Outdoor Cannabis Growing Basics by LuckyAcres
by LuckyAcres (Check out his Instagram and Youtube for more!)
Are you ready to start growing cannabis outdoors? If you’re a wannabe grower looking for a quick and basic tutorial on how to grow weed outside, this is it. Check out these plants and learn how to grow plants just like them yourself!
Plants grown outdoors can get huge if you care for them properly
Growing auto-flowering strains can help keep plants from getting so big. This is Night Queen Auto by Dutch Passion not long before harvest.
What you need to get started growing outdoors:
Here’s a complete list of supplies you need to grow plants outdoors.
Seeds (or clones)
- You need to get your plants somewhere. If you can’t get plants locally, here’s a list of online seed sources that deliver anywhere.
Root Riot Plugs
- Seedlings get germinated in RootRiot Plugs (the extra michoryzae is nice!)
Container(s) – Air pots or Nursery Pots
After 20 years of being around black “nursery pots”, airpots have become my number one choice. Better root growth, better access to air, massive root terminals…. day and night to what I was accustomed to. Grow bags can retain salts and pests if not dealt with properly between grows. My access to sun changes thru the season so I must be able to move my ladies as needed.
- Fox Farm Ocean Forest soil does the job. There are better ones out there but I’m happy with the results for the price.
Nutrient companies seem to have reached a status quo imo. They all seem to sell different variations and packagings of the same ingredients. Buy what you can afford. Keep it simple. The sun brings the food, nutes are the vitamins. When it comes to nutrients, you can use just the “base nutrients” or you can get the whole line (which also includes additional supplements that are nice but not necessary).
I’ve had similar results using at different times the full lines of nutes by Emerald Harvest (you can use just the base nutrients or the whole line), Roots Organics (base nutrients are Buddha Grow and Bloom, and they offer the whole line in a kit) and Fox Farm (soil base nutrients or whole line)…
I swear by Foliar Essence foliar spray weekly. Mammoth P is great to lubricate the nutes highways. I use Mad Farmer Detox right before harvest, which is a cleaning/flushing solution.
PH and PPM Tester
To test the pH, I use a Bluelab PH Pen. I also use a PPM meter to measure the strength of nutrient solutions.
I use old hydrogen peroxide bottles(quart size) that I cut at the top for a wider neck. 3 or 4 rounds of these will feed one auto.
How to Start Growing Cannabis Outdoors
Follow these steps and you will be harvesting your plants in a few months:
1.) Find a growing location
When growing cannabis outdoors, it’s important to find a private spot with easy access to water and 6+ hours of direct sun each day.
I built my backyard for privacy long before growing cannabis outdoors so it was canna-ready, but if fence height and privacy are an issue I’d recommend growing autos or scrogging photos. Have a dog to keep away cats and rodents as much as possible. Be nice to your neighbors, and a little sharing goes a long way! Sunlight availability is my number one challenge. 2-3 hrs in the morning and 3-4 hrs in the afternoon. The more the better!
A private, secluded area with plenty of sunlight is perfect for growing cannabis. Make sure you have access to water!
2.) Set up your containers with soil
Nursery pots are straight forward. Fill with loose soil to the rim, bang the pot lightly 2-3 times on the ground, add soil up to the rim again and that’s it.
In airpots the soil has to be pushed lightly into the holes on the sides as it’s poured in but same tapping and refilling method works great afterward.
3.) Germinate your seeds and place in containers
I germinate seeds in RootRiot plugs (the extra michoryzae is nice!) I drop the seed in water(shot glass in a dark spot for a day or two usually) until the tap root pops out and is about half an inch long.
I move autos in their final pot as soon as they’ve germinated (5-gallon container(= #7 Airpot USA), though 10 gallons is better for the longer cycle strains and super autos.)
Photoperiod plants go to a 1-gallon pot first then 5 or 7-gallon then to their final pot. I use 15 or 20-gallon nursery pots for photos.
4.) Water plants regularly
Cannabis plants like when the root environment is slightly acidic. The optimal ph is 6-7 for cannabis plants grown in soil. It’s important to check the pH of your water because plants get nutrient deficiencies if it’s too high or too low. The city water where I live has a 6.5 ph so on plain-water days it comes out straight out of the hose.
