Growing cannabis outdoors is an age-old practice, dating back thousands of years. Outdoor cultivators utilize Mother Nature’s gifts, including the full spectrum of natural sunlight, which creates a greater variance of cannabinoids and terpenes than artificial lighting. However, it’s essential to understand the process and how to make the most of nature’s offerings, including managing unwanted challenges like pests and weeds.
Indoor vs. Outdoor Growing: A Comparison
Outdoor growing offers more space, sunshine, and better ventilation, but it also presents challenges like extreme weather conditions. Indoor growing provides shelter and control but usually results in less space and the potential for massive yields. Understanding the differences between indoor and outdoor growing, including the unique spectrum of natural sunlight, can help you make an informed decision.
Benefits of Growing Cannabis Outdoors
Cultivating cannabis outdoors offers several advantages that can make it an attractive option for both novice and experienced growers. Here’s a detailed look at the benefits:
1. Natural Sunlight
- Full Spectrum: The sun provides a full spectrum of light, which is essential for plant growth. This spectrum helps in the development of a greater variance of cannabinoids and terpenes, contributing to the unique flavor and potency of the cannabis.
- Energy Efficiency: Utilizing the sun’s energy is free, unlike artificial indoor lighting, which can be costly. This makes outdoor growing a more economical choice.
- Environmental Impact: By relying on natural sunlight, outdoor growing reduces the carbon footprint, making it a more eco-friendly option.
2. Space and Freedom to Grow
- Room for Expansion: Outdoor growing offers more space, allowing the plants to grow larger and more robust. This can lead to higher yields.
- Natural Growth Patterns: Plants can grow freely, following their natural growth patterns, without the constraints of indoor space limitations.
3. Water Efficiency
- Utilizing Rainwater: Outdoor growing allows the use of natural rainwater, reducing the need for manual watering and conserving water resources.
- Irrigation Options: Various natural and sustainable irrigation methods can be employed, such as drip irrigation, further enhancing water efficiency.
4. Soil Quality and Nutrient Availability
- Rich Soil: Outdoor soil can be rich in natural nutrients, providing a healthy growing medium for the plants.
- Composting Opportunities: Outdoor growing allows for the integration of composting, enhancing soil quality, and providing essential nutrients organically.
5. Ventilation and Air Quality
- Natural Airflow: The natural airflow in outdoor settings helps in maintaining optimal humidity levels, reducing the risk of mold and diseases.
- Enhanced Resilience: Exposure to natural elements can make plants more resilient, enhancing their ability to withstand pests and diseases.
6. Sustainability and Regenerative Practices
- Eco-Friendly: Outdoor growing aligns with sustainable and regenerative agricultural practices, contributing to soil health and ecosystem balance.
- Biodiversity: It allows for companion planting and integration with other crops, promoting biodiversity and a more balanced ecosystem.
- Lower Startup Costs: Outdoor growing generally requires fewer initial investments in equipment and infrastructure compared to indoor growing.
- Reduced Ongoing Expenses: The reliance on natural resources like sunlight and rainwater minimizes ongoing operational costs.
8. Unique Flavor Profiles
- Terroir Influence: Similar to wine, outdoor-grown cannabis can develop unique flavor profiles influenced by the local soil, climate, and environment. This can result in a more diverse and rich array of flavors and aromas.
9. Therapeutic Connection with Nature
- Gardening Therapy: The act of cultivating plants outdoors provides a therapeutic connection with nature, enhancing mental well-being.
- Community Engagement: Outdoor growing can foster community engagement and shared learning experiences among growers.
Choosing the Perfect Location
Selecting the ideal location for growing cannabis outdoors is one of the most important considerations to ensure the success of your harvest. Here’s what you need to consider:
- Temperature Range: Cannabis thrives in temperatures between 70-85°F (20-30 °C) during the day. Cooler temperatures at night are tolerable, but anything below 45 °F (7 °C) can hinder growth.
- Sunlight Exposure: A spot with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight and 5-6 hours of indirect sunlight is essential. Sunlight stimulates growth, while darkness regulates flowering cycles.
- Soil Quality: Blending your soil medium with perlite can improve drainage. The choice between soil or coco coir depends on your environment, with coco coir being preferable in hot climates.
- Space Considerations: Whether you grow in containers or directly in the ground, space considerations are vital. Planting in the ground allows for maximum size and yield, while containers can restrict growth if needed.
Genetics: Selecting the Right Strain
Consider your growing environment and desired effects when choosing a strain. Some cannabis genetics have adapted to specific climates, making them more suitable for certain conditions. Researching the cultivars and understanding their adaptability to your region can lead to a successful harvest.
Here are some specific cannabis strains that are known for their suitability for outdoor cultivation:
- Caramel 100% Feminized: Comprising over 80% indica, this strain is well-suited for outdoor cultivation. It serves as an excellent option for those seeking early harvests in an outdoor setting.
