Outdoor cannabis growing has become a popular way to grow your own cannabis easily. But how to harvest cannabis, when and what's best to do? Are you interested in growing cannabis outdoors this summer? Find out what you’ll need to get started and how to get the best yield from your plants. Solely planting some cannabis seeds and waiting for them to grow just won't cut it (pun intended). Follow these 9 crucial tips for growing outdoors!
How to harvest cannabis, dry and cure your outdoor crop
Growing cannabis outdoors is perhaps the lowest cost way to grow your own. All you need is a few good quality outdoor cannabis seeds and a sunny, sheltered spot with reasonable quality soil. You can always supplement the soil with additional high quality compost and fertiliser if necessary.
You don’t need to live in a warm, tropical climate to be able to grow great quality outdoor cannabis. High quality autoflower seeds can grow from seed to harvest in around 100 days outdoors (they are even faster indoors). Even those with short summers can find a good 3-month window to grow and harvest some autoflower seeds outdoors. But what are the best ways to harvest, dry and cure outdoor grown cannabis? Read on for some expert tips and advice.
Harvesting advantages of autoflowers grown outdoors
Growing autoflower seeds offers some tremendous advantages to the outdoor grower. Autoflowers have earned a solid reputation for being easy and convenient to grow. With their fast life cycle and short size they are a fast way to grow plants which will hide easily behind other plants and shrubs.
- Autoflowers grow from seed to harvest in around 100 days outdoors. That’s much faster than photoperiod outdoor strains and ideal for those with short growing seasons.
- Autoflower seeds tend to produce short, stocky plants which are around 1m tall. These are much easier to hide than 3-4m monster plants grown from photoperiod outdoor feminised seeds.
- Autoflower seeds are easy to grow with little maintenance required. If you choose a sunny location with good quality, moist soil you can expect a straightforward grow with little effort.
Harvesting advantages of photoperiod feminised strains grown outdoors
Your other main option for outdoor cannabis growing are feminised photoperiod cannabis seeds. Unlike autoflower seeds, you won’t be able to grow these in short 100-day summers. You will typically need 5 months or so to grow these larger plants. But harvests can be huge. Yields of well over 1Kg from a 3m tall specimen are quite possible.
If you enjoy a reasonably long growing season you will be able to harvest your outdoor photoperiod cannabis plant before the worst of the late-season weather arrives. For some outdoor cannabis growers, feminised photoperiod cannabis seeds are the preferred choice.
- For the largest harvests, outdoor cannabis seeds with photoperiod genetics are the best choice.
- Plants can be 3-4m tall and just as wide in optimum conditions. However, for some growers such large plants can present security/risk issues and are difficult to hide.
- You need to ensure that your preferred outdoor photoperiod strain is able to complete the bloom cycle before the growing season ends.
One other advantage of growing photoperiod feminised seeds is that they may be able to recover somewhat more easily from a pest attack or accident than an autoflower.
Autoflowers have a fixed life cycle outdoors, usually around 100 days. If an autoflower plant suffers any kind of grow incident/accident in its prime, it may not have the time to recover from it. A photoperiod plant, with a longer growth phase before bloom, may be able to recover slightly better when it comes to dealing with attacks from slugs, rabbits or other pests.
When to harvest outdoor cannabis, autoflower seeds vs photoperiod feminised seeds
In general, autoflowers take around 100 days from seed to harvest outdoors (indoors, with optimised conditions they often take nearer to 75 days). This means that growers in warm climates can get 2 (or even 3) successive outdoor autoflower harvests per year. That’s one of the reasons autoflower seeds have become so popular with outdoor growers.
Outdoor feminised seeds often have a 5-6 month life cycle. That’s longer than the life cycle of an autoflower, but the grower is usually compensated by heavier harvests than those produced from smaller autoflower plants. However, unless you live close to equatorial latitudes, you will only be able to grow one outdoor photoperiod crop per year.
Note that some growers of photoperiod feminised seeds can artificially force extra productivity from their plants if they grow in greenhouses equipped with blackout blinds. This can allow growers to ‘force’ an early bloom and create quicker harvest cycles by creating 12/12 light conditions manually. Some balcony growers also use this technique.
