How to Grow Cannabis Outdoors?
Overly simplified, you only need to plant a cannabis seed in some soil and make sure it has access to sufficient light and water. Unfortunately, this won’t be good enough if you want to harvest cannabis buds and don’t just want to have a cannabis plant for fun.
Growing cannabis outdoors requires knowledge of cannabis strains, plant nutrients, soil pH value, pest control, Geolocation, and its effect on the plant’s growth cycle to ensure a harvest high in yield and potency.
This article will teach you everything you need to know to grow Cannabis outdoors successfully.
How to Grow Cannabis Outdoors
Is there a difference between growing cannabis indoors and outdoors?
Growers have their reasons why they choose one approach over the other. Some prefer the indoor approach because it is more discreet and easy to control. On the one hand, others are more inclined to allow their cannabis to experience the outside environment in its growing process because this is more natural and usually a lot cheaper.
Indoor cannabis growth is easier to control than nurturing them in your backyard. By purchasing excellent lighting equipment, growers can adjust the light intensity, duration of light exposure and light spectrum their plants receive across their growing months. As a result, they can quickly achieve an ideal climate for the marijuana plant if they choose indoor cultivation.
Nothing beats sunlight in growing any type of plant – cannabis included. Sungrown cannabis develops organically and naturally compared with those that grow indoors. But of course, choosing an outdoor approach poses difficulty in controlling the environment. Due to global warming, climates around the world have been volatile and unpredictable. This can make it more difficult and risky to grow Cannabis outdoors.
Some cannabis strains may be better suited for indoor cultivation if conditions are painstakingly maintained. You can use these types to create high yields of healthy plants.
Plants can grow up to ten feet (three meters) tall when planted outdoors because of the unlimited space available. Outdoor plants, on average, generate considerably more smokable buds than indoor ones due to no vertical growing restrictions.
One immediate concern among indoor growers is the cost of high-end plant-growing tents. For example, a 3′ x 3′ growing tent may cost $200, while larger ones would have a price north of $300. Additionally, indoor growers would need to purchase other growth apparatus such as growing lights, hygrometer, thermometer, humidifier, dehumidifier, fans, etc.
Outdoor gardening offers growers cheaper costs. From start-up to the overall costs, outdoor growing has a relatively lower budget than indoor marijuana cultivation. On average, outdoor grows cost $10 – $17 per square foot, while its indoor counterpart costs $50 per square foot.
Cannabis buds from indoor growth are more pricey since a particular set of equipment is vital in growing them. Besides the equipment, the electric consumption skyrockets because you need to have a continuous electricity supply to keep the equipment running. Anyhow this can be significantly reduced by using quality LED panels instead of HID, HPS, or CMH. If you want to find out more about growing lights you should check out my posts: "The best Growing lights" and "The best LED lights for growing Cannabis"
On the contrary, outdoor growers encounter fewer costs. Such fact explains why sun-grown marijuana buds come at a lower price. Outdoor cultivars are not subject to the high utility expenditures that come with an artificially maintained environment.
We may commonly think that indoor cannabis growing brings higher profits/yields because of its higher overhead costs. However, outdoor growers can also earn significant revenues if they choose to grow it organically. Many Cannabis consumers are environmentally conscious and there definitely is a market for carbon-neutral, organic cannabis.
If you want to learn how to grow Cannabis organically you should check out my post: "How to grow cannabis organically"
Why grow cannabis outdoors?
Sun-grown cannabis gives the growers and the consumers great benefits. Some known upsides for outdoor growing of cannabis are the following:
1. It is natural
For thousands of years, cannabis plants have grown outdoors. Such is the way nature initially designed it.
When growing cannabis outdoors, there is much interaction between your plant and the environment around it. The richness and variety of soil microorganisms in a specific location are reflected in the diversity of soil microbiomes. Organic soil is home to a diverse population of bacteria, fungi, and microbes like nematodes. Non-organic soil is more sterile than organic soil and lacks a diverse soil microbiome.