If it’s a day I give nutrients, I mix nutrients then take ppm readings. Once everything looks good I ph the water. Nutrients tend to lower the ph, so on feeding days I usually have to adjust the ph up before giving it to the plants. Your experience may vary depending on the ph of your water source. Here’s a tutorial on how to test the ph of your water.
How often do you water the plants?
- Every other day to every 3 days
How often do you water seedlings?
- I make sure they stay moist until I know the root growth is sufficient to allow for the top to dry out between watering.
How often do you water bigger plants?
- Bigger plants, especially later in the summer get watered every day in between feedings, not a full round of water but enough to sustain them thru the heat. And it helps them use up whatever nutes leftovers were there…
How much water do you give at a time?
- Full pressure on the hose wand, set on shower, and I count until 3 or 5 seconds while I release water.
5.) Plant care
Make sure photoperiod plants don’t get light at night. A privacy fence or a hedge will block street lights pollution enough. No direct bright light at night is the ticket!
A young outdoor marijuana plant
Watch for bugs or nutrient deficiencies and react quickly to problems
- Every day, twice a day I survey my plants, if something is spotted I make sure to treat it as soon as possible. Once a week I spray a pesticide and make sure to rotate between them, spinosad, neem oil, insecticidal soaps etc… to keep any kind of invasion from happening.
- Diagnose some common plant bugs and other plant problems with this cannabis plant doctor.
Do you do any plant training like LST, supercropping, topping, etc?
- All of it! Depending on the plant or my mood I might top one and not the other but supercropping is a constant for sure.
How to deal with caterpillars
Caterpillars are one of the most common cannabis pests for outdoor growers. They will eat leaves and may even tunnel through the middle of your buds.
There’s a worm in there, that’s what this leaf tells me… Now I must remove the whole bud.
“B.T.” is an organic and OMRI certified insecticide that kills caterpillars but won’t hurt people, bees, animals or plants. It is safe to use on your plant up until the week of harvest. Get Monterey B.T. Ready-to-Use Spray on Amazon.
Anything else major to keep an eye on?
- The tip of the leaves, if they remain green you’re good, but watch for that yellowing tip, every day! Too much food! When it happens, it’s time to flush!
6.) Harvest plants when ready
When to Harvest
Plants are getting close when most trichomes are cloudy(autos and photos). At that point, I start flushing with mad farmer detox. I chop when the first ambers show up at about 10% max. Learn more about trichomes and when to harvest.
Autoflowering plants are ready to harvest on their own schedule as determined by the breeder.
For photoperiod plants the exact timing depends on your local latitude, but are typically ready to harvest in mid to late fall. Harvest here runs from mid-September to early November for those late sativas.
How to Dry and Cure Buds
My methods remain the same for autos and photos. (Here’s an alternative guide)
- Hang for 10 days at 70F and 60% humidity
- Dry trim
- Store in brown paper bags for another 7-10 days
- Store in glass jars with a 62% humidity pack
That’s it! A quick and dirty tutorial that will get you all the way to your first outdoor cannabis harvest!
More from LuckyAcres
Check out more pictures and videos by LuckyAcres on Instagram and Youtube.
Are you ready to start growing cannabis outdoors? If you're a new grower looking for a quick and basic tutorial on how to grow weed outside, this is it!
An intro to outdoor cannabis cultivation
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- How to grow marijuana outdoors
- Choosing the best site for outdoor cannabis growth
- Planning your garden
- Greenhouse basics
- How to grow bigger buds outdoors: tips for success
Outdoor cultivators utilize the best mother nature has to offer in hopes of producing the best possible harvest. Many cannabis users agree that the best marijuana they’ve ever experienced has been grown outdoors under the full spectrum of natural sunlight. That unique spectrum creates a greater variance of cannabinoids and terpenes than artificial lighting, while indoor grows are often aimed at producing higher levels of THC, in particular.
Cannabis has been cultivated outdoors for thousands of years, but before you go putting a seedling into the soil, it’s best to know how the process works and under what conditions outdoor growth is most successful.
Growing outdoors is a great option for those new to cannabis cultivation and wanting to learn how to plant marijuana or people seeking a more natural environment for their plants. Outdoor gardens are cost-effective, do not need expensive environmental controls, and require few resources to get started.
When growing outdoors, the sun’s full spectrum of light makes a world of difference. Each part of the light spectrum contributes to the growth and development of the molecules that make up the resulting plant, including terpenes and cannabinoids. Plus, without the constraints of ceiling height and indoor square footage, plants can really spread their wings, so to speak. Outdoor growers often choose this cultivation method in order to maximize natural light exposure and their yearly harvest.
