In the last 25 years, I have collected and grown-out hundreds of strains of medical marijuana. I have traveled to Holland and attended the Cannabis Cup seven times. I’ve also lived in Amsterdam. One thing I still believe is that the best Cannabis in the world is in North America, in some unknown garden belonging to someone who keeps to themselves.
We have been lucky enough to collect some amazing examples. Some of my all time favorites are Genius and Apollo-13 by Brothers Grimm, also Killer Queen and Space Queen by Vic High. Our most potent strain is Jack’s Cleaner, a Pluton x LambsBread x Purple Haze freak, which can literally make a non-grower puke if they’re not used to her brutal raw potency. We call it the “they’re coming to take me away” stone.
Now, MzJill and I continue this tradition working as a team. She has some of her own favorites as well. The Black Russian strain that gives all of our Sputnik crosses their insane purple coloring came from MzJill via Nebu. Over the past five years, we have worked with these crosses to create new and interesting varieties. MzJill comes up with her own crosses using her favorites and even helps me pollinate when the males are ready. We would like to share with you a little of what goes into breeding a new strain.
Breeding has many complexities that I won’t begin to try and explain here today. But I think our main goal was very simple, to combine an extremely potent Sativa hybrid with a heavy yielding, ultra purple strain. The results would be a purple strain with the potency added from that parent.
What gets tricky is that many strains, like G-13, are extremely dominant and can take over a cross. When you cross BlueBerry and G-13, usually you just make a nasty tasting, watered down version of both. This doesn’t mean that there are not good Blueberry G-13 crosses; its just breeding is not as easy as 2+2=4.
There is also a big difference between “breeders” and “seed makers”. Anyone can take a male and pollinate a female. This is not breeding; it is making copies with large variations. Again, if they’re sold cheap, a winner can still be found if enough seeds are grown out. The difference is the selection process of the parent strains.
The Mamas and The Papas
Selection of the mother plant (or P1) was easy. Apollo-13 is in the top three of my favorite strains and I think it may be the most unique strain we have. It blends potency and a bizarre and putrid rotting-fruit smell that make it a one of a kind. Selection of a male Black Russian was not as easy. The first mistake people make in selecting a male is by choosing the most vigorous. Remember those complexities I mentioned earlier? Well, the recessive drug traits we seek are stashed away in non-vigorous males.
Think about the plant in the wild, the natural progression of Cannabis is back to Hemp. The strains we have today are a direct result of human intervention. Robert Clark says it better:
“In the wild, the early males always win the breeding contest. Without proper selection, these early males cause ‘acclimatization’ of the variety, and a decrease in drug quality.
This is the ‘dominant’ state of Cannabis. If it were otherwise, why would we need breeders? All you would have to do is let the plants do their own thing and they would become more potent over time, but they don’t. The only way marijuana varieties ever get better is through human intervention in the natural order.”
So, in order to find these recessive traits, we choose males based loosely on the following:
– At time of germination, are there any capitate trichomes on the cotyledon leaves?
– What is the number and frequency of non-glandular trichomes (this can be a great indicator of future glandular production).
– The earliest males to show sex get tossed, no ifs, ands or buts.
– Dominant males are useless for drug (misuse of this rule has caused more hermaphrodite strains than the world deserves)
If these basics are followed during each male selection process, then this gives us a much better chance of finding the genes we want. This is not meant to be a guide for anyone, just a basic explanation of what a Cannabis Breede” looks for when selecting strains to work with and/or improve upon.
Sometimes taste is the desired goal, or maybe potency. I have taken cherry flavored Ortega and crossed it with Killer Queen to create a cherry phenotype called Danny Boy. Danny Boy is done in 48 days and the taste is like cherry candy. The famed Jack’s Cleaner was crossed with a BlueBerry to create Batgirl, and then JCB males from that cross have created entire seed companies. Our JCB male has blue pollen sacs and drips with resin.
Also in the works is an Orange Velvet x Space Queen that will be our first Pineapple-Orange offering. This is MzJill’s creation, so we have named it JillyBean. Orange Velvet is a PNW strain obtained from “some hippies” as the story goes. Our goal is to create badass strains that we want to grow out and smoke ourselves. Once breeding pairs are selected, they are sent to BadBoy to replicate successful crosses or create insane new things, like BadBoy’s Astro Boy (Apollo-13 x Ortega C99).
For those of you who may not know who I am, allow me to introduce myself. Throughout my life, I have worn many a hat; the hat of a dealer, a grower, a breeder, a photographer, an author, a cannabis journalist, and a marijuana enthusiast to name a few. I have worn many hats in my life, a dealer, a grower, a breeder, a photographer, a journalist, and marijuana enthusiast.