2. It is cheaper.
Think about the saving you could incur when you cultivate cannabis outdoors. Free sunlight. Free air. Free humidity. There are not many costs that will bother you. Even though growing outdoors is the more cost-effective method of growing Cannabis, I strongly recommend you to not try to save money on the seeds and purchase some quality seeds from a reputable seed bank like seedsman, or iLoveGrowingMarijuana. Plant genetics is one of the most important factors for a potent and yield-rich harvest. I would also advise you to stick to feminized seeds since one male plant is enough to mess up your entire batch. If you are a beginner or just want to make it easier for yourself go for auto-flowering seeds.
3. It is environment-friendly.
The indoor growing popularity has increased energy use. Lights, ventilation systems, and other devices that consume much electricity are required in grow rooms. Opting to grow your marijuana outside leads to a lesser carbon footprint.
4. It produces buds with solid potency.
Giving your cannabis plants precisely what they require, down to the last bacterium in the soil, is an essential aspect of modern organic gardening. Cannabis, like any other plant, has particular and complex requirements for optimal growth, and precisely meeting those requirements helps your plants reach their full potential.
Because of the intricate make-up of the nutrient blends employed, organic growers claim that organically cultivated cannabis is superior in potency and terpenes.
How does your location affect growing cannabis outdoors?
Growing cannabis requires a significant amount of light energy. Of course, this is since plants utilize photosynthesis, wherein light is needed to produce their food. Therefore, the challenge to growers worldwide is to know how much light their region receives and work out an effective cultivation schedule tailor-fit to their situation. At the same time, the temperature ideally should be within the plants’ temperature requirements of 70º F – 85° F (21º C -29.4° C ). Anyhow, cannabis can survive in temperatures much lower and higher than this but will grow significantly slower than within the ideal temperature constraints.
When to plant cannabis in the northern hemisphere?
If your country nestles somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere, the generally recognized planting season would be from the end of April up to the end of May. Harvest time may occur between September, October, and November. However, growers should consider the strain they are using, the altitude, and the mean temperature (it is possible to have daylight yet low temperature).
Refer to Leafly’s outdoor cannabis grower’s calendar:
Based on the calendar, here are the steps you must undertake in growing cannabis outdoor if you are in the northern hemisphere:
- Purchasing seeds
- Germinating seeds
- Moving seeds outdoor
- Pruning your growth
When to plant cannabis in the Southern Hemisphere?
The area south of the equator is known as the southern hemisphere. The day with the most daylight hours in the year is December 21, which also happens to be the day when daylight hours start to diminish. The winter solstice occurs on June 21, making it the shortest day of the year. On March 21 and September 21, the day and night are both the same length. These are known as the autumn and spring equinoxes.
For growers in the southern hemisphere, the process of cannabis cultivation begins in August and concludes in April.
August – In this month, one can start planning for the upcoming growing season. The worst of the chilly weather is about to pass and it’s time to prepare your grow area and your plants. It’s unlikely that there will be any frost this year, so you can almost start growing in August.
September: The chance of frost has decreased much further, particularly in the country’s warmer regions. You should buy your seeds now if you haven’t already. You can safely place your young growth on the windowsill to begin sprouting them.
October – If the daily temperature is warm enough (for example, if you live in a hotter section of the country), you can take your plants off the ledge and put them outside. This can be done whenever the temperature reaches 69.8 ° F (21° C). However, because the temperatures will still dip lower at night, be sure to bring your plants back inside.
November – It is now acceptable to leave your marijuana plants outside all day and night in November, as long as the temperature does not fall below 59 degrees.
December – This is the third month in a row where the amount of daylight hours has increased. Beginning in January, these hours will start to decrease once more. In other words, throughout the vegetative phase of your marijuana plants this month, you may expect them to grow a lot. Growth should continue to pick up speed. Flowers will begin to appear if you are producing autoflowering marijuana plants.
January – January is a crucial month for marijuana growers who use non-feminized (regular) seeds. You should expect roughly half of your plants to be male if you buy feminized seeds. On the other hand, the male plants will pollinate the females if they are not removed, substantially diminishing your yield.
February – The number of daylight hours has begun to reduce once more, indicating that harvesting time for your ordinary marijuana plants is approaching. Although there is still a lot of rain in February, things should start to dry up in March or April.
