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How to Grow Cannabis Plants Outdoors

Created by
JoshuaHolt JoshuaHolt
Added 4 September 2020

Thinking of growing outdoors? We've got you covered. This guide will go through all the steps to ensure your cannabis garden thrives.

How To Grow Cannabis Outdoors

You might be reading this because you are wondering how to start growing outdoors but don't have a clue where to begin. Growing weed should be fun so if you're worrying already, slow down. We've created this simple guide to help you learn the basics so you can get off to a head start.

Having big cannabis plants is a grower's dream. Huge plants taller than a person will make any pot fan's jaw drop. If this is your first time growing outdoors, you may be surprised at the results you can achieve on a low budget. With just a few plants, you'll even have a big enough stash to keep you going through winter.

Many people think outdoor growing is hard, but it is really not. In fact, most growers would say it's easier than growing indoors. Let's find out why.

Why Grow Outdoors?

Growing outdoors can be very rewarding. Outdoor plants can produce a lot of extremely tasty weed in large quantities. If you do not have an indoor space to grow or do not have a lot to invest, consider the possibility of doing it outside. 

If you are allowed to grow in your area then you will probably be ready to set up. Let's start by taking a look at the main of the advantages of growing outdoors.

4 Benefits of growing outdoors:

  • Low Costs - Most of the resources a cannabis plant needs are abundant outside. Sunlight, water, air, and good quality soil are all provided by nature.
  • High Yield - Outdoor cannabis plants grow huge and produce much more bud.
  • Sustainable - In comparison to indoor growing, outdoors means way less energy consumption.
  • Less Maintenance - Plants do not need to be checked so often because there is less that can go wrong.

Sunlight, Water, Air and Good Quality Soil are Abundant Outside

Even though growing outdoors is easier than it is indoors, problems can still arise, so it is up to you to set up and maintain your garden properly. 

Note: Consider the laws in your area, as you may or may not be permitted to have cannabis plants. Even if you are allowed to grow, plants usually have to be hidden and you are only allowed a maximum number, depending on whether you are doing it recreationally or medicinally.

Huge outdoor Durban Poison by dalemac from GrowDiares.

The Outdoor Environment

The outdoor environment is a big place, even for a little plant. Outdoor plants are exposed to the harsh conditions of nature. Weather can be very unpredictable so your plants need to be in somewhat of a protected environment.

The chances of a young seedling surviving outside is relatively low. Rain, wind, extreme heat, cold, and animals are a few of the main affecting factors when it comes to growing outdoors.

Plants have been bred to grow indoors which means nowadays lots of strains are not suited to flourish outside. You need to check first whether the strain/s you want to grow can be grown in your region. There are plenty of strains which are engineered to be robust and resilient against the harsh outdoor conditions. 

One of the main advantages of growing outdoors is the sunlight. The biggest expense of growing indoors is the lighting so not having to invest in this side of your setup will reduce costs massively. Indoor lighting also requires maintenance and is a hazard to both you and your plants. The sun gives us free energy so it makes perfect sense to use it.

Just as the extreme cold can have a negative effect on a cannabis plant, the sun can get too strong for some strains. Temperatures over 35°C or temperatures lower than 15°C can be detrimental to a crop.

Cannabis Does Not Enjoy Cold Temperatures

4 things to consider when growing outdoors:

  • Wind - Small amounts of wind help to strengthen a plant. Too strong though, and it could be destructive.
  • Visibility - Find a discreet place away from public view. 
  • Sunlight - Choose a spot with plenty of exposure.
  • Temperature - Cannabis plants like temperatures between 18 degrees and 28 degrees.

Tip: Check plants regularly for pests and other possible problems.

The Seasons

As you probably already know, the seasons are constantly changing throughout the year. Since cannabis is an annual plant, you will only be able to harvest once per year growing outdoors. It is a long process so you will want to give extra special attention throughout to make sure it is a successful one. Understanding the seasons and their light cycles will help you learn to get the most out of your grow.

Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter

After the spring equinox takes place, the daylight hours start to increase. Temperatures start to get warmer as the summer approaches, meaning it is time for plants to grow again!

In the northern hemisphere, it can still be quite cold outside at this time of year. This is why many growers will germinate their seeds indoors before planting outside. Starting a seed indoors provides a stable environment in which to begin it's life, without the extremities of the outside conditions. Once a seedling is around 2-3 weeks old it can be planted outside.

Depending on the strain, you can start germinating in March /April so your plants are ready to be planted outside in May.

Germinating Can Be Done Indoors Before Planting Outside

Summer solstice (the longest day of the year) arrives towards the end of June in the northern hemisphere, which is when the light hours start to reduce again. As the autumn equinox arrives, there are approximately an even number of light hours to dark hours. Plants will start flowering in July/August when the photoperiod is approximately at 12/12. 