When to harvest outdoor cannabis according to trichome appearance
Many growers will examine the colour of the trichome resin glands and monitor the transition from clear, to cloudy to amber. This technique works well for both autoflower strains and traditional photoperiod outdoor strains.
Many growers buy an small magnifying glass (sometimes known as a jewellers loupe) to make accurate close-up judgements on the trichome appearance. You can also buy a sophisticated digital microscope which will also do a great job at showing trichome appearance.
Cannabis harvested with clear, colourless trichomes tends to have a lively, uplifting and energetic high. However, THC levels may not have quite peaked and the buds may not have finished growing. Most outdoor growers prefer to wait a little longer as this tends to give heavier harvests and slightly stronger weed.
Waiting until the clear trichomes are transitioning to cloudy/milky allows your buds to pack on more weight. It also allows THC content and resin coverage to increase, meaning stronger buds. Many growers like to harvest their cannabis when the trichomes are mostly cloudy. You may notice that a few trichomes are starting to show some amber colour at this point.
Leave your buds another week or two and you will notice more and more of the trichomes have transitioned from cloudy/milky to amber or red. Some growers prefer to harvest at this point, feeling that their cannabis has more of a narcotic, heavy effect. Many consider that a majority of red trichomes represents a somewhat over-ripe crop. But some growers prefer it that way e.g. medical marijuana growers who want a strong body effect with good sleep inducing qualities.
When to harvest outdoor cannabis according to pistil (hair) colour
As well as considering the appearance of the trichomes, many cannabis growers also monitor the colour of the pistils. These are the hairs which come out of the buds. Initially the pistils tend to be white. As they start turning increasingly brown it is an indicator that the plant is approaching harvest.
50% brown pistils
Cannabis is approaching harvest, though with many pistils still white in colour growers will often wait a little longer until they harvest.
70% brown pistils
At this point the majority, but not all, pistils are brown. For many growers this represents a good harvest point.
80-90%+ brown pistils
For some growers this would represent a mature cannabis crop with heavier, narcotic effects. Although some growers might consider such buds to be a little over-ripe, there are plenty of growers who consider the extra bloom time well worth the wait. But it’s worth saying that we all have a unique endo cannabinoid system that responds differently to cannabis.
One of the great joys of growing your own cannabis seeds is that you (not an unknown grower/dealer) decide precisely when to harvest the cannabis in order to deliver maximum personal satisfaction. Some cannabis users have strong preferences for specific strains which have been grown to a perfect ripeness level for them.
100% brown pistils
Most growers would consider a crop to be over-ripe if all the pistils are brown, but there are a minority of growers who would disagree.
The next time you grow some cannabis seeds, try taking (and drying) buds at different ripeness levels and comparing the high/effects from them. You may be surprised to find you have a clear preference which influences your harvest timings for future cannabis crops.
When to harvest your outdoor crop according to sativa vs indica genetics
If you know the cannabis genetics contained in your strains it will help you estimate the approximate harvest time. Much depends on the latitude that you are growing at as well as the specific climatic conditions experienced during your grow. But in general, indica genetics tend to reach maturity faster than sativa or haze genetics.
In the northern hemisphere, late blooming Haze varieties may not be ready to harvest until late November. For northern European growers that is simply too late for outdoor growing. Knowing which outdoor strains will grow well in your conditions is part of the skill of the experienced outdoor cannabis grower.
Drying cannabis buds grown outdoors
Drying your outdoor grown cannabis plants requires careful planning. If you plan to dry them outdoors you will need a warm and dry climate, though this can be difficult to guarantee around fall/autumn as the weather often turns cooler and wetter. That’s why many outdoor growers invest in some specialist drying equipment at home.
If you are growing cannabis outdoors in the hills and countryside you will probably be used to chopping down the plants and putting the heaviest branches and buds in large sealed bags to transport home. This can be a nervous journey since the freshly harvested weed can have a powerful odour. Stick to the speed limits and don’t attract attention on the drive home!
Once the buds and branches are at home you can begin the process of drying them. Even if you never grow cannabis indoors, many outdoor growers buy a small tent and some drying racks to dry their buds in. Some people hang the larger branches from clothes hangers or a piece of cord suspended across the top of the grow tent. You will need an extraction fan and a carbon filter to eliminate the smell. Drying an outdoor cannabis harvest without odour protection is always tremendously risky when others live nearby.
