Growing your own cannabis is an enjoyable and highly rewarding experience. However, it’s also highly challenging and requires a great deal of time and effort. First-time cultivators, especially those with limited resources, may find that growing indoors or in a greenhouse is far too expensive an investment. Therefore, learning how to properly apply outdoor growing techniques can save both time and money, while also yielding a bountiful harvest that’s sure to please!
Growing Equipment: What Do You Need?
Equipment necessary for developing cannabis is typically split into two primary categories: gear that’s essential, and optional equipment that exists only to help produce higher yields. For instance, the most expensive item commonly utilized by outdoor cannabis cultivators is a greenhouse, although this piece of equipment is optional and not a necessity to begin growing.
Essential growing equipment typically includes:
- Cannabis seeds or clones
- Pots or other types of containers
- Soils and fertilizers
To help increase yields, you may wish to consider utilizing the following optional growing equipment:
- pH meter
Take Time And Choose The Right Strain
Any cannabis variety is capable of being grown in an outdoor environment, primarily when harvested by experienced cultivators under ideal conditions. However, not every strain is capable of yielding equivalent results, as each type is better suited to a specific climate, season length, level of humidity and other growing conditions. Naturally, strains developed with superior genetics and explicitly tailored to outdoor cultivation practices are ideal for helping increase the likelihood of growing a healthy and resilient plant with bountiful yields. Consider a feminized or autoflowering cannabis strain if attempting an outdoor grow for the first time to maximize your likelihood of successfully developing a healthy plant with an abundant yield. The following strains are ideal for first-time outdoor cultivators, as they each excel in most climates and conditions.
- Gorilla Breath – This Indica-dominant feminized cannabis variety flowers in as little as 65 days from germination and typically yields up to 600g/m2 (about 21 oz).
- Trippy Gorilla Autoflowering – An autoflowering cannabis strain that typically flowers about 8 weeks from germination and yields up to 600g/m2 (about 21 oz).
- Purple Lemonade Auto – This autoflowering cannabis strain yields up to an average of 500g/m2 (about 18 oz) as little as 9 weeks from germination.
Spotting The Ideal Grow Site
Selecting the most appropriate area for your outdoor garden is among the foremost crucial decisions directly affecting every stage of your growth, from germination to harvest. First, it’s paramount to ensure that your crop is planted where it will receive as much direct sunlight as possible, especially during midday. Second, a continuous breeze is a crucial element to developing a healthy plant, as airflow acts as an external stressor essential to toughening the stalk and stems of the plant. However, in an overly windy environment, consider planting by some sort of windbreak such as a wall, fence or large hedge to deter possible damage. Finally, it’s crucial to consider the privacy and security of your chosen grow site. Shielding your crop from potential thieves and judgmental neighbors is often achieved by planting next to tall fences, trees or shrubs.
Consider The Soil Too!
Seeds typically begin to germinate when exposed to a constant temperature of around 65° F (about 18.3° C). Experts suggest keeping your crop indoors from germination up to about 4 weeks of growth before bringing it outside into suitable weather. When selecting the proper soil, keep in mind that most soils primarily consist of clay, silt and sand. Your crop requires a slightly acidic soil combined with adequately drained organic matter. Therefore, it is paramount to thoroughly research various types of soil before planting, especially if planting directly into the earth, to ensure a healthy crop with maximum yield capabilities.
Common types of soil include:
- Clay-rich soil – This heavy soil drains slowly and doesn’t hold oxygen particularly well.
- Sand-rich Soil – This drains well and warms quickly. However, it does not hold nutrients as well, which has the potential to be problematic in wet climates.
If You Decide To Grow In Pots, Choose The Right One
If you lack an appropriate patch of earth to utilize as a suitable garden space, choosing to grow in pots or other containers is ideal. With this method, plants can be placed on patios, decks, rooftops and several other locations. As an added benefit, crops can be moved throughout the day as needed to increase sunlight or shield them from excessive wind or heat. However, crops kept in pots, barrels or buckets are likely to grow far smaller in comparison due to root growth restriction. Typically, the dimensions of your container will determine the overall size of the crop, although it’s still possible to grow taller plants so long as proper techniques are utilized during growth. Generally, five-gallon containers are ideal for small to medium-sized outdoor plants, while ten-gallon containers are better suited to grow more abundant crops. Regardless of size, it’s crucial to ensure roots don’t overheat during warmer weather, which could potentially drastically limit the expansion rate of your plants.
Next, Choose A Proper Fertilizer
Cannabis requires generous amounts of nutrients throughout their life cycle, consisting primarily of phosphorus, potassium and nitrogen. How your crops are fed depends entirely upon the methods utilized and the composition of your soil.
Commercial fertilizers, such as long-release granular fertilizers, are tailored specifically for home gardeners. However, first-time cannabis cultivators may wish to avoid these altogether unless you have a solid understanding of how they work and what your crops require to flourish.
Consider beginning with an inexpensive fertilizer, as these materials quickly release nutrients that your crop can easily absorb and utilize. Try blending different products to supply your harvest with the right nutrients required to grow and thrive outdoors. If planting directly into the earth, testing your soil is often extremely useful to learn if your site is ideal for plant growth, as well as which fertilizers will best benefit you.
