How to Grow Cannabis Outdoors
This article was co-authored by Jamie Corroon, ND, MPH. Dr. Jamie Corroon, ND, MPH is the founder and Medical Director of the Center for Medical Cannabis Education. Dr. Corroon is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor and clinical researcher. In addition to clinical practice, Dr. Corroon advises dietary supplement and cannabis companies regarding science, regulation, and product development. He is well published in the peer-review literature, with recent publications that investigate the clinical and public health implications of the broadening acceptance of cannabis in society. He earned a Masters in Public Health (MPH) in Epidemiology from San Diego State University. He also earned a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine degree from Bastyr University, subsequently completed two years of residency at the Bastyr Center for Natural Health, and is a former adjunct professor at Bastyr University California.
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Growing marijuana outdoors produces a higher yield, gives your buds a unique flavor, and it’s far less energy-intensive than using indoor grow lights. Outdoor cannabis plants can grow up to 14 feet (4.3 m) tall and produce 4–8 pounds (1.8–3.6 kg) of quality weed per plant–and it’s not rocket science to grow cannabis outdoors. We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to tell you everything you need to know about picking a location, germinating marijuana seeds, and maintaining your crop to get the highest possible cannabis yield.
How to Grow Marijuana Outdoors
Like other plants, marijuana can be grown outdoors or indoors. However, a lot that has to happen before one can successfully grow cannabis outdoors.
This article delves into the topic of how to grow marijuana outdoors. It provides reasons, steps, the right timing, location, and also outlines what you need to get started.
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- Why grow weed outdoors?
- Disadvantages of growing weed outdoors
- Decisions to make before growing cannabis outdoors
- What you need to get started growing outdoors
- Step-by-step guide to growing weed outdoors
- Step 1: pick an appropriate space
- Step 2: gain a good understanding of your weather and climate
- Step 3: assess the soil
- Step 4: choose the right cannabis strains
- Step 5: plant your weed and nurture
- Step 6: provide the needed nutrients for healthy growth
- Step 7: protect your plants
- Step 8: control pests and diseases
- Step 9: harvest at the right stage
- Step 10: store under the right conditions
- Take care of your plants — common problems
Why Grow Weed Outdoors?
Growing weed outdoors comes with many advantages, whether your intention is for medicinal or commercial purposes:
- High yield.
- Doesn’t need special expertise.
- High-quality weed.
Outdoor growing, if done well, often leads to more buds, which translates to more yield. With just a few plants, you’re assured of getting a considerable amount of high-quality weed for your needs.
When cannabis plants are grown outside, they accumulate more energy because they have free access to sunlight. Essentially, more sun, as well as more carbon dioxide, means more food for the plant. The result is greater growing heights that they wouldn’t attain if grown indoors.
Effortless and Doesn’t Require Much Expertise
You don’t need to be an expert to grow weed successfully outdoors. Provided you have the right seeds, the climate is suitable and there are sufficient rains, you’re good to go. This makes it a more effortless option when compared to growing it indoors — controlling growth conditions indoors requires greater expertise.
Once your seeds sprout, they need much less attention from you than if you grew them indoors. Your work will mainly consist of regular checks to see what’s happening. Otherwise, anything else that the plant needs is readily available.
If you ask outdoor growers, they’ll likely tell you that their weed has a unique flavor. There’s an element of truth to this since outdoor-grown cannabis has free access to quality nutrients.
The powerful combination of fresh air, sufficient sunshine and the natural soil provide a powerful nutritious combination for an attractive flavor. Therefore, it makes sense to grow weed outdoors.
Disadvantages of Growing Weed Outdoors
While growing marijuana outdoors has benefits, there are disadvantages worth noting before you make up your mind.
Knowing these before starting your weed-growing journey will help you to combat them if they arise:
- You cannot control the outdoor environment.
- Plants are vulnerable to pests and animals.
- Potential conflict with the public.
- Open to theft, especially if far from your home.
- Risk of damage from extreme weather conditions.
For the successful growth of your plants, you should find a way of minimizing the effect of these disadvantages. Most importantly, always ensure that your activities are legal.
Decisions to Make Before Growing Cannabis Outdoors
Growing weed outdoors can be fun, as well as a rewarding experience. The key here is to ensure you have the correct setup and follow our advice. While it might seem like an easy venture, there’s a lot to learn before embarking on it.
There are a few choices you need to make first. If you want a smooth process without leaving anything out, have a look at this checklist:
- Choose the right strains, preferably high-quality ones.
- Growing in the earth or in containers?
- Always buy the best soil, even if growing in the earth.
- Choose the right nutrients.
Once you’ve settled on the above choices, you’re good to move on. From there, consider the following factors:
- Where to grow weed outdoors.
- When to plant your cannabis outdoors.
- What’s your grow location?