Often the buds will take around a week to dry. One drying tip is to start at 60% humidity for the first few days, slowly working your way down to 55% again for a few days. After 7-10 (max) days you may wish to set your dehumidifier to 50% to dry the buds a little further.
As soon as the branches start to snap (or almost snap) you can be sure that the buds on those branches are just about ready to be put into your curing jars. Be aware that the larger buds/blooms can take a day or two longer to dry.
Buds that are bright green at harvest often fade to a paler, less vivid appearance after drying. Often, you may notice brown colourations and perhaps even some blue or red hues as drying/curing progresses.
Trimming cannabis buds grown outdoors
Some growers don’t mind waiting until the buds are dry before trimming off the excess leaf material. Usually, after around a week of drying the buds are considered dry enough to think about jarring and curing. This is usually around the time that the branches have dried sufficiently to snap. The only problem with waiting until the buds are dry is that you may lose some of the trichomes when trimming dry buds.
For that reason, many growers prefer to try to trim the buds when freshly picked, or shortly afterwards. Some rubber gloves help keep your fingers clean, and a good pair of scissors (or trimming scissors) is highly recommended. From time to time, you may need to scrape the scissor hash off the blades to save for a post-harvest celebration smoke/vape. The trimmed leaf material can be frozen and used to make hashish or cannabis concentrates.
Curing and storing your outdoor cannabis crop
Curing and storing your outdoor grown cannabis buds is exactly the same process as that used for indoor cannabis harvests. If you have dried your cannabis well (without over-drying it and losing your delicious terpenes) you are ready to cure your buds.
Curing is the slow process of slowly removing the last remnants of moisture while allowing the buds to reach a state of preservation where they will last for months, or years. During this process the aroma can intensify to produce quite breathtaking flavours and aromas. A great terpene profile not only makes your buds taste delicious, they may also modulate the type of high you experience.
As the cannabis buds reach the curing stage they have lost most, but not all, of their moisture. The final curing stage is the last, and perhaps the most important part for the connoisseur cannabis lover. Growers often use glass jars. Plastic containers are less desirable since they can be softened or discoloured by the sticky resin. The well trimmed buds are placed in the glass jars leaving a centimetre or two at the top of the jar. The jars are sealed, and left in the dark.
The jars are then unsealed occasionally, once or twice a day, to allow any moisture to be released. Some people call this ‘burping’ the jars. Two or three weeks is considered a minimum cure time. Many connoisseurs prefer to wait longer, feeling that curing is complete after around 1-2 months. The cured buds will vape with a clean flavor, without a ‘chlorophyll’ taste.
Once your buds are fully cured you may prefer to store them in a freezer to fully preserve potency and ensure no degradation. Never store your buds in a high temperature environment (e.g. a hot loft space) if you want the best long term storage.
Fine control of the cannabis curing process with Boveda or Integra humidity sachets
You bought the best cannabis seeds and you grew them to the best of your ability. The last thing you want is to open your jars to find that the buds are mouldy because they were insufficiently dry.
Likewise, you don’t want to open your jar of precious buds and find that they are just too dry and crispy, with poor taste and aroma. This can feel like the buds are low quality and too old with a harsh effect when vaped/smoked.
When you open your jars you want to see and smell premium quality buds, with optimized potency, a well cured aroma and a delicious taste. One way to help achieve this is with humidity control sachets from companies like Boveda or Integra.
These sachets release moisture if your buds are too dry, or they absorb moisture if the buds are damp. You can select different products from these companies. From Boveda we recommend the “58% Humidity” sachets. From Integra we recommend the “55% humidity” packs.
Frequently asked questions about harvesting cannabis
If you have never grown cannabis outdoors then it’s something you may want to try. The costs of growing outdoor cannabis are far lower than indoor grown cannabis. You won’t need a grow light, you won’t need to pay for energy costs either. If you are worried about your carbon footprint, then outdoor growing holds a lot of attractions. Even growers at extreme northern and southern latitudes are able to grow autoflower seeds outdoors in short summers.