March – The weather is still warm (as expected), but now is an ideal time to harvest your marijuana plants because the daylight hours are approaching the 12-hour threshold. Some tropical growers like to keep their plants alive for as long as possible, but the choice is yours.
April – The dry season is approaching, and you should begin harvesting shortly. Because of the excessive humidity, bud rot is still a possibility (and so does temperature, for the most part). If you find bud rot on any of your plants’ buds, remove them right away and discard them since it might quickly spread to the rest of the harvest.
When to plant cannabis in the equatorial region?
Cannabis is a photoperiod-dependent plant, which means that as the summer draws to a close, the plants stop developing new branches and leaves and concentrate all of their efforts on flower production. The day length at the equator, on the other hand, is almost always approximately 12/12, with very little seasonal change.
According to tropics growers, there are two ways of cultivating cannabis in equatorial regions:
- Using autoflowering seeds
- Growing marijuana outdoors inside a greenhouse, supplementing the sun’s 12-hour daylight with artificial lighting
Local growers unanimously select the latter one.
Many cannabis producers in the tropics cultivate "seasonally," which means they grow the entire crop and then harvest it. It’s not quite "seasonal," though, because the constant sunlight throughout the year allows for many harvests throughout the year.
This approach, in which you reap all of your crops and then replant a whole new crop once you finished harvesting, takes roughly 3-4 months for seed/clone. So, you have 3-4 significant harvests a year.
If you want to find out more about this you should check out my post: "How Often Can You Harvest Cannabis Plant In A Year?"
What soil is the best for growing cannabis outdoors?
When you decide to take your weed gardening outside, your growth medium inevitably becomes soil. Hence, selecting the best soil is very important for outdoor cultivators. Let me assist you by listing the soil types available for cannabis farming.
Let me say that most outdoor marijuana growers will either dig a hole and fill it with fresh soil or grow their Cannabis in pots. You’ll be able to better regulate the growing media and the number of nutrients your plants receive due to this.
If you choose soil for your plants, these factors should come into mind: pH level, water retention, texture, nutrient make-up, and drainage.
So, naturally, the best soil is the one where the majority of those factors are present. At this point, you should be aware of the four main soil compositions available.
Many consider silt as the ideal soil to work with because it heats up quickly. Additionally, it holds moisture, has satisfactory drainage, and consists of many nutrients. Excellent silt is dark and crumbly loam, which means it needs less amending. One main concern about silt by growers is that it is easily compacted. This feature gives roots a hard time penetrating the soil.
2) Sandy Soil
Like silt, the sandy soil warms up fast, drains well, is pleasant to work with, and has high oxygen levels. However, a considerable downside of sandy soils is their weakness in holding nutrients. This fact is especially actual in rainy environments. Sandy medium gets washed away easily, affecting your plants’ well-being.
If the soil in your backyard is clay, note that it drains slowly and does not retain oxygen well. Thus, it needs amendment or improvement constantly. A practical advice for clay growers is to dig big holes where they will plant the marijuana and introduce a mixture of compost, manure, worm castings, or other decomposed organic matter. Clay’s disadvantage rests on its ability to harden quickly. Once exposed to intense heat, the soil can be as hard as a rock. The situation does not end well for the roots of the plants.
When we say loam soil, we are referring to the combination of the three soil types above. Touching loamy soil is the easiest method to detect it. How does it make you feel? Loamy soils should form a loose ball when pressed, which will keep its shape for a short time before falling apart in huge chunks.
A 20 percent clay, 40 percent silt, and 40 percent sand ratio is ideal for loam. A majority of cultivators believe that a pH of 6.0 is suitable for cannabis, with a range of 5.8 to 6.3 considered appropriate. Loam is often in this zone or closes to it, with a pH nearing neutral.
Loam soil even supports microorganisms that boost plant growth. Lastly, experienced farmers highly recommend its drainage quality.
Costing is an obvious drawback for loam soil types. Most likely, the correct mixture of the three other types needs special equipment, explaining the loam’s pricey tag. However, the investment is worthwhile once you see your excellent cannabis buds.