However, outdoors cultivators must also battle the natural elements, which can potentially diminish the overall yield or reduce the quality of the crop. The many factors that outdoor growers must take into consideration include diminishing light on a cloudy or rainy day, the potential to be invaded by a wide variety of pests, and the limitation to one growing season per year.
How to grow marijuana outdoors
To grow cannabis outdoors, the bare minimum required is basic gardening tools, soil, pots, a hose with access to water, and a spot in your backyard that receives ample sunlight.
Using mother nature to cultivate cannabis
Cannabis is a hardy plant that has adapted to climates all over the world. From the cool and arid mountains of Afghanistan to the humid regions of Colombia, the plant has been forced to adapt over time to build its defenses against a host of conditions. But cannabis is still susceptible to extreme weather conditions. Whether it is heavy winds breaking branches or excessive rain causing mold, the great outdoors presents challenges to growers that can be avoided with sufficient planning.
Becoming intimately familiar with your local climate and seasons is one of the most important steps in producing high-quality outdoor marijuana. Before you grow, you’ll need to know the ideal temperature your plant needs in order to thrive, the season’s photoperiod — the amount and intensity of light available through the duration of the growing season, the best site, and the optimal timing of your planting and harvesting.
Some cannabis genetics have adapted to specific climates and are capable of growing more easily in certain conditions than others, so cultivators pay very close attention to the cultivars, more commonly referred to as strains, that they choose. A little research will go a long way in ensuring you have a successful harvest. While cultivars may vary, there are some general rules of thumb that will be useful no matter which cultivar you choose.
Daytime temperatures between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit, or 23.9 to 25.4 degrees Celsius, are ideal for cannabis, while temperatures above 88 degrees Fahrenheit (31.1 degrees Celsius) or below 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15.6 degrees Celsius) can delay growth. Cannabis is considered heat-tolerant, but sustained highs and extreme lows will usually lead to complications that could eventually kill your plants.
In the Northern Hemisphere, cannabis can be planted in early to mid-spring and usually harvested in mid-fall, depending on the cultivar. In the Southern Hemisphere, the growing season will be reversed, planting in early to mid-fall and harvesting in the middle of spring.
During the first half of the season, the daytime period increases until the summer solstice, which occurs in the Northern Hemisphere on or around June 21 and in the Southern Hemisphere on or around December 21. While the daylight hours increase, the plant’s vegetative stage takes place. During vegetation, the plant will develop the roots and stems that will serve as the foundation for growth until flowering.
After the solstice, the available daylight hours decrease, allowing the plant to naturally transition into the flowering period. Cannabis is a short-day plant, meaning it will begin to flower as the nights get longer and the hours of sunlight decrease.
Most cultivars will begin to flower once they receive fewer than 15 hours of sunlight per day. The latitude of your garden has a direct impact on how many hours a day your plants receive light.
It is important to plan your planting schedule to ensure your plants are able to finish their flowering period before the cold, rainy fall weather is able to affect them.
Choosing the best site for outdoor cannabis growth
Choosing the best site for your garden is another important factor that can affect the yield and quality of your plants. Cultivators in the Northern Hemisphere should attempt to place their plants in an area with southern exposure to ensure their plants are getting the most available sunlight by facing the sun’s archway near the equator. The opposite is true for the Southern Hemisphere.
When possible, use natural structures and formations in your garden as windbreaks to prevent excessive stress on your plants that could lead to branches breaking.
If you live in a climate with exceptionally hot and sunny days, shade cloth can be used to prevent your plants from overheating. In cold areas, natural enclosures and cement or brick walls can be used to help retain any available heat to keep your plants warm.
Depending on your location, you may need to plan for rain. In most regions, the rainy season is typically aligned with the end of the flowering stage and the start of the harvesting period, but this may not always be the case. Rain can be detrimental to an outdoor flowering crop and being prepared to cover or move plants can help ensure a successful harvest. If it does rain on your plants, make sure to immediately shake off any excess water, as excessive moisture can lead to the formation of mold, which can ruin your harvest.
Planning your garden
Seeds vs. clones
Deciding whether to start with seeds or clones will change the timing and manner by which your plants are introduced to the outdoors.
