Grow Your Greatest: Tips & Tricks for Massachusetts Cannabis Growers
Once you’ve decided to start growing cannabis at home, you can easily fall into an overwhelming green hole of information: What strains are easiest to grow? What’s the optimum cycle for indoor lights? Should you grow in soil or coco coir? Use sprays or opt for integrated pest management? It’s enough to drive anyone mad—or at least to the nearest dispensary.
Thankfully, there are lots of excellent resources online—including Leafly’s own dedicated section on growing—and many of them provide helpful information for the general grower. But what about growing locally, right here in Massachusetts?
“You can’t just grow anything, especially with the way the climate is out here.”
I wanted to know whether there were specific tips and tricks for growing here in the Bay State. So I headed to the INSA cultivation facility in Easthampton to learn more about what it takes to grow cannabis successfully in New England.
INSA’s cultivation center is state of the art and truly makes a home grower salivate. From its water filtration system to the various grow rooms where plants can be seen in different stages of their lifecycle, it was impressive to see cannabis grown on a large scale.
Thankfully, you don’t need a cutting-edge grow center to get a good harvest at home. INSA head grower Matt Livermore and assistant head grower Frank Golfieri shared some Massachusetts-specific tips they’ve cultivated over the years.
Pick the Right Plants
If you’re planning to grow outdoors in Massachusetts—the season here lasts roughly May through November, by the way—make sure you choose the right strains. “You have to find specific ones for this region,” said Golfieri. “You can’t just grow anything, especially with the way the climate is out here. You have to find strands that are more hearty, to handle these conditions.” Kush strains are good options for beginners to consider.
Both Livermore and Golfieri recommend starting from seed if possible to avoid any surprise issues that may be brought into your grow space. When starting with clippings or clones, you can’t be positive that they won’t introduce bacteria, pests, or other pathogens into your garden. Golfieri advised, if you have the space, that you keep new plants in quarantine for a little while to avoid letting introduced pathogens spread to existing plants.
Know Your Seasons
If you’re taking advantage of the outdoor grow period, it’s important to be aware that it stretches across three different seasons—spring, summer, and fall—each with its own specific weather. While fall in other regions may be more temperate, Massachusetts tends to have more rain. Our long, relatively autom thus creates perfect conditions for things like mold to develop.
And while Massachusetts isn’t not known for long periods of scorching heat in the summer, there are frequently spells of little to no rain that can cause issues if you’re unable to water your plants regularly.
There’s not much that compares to the sight of a majestic, outdoor cannabis plant. When it comes down to it both INSA growers stressed that indoor cultivation is easiest for new growers in Massachusetts. “You can control the environment better,” explained Golfieri. Fluctuating temperatures, long periods of cold or rain, and even unanticipated early freezes won’t matter at all to indoor plants (and more importantly, won’t impact your yield). It’s also far easier to control light conditions indoors.
All that comes with a downside, of course: added cost.
Cleanliness Is Key
To keep plants healthy, it’s crucial to limit their exposure to contaminants. Change into clean clothes before entering your grow room, and keep a separate pair of shoes to avoid tracking in contaminants from outside. Beyond those general tips, though, there are best practices specific to the state.
Water is an often overlooked source of contamination. If you’re not using filtered or distilled water, which both INSA growers recommend, be sure to get a complete readout of your town or city’s water supply. This can usually be done by contacting your local water and sewer agency. While you can test water from the faucet yourself for things like pH levels, a more comprehensive assessment will indicate things like lead and heavy metals, which cannabis plants absorb readily. Heavy metals are of particular concern in Massachusetts, home to a lot of former mill towns.
When you’re dealing with new plants, you want to start with the best. So you might want to start by having the plant, flower, and/or soil tested by one of the labs in the state.
Neither Livermore nor Golfieri were keen on the tests you can order online. “If you want to get it done, spend the money and go take the time to get your terpenes, cannabinoid profile figured out,” says Livermore. “You can find out if there are any microtoxins in the soil, or other things that are a problem. If you’re really that serious about growing, you take it to a reputable lab, for sure!”
Four labs are currently open for testing cannabis in Massachusetts, all in the eastern part of the state. Costs start around $50, and you can choose what type of analysis you’d like to run, from cannabinoid and terpene profiles to various safety tests that check for common concerns such as mold, E. coli, yeast, fungus, and more.
Kickstart Your Outdoor Grow!
Each year, when February tips over into March, we see the first signs of spring emerging. That’s a breath of relief for us all after the grim realities of a harsh winter, but spring is especially heart-warming for cannabis growers! Now is the time to start planning new grow adventures, starting with picking the best cannabis seeds to work with. Of course, we are here to help you make the most of every last ray of sunlight once this year’s outdoor grow season kicks off!