What nutrients do I need for growing cannabis outdoors?
Medium to High
Every grower dreams of a productive and profitable yield. To achieve this, you should ensure that your marijuana plants receive the proper and correct amount of nutrients across their growing stages.
Your soil could have a definite amount of nutrients at the start of your cultivation. However, these will get depleted once the plant develops. Therefore, you must amend your soil so that the nutrients needed remain continuously.
But different stages of plant growth require various levels of nutrients. Below is a safe estimate of the quantity of nutrients marijuana plants need vis-a-vis its growing cycle.
As what the table shows, the three essential nutrients cannabis need for healthy growth are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). These are known as cannabis macronutrients.
Nitrogen is vital to marijuana across its life cycle. Although, marijuana requires a high demand of the element during its vegetative stage. Nitrogen functions as a booster when the plant is in its vegetative growth. Through it, the marijuana plant can grow lush, thick leaves. The food-making process of the plant also benefits from the presence of nitrogen because it is necessary for the production of chlorophyll during photosynthesis.
Phosphorus helps your plant during its flowering stage. Your fast-growing annuals need this element because it aids in producing huge buds. This fact explains why phosphorus levels in flowering fertilizers and bloom booster tablets are so high.
Potassium’s role in the enzyme activity of the plant is a well-established scientific fact. Multiple enzymes in several metabolic processes, including protein/starch synthesis and energy generation, need potassium for their activation.
A secondary group of nutrients, called micronutrients, should also be a part of your plants’ regular nutrients’ uptake. Some known micronutrients are listed below:
Calcium is found at the cell wall (i.e., pectin layer), essential for plant stiffness and built during cell division. The element also helps in translocating other nutrients which marijuana needs.
Magnesium is typically found in leaves since it is a necessary component of the chlorophyll molecule. As a result, its presence or absence directly affects the plant’s ability to absorb light and, as a result, produce sugars and carbs.
Iron assists in nitrogen absorption, which is an essential macronutrient. Aside from this, iron impacts the overall metabolism of the cannabis plant that contributes to its health.
Sulfur promotes root growth, stimulates chlorophyll production and distribution, and functions during the vegetative and flowering stages.
Boron helps marijuana in the aspect of stability and elongation. This feature is specifically essential for reproductive growth. Marijuana plants rarely experience boron deficiency because it is a common element in tap water.
If you are not sure where to source nutrients and fertilizers from I can strongly recommend you Growershouse.com.
If there is uncertainty about what nutrients your plants are lacking or have an excess of you should read my blog post: How to Know Which Nutrients Are Lacking In A Cannabis Plant?
What Are the Steps in Growing Cannabis Outdoors?
1) Select your growing site. Growing sites for outdoor cannabis planting may involve your typical backyard area. However, there is a wide selection of sites that you can choose from:
a. Private garden – A commonplace to cultivate marijuana is in your garden. Many cultivators say that they enjoy the calmness of their garden during summertime. However, a significant concern for private gardens, among other ones, is mold growth caused by the banal fusarium.
b. Balcony – Outdoor cannabis can be grown on balconies. Such a place offers fresh air and natural light. In addition, balconies facing the southside receive an incredible amount of sunlight. However, when your patio is north-facing, sunlight is less to none. And, when your porch is on high-rise buildings, a strong wind would give your growth a severe problem.
c. Terrace – Another perfect spot for weed growth is your terrace because of the sunlight exposure and rainwater it receives. But this could also be a downside because your plants might experience intense heat and severe storms.
d. Greenhouse – When you set up a greenhouse, you will receive the best things in both outdoor and indoor methods. Your plants receive natural sunlight while, at the same time, it has an enclosure from severe environmental circumstances. However, if your ventilation system isn’t working correctly, stale air and humidity can build up.
2) Decide which strain to use.
Before, marijuana is classified only as either sativa or indica. But, due to the progress made by marijuana researchers, there are a wide array of strains available on the market. Since this is the case, novice growers must possess the necessary know-how in selecting the perfect species for your backyard growing.