Plants grown from seeds are typically heartier and more vigorous than clones, as they produce a sturdier taproot that clones are not able to replicate. The vigor that comes from deep roots can be an advantage when dealing with harsh environmental conditions and pest pressures. The disadvantages of growing seeds is the additional attention required to germinate the seedlings, the necessity to eliminate any males before they pollinate the females, and the high variability in growth characteristics that results from their genes.
Plants grown from seeds are typically heartier and more vigorous than clones, as they produce a sturdier taproot that clones are not able to replicate. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
If you decide to use seeds, make sure you start them about a month before you would typically start clones to give them time to germinate and adequately develop their taproot.
There are also many advantages and disadvantages of using clones. They can be found at your local dispensary, are from a proven genetic lineage, and typically do well outdoors, making them the perfect choice for inexperienced growers. On the other hand, clones develop a fibrous root system, as opposed to the deep taproots that are developed with seeds. Fibrous root systems can reduce their ability to deal with environmental stress and predatory insects.
Whether starting from seeds or clones, many cultivators start growing their plants indoors to ensure the plants are not exposed to excessive weather conditions as they develop their initial root system. The plants are transitioned outdoors when the weather and photoperiods, or the times in which a plant is exposed to light, are ideal. Extending the indoor vegetative growth period can help increase yields and allow growers time to select the best plants to be moved outdoors.
Media and containers
There are many options when it comes to types of soil and how you can plant your cannabis plants outdoors.
Quality soil should be dark, rich in nutrients, and have a light and fluffy texture. The structure of your soil should be capable of retaining water while also allowing for excess drainage. Organic potting soil blends from your local garden center will do just fine, but more advanced growers prefer to blend their own organic soil from scratch. The soil itself should be slightly acidic with a pH of around 6. This can be tested with a soil pH meter or test kit.
Container gardens can be convenient as they can be moved around the garden to maximize sunlight or protect them from harsh conditions Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Container gardens can be convenient as they can be moved around the garden to maximize sunlight or protect them from harsh conditions such as rain, heavy winds, or extreme temperatures.
Avoid clay pots as they can be costly, heavy, and retain heat that could dry out the plant’s soil and roots. Fabric pots are the least expensive and most effective solution, as they allow for ample drainage and plenty of oxygen to get to the roots. Plastic containers are also light and inexpensive, but tend to retain more heat than fabric pots. Flowering plants need a container that is at least 5 gallons, or 18.9 liters, or larger to prevent the plants from outgrowing their containers and becoming rootbound.
Planting directly into the ground or a raised bed requires a bit more preparation, but has its benefits as well. Without a container to restrict growth, roots can grow deep and thick to support a strong plant. The added surface area also allows the plant to access a greater quantity of nutrients and water in the soil, compared with a container garden. The major downside is that the plants cannot be moved and could require additional structures to protect them in the case of extreme weather.
Cannabis requires more nutrients than many of the common plants you may have in your garden. Quality soil contains enough organic nutrients to start the growth cycle, but as your cannabis plant grows and transitions into flowering, it may deplete the available nutrients and require additional fertilizers.
The three primary nutrients that are required for cultivating marijuana are: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
During the vegetative phase, the plants need more nitrogen in order to create the roots and leaves that serve as the base for flowering. During the start of the flowering cycle, the plants will require more phosphorus and potassium than nitrogen. Towards the end of the flowering cycles, once the majority of the nitrogen has been depleted, the plants will focus their attention on using the remaining nutrients. The lack of nitrogen is largely responsible for the vibrant purple and orange hues that can be seen on large fan leaves and throughout the plants’ colas.
Avoid all-in-one fertilizers as they can be too high in nitrogen for the flowering cycle and damage any beneficial micro-organisms that may be present in the soil. It is suggested to choose a line of nutrients that is created specifically for cannabis, and to use its suggested feeding charts to avoid overfeeding or underfeeding. Organic sources of nutrients are usually preferred, as they are a great source of beneficial microbes, but may take longer to break down and become available to the plant. Both types of nutrients can be found in dry, pre-blended powders or liquid emulsions, but can also be made from scratch with the right ingredients. Organic compost tea, which includes nutrient rich ingredients, like molasses and earthworm casting compost, is a popular brew for outdoor cannabis farmers.
Organic sources of nutrients include alfalfa meal, bone meal, kelp meal, bat guano, fish emulsion, dolomite, and earthworm castings. Each contains different ratios of nutrients that can be used for different phases of the plants’ growth cycle.
