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.
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.
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
- Maximizes yield
- 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
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.
7. How to take care of outdoor plants
It is important to check on your plants relatively frequently, especially if growing outdoors in pots that do not have access to groundwater in the soil.
If temperatures are hot, your plants will drink a great deal of water as they grow, and it is vital to ensure that they receive sufficient water to ensure that they grow vigorously and do not dry out. As well as this, checking your plants frequently will alert you to any problems, such as pests or nutrient deficiencies.
If you are unable to access your plants on a regular basis due to security concerns, it is possible to set up a drip-feeding system so that your plants remain hydrated.
8. Pick the best time to harvest outdoor plants
Harvest time is the moment of glory where growers finally get to enjoy the fruits of their labour. With that being said, many novice growers actually compromise the quality of their final product by harvesting too early (due to impatience) or too late (due to complacency or miseducation). So, dear growers, never underestimate the importance of the harvest stage.
In general, there are two things most important when you’re trying to figure out when to harvest:
- The variety of cannabis you are growing
- What you have observed when monitoring your buds during their flowering
When you purchase a seed or packet of seeds, there is usually an indication as to the flowering time of that particular variety of cannabis. This is a good place to start if you are a little bit confused about when to harvest.
However, the most effective way to know when to harvest outdoor plants is by inspecting them. You will probably need a magnifying glass to do this successfully. There are two things you should be observing very closely when your buds are nearing the end of their flowering period:
- The colour of the pistils (small hair-like protrusions from the buds)
- The colour of the trichomes (tiny, crystal-like resinous spheres that coat the buds)
The pistils will slowly begin to change colour from white to a dark reddish, brown colour. If you want to harvest when THC levels are at their maximum, at least 60% of the pistils should have darkened and curled in towards the bud. If you want to harvest with maximum CBN (more calming, less psychoactive effects), then you should wait until 70-90% of the pistils have darkened and curled inwards.
You may also inspect the trichomes to assess whether it is harvest time or not. When your plant first starts developing these resinous trichomes, they will be clear upon inspection with a magnifying glass. They will slowly turn from clear to an amber/golden colour. This is when THC levels are at their maximum. When around 30% of the trichomes have become amber, it is a good time to harvest. If the trichomes turn grey or withered, the optimum harvest window has passed.
9. Practice makes perfect
It might all look very daunting – but don’t be overwhelmed. Growing cannabis is a rewarding experience. It isn’t simply about harvesting and enjoying your final product – it’s also about learning more about a plant that human beings have used and loved for millennia.
If you’re growing outdoors for the first time, it is safe to say that you won’t get it perfect the first time. The only way to make your grow operation perfect is to practice endlessly! Don’t let some of the challenges discourage you from your outdoor grow operation. Nobody got good at anything overnight!
All that is now left to be said is good luck with outdoor growing, and happy smoking!
- Disclaimer:Laws and regulations regarding cannabis cultivation differ from country to country. Sensi Seeds therefore strongly advises you to check your local laws and regulations. Do not act in conflict with the law.