The Outdoor Grow Season: Cannabis Gardening
No matter how fancy and high tech grow rooms or tents may be, most growers agree that nothing beats weed raised on the pure, raw power of nature itself. On top of that, cannabis as a species has evolved out in the open for millions of years. Obviously, every last shred of cannabis genetics is meant to thrive in its original habitat, which makes the case for growing weed outdoors perfectly clear. Less sun in the season? Choose an Autoflowering strain. Perfect climate? Feminized is the right choice. With prime genetics like Amsterdam Genetics cannabis seeds, anyone can prepare for a great kickoff to the outdoor grow season!
We’re all aching to catch a bit of a tan and soak up some much-needed vitamin D under the prevailing lockdown conditions. Gardening is a great way to do just that – including cannabis gardening, obviously. As the spring equinox approaches, it’s time to pick that perfect strain and start preparing to germinate and grow some plants!
When Does The Outdoor Cannabis Grow Season Start?
Several factors determine the perfect timing for the start of the outdoor grow season. Geographic location matters, as spring doesn’t bring warmth and sunlight to all regions simultaneously, or in equal measure. Still, from a global perspective, the spring equinox is an important point on any grower’s calendar. The spring equinox officially marks the first day of spring; in the Northern Hemisphere at least. Every year, around March 20, the Sun crosses the equator parallel, promising more hours of daylight and warmer weather to come. For the southern half of the planet, the March equinox hails the start of autumn, as the annual seasonal cycle proceeds in the exact opposite direction.
The Outdoor Grow Season, Step By Step
Let’s see how you can best prepare for the oncoming grow season. If you know what to do and when to do it for perfect timing, you can spend all spring and summer dreaming of that glorious harvest time as you watch your grass grow. Here’s our month-by-month guide to the ultimate outdoor grow season!
Late February Through March: Planning For Planting
Picking An Outdoor Grow Location
By late February, as the first brave snowdrops and crocuses burst from the soil, it’s time to stock up on seeds and pick the cannabis genetics that best match your taste and grow goals. This is the time for planning ahead – don’t forget that the time for planting is drawing closer every day now…
It all starts with great seeds…
Try to decide on the best spot to plant or pot cannabis plants after germination. Our outdoor grow locations blog helps weigh all the relevant factors and pick the prime weed growing spot in any garden. Aim for the optimal combination of sunlight, shelter from bad weather, and a stealthy spot to avoid unwanted detection. Growers who have found found that sweet weed spot are good to go. Start by loosening up the soil and add some organic fertilizer to optimize your natural open-air grow medium. Read up on the best soil for growing weed here.
Find The Perfect Match In Outdoor Cannabis Seeds
Picking the right cannabis seeds is possibly the most important step on the road to the harvest of your dreams. There are many things to consider here. Are you looking for specific genetics, such as sativa seeds or indica-dominant strains? Are you growing for specific effects, or a favourite flavour? Perhaps you want to grow medicinal cannabis for stress relief, to combat depression, or to treat (chronic) pain issues? You’ll find all of this and more among the thirty-plus world-class strains in our online seeds catalogue.
Growing Weed In Warmer And Cooler Areas
In the northern parts of the Northern Hemisphere, including Canada, US states up north and Northern Europe, summers tend to be rainier, cooler, and shorter than those in more southern regions. That is why southern growers can start germinating and pregrowing their seeds in March, planting them once the April sunshine comes. In northern areas, May is the best month to plant germinated seedlings outside. Growers could can decide to pregrow seedlings indoors as early as late February to give their weed a head start for when spring arrives.
The start of the outdoor season varies between regions.
Feminized, Autoflower, Or Regular Seeds?
Then there’s the choice between photoperiod seeds or autoflower strains that start flowering automatically. Regular seeds can grow into male or female plants, giving you extra options and flexibility, but feminized seeds maximize your grow efficiency by yielding 99% feminine plants with harvestable flower buds. That’s a lot of choices to make – better start picking the best feminized, regular, or autoflower seeds to order. Give the delivery guy or girl enough time to ship them over, because once you see the first signs of spring, April is just around the corner!
April: Germination And Pregrow Time
Come April, even northern outdoor growers can start growing seeds. As the days lengthen and the sun gains strength, this is a good moment to germinate your seeds. If you still haven’t decided, order your cannabis seeds now to make sure they arrive in time. Germination, as this blog explains, is the moment when a tiny weed seedling emerges from its protective seed shell. The first root and leaves peep out, ready for their first drink of water and touch of sunshine.
Germination: a special moment both indoors and outdoors.