But my favorite hat to wear has been the one that allowed me to be known as “Weed Nerd”. Plain and simple. I have loved everything about marijuana, from growing my first crop to aiding cancer patients in their healing process, the cannabis culture is pure magic.
2001 I am the founding marijuana strain breeder at TGA Seeds. One of my strains, “Vortex”, won the first ever United States medical marijuana, The High Times Cannabis Cup. In addition to awards, I am the author of two books: “Book of Dank” and “Dank 2.0”. These books are beautiful collections of cannabis photography and the stories that go along with each photo.
While my two published books are my pride and joy, they have barely scratched my writing itch. I have frequently contributed as a writer and photographer for High Times, Treating Yourself, Heads, Skunk, Weed World and West Coast Cannabis Magazine; all publications dedicated to the craft and culture of cannabis. Oh, but just you wait! I’m not through quite yet. Over the years, I have collected a following of cannabis lovers, like myself, and huddled them into a vast group of subscribers on my YouTube channel. These weekly videos have allowed me to share my passions, educate newcomers about the processes of marijuana, entertain my band of misfits, and reach a larger audience. Having people see me in my element is vital to the understanding of this growing culture.
Taking an old recipe from Vic High I modified it to create my growing style that has taken on the nickname the “Just add Water” method. I call it Super Soil and it was derived from and old forum online run by Vic High the creator of Killer Queen and other famous strains. Over the years I have changed Vic’s recipe substantially each time making small changes to improve the end results. The current recipe is used by people all over the world with many going to extra effort to use the exact same ingredients down to the manufacture. Others get as close as possible using what products they have available to them with equally stunning results. I expect people to question and make their own small changes and test the results from crop to crop.
Other topics I will cover in my marijuana growing articles will be my form of LST I call Bondage cause hey everyone likes a little of that. Early topping and training, transplanting, cloning, trimming, making tinctures and extracts will all be covered in great detail but with my simple easy to understand way of explaining things. I like to tell my stories with pictures as well so you will see lots of detailed photographs to help get the point across.
I will also be talking about marijuana genetics and current breeding projects I am working on for TGA and showing off the latest bud porn from my travels around growing marijuana world.
I hope you make my column a weekly read, so you get the most out of your TGA marijuana seeds and all the other strains you grow.
Years ago when I traveled to Amsterdam one of the first heavy Indicas I tried was AK-47. I loved the spicy fruity taste and if memory serves we actually got so high I was dosing sitting in Grey Area and Steve poked me and gave me a look that said I like ya Sub but you cant sleep in my tiny shop. We headed outside for fresh air and then across the street for Handmade Gourmet chocolates. I never forgot that experience, so we took some seeds back to grow out for nighttime medicine. This was 12 years ago and over the years I lost my female and lost contact with the guys that I gave cuts to or the other growers that I split the seeds with. In 2002 I grew out some seeds of AK-47 and I was really disappointed in the results. The strain was nothing like I remembered and each female was quite different from seed. Even Simon the breeder and owner of Serious seeds has stated openly that up to 100 AK-47 seeds would need to be started to find the one cherry female that everyone knew and loved back in the early 90s. I felt the male or something was lost and the AK-47 seeds sold now were in name only and I moved on to other clone only strains for my medicine. One famous grower Nebu was able to keep a cut and its regarded as one of the best Indica clones around but he is very tight with it as he uses the female to breed with.
Over the years from time to time I run across samples of AK-47 and I am always disappointed until this year. I have friend that is a caregiver that I give advise to, his first garden ever was featured in the Last TY in the article Whats in Your Garage we call him Dave. Dave called me two months ago and said one of his patience had a cutting of AK that came from seeds bought in 1994. I quickly looked online and found the release date of AK-47 of 1992 and at this point I got very interested. I asked if a bud sample was possible and he told me the plants were at 9 weeks and went 70 days and he would have some samples soon. True to his word he showed up about 2 weeks later with a few thick buds and shoved one under my nose. Smell like cherries? he asked. The thick oily smell was infused with Cherries and Spice and was the exact smell I remembered from the Grey Area so many years back. I asked for a cutting and sure enough 10 days later a little baby clone was delivered to me. I transplanted her into my soil and placed her in the vegetive room under a 1000 watt metal halide Hortilux Blue Bulb set up. She grew fast and immediately started pushing out wide Indica dominant fan leafs. She grew really fast and it didnt take long at all before she was a nice short bush with many heads. When she reached 30 in total plant height I placed her into 12/12 HPS lighting with 1200ppm CO2 added to boost growth rate. By day 30 nice colas were forming and we can already see resin in heavy concentrations on all leaves and even the stems. Even this early I am impressed with what I see and the cherry smell is starting to come on. The one trait we didnt like on this strain was the leaf weight it carries into the finish. I was asked my the owner of the cutting to cross her with Space Queen in hopes to improve her Pistil to leaf ratio. If she passes our taste test we are going to proceed and call the outcross Tommy Gun. The clone goes 70 days so we still have some time on ours but since I have such a good relationship with Marco I am hoping he will let me submit a part two with the final results. As I put this article to keyboard our girl is 33 days old and I will do a final photo shoot tonight and get the shots to Marco so you can se her as up to date as possibly.