Do environmental factors affect the cannabis grow season?
Growing and harvesting outdoor grown cannabis really is enjoyable and rewarding fun. Understanding your own climate, the onset of spring and fall/autumn is an important starting point. Environmental factors play a large part in determining which strains will best suit you. You need to select the best cannabis seeds for your own requirements and climate.
Many outdoor cannabis growers grow both autoflower seeds as well as outdoor feminised photoperiod cannabis seeds. The grower can usually rely on their autoflower plants finishing in time even if stormy fall/autumn weather arrives early and damages the photoperiod cannabis harvest.
Daylight hours and outdoor cannabis flowering
Indoors growers use a 12/12 light schedule to artificially induce bloom. But outdoors the plants go into flowering a considerable time before 12/12 outdoor light conditions are reached. Precise timings for bloom can of course be vary from strain to strain. But most of them are triggered to start flowering when daylight hours drop to around 14 hours per day and below.
In the northern hemisphere at Amsterdam latitude there are around 16-17 hours of daylight at the peak of summer. In the northern hemisphere, outdoor cannabis plants usually start preparing to flower in August when daylight hours are quickly diminishing.
Between 10 – 25 August daylight hours start to decline from 15hrs per day to 14hrs. This is often the period outdoor plants start preparing to go into flowering. 12/12 outdoor light conditions are seen around 25 September at Amsterdam latitude. Around 25th October there are only around 10 hours of daylight. This (or before) is usually the date that most outdoor strains are harvested.
You will need to know the average last frost date for your region and be careful to put your seedlings/plants outside after that date.
Some growers will germinate their cannabis seeds indoors and grow them under indoor lights for a few weeks to give them the best possible start before planting them outdoors, after the last frost. The best outdoor cannabis growers will gradually ‘harden’ their seedlings by exposing them increasingly to outdoor conditions before they are finally transplanted outdoors.
The seedlings will need to be protected with slug/snail pellets. Some growers also surround their grow location with thorny brambles to give further protection from animals such as deer, goats and rabbits.
If the soil quality is poor, it can be easily improved with high quality compost from the garden centre. This will help improve the quality of your outdoor cannabis harvest. Once the plants are settled in their final grow position you can let them do the rest of the work. Just protect them from thieves and wild animals. In times of drought you may need to transport water to the grow site, but other than that there will be little to do.
Is there an optimal time to harvest your plants?
In an ideal world, you will know your own preferences for early vs late harvested cannabis. And with a little experience you will soon feel quite confident about judging cannabis ripeness from trichome appearance or pistil appearance. But the astute outdoor cannabis grower also has to consider the local weather patterns and plan ahead carefully.
If winter storms are due earlier than normal then it makes sense to harvest your plants early rather than allow them to get battered by bad weather. If you cannot be certain of the onset of winter weather, then it may be worth considering growing autoflower seeds rather than relying completely on photoperiod outdoor strains.
Some outdoor cannabis growers feel that growing their plants under natural sunlight gives the buds an extra ‘kick’, delivering a particularly satisfying high. Outdoor grown cannabis is certainly cheaper to grow with no energy costs. It can also be great fun finding an outdoor grow location and watching your cannabis seeds grow into healthy, heavy yielding plants. However you go about it, enjoy your outdoor growing and good luck!
6 Comments . Leave new
Generally your guides are good, so thanks. But this one on drying is not comprehensive enough. For instance, how do I dry the plants? If outside is it best to hang the whole plant upside down from a tree so the wind and the sun dry it with little risk of mould or do you strip all the good bits from the plants, discarding the trunk and branches and just dry the flowers/leaves in some other way?
Indeed you are right, this blog is not that extensive. Here you can check out an updated document about drying and curing https://dutch-passion.com/en/blog/the-best-way-to-dry-and-cure-cannabis-n918
Growing 3 plants 8 to 10 ft. Fertilized with raw fish only. My plants are as wide as high! I’need 2 strong men to pull them by the roots, hose the dirt off w
ith warm water then hang whole plants by their roots for six weeks in dark un-heated garage. What say you.
How Do I Grow Cannabis Outdoors?
