Are you interested in growing cannabis outdoors this summer? Find out what you’ll need to get started and how to get the best yield from your plants. How to Grow Marijuana Outdoors – Growing weed or growing marijuana is achievable in most habitable places around the world. Solely planting some cannabis seeds and waiting for them to grow just won't cut it (pun intended). Follow these 9 crucial tips for growing outdoors!
Growing Marijuana From Seed Outdoors
Article written by
Dipak Hemraj Head of Research and Education
Dipak Hemraj is a published author, grower, product maker, and Leafwell’s resident cannabis expert. From botany & horticulture to culture and economics, he wishes to help educate the public on why cannabis is medicine (or a “pharmacy in a plant”) and how it can be used to treat a plethora of health problems. Dipak wants to unlock the power of the plant, and see if there are specific cannabinoid-terpene-flavonoid profiles suitable for different conditions.
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How to Grow Marijuana Outdoors – Growing Weed
With marijuana being legalized or decriminalized in a number of US states and other countries around the world, there are many people who wish to grow their own weed. Indoor hydroponic systems are becoming easier to master and can produce some very satisfying yields, but there is something about letting cannabis plants flourish in an outdoor environment that can be incredibly rewarding. Left to grow naturally marijuana can produce even better yields than indoors and flavors are often said to be more intricate. For those people who prefer things more natural, it is also possible to grow marijuana outdoors in a 100% organic way.
So, for all you budding guerilla gardeners out there, this guide will cover the basics, giving you all the information you need to start growing your own top grade weed outdoors.
Lots of people think that you require a hot, sub tropical climate to grow marijuana outdoors. This is not the case. If you think about the high areas of Central Asia where cannabis originally comes from, the climate can be harsh and often cold at altitude. There are also cannabis strains bred specifically for outdoors in colder climates, such as Early Skunk. Strain selection is a crucial part of a successful outdoor grow, read about it more in the section about cannabis strain selection. With some care and planning you can grow cannabis outdoors from the hottest tropical regions to as far north as Alaska or Scandinavia.
Selecting the right site for your outdoor marijuana grow is of the utmost importance. When considering a potential site you will need to think about the basic requirements of your marijuana plants as well as how you are going to get to and from the site and whether the plants are going to be hidden from view. We have a full section on outdoor growing site selection.
Even though you may live in a place where it is not illegal to grow marijuana outdoors, weather you are growing in your backyard or elsewhere stealth is still one of your primary concerns. Growing marijuana is still a contentious issue to many people, possibly including your neighbors, and some people just don’t like it. There’s always the danger of theft too. Any smoker who happened to stumble upon your lovely ripe plants while out walking in the woods or seeing it over your back fence one day might be likely to help himself to some. If you are growing in your garden, after you consider the best locations in terms of sunlight start thinking how you will conceal the plants. Usually the best way to do this is with other plants such as tomatoes as they grow quickly like your weed will. If you are growing in the woods consider locations that are far away from tracks or paths used by walkers. You might need to get your hiking boots on and head across country, away from people. Dog walkers and hikers get everywhere so look out for signs of their passing and look for places that they might think too awkward to get to. If you live somewhere where there is dense ground cover, it is sometimes possible to worm your way under the foliage to clearings within. Using ‘fox holes’ like this can be an excellent idea as their entrances are easily concealed with branches and leaves. Choosing a site near a stream or brook means that it may be accessed via the water. This is a good way to avoid leaving paths or tracks that clearly show to others where you have been. Farmer’s fields can be useful if you know the area well and know which bits are regularly visited and which aren’t. Field margins are often overlooked and can provide good locations for outdoor grows. However, be careful if there is any chemical spraying going on in the area. Industrial sites should not be ignored either, especially derelict or run down sites. Sometimes these locations can go for years without being visited at all. They often contain hidden away bits of scrap land that are all but forgotten by everybody. There is a more extensive guide to picking a spot in the woods in our guerilla grow guide.