Hemp Fest never gets old, the positive energy never fails to fire up my activist side but all the Hippy’s always rub off on me and I also leave with a full heart and a smile on my face. MzJill and I didn’t get in until Friday afternoon so we missed the opening at noon. Long before we got close to the event we could smell the sweet smell of the herb that everyone had gathered to celebrate. It was a really nice afternoon and the sun was shining but a cooling breeze was blowing off the bay and swirling the music around as we walked into the park. The path into the park was a wall of people leaving the event I am always amazed at how huge Hemp Fest crowds are. We walked around a bit saw Ngaio Bealum and stopped by the TGA booth and enjoyed the sunset with few bowls of Dank. The next day I got an early start because I am always really excited and a pretty hyper person. I love to meet and greet and wake and bake with just about anyone I see, everyone is so cool and in such a great mode. I can’t count the number of people I smelted that day with my full melt bubble but lets just say a large number of people have a good story to tell now. I made up the purest Apollo-13 water hash I could and I was rewarded by friends stopping in mid sentence after having just one bowl. I captured some video during the day and took a good many pictures but I spent most of the time talking with fans and signing books and rolling treys and tee shirts and even bongs. The jams were really good and you can hear a sampling in my Youtube video, over the weekend a few dozen bands perform on the many stages and I have to say I really liked just about all the bands that we heard on the main stage on day two. Later that day we went to hear some of the speakers and we got to see Seattle’s mayor speak. He actually did a good job and it was quite the trip to see the mayor on stage in front of thousands of people actively smoking cannabis and he openly welcomed us to the city.
The thing I saw that was different and that I want everyone to know about is the huge amount of commerce that went on at this event. There was a much larger group of people serving food and a much wider variety hell you could order up a Caesar salad and grilled Cajun salmon at one booth. I am much more a burger guy and as I walked up to one booth to get some munchies the guy asked MzJill if she was with High Times because she was dressed in one of her green outfits with all her adornments. I replied no that I was Subcool and she was MzJill and the people behind the booth all started praising us for our genetics. The owners were medical patients who had grown out our Flav and the Vortex. They wouldn’t even let me pay for my meal which blew me away most of the day just thinking about it. I know cops are known to get free food for their service but a Cannabis Breeder? Far Out Man!! Everyone seemed to be doing a brisk business and even the ATM’s had lines of people standing in front of each one. The economy may be down but our culture seemed to be thriving seems a large number of Americans dig weed. While the politicians seem to be busy ruining our economy counter culture has dug in and are doing quite well because of the plant. While its kinda taboo to talk about there was no shortage baked goods or flowers at the event, people were doing what it takes to survive and I am a huge supporter in that. I got a cool shot of one daring entrepreneur holding up a sign as people walked buy advertising his goodies. The stupid part is because the government refuses to acknowledge our culture and cannabis economy they missed out on untold revenue. I think regulation was on everyone’s minds and one of the speakers I captured on video spoke about it. Free weed is a great dream but the reality is taxing the sale of cannabis goods can and will generate funds to help rebuild our countries infrastructure one day.
Sunday was another great day and just as busy we passed out about 4 jars full of TGA flowers to card holding patients on the house and even though the TGA booth was hoping like mad everyone was polite and gave up there spots in the crowded booth so others could meet and speak with MzJill and myself. Ed came over and hung out and as usual I did my best to medicate him into the stratosphere. TGA’s Washington reps Rob and Rose and there crew who did such a great job for us were impressed that Ed hung out so long and signed books for everyone. I had so much fun working with them that next year we plan to double the booth size and sponsor the festival with a nice donation.
I would like to thank all of the volunteers who without this event could not be held. As the sun set on a glorious day they were looking at several days of cleaning up and taking down everything.
I hope to see everyone next year