Growing cannabis outdoors is as much art as it is science. Many cannabis cultivators swear by indoor growing. You can control your indoor environment a lot more easily than an outdoor plot, and pests are less of a problem. Also, many states that allow growing require a person to grow in an enclosed area. Indoor grows are more practical.
Yet, outdoor grows have a number of advantages. The taste and effects that come from sungrown cannabis are often deemed superior. Some growers claim that natural sunlight develops the full range of cannabinoids and terpenes (sunlight has various wavelengths, whereas indoor grow lights are often tuned to a specific spectrum, which can limit which cannabinoids are expressed in the final product). Other advantages include potentially massive yields and the natural environment’s soil and water (although some cannabis gardeners use coco coir and nutrients or a preferred organic potted soil).
Download Free Beginner’s Guide to Growing Cannabis
The only downside is that, due to the elements, outdoor growing is fraught with the possibility of failure. Here’s how best to ensure a decent outdoor cannabis grow, barring any major environmental changes or acts of God!. If you want more precise details with regards to germination, growth cycles and nutrients, check out our post on growing cannabis for beginners. Our friends at Homegrown Cannabis Co. also have an excellent article on growing cannabis outdoors, which we highly recommend reading for an even greater understanding of growing outdoors, and the knowledge being passed on by Swami Select.
What’s Your Latitude – How Much Light Do You Get?
Latitude is key to growing cannabis outdoors successfully. Where you’re located geographically will determine what time of year you plant and how much light you get everyday. Choosing an ideal cannabis seed suited to growing in that environment is also crucial. Here’s a rough guide:
The Northern Hemisphere, 25°N – 50°N: Most cultivators start their grow by the end of March to the beginning of June, which is when the plant vegetates and forms preflowers that you can separate into males and females. The longest day in the year occurs between 20 and 23 June (summer solstice), which is when the plant starts flowering. The shortest day (winter solstice) is between 20 and 23 December. Most outdoor grows are harvested between September and November.
Mediterranean climates are ideal for growing in this region. It is often possible to grow two large crops per year in such environments when done right, including long-flowering sativas. Outdoor varietals like Taängie (California Orange x Skunk #1) or Chocolope x Kush do extremely well in such regions.
Further North, and you may want to go for more indica-leaning and autoflowering varieties like Hawaii x Purple Skunk, Critical x No Name or Early Skunk x Northern Lights may be better choices.
The Southern Hemisphere, 25°S – 50°S: The growing season starts between September and October, although some growers plant as late as December. Harvest time is between March and May. Outdoor growers can harvest up to two large yields per year in a good growing season. You can grow similar strains to the ones mentioned above, just mirror-flipped for the South.
If you go too far North or South, outdoor growing becomes extremely difficult if not outright impossible, as there’s not enough light and temperatures are too low. With that in mind, there are some hardy strains that may do well in climates that are a little further than the 50°N or 50°S borderline, like Hindu Kush, which can withstand harsh, windswept mountainside regions. Master Kush may also do well, but has a slightly longer vegetative period. Autoflowering varietals mixed with such Kush genetics could be ideal.
Intertropical Zones & Equator: Lies between Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, and receives an even 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dark per day. These regions are perfect for large equatorial sativa varieties. Cannabis can be grown year-round.
Cannabis ruderalis (autoflowering cannabis strains): Native to Central and Eastern Europe and Russia, this type of cannabis is dependent upon age rather than the light cycle to mature and flower. Autoflowering varieties can be grown from seed from June in the Northern Hemisphere and January in the Southern Hemisphere. A long vegetative period is not needed. Yields are usually lower, but is an excellent introduction to outdoor growing for beginners. Even experienced cultivators grow autoflowering varieties alongside their Cannabis sativa counterparts, due to their reliability and high CBD content.
Best Soil for Growing Cannabis
The best type of soil is loamy soil, which is a combination of sand, silt and clay soils, with a slightly acidic pH of between 5.5 and 7.0. Loamy soil is ideal for water retention, drainage and nutrient content. Some growers add bat guano as a natural fertilizer, fungicide and compost activator, speeding up the decomposition process. Many states have pockets of loam soil, including Ohio, Illinois, California, Oregon and Wisconsin. Many cannabis gardeners tend to buy their loam soil.