Watering and feeding plants
The amount of water a plant needs largely depends on its size, the size of its container, soil type, and general environmental conditions such as the weather and the intensity of the sun. Larger plants and warmer environments tend to use more water than smaller plants and cooler weather. The amount of water will change throughout a plant’s cycle.
During the vegetative stage, your plants should be watered thoroughly, while waiting to water again until the top 1 inch, or 2.54 centimeters, of soil has dried out. This can be every day or every four days, depending on conditions, but the time between waterings will become shorter as the plant grows its roots. Container gardens tend to dry out faster than soil beds, so they’ll need to be watered more frequently.
Wilting plants and dry soil are a direct sign that the plants need water. Droopy leaves along with wet soil are a sign of overwatering. Both are common mistakes and can be corrected with some practice.
For a small garden, hand-watering is the easiest, cheapest way to water plants. It also allows you to get familiar with each cultivar’s needs and gives each plant the exact amount of water it needs. Irrigation systems can be convenient for a large number of plants or for times when you cannot be in your garden.
Pest and weed control
Pests and wild plants are an inevitable occurrence when cultivating outdoors. Most issues can be avoided with proper planning. Clearing a buffer area around you plants can go a long way, but your first line of defense is a healthy plant that can defend itself naturally.
Pests come in many forms, from large deer and gophers to small slugs and spider mites. Larger animals and pets can be kept out of the garden with fencing, while gopher wire beneath your soil beds can keep rats and gophers from eating the plants’ roots. Weeds will not damage cannabis, but they will compete for the nutrients in the soil and reduce the quality and yield of your crops. A light layer of mulch on top of your soil can prevent additional weeds from sprouting in the middle of your cycle.
Avoid spraying synthetic insecticides on your cannabis plants as further research is needed to determine the health effects of smoking plants treated with synthetic chemicals. Organic pesticide and insecticide solutions can be effective if used properly. If you can avoid it, it is always best to not spray anything on your plants while they are flowering.
Beneficial insects, fungi, and bacteria can also be used to protect your plants from their parasitic or predatory counterparts. Jumping spiders, ladybugs, and other native, beneficial predatory insects can clear your crop of insects such as aphids and whiteflies. When sourcing beneficial insects, fungi, or bacteria, it’s important to research those which are native to your region.
Even if it is legal to grow your cannabis outdoors, you should still take some precautions to hide the plants from public view. You can grow your cannabis plants among other common plants in your garden and try to hide them in plain sight. Cannabis can easily grow taller than your average fence, though. Training techniques can help keep your plants shorter. The fewer people who know you are growing cannabis, the better, the ideal situation is to have your grow on a piece of tucked away land so plants can truly flourish.
Greenhouses can be a great middle ground between the complexities of an indoor setup and the uncertainty of growing outdoors. They provide ample protection from the elements and use far fewer resources than an indoor grow. Greenhouses can be more costly than an outdoor garden and require more planning, but they also allow you to extend the growing season considerably.
Greenhouses also offer growers the ability to harvest more than one cycle per year if they are equipped with a light deprivation system. These systems allow growers to control the hours of sunlight their plants receive, much like turning lights on and off in an indoor garden, by covering the greenhouse with a black tarp that deprives the plants of sunlight.
Greenhouse structures range from inexpensive polyvinyl chloride (PVC) tubes, often called “hoop houses,” to highly engineered, fully automated, and purpose-built steel greenhouses. Due to their efficiency, greenhouses are quickly becoming the preferred growing method for many large-scale cultivators.
How to grow bigger buds outdoors: tips for success
Here are a few marijuana growing tips to get the most out of your growing experience:
The smallest adjustments can make all the difference — planting a week earlier, a week later, watering less, watering more, etc.
Quality soil is crucial to the success of your crop and one of the few factors that you have control of when outdoors.
Timing is key. A short vegetative phase can cause cannabis plants to flower early, while a long vegetative phase can prevent your plants from finishing their flowering cycle if the weather takes a turn for the worse. The Farmer’s Almanac is a reliable source for planning around the seasons and preparing your crop for success.
Practice makes perfect, so always keep a grow journal and make sure to record any mistakes and wins along the way. Maintaining a record can help ensure you will have successful future harvests.
An intro to outdoor cannabis cultivation Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents How to grow marijuana outdoors Choosing the best site for outdoor