For many aficionados, growing weed outdoors is the only way to do it. Outdoors, these plants are in their element, and it is there they can truly thrive. Whether you’ll be planting directly into the earth or growing plants in pots on your deck, the following is an overview of what it takes to grow that green the way nature intended it.
Growing Weed Outdoors Vs. Indoors: Differences
Generally speaking, when you grow cannabis outdoors, you’re letting nature take the reins;she definitely knows what she’s doing. While growing outdoors may require more focus on pest control and weather conditions, these can be resolved with a bit of research. Outside, there’s no need to artificially push plants into flowering, since this happens naturally in the fall as daylight hours decrease. No artificial light or ventilation is necessary outdoors either. The two methods have their benefits, but many who grow outdoors say the aromas and terpene profiles of plants grown in the wild simply can’t be beat.
Benefits Of Growing Weed Outdoors
The great outdoors provides everything marijuana plants need to thrive. Indoor conditions require artificial inputs to take the place of sunlight, breezes and rainwater. Because of this, outdoor cannabis plants tend to grow larger and yield more product, all while reducing costs and energy expenditures. By one estimate, it takes around 200 pounds of coal to produce a single pound of weed indoors, due to artificial light and ventilation costs. Outdoor weed does not require coal or other greenhouse gas-emitting energy to produce.
Particularly when growing directly in the ground, root health can be easier to achieve. When grown in pots, roots can become root-bound; they can grow roots to the point where they take up virtually all the space in the container. Root-bound plants can die if they are not pruned correctly. But there is no way for plants planted in earth to become root-bound. Also, because earth-grown plants do not encounter the artificial limits imposed by pots, they can become much larger and taller.
Watering is generally also more forgiving when planting in the ground, since the earth retains water well and promotes proper drainage, although the type of soil in the ground will determine how well soils are able to perform.
Step 1: Start In Spring to Grow Weed Outdoors
Growing weed outdoors is all about working with Mother Nature’s cycles. Starting in spring makes the most sense, since that’s when the natural growth cycle begins.
Step 2: Pick A Space For Growing Weed Outdoors
Fortunately, cannabis is fairly hardy. Originally hailing from Central Asia, these plants can endure a variety of climates, even relatively cold and harsh ones. Temperatures varying between 60 and 90 degrees fahrenheit can work well for growing.
The most important factor that should be taken into consideration for your outdoor grow is sunlight; the more sun your plants get, the more bud they will be able to yield. Your garden patch should ideally have five hours of direct sun exposure per day, ideally during the morning and afternoon. Be wary of bright porch or street lights that might shine into the evening and night hours. They can affect the flowering period later on in the grow.
Step 3: Decide On Cannabis Genetics for Growing Weed Outdoors
The genetics of the cannabis plant you select will determine what climate they can best endure, and the kind of product you will end up with. Indica strains tend to be more resilient in wetter conditions, such as those found in the northwest United States. Sativa plants tend to prefer warmer temperatures and brighter light conditions.
Seeds Vs. Clones for Growing Weed Outdoors
While it may seem like less work to begin with clones, there are some advantages to growing straight from seeds. For one thing, you can purchase feminized seeds, which help ensure that each of your plants will eventually flower, the end goal of any grow.
And even though you can skip the germination step (described below) when dealing with clones, these cuttings can be susceptible to traumas. Transport and repotting are two activities entirely unnatural, and shocking, to plants. Shock can lead to illness, reduced yields or even death.
Step 4: Acquire Some Soil to Grow Weed Outdoors
Soil plays a critical part to the health and productivity of your plants. For planting in containers, you can purchase soil from gardening stores, as well as a combination of other mediums to promote water retention, proper drainage and to provide your plants with adequate nutrition. Some of these other materials include compost, coco coir or peat moss, which can be mixed in with soil.
Planting directly into the ground can result in better outcomes, since this removes the concern of plants becoming root-bound. However, a little more ground-work must be done before planting. For starters, it is advisable to analyse the type of soil you are working with. Understanding the pH profile of the soil, as well as identifying any potential contaminants, will help you better plan for extra materials you might need to add to soil to make your plants as healthy and resilient as possible. With certain types of soil, including sandy and clay-filled, experts recommend digging large holes into the ground and filling them with materials that will supplement what’s naturally there. Think of yourself as digging a pot in the ground as opposed to planting in a pot above soil.
Step 5: Get Some Fertilizer
While synthetic fertilizers may be popular on industrial-sized crops, for best results it’s recommended sticking with more organic fertilizers. They support the diversity of microorganisms that naturally occur in outdoor soil, called living soil, which help to maintain plant health. Many gardening stores sell fertilizers from organic sources including bat guano and kelp meal.
Step 6: Choose Your Containers
One of the big advantages with using pots to grow weed outdoors versus sowing the seeds or clones directly into the ground is that pots can be moved around in order to provide the most sunlight. Again, the amount of sun your plant receives will determine the crop yield.
There are two main types of outdoor pots to choose from. Grow bags, which are fabric pots, give your plants more room to breathe; fabric pots enable greater oxygenation than other types of outdoor pots. Oxygenation helps maintain root health. On the other hand, plastic pots have the advantage of being easier to move and are longer-lasting.
Regardless of the type of pot you choose, make sure there are ample drainage holes along the bottom.
Step 7: Germination
Germination is a fancy word for sprouting. If you’ve ever had Vietmanese pho that comes with crunchy mung bean sprouts, you will have seen (and eaten) germination. Germinating your seeds wakes them up and gives them a head-start on growing before they’re plunged into the soil.
