most when you’re looking at your options.
If you’re really concerned with yields, make sure to still pay attention to flowering time, too. If two strains are rated the same in yields, but one takes 4 weeks less in the flowering stage than the other, you’ll end up with the most bud by getting the plant with the shorter flowering time because you’ll be able to grow more plants more often.
But probably even more imortant than strain, if you’re growing indoors the best way to increase your yields is to train your plants during the vegetative stage.
7. POTENCY AND EFFECTS
For many growers, the potency and effects of the bud are the #1 thing you care about. We already talked about sativa vs indica, and medical vs non-medical strains, but there’s still a lot more to potency and effects.
It’s also important to remember that the time you harvest and how you dry/cure your buds after harvest have a huge effect on the final potency and bud effects. The time you harvest can make the difference between speedy, “mental” or “body” effects. The dry/cure adds significantly to the perceived potency of your buds if done right, and without a good dry/cure buds are not as enjoyable and can give you a headache.But strain also has a huge effect – you can’t grow buds that are better than their genetics, no matter how great a grower you are!
Here’s what you need to remember about potency when shopping for strains.
THC & CBD only tell part of the story – I’ve had strains with 15% THC blow the socks off a strain with 25% THC, at least as far as the potency I experienced. Although THC and CBD numbers do have a big effect, once you’re above 15% THC or so the results seem to become a lot more subjective. You can have 20% THC cannabis that is almost too strong, and other 20% THC cannabis that only as a small relaxing effect. There are other cannabinoids in cannabis besides THC, and they can moderate and alter the effects you feel, so don’t get too caught up on the numbers. Even if you’re looking for the strongest bud possible, I’d stay open to what people say about the effects, and take the advertised THC percentages with a grain of salt.
Mental vs Physical – One of the major differences between strains is whether the effects hit you more mentally or more physically. Some strains tend to give people soaring creative thoughts, increased sociability and extra energy. Other strains can completely sedate you and give your body a strong pleasurable “buzz”. Sativas tend to be more mental, and indicas seem to be more physical, but it’s important to read what the breeder says because most strains are hybrids and carry a mix of both.
8. HOW MUCH ROOM DO I HAVE
If you’re basking in the glory of your own outdoor garden, then your plants have all the room they need to stretch out. If you’re using a grow tent or a basement, you may struggle with your plants growing beyond the capacity of your space. Nothing is worse than finding your top cola bleached out and beyond salvation. If you’re only working with two meters or a little more, you’re going to need to find strains that are rugged enough to be topped out a bunch of times or are naturally short in stature.
9. FEMINIZED OR REGULAR CANNABIS SEEDS
Most growers only want to grow bud-bearing female plants. If you’re not starting with cannabis clones (where the gender is already known), feminized seeds are the only way to ensure your cannabis plant will end up making buds.
Feminized seeds means that all the plants will turn into female plants.
Regular (non-feminized) seeds will produce about half male and half female plants. Even though male plants do not make buds, the pollen from desirable “stud” male plants are essential to a complete cannabis breeding program.
[Updated, originally published 21.8. 2017]