Your geographic location commands the strain type which will work best for your endeavor.
a. Colder regions – If you live in places like further north, sunlight could be plenty only in one specific season. This situation requires you to choose cultivars that are fast-flowering. Again, Autoflowers would be an excellent choice here.
Here are some Cannabis strains for colder locations recommended by ilovegrowingmarijuana.com: Northern lights, blue cheese, and white widow.
b. Warmer regions – It is general knowledge that marijuana thrives best when grown in hot climates. This info is because the earliest strains of the plant are grown near the equator.
Good strains for warmer regions are the following: sour diesel, blue mystic, amnesia haze, and fruit spirit.
3) Choose a suitable growing medium.
Soil is the best growing medium for the outdoor growing of cannabis. Discussing different soil types is already mentioned above; let me share the pros and cons of growing in-ground or containers.
a. Planting in the ground is often more forgiving and easier. You won’t have to worry as much about plants becoming root-bound or having root rot if you use good soil, and you won’t have to water as regularly. Marijuana also has direct interaction with the soil and its helpful microorganisms.
b. A large number of growers consider in-pot planting as another approach to cultivate weed
s. The portability of the plant is a huge advantage. You can move the plant from one place to another when you anticipate heavy rains.
However, potted plants are limited in their height because the containers restrict their root growth.
Potted plants even require more frequent attention than their partially underground cousins. Because these compounds travel through the substrate faster, you’ll need to water and feed the growing medium regularly. In addition, it is necessary to have a keen eye on the pH level to ensure it stays between 6.0 and 7.0 for the best nutritional absorption.
4) Plant your seeds.
Cannabis plants grow from either a seed or a clone. In doing outdoor growth, both of these could work but for now, let us consider using seeds as cloning is only an option when you already have Cannabis plants.
a. Seed germination
The natural process by which a seed sprouts and begins to grow into a new plant is germination. Germination, often known as "popping," is the first step in commencing your weed growth.
Marijuana seeds can be found in a variety of places and are of varying quality. Picking quality seeds with good genetics is the cheapest way to significantly improve your chances for great potency and/or yield. As always I recommend seedsman.com and ILGM.com.
Water, heat, and air are required for cannabis seeds to germinate. There are various ways to germinate seeds, but the most common and straightforward approach requires the following items:
- Two clean plates
- Four paper towels
- Distilled water
b. Seed transplanting
Your seed is ready for transplanting once you see the taproot. Here is a simple step-by-step procedure for relocating your germinated seed.
- Fill the little pot with soil. Make a half-inch hole in the center with a pen or pencil.
- Transfer the seed to the pot using a pair of tweezers. It’s important to be gentle with it because it’s delicate. Place it carefully in the center of the hole. After that, cover it with a thin layer of soil and make sure the seed is only a few millimeters deep.
- Water the sprout and allow it to settle.
5) Maintain your garden effectively.
This one requires a lot of time and effort from the grower. A garden that is not maintained correctly will have a minimal yield, or low cannabinoid potency which translate into poor revenue if you wish to sell your harvest. To effectively support a garden, you must be aware of the following types of stress plants are susceptible to:
a. Environmental stress – The abiotic environmental factors directly affect your plants’ health. Nutrient deficiencies are common and types of environmental stress. Lacking the right amount of nutrients harms your plants at the cellular level.
The provision of proper nutrition is the most practical thing to do to address this type of stress.
b. Mechanical stress – Mechanical stress is one of the sorts of stress that arises as soon as you enter your greenhouse or planting area. Plants are pretty susceptible to mechanical stress in general. Professional plant growers know that walking around their garden or touching their plants too much can lead to shorter plants. It can also cause tissue damage, which can serve as an entry route for pathogens.
Keeping your visit and physical touch of your plants to the minimum are effective ways of dealing with mechanical stress.
c. Water stress – This can happen when the plant receives too much or too little water, causing the stomata, which are vital organs in photosynthesis, to close and stop transpiring. Logic dictates that adequate watering is the solution to this. My article, "How Do I Often Need to Water My Cannabis Plants?" should help you in this area.
d. Heat stress – Excessive heat leads to wilting, even dying, of plants. The situation can be attributed to the fact that the soil has lost its moisture, inhibiting your plant’s growth and productivity. Because fresh plant matter has 80 percent to 95 percent water, it’s not surprising that the quality of the water you offer your plants and the amount of water you give them is critical to their health. Proper irrigation of water during summer days should be enough to shield your growth from heat stress.