Growers working in Mediterranean climates can start planting seedlings and pregrown cannabis plants outside in April. For the northern parts of the US, Canada, and Northern Europe, this is the time to start germinating the seeds you bought. Once they pop, put them in small flower pots in the window sill where they get lots of early sun. Another option is to set seedlings off in a (pregrow) tent under artificial lighting. That way, your young plants are stronger once you take them outside in May. Having a little greenhouse available makes it safer to plant outdoors in late April, but even then, the option to bring fragile sprouts back inside if a late frost spell hits is a safe bet.
May: Time To Plant Your Outdoor Cannabis Grow!
Yay – you’ve made it to May! This is when spring peaks all over the northern half of the world, ready to tip over into summer warmth. June and July are the most prolific growing months of the year, so planting young plants in May lets them make the most of the summer throughout the vegetative stage of their life cycle. By now, your pregrow should be past its infancy, with the first real branches and characteristic weed plant leaves starting to shoot upwards to the heavens. If you haven’t germinated your seeds yet, you’ll want to do so now, preferably planting them outside as soon as they pop without further delay.
Useful Tips For Your Outdoor Grow Season
If you’re not sure which seeds to pick for this year’s outdoor grow season, we have a few suggestions to help you on your way.
Outdoor Indicas & Indica Dominant Strains
Our seeds catalogue indicates the average flowering times of every strain we have. As a rule of thumb, cannabis with more indica-dominant genetics tends to flower faster. They evolved in mountainous Asian regions where they had to flower quickly before the cold weather returned. That makes them great for northern climes and their shorter summers. Added benefit: indica strains tend to grow short and bushy, making them easier to hide and manage in gardens with limited space. Pineapple Kush is a good example of a heavily indica-leaning strain, as are Strawberry Glue and our sweet-tasting Chocolato. Broadly speaking, these same considerations also apply to hybrids with dominant indica genetics.
Strawberry Glue is a nice indica-heavy outdoor strain.
Outdoor Sativas & Sativa Dominant Strains
Sativa genetics evolved in warmer equatorial regions, enabling them to enjoy long, hot summers and loads of sunshine. That is why sativa strains tend to have longer flowering times than indicas, making them more suited for sunny, southern areas closer to the Mediterranean, or the southern coastal areas of the US. If you are growing weed up north and you’re after typical sativa highs and their cerebral, energizing head buzz effect, try finding a strain with a nice balance of indica and sativa genetics. Cannabis seeds such as White Choco, Tangerine G13, or Choco Cheesecake are good examples. Sativa genetics tend towards tall plant growth, which can make stealthy growing tricky. On the other hand, sativa strains usually feature open, airy bud structure. That can help prevent mold damage from culprits like bud rot or mildew. Indicas tend to have more compact buds that can prove risky during the cool, damp conditions associated with harvest time up north.
White Choco: legendary hybrid outdoor genetics.
Autoflowers Make The Most Of The Cannabis Grow Season
Autoflower strains are a brand apart when it comes to outdoor growing. These plants carry cannabis ruderalis genetics in the mix, which enables them to start flowering at their own preferred time rather than waiting for the days to grow shorter around midsummer. If you play your cards right, planting autoflower strains early in the season (preferably pregrown indoors for a solid start outside), you could squeeze in two or even three grows into a single cannabis grow season. Depending on your location and the weather conditions, you could take autoflower plants outside in April (if there’s no chance of late frost).
Choco Kush Autoflower in full bloom.
Pick an autoflower with a very short flowering and grow phases and you should be able to harvest in late June or July. That gives you enough time to get another grow going before it gets too cold – even if you don’t have much space. Do keep in mind, though, that the speed at which the automated beauties develop limits your options to guide them or correct your mistakes. Try to pick a robust, rugged strain with high resistance to pests and fungi. Milkshake Kush Auto and the hugely popular White Choco Autoflower strain are our prime suggestions for your automated outdoor grows. Autoflowers are usually vulnerable to overfeeding, so go easy on the nutrients and keep them close for daily inspection.
Time To Start Picking Those Seeds!
As you can see, there’s plenty to consider before getting that fresh outdoor grow season started. Whichever approach fits your location, taste, and garden options best, now is the time to start shopping for seeds that will make the most out of your grow. The better you’re prepared, the more time you’ll have to soak up that spring and summer sunshine while your crops shoot up around you…
Better get that hammock ready – enjoy watching that grass grow!
You now know all you need to kickstart your outdoor grow season. Remember: summer is approaching fast… Grab those seeds and enjoy your outdoor grow season!
What’s the Best Time to Start an Outdoor Cannabis Grow?