If you are fortunate to have plenty of earthworms in your natural soil, then count your blessings and grow away – earthworms are a sign that your soil is healthy and nutrient-rich!
Growing Cannabis in Coco Coir
Coco coir is a natural fiber extracted from the outer husk of coconut, and is an alternative medium to growing in soil. Coco Coir is mixed with sand, compost and fertilizer to make good quality potting soil, and has an acidic pH of 5.5 – 6.5. Coco coir is also inert; it contains no nutrients. All needed fertilizer must be added.
Watering a Cannabis Grow
Too much water can drown plants. Too little can dehydrate them. Any rain will water outdoor cannabis plants naturally, but you may still need to water your plants. A good standard is one gallon of water per day for each pound of processed flower you expect to harvest from each plant. Water accordingly.
Best Temperature Range for Cannabis Grows
Ideally, temperatures shouldn’t fall below 12℃ or above 30℃. Some form of shelter from excessive heat or torrential downpour can be helpful; a temporary tarpaulin or a greenhouse is ideal.
Wind and your Cannabis Plants
Limited wind can provide a cannabis plant with beneficial stress, helping it grow stronger. Too much wind, however, can knock plants down. You may need to erect barriers or fences. If you plan on mulching, go for heavier substrates pinned down with rocks, as opposed to straw and sawdust. Mulch is a thick layer of material placed over the soil and around plants, used to suppress weeds and lock moisture into the soil, while acting as a physical barrier to drying winds and direct sun.
Consider Other Light Sources
Can you ensure that your cannabis plants will receive the appropriate 12 hours of dark time during the flowering period, and that there won’t be other light sources (e.g. street lights, light pollution from buildings and cars) that prevent your crop from flowering, or cause your female seeds to hermie (produce male parts and self-pollinate)? Appropriate dark time is essential for growing cannabis successfully and getting a bumper yield.
Cannabis Plant Genetics
Choosing the appropriate type of seed for the environment you are growing in is the best way to ensure you get the best out of your plant. Equatorial sativas are not ideal for growing in cooler climates, where indicas and autoflowering strains may be a better bet. A landrace variety of cannabis from, say, Brazil may not be ideal to grow outdoors in the middle of Massachusetts! There are many examples of great, vigorous outdoor cannabis varieties available here.
For most people wanting to grow something sturdy and reliable, a well-established hybrid like Skunk #1, Blue Dream or Gorilla Glue could be better choices. Leave the rarer and unique cannabis strains for the more advanced growers, who may end up making a seed stock that’s more reliable in a few years’ time! Check out our post on where to buy cannabis seeds if you want to find the genetics right for you.
In What Sort of Outdoor Spaces Can I Grow Cannabis?
There are many locations where you can grow cannabis outdoors (except perhaps the front lawn!). These include:
The Balcony: If south-facing, can receive plenty of sunlight. The fresh air and breeze can provide some stress training. However, growing on an extremely high balcony may prove too windy, and you cannot grow well on a north-facing balcony.
Rooftop or Terrace: Receive sunlight all day long, plenty of rainwater, and much easier to conceal than balcony grows. However, rooftop grows are exposed to lots of heat and wind, and plants can be susceptible to being blown away or drowned during storms. Rooftop cannabis cultivation is more exposed to the view of any police helicopter cameras (the “eye in the sky”); so using other plants and camouflage is important for open sky grows.
The Garden: Growing naturally outdoors in your own garden can provide one of the most satisfying feelings. If there’s plenty of space, you can grow many different plants together in a polyculture, which can improve the soil and control pests, weeds, and disease without major chemical inputs. However, garden grows are also more susceptible to pests and mold. You can grow in pots in the garden, or a garden bed with loamy soil.
Greenhouses: Greenhouses can provide the best aspects of both indoor and outdoor growing, with natural light provided by the sun and protection from some pests and the more extreme elements. However, greenhouses must be properly ventilated in order to prevent stale air and humidity buildup. Plants may also become stressed and overheated during heatwaves.