Plant On Time
Unlike indoor cultivation practices, which allow for year-round growing, outdoor cultivators are very much at the mercy of mother nature. Growing outdoors requires patience, as there is a minimal window in which cultivators must germinate seeds, rear them through both the vegetative and flowering stages, and finally harvest. Outdoor cultivators living in tropical regions have the added advantage of year-round growing, though those living further north must time their grow accordingly. As mentioned earlier, experts recommend beginning your crops indoors, where they will be safe from potential frost, and then transplanting them outdoors as temperatures start to rise. In most areas around Europe and the United States, cultivators can hope to plant outdoors sometime around May. However, thoroughly inspect the recommended sowing times for leafy greens in your region for a better estimate. Crops are ready for harvest typically beginning sometime around September or October. However, this is almost entirely dependent upon the estimated flowering time and specific characteristics of your chosen cannabis strain.
Water Your Plants, Obviously
Just like any other plant, your cannabis crops require healthy water consumption. Therefore, an added advantage of outdoor cultivation practices is continuous exposure to rainwater (although when growing in places such as California, with warmer climates and minimal rainfall, manual watering of plants is often required). However, be sure not to overwater your plants, as this could prove detrimental to their health. If you reside in a hot and dry climate, you may wish to consider digging beneath your chosen grow site and adding clay-rich soil or rocks as a way to help slow water drainage. Certain cannabis cultivators believe that adding polymer crystals to your soil additionally helps improve water retention.
Watch Out For Males And Hermaphrodites
At some point during your growth, it’s ideal to rid your grow space of both male cannabis plants and hermaphrodites, as these do not yield tasty buds and generally possess minimal amounts of THC. Moreover, if males and hermaphrodites are not removed, they will pollinate your female crops. Once pollinated, females will use their energy to develop seeds instead of focusing on bud development. So, how do you spot a male cannabis plant or hermaphrodite? Unfortunately, there is no easy way of telling before your crop enters the flowering phase. Typically, most cannabis strains comprise a 50/50 male to female ratio. If you notice seed pockets throughout your plant, remove it immediately, or else you run the risk of ruining your entire operation.
One of the most crucial challenges facing outdoor cultivators is adequately protecting your crops from potentially damaging elements. Certain dangers such as pests, mold and powdery mildew could be detrimental to the health and overall wellbeing of your cannabis plant. Fortunately, there are numerous methods commonly employed to help protect your crop. Applying pesticides is one sure-fire way to help prevent potential pest invasions. However, many cultivators would rather not deal with these damaging chemicals. Other viable options include techniques such as companion planting, where cannabis is cultivated close to other species of plants – for example, basil and dill – to help deter pests and lure in other beneficial insects. Mold and powdery mildew are yet another potential threat to outdoor cannabis cultivation. Growers can hope to prevent these damaging elements by counteracting cooler temperatures, humid conditions and stagnant air by planting within the stream of a light breeze and utilizing foliar sprays.
Average flowering times vary widely and range anywhere from about 2 to 4-plus months. While harvesting times are widely dependent upon climate conditions and strain type, most cannabis varieties are ready for outdoor harvest sometime between late September and early October. Closely monitor trichome and pistil formation for a better idea of appropriate harvesting times. Most plants will be ready once most of its pistils transform from white to a reddish-brown color. The trichomes should also be white at this stage, though many cultivators choose to wait until an amber coloration is achieved.
Alternative Outdoor Grow Methods
Similar to indoor growing techniques, there are a wide variety of alternative growing methods suitable for outdoor cultivation practices. Outdoor cultivators commonly choose to plant either in pots or directly into the earth. However, other cannabis growers prefer to grow in a greenhouse or apply an alternative technique commonly referred to as Guerilla Growing. Read on to learn the difference, as these alternative methods may be suitable for your unique cannabis cultivation style.
Guerilla Growing Technique
The Guerilla method entails growing your cannabis crops outdoors in a hidden or otherwise discreet location that won’t easily be discovered. The most obvious advantage to this technique is that your plants will be located a suitable distance away from your home or primary place of residence. While the Guerilla technique lessens the potential dangers of being caught harvesting cannabis in regions where it is illegal to do so, routinely traveling to your grow site can prove to be a tedious, daily process. Growing away from your home also leaves your plants vulnerable to potential discovery or at risk of taking damage from various outdoor elements.
Greenhouse Grow Environments
Choosing to cultivate your cannabis crops in a greenhouse environment provides a host of added benefits compared to traditional outdoor cultivation practices, such as climate and water control, as well as protection from outside elements. These factors significantly contribute to the development of a healthy cannabis plant that will reward you with maximum yields come harvest time. However, choosing to grow in a greenhouse does have several potential drawbacks that must first be considered:
- Costly to build
- Requires an ample and open outdoor space
- Consumes high amounts of energy
- Breaks easily and is often expensive to repair
- Not safe for cultivators with heat-sensitive medical conditions
Growing Outdoors: The Verdict
Growing cannabis outdoors has shown to be extremely beneficial in so many ways. If you live in a suitable climate zone, nothing will take care of your marijuana plant better than sun, wind and rainwater. Nature takes the portion of maintenance burden on itself while ensuring the biggest yields possible. All you need to do is pick the right spot and a strain well-suited for your climate, watch out for pests and other dangers, fertilize if needed and harvest on time. Whenever you’re in doubt, you can always come back to this guide!