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Designer Genes: The Best Crops Come From The Best Seeds. Choose Wisely.

The tomato is a plant with many different strains The tomato is a plant with many different strains

Experienced growers know that the most important factor in the success of their indoor crop is the genetics, or strain, of their plants. You can have the best, state-of-the-art grow room and plant nutrient program in the world, and put lots of time and effort into your garden, yet still produce only mediocre results if you choose the wrong strain for your expectations or growing style.


Fortunately, there are many options available and growers can select from many seed varieties, or obtain live cuttings (clones) of mother plants. Most of these varietals have been bred specifically for indoor cultivation under artificial light sources or greenhouse conditions.

There are very few strains that do well indoors and out, and also thrive in your greenhouse. If seed companies were to breed strains that satisfy all of these unique requirements, they would need to make compromises in each area. So it’s important to select a strain that is intended for your growing method, be it indoors, outdoors, or greenhouse.

The closest thing to an all-arounder are the plant varieties that are considered auto­flowering. These varieties are not dependent on the length of day and night differential to initiate bloom (reproductive) phase; rather, these plants are grown from seed, and after germination, they initiate flowering and fruiting automati­cally, ­after gaining several sets of new leaves. These hybrid plants will do well outdoors in climates where the growing season is short, allowing for earlier harvests. Autoflowering strains will produce best indoors with a longer photoperiod—for example, 20 hours of lights on and only four hours of lights off (rather than, for example, a split photoperiod with 12 hours each of light and darkness). The harvest quality can be good from autoflowering strains, although yields tend to be lower per plant.

Just about any plant can be cloned, or propagated as cuttings to produce new plants. The progeny will be virtually indistinguishable in appearance and growth. However, some strains within the same variety of plant may prove to be slower to produce roots than others.

All strains will have their subtleties, which may take the grower a few crops to truly discover and fine-tune. For example, some strains prefer heavier crop feedings, while others prefer moderately light feedings. One strain may produce prolifically in warmer temperatures, while another will benefit from the environment running several degrees cooler.

If you intend to maintain your grow, whether personal or industrial-sized for more than a few crops, you will likely find your highest rate of success by initially starting your crop from several carefully selected strains of a single plant variety. Almost every grow room will create a unique environment. Some run a little warmer and drier, while others are a little cooler and slightly more humid. Although it is possible to create the perfect environment using modern growing equipment and controls, you may find one strain will do better than another in your growing environment; this is why you should grow out a few different strains from which to select your mother plant.

You, Wonderful You

Your best results may come from using several carefully selected strains of a single plant ¬variety. Experiment and document your results.  Your best results may come from using several carefully selected strains of a single plant ¬variety. Experiment and document your results. Your growing results have a lot to do with how you manage the crop. Your “growing personality” will mesh with some strains better than with others. By initially trying a few different strains in your grow room, you can select a mother plant that meets or exceeds your growing expectations. In this way, you can help ensure bountiful harvests with the characteristics you desire—with fewer cropping problems related to your management techniques or grow room construction. Basically, you can select a strain that was made for your growing style and the environment that you can provide.

To do this, it’s important to carefully label the individual seed plants in the garden, as soon as seeds have germinated and are transplanted. Be very careful to ensure that tags used to label the individual plants don’t wash off or become faded, leaving you guessing which plant is which.

A lot of growers feel the best way to create mother plants is to keep the original seed plant for use to supply donor material in order to do root cuttings—creating genetically identical progeny, or clones, as opposed to taking a cutting from the original seed plant and rooting and growing that clone to serve as the mother plant for future gardens.

So, label the individual seed plants, and take a few cuttings from each when they are large enough to do so. Carefully label the cuttings taken to correspond to the donor plant they were removed from—this is very important! Now, root the cuttings, grow them out, and flower them, as you intend to do with all future crops being grown in your custom growing environment while following your preferred growing methods. Retain the original seed plants in a healthy state of vegetative growth while you are growing the cuttings out to maturity and harvest. Take as many notes and observations as you can with the individually labeled clones throughout the cropping cycle. Make sure to write down things like the daily temperature, humidity, and CO2 levels (if applicable). Chart when you feed the crop with nutrients, and at what strengths, pH levels, etc. If possible, measure the daily growth rate, or number of new leaves that emerge, as related to the individual plants.

At harvest time, make sure you keep the plants or material harvested separated and labeled, as you will want to know the individual yields (weight) that each plant offers. You will also want to keep them separated so that you can associate the varying degrees of quality and desirable characteristics to the individual plants.

After comparing yield weights, quality of the harvest, and the growth rates they demonstrated (again, checking your recorded observations), you can make an informed decision as to which of the original seed plants will reign as queen of your growing endeavor. This chosen plant can serve as the mother, or donor, plant to literally thousands of harvested plants over time in your garden. Your chances of success and the rate at which you yield and harvest will be optimized, because you took the time and care to select the right mother plant for your needs, grow room, and management practices, ensuring a level of harmony and success unique to your individual situation.

When choosing a variety to grow indoors, consider the following:


  1. How much the plant grows once the bloom phase is initiated;
  2. Growth pattern (short and squat, tall and straight, etc.);
  3. Harvest weight per square meter, or yield per plant;
  4. Average number of days to reach maturity after flowering is initiated;
  5. Growth rates and vigor;
  6. Suitability to growing hydroponically versus in soil (root sensitivity);
  7. Potential for resistance to common insects and diseases.


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growing plants from seeds is an art
Last modified on Thursday, 11 October 2012 18:29

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