Guerilla Growing: This is growing outside of a person’s own property, ideally somewhere concealed and out-of-the-way. Guerilla Growing is one of the cheapest ways of cultivating cannabis. You are letting nature do most of the work. You also don’t have to worry about being caught with cannabis on your own property, which can be an issue. However, in states where it is legal to grow cannabis, it is probably more of a legal risk to grow in a place not your own. You also run the chance of someone else stumbling upon your crop and co-opting or destroying your efforts.
Why Grow Cannabis Outdoors?
Growing cannabis outdoors can be a bit of a challenge. We certainly advise most beginners to grow their first cannabis indoors in order to develop a greater understanding of the plant’s growth cycle. Still, few cannabis related activities are more satisfying than harvesting a large, sungrown crop that produces a yield large enough to ensure you will probably not need to grow again for another year, let alone go to a dispensary or other vendor.
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Well-planned outdoor cannabis grows may also reduce your carbon footprint, reduce or eliminate any non-organic pesticide or fertilizer use and save you cash, making it the better choice for cannabis consumers who are more environmentally conscious. And for anyone who is finding it difficult to get their outdoor setup running, enlisting some advisors and an outdoor grow kit will make your work simpler!
Article written by
Dipak Hemraj Head of Research and Education
Dipak Hemraj is a published author, grower, product maker, and Leafwell’s resident cannabis expert. From botany & horticulture to culture and economics, he wishes to help educate the public on why cannabis is medicine (or a “pharmacy in a plant”) and how it can be used to treat a plethora of health problems. Dipak wants to unlock the power of the plant, and see if there are specific cannabinoid-terpene-flavonoid profiles suitable for different conditions.
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Top 9 Tips for Growing Cannabis Outdoors
Growing cannabis outdoors is not as simple as just throwing some seeds in the ground and hoping they grow. To ensure a good harvest, outdoor growers should do some research—analysing the local soil, preparing the site, and thinking about appropriate pest-control methods—and a great deal of maintenance.
Naturally, we all have our favourite strains, which we can’t wait to plant after the cold, tough and long winter months. Each situation is certainly unique, with the circumstances of someone living in Russia being different from those of someone living in Spain. Even so, there are enough varieties to be enjoyed in every corner of the globe.
Once you’ve chosen your favourite cannabis seeds, the first step is obviously to germinate them. It goes without saying that this must be done correctly, as otherwise the seeds will be useless. Be patient and bear in mind that some seeds may need a bit more time to sprout. For best results, follow this germination method.
The good thing about cultivating outdoors – and which makes us appreciate spring – is that, among other things, you can obtain considerable crops with a minimum of investment. And in times like these, who doesn’t want that?
Once we are clear on the conditions that we need – the right environment, the right growing spot, the outdoor growing method, and the variety that best suits our needs – we can get started.
1. Pick the right strain when growing cannabis outdoors!
It is important to choose the right strain of cannabis when growing outdoors. Depending on your location and climate, you may be limited in your choice of strain.
For example, if living in regions in the far north or south of the globe, where year-round temperatures are cool and summer growing seasons are short, you will need to choose strains that are acclimated to such conditions. Picking the right strain means curating your strain choice to suit the climate that you will be growing in.
Outdoor cannabis strains for cold temperate climates
Those who live in colder temperate climates, such as Northern and Eastern Europe, have to choose their strains accordingly. Summers are short and winter frosts are strong enough to destroy any cannabis crop. Therefore, timing and strain choice are essential.
Strains ideal for this kind of climate include Early Skunk Feminised and Jamaican Pearl. They are hardy strains with early flowering times.
Outdoor cannabis strains for warm temperate climates
Those who live in warmer temperate climates have a little bit more freedom when it comes to growing cannabis. In fact, the majority of commercial strains have been developed for growing specifically in warmer climates. Mild winters and long summers is the perfect growing condition for cannabis.
Those living in warmer climates can grow almost any strain. Both sativa dominant varieties and indica dominant varieties can be grown.
What is Veganic Growing? New Take on Organic Cannabis
2. Start your plants indoors if possible
It is advisable to germinate your seeds indoors, and allow your plants to grow in pots for at least a week or two under artificial lighting (which could be a simple household CFL light) or on a windowsill.
This will protect your seedlings from being eaten by birds or insects while they are young and tender, as well as giving them a head-start if outdoor conditions are still a little too cool.