- Super Lemon Haze: A recipient of numerous accolades, Super Lemon Haze stands out as a sativa-heavy hybrid, marked by its delightful citrus flavor and the qualities of an exquisite hybrid.
- Critical 100% Feminized: This evenly balanced hybrid strain exhibits the vigor and stability of a sativa plant, yet its flowering stage reveals its indica lineage. It’s versatile, thriving in various climates including arid, cold, rainy, and temperate zones.
- White Widow: An iconic strain, White Widow, is a sativa-leaning hybrid that is beginner-friendly and offers growers attractive, crystalline yields.
- Amnesia 100% Feminized: A predominantly sativa strain, Amnesia has been blended with Afghan to accelerate its flowering time. This plant can effortlessly grow to heights exceeding 2.5 meters, requiring minimal attention.
- Super Silver Haze: As a pure sativa, you would expect it to be a great outdoor grower, which it is. Super Silver Haze is mould and pest resistant but still requires a watchful eye when cultivated outdoors.
- Blueberry: A classic blend of Afghani, Thai and Purple Thai genetics, Blueberry is a chunky, flavourful sun lover that will thrive under full sun in a cool climate.
- Gorilla Girl®: A sativa-biased strain, Gorilla Girl® grows vigorously, forming an open structure with sturdy branches capable of enduring adverse weather. It also exhibits natural resistance to dampness and decay.
- Afghani: This is a pure indica with genetics reaching back to Afghanistan’s famous Hindu Kush region. Afghani is a short and squat producer that is easy to grow and oozes with resin as it finishes up.
- Skunk #1: Renowned as a classic in the world of outdoor cannabis, Skunk #1 is a hybrid leaning towards indica, exhibiting traits from both indica and sativa families.
- Jack Herer: Another early finisher, Jack Herer is an absolute favourite amongst outdoor growers. As a sativa-dominant hybrid (60%), Jack Herrer plants grow tall and produce bountiful harvests when grown in a dry and cool climate.
- Peyote Cookies: Predominantly indica, this strain is highly adaptable to various conditions, ranking it among the most resilient strains. Its genetic composition enables it to grow robustly and compactly, withstanding rain and forceful winds with ease.
- OG Kush: Hailing from Florida, OG Kush is a classic hybrid kush strain drawing on Chemdawg genetics from California and a Dutch seed bank’s Hindu Kush variety.
Germination: The Beginning of Life
Germination is the process by which a plant grows from a seed, and it’s the first step in cultivating cannabis. Germination requires darkness, humidity, and moisture. Growers in warm climates can start directly outdoors, while those in colder regions may begin indoors. The seedling stage lasts around two weeks, with consistent lighting and humidity levels. Seeds often produce sturdier plants with deep taproots, while clones may offer a proven genetic lineage. Here’s how to germinate cannabis seeds in a few simple steps:
- Choose Your Seeds: Opt for feminized seeds, which are guaranteed to produce buds, or specialty strains like heat-tolerant Sativa varieties.
- Prepare the Seeds: Place the seeds on a moist paper towel inside a plastic bag. Let the bag sit in a sunny spot for a few days until a root emerges from the seed.
- Plant the Seeds: Once the taproot is visible, poke a hole in the soil of a 2-inch container. Place the seed in the hole with the taproot facing down and lightly cover it with soil.
- Harden the Seedlings: Gradually introduce the seedlings to the outdoors by moving them outside for sunlight and fresh air in the early mornings and late afternoons for a month. After acclimation, they should be ready for transplanting outdoors.
Maintaining the Plant: Watering and Soil Management
Watering your cannabis plants requires a delicate balance, and there are various methods to achieve this.
One such method is the wick system, a passive hydroponic system where nutrient solution travels up the wick and into the growing medium.
This system can be particularly useful for outdoor cannabis growing as it ensures a constant supply of water and nutrients to the plants, reducing the risk of under-watering.
However, care must be taken to avoid over-watering, which can be a common issue with wick systems.
Quality soil is essential for growing healthy cannabis plants outdoors. The soil should be dark, rich in nutrients, and have a light and fluffy texture. The pH level should stay within the range of 6.0–7.0.
To improve drainage, it can be beneficial to add 30% perlite to aerate and loosen the soil. Avoid using “Miracle-Gro” soil or any soil that has “extended-release” nutrients, as these can cause deficiencies or burn your cannabis plants during the flowering stage.
For those aiming to elevate their soil management practices, crafting a specialized composted super soil for cannabis plants is an option.
Though this method requires additional preparation time, it may be a more straightforward process for those experienced in composting soil.