Where to Grow Weed Outdoors
Marijuana grows in different parts of the world, but the quality of the final product depends on many things, including where it is grown. In the same way that other cash crops demand specific climatic conditions, different marijuana strains do well in specific climates.
As an illustration, regions along the equator are best for growing sativa strains. In such areas, the summers are long and winters are mild. These conditions are ideal for sativa as they have a longer flowering period.
Some strains are also good when grown outdoors. However, it’s worth noting that outdoor conditions vary from one region to another. Marijuana thrives outdoors when grown in regions that experience warm and hot climates with minimal rainfall. Such conditions are found in the Mediterranean.
If you still want to grow cannabis, but the climatic conditions in your place aren’t as good as the above, the next best alternative is to put them in a controlled environment. A greenhouse can do well, provided all the necessary conditions are assured. A greenhouse can help you overcome nature’s constraints.
When Should You Plant Cannabis Outdoors?
Growing weed outdoors can be very rewarding. Unfortunately, there’s no single period when it’s best to plant your strains outdoors. We can’t say that a particular month is the best as it depends on many factors.
If you want to get the best harvest, consider two things before planting your cannabis:
While other factors are important too, these two have the biggest influence on the performance of your plants after planting.
As a grower, you should avoid planting your cannabis too early or when the year has just started. What that means is that your plant might die due to extremely low temperatures at such times of the year.
Although the seasons vary from one state to another, look to grow your cannabis plants one or two months before June. In most regions of the U.S., temperatures, are good and your plant will likely perform well.
In a nutshell, the best time to grow your cannabis outdoors is when the conditions are right and can allow for easy growth. You have to be vigilant since you cannot control the outdoor environment as you would do if you were to grow your plants indoors where conditions are controllable.
What Is Your Grow Location?
Growing cannabis outdoors is not all about picking any location. Some places are appropriate, while others might give you a headache later on. For instance, you shouldn’t grow your marijuana along a fence that you share with a neighbor. Such a location is just asking for trouble, especially from the neighbor and if children are nearby.
Here are some of the most popular outdoor locations for growing marijuana outdoors:
- Roof terrace.
- Open field.
A roof terrace is secure, and also gives your plants unobstructed access to full-day sunlight. But while it’s a great option, strong winds can be a problem. Other than that, this can be a good site.
In A Cornfield
A cornfield is also another ideal location for your cannabis. In such a place, your plants enjoy privacy, and they have access to enough sunlight as well. As long as you plant in the middle of the cornfield at the right time, your plants will do well.
In The Forest
If you have access to a forest that has ample space and is secure, this can be an excellent option. It’s already a hub for growing vegetation, and so the access to sunlight and soil nutrients are already in existence.
Growing marijuana in an open field relies upon safety being paramount. Being in an open environment means it’s open to the elements, theft and wildlife. However, you’re also giving the plants the prime opportunity to absorb unrestricted sunlight, water and soil nutrients.
Other Less-Popular Growing Locations
Other growing locations that you can consider for medical marijuana include a small garden near home, near the riverbank — if it’s a legal option — and on a balcony. The idea here is to get a place that’s easy to access and is safe.
What You Need to Get Started Growing Outdoors
- Premium seeds: Decide on the genetics of the seed and which strain you’d like. We provide a wide range of different strains, each of which having various standout features. Check out some of the options for the best outdoor strain for a high yield.
- Seed starter kit: We believe that the very best way to get your seeds started is to germinate the seeds using the Spongepot. You can then prepare your soil using Mycorrhiza and water your plants with Rhyzobac. You can find more info on this process here.
- Soil: A safe bet is to get ready-made soil from the garden center. While this soil does not contain the correct nutritional values for a complete growth cycle, it will suffice to support a seedling through its first phase. We highly recommend adding Mycorrhiza fungi and Rhyzo bacteria to the soil for optimum quality, growth, and yield.
- Containers: Both for storage and transportation. Handle the plants as little as possible and use glass — more on this below!
- Watering can: One of the easiest ways to water the plants!
- Sticks for holding heavy buds: This will prevent the stems from breaking. These are essentials that many growers overlook!
Step-By-Step Guide to Growing Weed Outdoors
Once you’re well-prepared and feel ready to get growing, follow our steps below on how to grow bigger buds outdoors.
Step 1: Pick an Appropriate Space
The first and the most important decision when it comes to growing weed outdoors is choosing the right space. An appropriate space means that your plants are secure and can freely get sunlight without any obstruction. This is the case whether you’re planting directly into the ground or using containers.
Step 2: Gain a Good Understanding of Your Weather and Climate
Although cannabis can easily adapt to different environmental conditions, it’s good to choose the correct area in your chosen space to protect the plants from the elements. Heavy winds, rain, and snow not only affect growth levels but also impact the final quality of the product.
Excess moisture in cannabis plants can also develop mold. This greatly impacts the quality of the harvest, and moldy weed can lead to health concerns.