6) Harvest your produce.
Harvest time is the most anticipated time of the year for cannabis growers. Reaping your marijuana growth is the day where you see the fruit of your labor and costing. It is so satisfying to witness how your investment has paid off after months of maintaining your garden.
At this point, two questions arise:
- How to tell if your marijuana is ready for harvest?
- How to harvest your marijuana?
Let us deal with each of them.
a. How to tell if your marijuana is ready for harvest?
Marijuana, as a warm-season annual, is commonly harvested during the dry months. You must know the climate of your locality and ask local growers around to know when they harvest their plants. However, these two considerations are the most effective means of telling if your cultivars are ready to harvest:
- Stigma – Changing from white to orange and curling are the telltale signs that your marijuana is harvest-ready.
- Trichomes – These appendages of the cannabis flower will turn opaque and then amber once the plant is ready for reaping.
b. How to harvest marijuana?
It is imperative to determine how do you want to approach the harvesting of your plants. Either you dry trim or wet trim your yield, you need the following tips:
- Water flush your plants a week before the harvest. Do not use nutrients during this period.
- Examine the trichomes of your growth. A handheld microscope is very helpful here. If you don’t own a magnification loupe or microscope yet I can recommend you this one.
- Have sharp cutting tools, e.g., scissors and shears.
- Do the harvest before the plants warm up. For outdoor growers, this means collecting the buds in the morning.
- Some plants may be ready to harvest compared with others if you’re growing many strains. You can cut down some of your growth and save the others for some time.
How to get rid of pests when growing cannabis outdoors?
Pests are of great concern to any plant growers. They destroy your crops which ultimately leads your capital down the drain. Across the growing cycle of your marijuana, especially during its vegetative and flowering stages, pests present a clear and present danger. Such reality behooves you to prevent and troubleshoot pests’ presence in your cannabis plants.
1) Know your plants’ pests.
Are you aware of the common cannabis pests that will destroy your hard work? It will be advantageous if you know the various bugs and diseases that could attack your plants. Here are some of them:
a. Powdery mildew
b. Root aphids
d. Broad mites
e. Spider mites
Each of the mentioned pests has its way of damaging your crops, so be sure that you understand them well.
2) Practice companion planting.
The label itself, "companion planting| provides you an idea of the logic behind it. The aim is to surround your cannabis crop with plant allies to generate various beneficial impacts, such as reduced insect and disease risk.
By introducing other plants to your cannabis garden, you facilitate robust growth of the primary plant, i.e., your cannabis. Here are some perfect plants that can make your marijuana’s companion:
f. Lemon balm
3) Utilize beneficial bugs.
By introducing beneficial insects into your cannabis gardens, you achieve an effective and efficient pest management protocol. These predators eat a variety of insects, including cannabis-eating insects that can harm your crop.
Caterpillars may cause severe harm to both the interior and exterior of your crop; therefore, adding ichneumonids (parasitic wasps) into your garden would keep their numbers down.
Aphids, spider mites, mealybugs, white fly, and other soft-bodied insects are preyed upon by ladybugs, especially when they’re in their larval stage! A ladybug can consume up to 50 aphids every day, according to the Planet Natural Research Center. That means a single ladybug can eat up to 5,000 aphids in its lifespan!
4) Apply neem oil.
In addressing pests, you might consider using natural pesticides. Neem oil is a known example of it.
The benefits of neem oil for organic cannabis growers include a pest and fungus-free garden. Neem oil is unique because it only kills the nasty pests in your garden while leaving the beneficial ones alone. With some frequent application, you suppress the infestation of spider mites and white flies, fungus gnats, and terrible nematodes. Ladybugs and butterflies, as well as bees and earthworms, remain unharmed.
Another effective insect that growers can use would be ARBICO Organics Assassin Bugs. To learn more about this useful pest terminator read this blog.