Most strains will be ready to harvest between September and November. Your plants should be harvested before the first winter frost arrives because the decreased temperatures could create mould problems, ruining your yearly crop. This is why it is also important to start germinating your seeds early enough in the spring, or even towards the end of winter.

Germinating early indoors equals huge plants by the time summer arrives. You can see proof of this in action from ButterStotch's grow diary. He started his plants at the beginning of April and look how big they got!

Meteorological Season

Northern Hemisphere

Hours of Light

Spring

Mar 1 - May 31

10-12

Summer

Jun 1 - Aug 31

12-18

Autumn

Sep 1 - Nov 30

10-12

Winter

Dec 1 - Feb 28

6-9

These figures depend a lot on where you live. In the northern hemisphere for example, the amount of daylight hours on winter solstice will be lower the further north you go. This would be the opposite for the southern hemisphere so check your region first.

Tip: Make a note on your calendar for each stage of growing so you can learn the plant's seasonal habits. Check the forecast regularly so you can plan for any big storms.

How to Set Up an Outdoor Garden

Now for the fun part. How do you actually set up an outdoor garden? Let's go over the basic materials you need in order to set up a functioning outdoor garden.

Firstly, you need to choose an appropriate place to start your outdoor garden. Cannabis plants need a sunny spot so try to find an area that receives at least 7-8 hours of direct sunlight during the summer. Ideally you want to use a private place that is facing the sun such as a back garden, balcony or roof terrace. A greenhouse can also be a sensible place, especially if you live in a slightly colder climate.

Growing Outdoors Within A Protected Space Is Recommended

Things you will need for an outdoor grow:

  • Space - An enclosed area that protects your garden.
  • Pots - The bigger you can afford, the better.
  • Growing Medium - High quality organic soil is best for growing outdoors.
  • Water - Long periods with no rain means you have to manually water plants. 
  • Organic Fertilizer - Bat guano, compost, worm castings and blood meal are good options. 

Cannabis is notorious for growing such big buds that even its own branches cannot support the weight. We recommend you put a fencing or structure around your plants so you have some extra support available if needed. 

Raising your plants off the ground slightly can make it harder for insects or animals to reach your plant. It also makes them much easier to access and maintain. This is one advantage over planting directly into the ground, which can be a bit inconvenient.

Outdoor Plants Need Few Things To Survive

Pots

Choosing the right pots for your grow will drastically affect the outcome. To make things more manageable, it is worth it to start your plants in small pots and transplant them once they are ready to be outdoors.

A bigger pot will grow a bigger plant but consider your space before choosing. We recommend a minimum of 5 gallons (approx. 20 litres) for outdoor growing.

Planting in pots is a bit easier because you have much more control over the nutrients the plant is receiving. You also have much more flexibility if you need to move plants around. 

Minimum 5 Gallon Pots Can Be Used Outside

Soil

If you do plan to plant directly into the ground, it is recommended that you test the pH and nutrient levels of the soil so you know it is suitable for growing in. It might take some preparation work, but is worth it if you set it up correctly.

Planting in the earth gives roots infinite space to grow big and healthy. You can add nutrient rich soil and organic fertilizer to the ground to make sure your plants have all the necessary components for vigorous growth.

Plants Grown Directly In The Ground Have Lots Of Root Space

Cannabis likes soil that has a pH of around 6. This means it is neither too alkaline nor too acid. Soil from a garden centre usually has a well balanced pH and N-P-K ratio (explained below) but will not provide enough stability to sustain a cannabis plant for long. If you can afford it, chose the highest quality soil available. Your plants will thank you for it. 

Fertilizers

To keep things as natural as possible, try to only use organic fertilizers. Store bought fertilizers can affect the taste of your herb and most of them aren't organic, so we say don't use them unless you have to.

Cannabis needs an adequate amount of nutrients to thrive. They require 3 essential nutrients that will be used throughout their life. On store bought fertilizers, these are labelled as an N-P-K ratio which stands for Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P) and Potassium (K). Your plants will need different amounts of each of these during the different stages of growth.

Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P), Potassium (K)

For example, a plant needs more nitrogen during the vegetative phase but less during the flowering stage. Learn what the different deficiencies look like so you know what to add more of if necessary.

Most soils have enough nutrients in them to last a plant for it's first few weeks. These nutrients won't last long, so you will have to give it some fertilizer at some point. Fertilizers can be mixed into the soil before planting or added as and when the plants need it.

There are lots of different options for fertilizers that will do wonders for your garden. Here is a list of some commonly used organic fertilizers in outdoor growing.