Enriched with microorganisms, composted super soil aids in pH regulation and nutrient absorption for plant roots. Some cultivators argue that this soil enhancement can heighten the flavor and aroma of cannabis by stimulating the plant to produce increased quantities of terpenes and terpenoids.
Choosing the right fertilizers is crucial for an outdoor cannabis grow. Organic fertilizers can be a great choice as they slowly release nutrients into the soil, providing a steady supply for the plants.
Examples of organic fertilizers include bone meal, fish emulsion, and worm castings. These natural options can enhance soil structure and promote healthy microbial life.
Mycorrhizal fungi play a vital role in nutrient absorption. These fungi form a symbiotic relationship with the plant roots, increasing the root’s ability to absorb water and nutrients, including phosphorus and nitrogen.
Incorporating mycorrhizal fungi into your soil can enhance plant growth and resilience against diseases.
Irrigation System and Container Choices
Consider setting up an irrigation system for efficiency. This can help in maintaining the right amount of water for your plants and reduce the risk of overwatering. Pots allow easy movement, while raised beds enable companion planting. Common cannabis containers include classic plastic pots, terracotta pots, smart pots (fabric pots), and air pots.
Maintenance: More Than Just Watering
When it comes to maintenance, it’s not just about watering and waiting. Here’s what you need to know:
- Pruning: Think of pruning like giving your plants a haircut. By snipping away dead or yellowing leaves, you’re allowing the plant to focus its energy on new growth. Plus, it helps with airflow, keeping those pesky molds and pests at bay.
- Weeding: Weeds are more than just an eyesore; they’re competition. Regularly plucking them ensures that your cannabis doesn’t have to fight for nutrients, water, or sunlight.
- Pest and Disease Monitoring: Keep a watchful eye on your plants. Regular check-ups can help you spot potential problems early, allowing for quick action and minimal damage.
Training Techniques: Shaping Your Success
Training your plants might sound fancy, but it’s all about guiding them to grow in a way that maximizes their potential. Here’s a look at some popular techniques:
- Low Stress Training (LST): Imagine gently guiding your plants to spread out, so every part gets a fair share of sunlight. That’s LST for you.
- Screen of Green (SCROG): Picture weaving branches through a screen to create a flat canopy. It’s like giving all the buds VIP access to light, encouraging uniform growth.
- Sea of Green (SOG): Ever thought of growing many small plants instead of a few big ones? The SOG method is like creating a dense, uniform canopy that looks like a lush “sea” of green.
- Topping: It’s like encouraging your plant to grow bushier by snipping off the top. More branches mean more bud sites.
- Super Cropping: This one’s for the adventurous gardeners. By pinching and bending stems, you’re making small breaks that can lead to thicker, stronger branches.
Preventing Pests and Protecting Against Pollination
Manage pests using predatory insects, companion planting, and beneficial fungi. Erect physical barriers to prevent larger animals. Protect against pollination to produce seedless, potent buds. Clearing a buffer area around your plants and using organic pesticides can prevent most pest issues.
Outdoor Grower’s Calendar: Timing is Everything
Aligning your growing schedule with the lunar cycle and seasonal changes can enhance growth. Consider factors like germination, sexing, pruning, topping, training, and harvest timing. Understanding the season’s photoperiod and planning around temperature, season, and light is vital.
Harvest: The Reward for Your Hard Work
Harvesting occurs between mid-September and mid-November. It’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labor, with careful consideration of weather conditions and lunar phases. Planning for rain and shaking off excess water can prevent mold formation.
Cultivating cannabis outdoors is an art filled with joy and challenges. By embracing the tips and insights in this guide, you can elevate your outdoor cannabis growing experience. Quality soil, proper timing, and practice can lead to successful harvests.
FAQs About Growing Cannabis Outdoors
Q1: Is cannabis better indoor or outdoor?
Both indoor and outdoor growing have their advantages. Indoor growing offers more control over the environment, while outdoor growing leverages natural sunlight and can be more cost-effective.
Q2: Does cannabis grow in hot weather?
Yes, cannabis can grow in hot weather, but it requires careful management. Extreme heat can stress the plants, so providing shade and adequate water is essential.
Q3: What is the best weather to grow cannabis?
Cannabis thrives in a mild climate with temperatures ranging from 70-85°F (21-30°C) during the day. Adequate sunlight, humidity control, and protection from extreme weather conditions are also vital.
Q4: How hot is too hot for cannabis?
Temperatures above 86°F (30°C) can be too hot for cannabis, leading to slowed growth and potential damage. Consistent exposure to high temperatures may cause long-term harm to the plants.
Q5: Is sunlight better for cannabis?
Sunlight provides a full spectrum of light that is beneficial for cannabis growth, making it generally preferable for outdoor growing. However, indoor growers can replicate this spectrum with specialized grow lights, allowing for year-round cultivation.