I t’s amazing how quickly the world can change, isn’t it? In the past 25 years, cannabis has moved from an illicit substance relegated to the shadowy corners of the illicit market to an “essential” industry amid COVID-19. In many states, local cannabis laws allow you to grow your own, and why not? When you grow your own, you can do your own quality control, know the purity of your product, and manage your own supply.
Luckily, you can start your own grow in a container as small as a flower pot. If you’ve got some space in your yard to grow weed outdoors, even better. So this may leave you wondering, when should I plant my cannabis outdoors? Luckily, there are some general date ranges to help guide your growing plans.
Regardless of which climate you’re starting in, when Spring Equinox comes around, start germinating your seeds. Make sure those plants get outside by Summer Solstice in June, then harvested around Fall Equinox.
For more specifics about how to protect your outdoor cannabis grows from the elements or whether you should grow indoors, outdoors, or in a greenhouse, check out the linked articles. Better yet, look into a book by celebrated cannabis growers like Ed Rosenthal’s Marijuana Grower’s Handbook, and of course, every green thumb’s favorite, The Farmer’s Almanac.
For a (shallow-ish) deeper dive into what to expect when growing cannabis outside, here’s a look at optimal grow times for regions across the U.S.
When to Grow Weed Outdoors by Region
Northwest (Northern CA, OR, WA)
When you grow outdoors in this loamy region you’ll never have to worry about getting enough rain. However, mold development and lack of sunshine can make growing outside a more difficult proposition.
Hybrids that flower earlier are suggested as the most successful grows, especially in Washington and Oregon. California plants can be put in the ground earlier due to the region’s warmer weather. Your best clue indicating that it’s time to start your outside grow is when daylight hours increase and the temperature starts to warm.
- Preparing Your Colorado Soil for an Outdoor Marijuana Grow
- How Long Does it Take to Grow Cannabis Plants?
- The Best Strains to Grow Outdoors
- The Flowering Stage Of Cannabis Week By Week
Midwest (IL, MI, Eastern CO)
This region is tricky because the weather is highly variable; rainy and muggy, and/or hot and dry. Winter may come early to this region, so choosing an indica-dominant hybrid strain might be your best bet, since their flowering times are shorter. Try to shoot for germination after the final frost of spring has passed in these regions.
Northeast (NY, MA, ME, VT)
With its rich soils and abundance of water, the northeast region can be a great place to grow cannabis outdoors, especially if you choose an early harvest strain that can finish up before fall kicks in. The best time to move your plants outside in this region is the middle of April, when days are longer.
Southwest (Southern CA, NV, AZ, NM, CO)
If you choose to grow outdoors in this scorching climate, be prepared to pay attention to the temperature, where highs that regularly exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit will slow your plant’s growth. Sativas and sativa-dominant hybrids do well in this environment because of their lineage tracing back to the equator, where the weather is uniformly hot.
However, the dryness of the region means you’ll also have to carefully monitor your watering routines. Before moving your plants outside, make sure the last frost has passed. This last note is especially important in this region, as sudden, sporadic snowfall is common, so keep an eye on the weather.
Though home cultivation is not yet allowed in the Sunshine State, many new medical producers getting into the industry are starting to grow outdoors, and there are a few things to be aware of if you’re licensed in the industry. The temperatures in Florida might be good for cannabis growing, but the humidity definitely is not.
In fact, because of all that moisture in the air, it’s best to avoid indica strains and grow sativas instead to avoid the mold that inevitably comes along with humidity. In this region, you could start the germination process as early as February. Just make sure that the last frost has passed before moving plants outside.
Of course, there are many different factors that go into the timing of an outdoor grow, and the weather will shift year-to-year. Use these estimates as rough guidelines and adjust as needed. Happy growing!
What’s the best time to plant outside in your area? Share in the comments!
Erin Hiatt is a New York City-based writer who has been covering the cannabis industry for more than six years. Her work – which has appeared in Hemp Connoisseur Magazine, PotGuide, Civilized, Vice, Freedom Leaf, MERRY JANE, Alternet, and CannaInvestor – covers a broad range of topics, including cannabis policy and law, CBD, hemp law and applications, science and technology, beauty, and psychedelics.
Erin’s work and industry insights have been featured on the podcasts The Let’s Go Eat Show, In the Know 420, and she has appeared as a featured panelist on the topic of hemp media. Erin has interviewed top industry experts such as Dr. Carl Hart, Ethan Nadelmann, Amanda Feilding, Mark A.R. Kleiman, Dr. James Fadiman, and culture icons Governor Jesse Ventura, and author Tom Robbins. You can follow her work on LinkedIn, WordPress, @erinhiatt on Twitter, and @erinisred on Instagram.