  • Worm Castings - Contains beneficial microbes that break down available nutrients while also giving good aeration. 
  • Blood Meal - Made from animal blood, meaning it is full of iron. High nitrogen content. (NPK 12-2-1)
  • Bat Guano - Comes from bat faeces and has a high nitrogen content, making it good for the vegetative phase. (NPK 10-3-1)
  • Fish Meal - Powdered fish remains that contain a higher phosphorous and potassium concentration. (NPK 5-5-7)

Watering

In some areas the summer months are long and hot with very little rain. This can mean long dry periods for your crop so you will need to water by hand or set up an automated irrigation system.

How much you need to water your plants depends on a few things like the strain, humidity levels, temperature, size of container and growing medium. Some soils hold more water and may require you to give them less water but more frequently. Avoid over watering by testing the drainage of your growing medium before planting in it.

Cannabis Plants Will Droop When Underwatered

Mature plants will need to drink water at least every 2-3 days. To check if a plant needs watering, stick you finger into the top soil and feel how dry it is. If the first 4-5cm of the soil is dry then you need to water. To avoid washing out nutrients, water until you see the first drops of water draining from the bottom of the pot.

It is best to water in the morning as this is when the nutrient uptake is at it's most efficient. Not only this, it means your plants have enough water to withstand the day's heat. Watering at night increases chance of mould whereas watering during the middle of a hot day can shock a plant.

Protecting your Garden

Securing your garden will help you sleep better at night. A garden that is properly protected and is safe from extreme weather conditions or pests will ensure a better harvest and leave you with less to worry about.

Things to remember when protecting your garden:

  • Scatter organic repellents - Products such as neem oil can help to prevent unwanted bugs coming to ruin your crop.
  • Use good quality soil - Nutrient rich, organic soil often contains essential microbes that will deter some insects.
  • Fencing - Set up some fencing around your plants so they are protected from things like wind, animals, or prying neighbours.
  • Stable pots - Choosing sturdy pots minimises the risk of them falling over if strong winds or a storm hits.
  • Keep the area clean - Less pests will be attracted to your garden if you routinely clean up dead leaves.
  • Check your garden - Keeping an eye out for potential problems means you can find solutions quickly.

Note: It is advised to only use sprays on your cannabis plants during the vegetative stage and earlier stages of flowering (preflower).

Harvesting

Harvesting is one of the most important stages of any grow. However, the main difference between growing indoors and outdoors is the amount of grows you can do per year. Because you can only get one harvest outdoor you want to make sure you pick the right moment. Having spent lots of resources to end up harvesting too early or late is no one's cup of tea.

The timing of when you harvest can't be stressed enough. In the northern hemisphere, harvesting usually takes places between September and November. You will need to decide when the best time is based on how the plant looks.

Checking the trichomes with a magnifying glass or microscope is the best way to know when your plants are ready to harvest. Once you start noticing the trichomes turning cloudy or amber, the plants are nearly ready to harvest.

Trichomes Turning Cloudy Are A Sign Of Ripening

Sometimes problems arise which will force you to harvest early. This can be a very hard decision to take but it might mean the difference between having some harvest or no harvest at all.

If for example, your garden gets infected with spider mites, you'll probably just want to harvest instead of risking it and trying to fix the problem. Pests like spider mites are very hard to eradicate once they have infected a space. They will only keep coming back to cover your buds in their thick web if you don't just harvest the plant and remove them as quickly as possible.

You Need To Decide When Is The Best Time To Harvest

Conclusion

You now understand the basics of growing cannabis outdoors! It may seem like a lot to learn in the beginning, but as you refine your technique, you'll discover there is great pleasure in growing outdoors. Once you find the method that works for you, the sky is the limit. There are hundred of strains to try out there, so the sooner you start growing, the sooner you'll be sampling super strains at home like a weed connoisseur.

External References

The Professionalization of Cannabis Growing. Nature. - Owens, Brian. (2019)

Impact of N, P, K, and Humic Acid Supplementation on the Chemical Profile of Medical Cannabis (Cannabis sativa L). Frontiers in Plant Science. Nirit, Bernstein & Gorelick, Jonathan & Zerahia, Roei & Koch, Sraya. (2019)

Konstantin Bikos and Apama Kher, 'Seasons: Metereological and Astrological', accessed 14th August, 2020, https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/aboutseasons.html

This article was updated August 2020.






Comments

FR_PhenoFinder
FR_PhenoFinder

"Scatter organic repellents - Products such as neem oil prevent unwanted bugs coming to ruin your crop" Are you advertising neem oil for outdoor grows? It is toxic for bumblebees and bees. Don't. :)