Step 3: Assess the Soil
If you’re growing directly in the ground, it’s vital to assess the quality of the soil. Weed does well in soil that’s rich in organic matter. If you have access to such soil, you’re on the right track a high yield and a high-quality harvest. Even if the natural soil in your chosen grow locations isn’t nutrient-dense, you can buy soil to mix in with the original.
On the other hand, if you intend to use containers, then make sure you acquire soil that’s rich in organic matter.
About a month from when it’s time to plant your chosen strain, dig the holes and enter the compost manure, organic matter, or worm castings. The essence of doing it early allows the soil to mix well with the added matter. The plant will then have the best start in its growth journey.
Step 4: Choose the Right Cannabis Strains
The success of outdoor growing also depends largely on the type of strains that you plant. Not every cannabis strain can be grown outdoors and produce high yields.
There are two options when it comes to growing weed:
- Seeds: Generally, seeds produce high yields, and your harvest will be bountiful if you nail the choice of seeds.
- Clones: On the other hand, clones are the best if you want to be sure that you grow females. These are the only strains that produce buds.
Step 5: Plant Your Weed and Nurture
Once you have the right seeds or clones, the next step is obviously to plant them in your garden or containers.
If you’re growing for own use, a few plants will be okay. Also, it’s a bit easier to manage a few compared to many, especially if this is your first time.
Ensure that you use the right spacing and that you can easily monitor germination as well as early growth for your plants. The first few weeks after planting are vital for your plant. They determine whether or not you’ll have healthy plants.
An excellent way to do this is to use Spongepot. You can check out this article on how to go about this.
Step 6: Provide the Needed Nutrients for Healthy Growth
Like any other plant, weed can only grow well if all the necessary nutrients are provided. If the composition of the soil isn’t ideal, consider adding what’s missing.
Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are the most important nutrients you should supply to your plants if you want to encourage healthy growth. Simply get the right fertilizer that has all these nutrients, and you’ll have healthy plants.
Step 7: Protect Your Plants
Growing your cannabis outdoors means you’re exposing them to weather conditions that might be a bit harsh. Although plants can be sturdy, they’re not immune to the elements and nature.
Extreme weather events such as storms and physical damage by animals are the leading threats to cannabis when you plant them outdoors. If necessary, you can consider using a protective enclosure to keep your plants safe.
Step 8: Control Pests and Diseases
Crawling and flying insects are the most common pests that can be a threat to your plants. In addition, large animals such as deer can also damage your plants. You should, therefore, have a plan of how you’ll manage them.
One way to reduce the chances of your cannabis plants being affected by pests is to grow them in an area far from flowers and vegetables. Insects and pests can easily spread between plants if you grow them together. It’s, therefore, good to separate them.
Step 9: Harvest at the Right Stage
Finally, after growing your plants and making sure that they have all they need for healthy growth, harvesting them at the right time. Harvesting too early or too late can compromise the quality of your product.
If all other factors are constant, your plant will be ready for harvest when they’re between the 3rd and the 5th month, depending on the strains you grew. The good thing is that you can tell when your plant is ready for harvest by simply looking at it. But, before you harvest, inspect them thoroughly to check if buds have mold.
Step 10: Store Under the Right Conditions
Your job isn’t over once the plants are harvested. You now need to store your crop to maintain its quality. The best thing to do for storage is:
- Avoid handling the weed as much as possible.
- Store in dark, glass jars.
Handling the weed can knock off the trichomes, which are vital in maintaining the strength and quality of the harvest.
Avoid exposing your weed to sunlight as much as possible. You can wrap them in brown paper bags and store them in glass jars, get dark-glass jars or paint the outside of a clear glass jar.
Take Care of Your Plants — Common Problems
While outdoor growing can be fun and is highly productive, a few challenges are bound to happen along the way. Since the outdoor environment created by you, it’s very hard to control it.
Apart from the obvious weather changes, attacks from spider mites, caterpillars and bud rot can plague the growing experience. If you’re not hands-on with the growth of your plants, consider hiring someone to look after it for you. Regular monitoring of the growing area and the plants is needed so you can combat problems as soon as they arise.
Other than these challenges, outdoor growing can be fun if you can find a way of overcoming them. Manage them well, and you can expect high yields from your outdoor cannabis farm.
Growing bigger buds outdoors isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s great fun and is an incredible experience, but has some challenges.
The most important thing is to ensure that you provide all the necessary conditions for optimal growth and performance. It’s pretty hard to stuff up the results once you’ve got the preparation nailed down. Just be careful not to handle the harvested buds too much to ensure their quality and store them out of sunlight.
If medical cannabis is already legal in your region, then why not get planting and use the results for your own uses or to help out others? No matter the reason for your venture, we wish you a great and fulfilling journey in becoming a successful marijuana grower.