Place the seeds between wet pieces of paper towels and keep them in a warm place for a few days or up to a week. Soon, you’ll see the very beginnings of a little marijuana plant begin to sprout.
Step 8: Maintaining The Plant
Plants can always use a little TLC to help them grow into the best versions of themselves. Here are a couple tips to keep in mind:
How To Water Your Crop Correctly
How much water to provide your plants will depend on whether you’re planting in pots, or the type of soil you’ve sown your seeds in – there’s no one size fits all approach. That said, a good rule of thumb is to manually check the soil at the base of the plant. If things feel damp, hold off on watering. It’s generally a good idea to err on the side of underwatering, since this problem can be resolved by simply watering more.Overwatering, however, can cause roots to rot, which can be devastating and even lethal for your plant. Signs of underwatering can be observed when the leaves and stems begin drooping and looking slightly wilted.
Different nutrients should be applied at different growth stages of the plant’s life. The primary nutrients are nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, sulfur, calcium and magnesium, with secondary nutrients including iron, zinc and silicon. Generally fertilizers will list in what quantities each nutrient appears in a given product.
Purchasing a series of different fertilizers tailored for specific stages in the plant’s life will give the best results. For example, try using fertilizers with high levels of nitrogen and potassium during the vegetative stage – the major growth period of the plant’s life. During the flowering stage, level off nitrogen while upping phosphorus and maintaining potassium at a constant level.
Step 9: Protect Your Cannabis Plants
Even though nature takes the reins when growing outdoors, this doesn’t absolve you from the need to constantly keep an eye on your plants. Here are some common threats to look out for.
Cannabis may be a hearty plant, but it doesn’t like extreme temperature swings. On especially hot days, watch for curling leaves, which can be a sign of heat stress. If you catch this early enough, the plant can be salvaged by watering immediately. Watering in the morning or evening time will help the plant and soil retain moisture. Moving pots to the shade, or erecting a shade screen for grounded plants, can be helpful to stave off the hottest temperatures of the day.
In cold weather, hail can be one of the biggest cold-weather threats to weed plants. It can break apart leaves and stems sometimes beyond repair. Always being on the lookout for sudden hail storms is advisable. Be ready to rush pots beneath a deck or inside your house if necessary. For plants in the ground, overturn a cardboard box or even a garbage bin to serve as a temporary shelter.
A little wind can be a good thing. A nice light breeze can whisk away pests and mold, ensuring these threats don’t take root on your plants.However, if it blows too hard there can be consequences.
As speeds pick up, wind can actually be quite damaging to your crop. The more obvious of the perils are broken branches, lost leaves and precious flowers. But wind can also dry out plants, since water evaporates more quickly in windy air. Wind can also wipe away the trichome structures on plant leaves and buds, which is where all the THC, CBD and other cannabinoids are produced.
In order to prevent wind damage, try creating a wind break. This can be done using shade cloths, which are available at gardening stores. Cloths come at differing densities depending on what force of wind you’re up against. Plexiglass structures are also effective, with the added bonus that they don’t block sunlight from reaching your plants.
While also a source of vital nourishment for your plants, rain in volumes too great for the ground to properly absorb can become a serious threat to your crop. Soggy soils can promote mold and mildew growth, and once these things take hold, they can be deadly.
Using trellises to keep your plants upright will prevent breakage, which can happen as rain-soaked buds become too heavy for stems to support. Shaking excess water off plant leaves and flowers helps to reduce weight also, and promotes speedier evaporation.
The outdoor environment is home to many creatures who might like to munch on your precious greenery. Fortunately there are many natural products that will keep pests of all sorts at bay. For example, ants can be discouraged by a little cinnamon sprinkling. Neem oil, from the neem tree, is an effective deterrent for a number of insects, including spider mites, thrips, crickets and grasshoppers. Other pests, such as aphids, can be controlled by adding a few natural predators to the mix, like ladybugs. It’s important to keep a close eye on your plants to ensure you can address any infestation before it becomes too entrenched.
Step 10: Harvest
In the Northern Hemisphere, the harvest season takes place in the fall. Exact harvest times vary region by region. The flowering stage of marijuana plants is dependent on how much sunlight they’re getting per day. As daylight hours begin to decrease towards the middle or end of September (In the Northern hemisphere; and this will vary based on region), plants begin to prepare for the coming winter by preparing to deliver the next generation of plants to the soil.
When you decide to harvest will greatly affect the end product. To decide when the time is right to harvest, take a magnifying glass to the flowers of your plant to examine the trichomes – where the cannabinoids are produced. If they’ve turned a milky whitish color, it could well be time to harvest. Examining the “hairs” on the flowers and watching for a reddish tint can provide another clue of readiness. This is known as the pistil method of determining harvest timing.
When harvesting, remember that a light touch will preserve more potency, since too much abrasion can knock the trichomes off – and these trichomes are major sources of the cannabinoids you’re after. It’s advised to cut the plant in sections, allowing some of the leaves to stay on near the buds to slow the drying process. This helps with flavor retention as well as potency.
Tie each section by the stem and hang upside down for a long period – anywhere from four days to two weeks. Patience is a virtue with weed prep! Be sure the drying area is well-ventilated, but not directly blowing air onto the buds. Once dried, trim each section to remove any remaining leaves. This trim can be retained for use in cannabis oil or other edibles.
Growing weed outdoors is a great excuse to step outside and be one with nature. It can also reap the benefits of bigger yields, pleasant earthy aromas – all while being seriously cost-effective. Sometimes Mother Nature knows best – and we should all be thanking her for making cannabis sativa for us in the first place.