When it’s time to expose your young plants to the outdoor world, it is advisable to go through a period of ‘hardening-off’ so that your plants gradually become accustomed to the change in environment.
At first, out your plants outside for a few hours at a time, and be sure to keep them sheltered from the elements.
After a week or so of increasing exposure to outdoor conditions, they will be hardy enough to be left outside full-time, either in pots, bags, or in holes dug into the soil.
3. Choose soil or pots for outdoor growing
Every grower gets to choose whether they will sow their seeds or seedlings directly into the ground or whether they will be cultivated in pots. Each choice has its advantages and disadvantages, so let’s focus on the pros of each growing method.
Advantages of growing in soil
- Unrestricted access to nutrients and moisture from the ground
- Plants can reach maximum height as there is no restriction on root growth
- Keeps costs low as there is no need to purchase pots
Advantages of growing in pots
- Flexibility to move plants around
- In the case of extreme weather, pots can be moved indoors
- Easier to conceal a growing operation
- Maximum control over the size and growth rate of plants
- Ensures no contamination of soil from surrounding environment
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4. Good soil is crucial when growing cannabis outdoors
Making sure your soil is prepared correctly is perhaps the most fundamental aspect of outdoor growing.
Soil should be checked to determine pH, and if it is too low or too high then additives such as lime (to increase pH/make more alkaline) or sulphur (to decrease pH/make more acidic) must be mixed in.
Consistency of soil is also important—too much clay, and soil will be sticky and will drain poorly; too much sand, and drainage may be too rapid.
Cannabis prefers loamy soil, or soil that consists mainly of sand and silt with a lower ratio of clay (around 40%-40%-20% silt-sand-clay is a good rule of thumb).
As well as this, soil fertility is important. Does the soil support a large amount and diversity of vegetation?
If not, adding mulch or manure is a good way to invigorate soil and increase the levels of available nutrients for your plants. If soil is poor, or if you just want to go the simple and hassle-free route, you can buy commercial soil, and even grow your plants in pots—or dig them into the ground, but keep them in bags so they are not exposed to surrounding soil.
5. Pick the right spot
The ideal spot for growing cannabis outdoors will be sunny, sheltered, well-irrigated, and will have good drainage. It will also be far enough off the beaten track that little human activity occurs in the vicinity—so no popular hiking trails or logging roads, for one thing!
A forest clearing that receives a good amount of sunlight and is sheltered from wind (as well as prying eyes!) is ideal; mixed broad-leafed forest is preferable to coniferous, as soil in the vicinity of coniferous woodland is often very acidic.
If you are growing in hilly terrain, aspect is an important and often-overlooked factor. Just as a south-facing balcony is preferable for apartment growers, a south-facing hillside is ideal for outdoor grows as it maximizes hours and intensity of sunlight.
The angle at which the sun’s rays strike the surface of the planet varies from the perpendicular according to latitude; in the northern hemisphere a south-facing spot will receive more sunlight, and in the southern hemisphere, a north-facing garden is preferable for the same reasons.
If you’re at all doubting your spot (for any reason), it is perhaps better to put your plants in pots. This way, you can move your plants around as necessary until you find the optimum spot to grow your cannabis plants. If you put them in the ground too soon, you won’t have the liberty of transporting them in the case of extreme weather or sub-optimal conditions.
6. Pick the best time to grow outdoors
In most climate zones, you should be aware of changes in seasonal temperature, rainfall and hours of daylight. If you live in the temperate zones, the change in daylight hours is considerable between seasons. This acts as a cue to photoperiod-dependent cannabis varieties to either perform vegetative growth (during the long days of late spring and early summer) or commence flowering (when the hours of daylight drop in the latter half of summer).
If you attempt vegetative growth in early spring, hours of daylight may still be short enough to induce flowering, so it is best to wait until at least mid-April (northern hemisphere) or mid-October (southern hemisphere) to put out your seedlings.
If you live in particularly warm climates, you may be able to achieve more than one harvest in a year; in locations near the equator, this should definitely be achievable by taking advantage of the year-round warm temperatures and intense sunlight.
If located in a tropical region that experiences seasonal monsoons, it is best to avoid this time of year due to the increased risk of mould.