Once you are satisfied with the security of your chosen site, you will have to then consider if it offers all of your plants’ natural requirements. The first of these is sunlight. The more sunlight your cannabis plant gets, the more it will grow. As an absolute minimum, cannabis plants require around six hours of sunlight per day. More would be much better. When selecting a site try to envisage or calculate with a compass how much light it will get throughout the day, and throughout the summer. Note where the sun rises and sets and imagine the arc that it makes, both now and at high summer and into fall. Will your plants get enough light throughout their entire life cycle? Watch out for surrounding plants and if they will shade out your babies now and in the future when they grow, can you cut them back. Remember, if you are checking a site out in spring, there will be a whole lot more foliage come the summer.
If you live in a climate with adequate rainfall then water shouldn’t be too much of a problem. However, if you live somewhere that experiences long dry seasons then a good supply of water is crucial. Near to a river or stream is ideal, but remember that they may flood in spring or autumn. Is there a strand line that shows you where the high water has been? If you are able to, situate a water tank nearby on a slow drip or try stashing some large containers of water nearby so that you can water the plants easily in times of drought. Be sure to keep an eye on the weather forecasts during your grow. You should know if any adverse weather like a late or early cold snap or long days of hot weather – know beforehand and not get caught out by surprise to find your babies dead.
Check the soil of the site first. Good soil should compact when you squeeze it, be dark brown in color and but should break apart again with only a small amount of pressure. You should know good soil when you see it really; if you have any doubts take a look online for what it should look like. You need the soil to be well drained, try to avoid places with patches of standing water, clay or rocky soil. Cannabis does not like being waterlogged. Look at what else is already growing at the site. If there are plenty of grasses, weeds and nettles then chances are that the location is already blessed with decent soil and water. A soil pH meter is relatively cheap to buy. This is not essential, but the more effort you put in now, the better your weed will be. Cannabis likes a very slightly acidic soil, pH 5.5 -6.5 is ideal. You will be very lucky if you find the ideal soil, but don’t despair. It is easy to improve soil, try digging in a mix of some potting compost, well rotted manure and Perlite or vermiculite to improve drainage and aeration. Cannabis roots need plenty of oxygen so try to lighten heavy, compacted soils. Having selected your site, clear the area completely of weeds. When your plants are young they can easily be swallowed up by indigenous plants so you need to give them a head start. If you are able, dig a hole out for each plant approximately two feet deep and two feet in diameter and line the base with two inches of gravel to enable good drainage. Now fill the rest of the hole with your prepared soil/compost mix. This is a lot of work and to fill it with good potting mix and gravel will take plenty of trips with a heavy backpack. Your site is now ready to take your plants but you still have some more decisions to make.
Indica or Sativa
As stated earlier, the cannabis strain that you choose is going to be crucial to the success of your grow. This is an area where it is worth doing a bit of research. If you live somewhere frost free with an incredibly long growing season you can pretty much choose whatever strain you want. This includes nearly all the indicas and the old school sativas, like the Hazes which have a long flowering period but which can produce immense yields. Climates which are less tropical, but otherwise sunny, like the Mediterranean or the southern states, have less choice. However, you can still grow most indicas and, with modern breeding techniques, you can grow some hybridized sativas such as Silver Haze #9, which is a Haze with a shorter flowering cycle.
Those millions of us without the luxury of such an environment, who live in colder, damper environments, need to be a bit pickier. Although it is mostly indicas that can be grown in these environments, again, some modern hybrid strains allow you to get sativas such as Bangi Haze. Or, you could just work with what you have and select a good indica strain such as Sensi Star, or Holland’s Hope which has been specifically bred for growing outdoors in northern climates.
Autoflowering cannabis strains
The ever increasing amount of autoflowering cannabis strains available is of great interest to the outdoor cannabis grower. Their fast finishing time ensures missing any untimely frosts and their diminutive stature makes stealth much easier. Auto strains get their autoflowering qualities from Cannabis ruderalis genes and many of them are suitable for growing outdoors in cooler conditions. Consider Auto Frisian Dew or Snow Ryder.
Of course, we are not all granted the luxury of being able to pick and choose which strains we grow. Lots and lots of people have great success with growing seeds found in bags of purchased weed. You might not even know what type of cannabis it is, but it’s always worth giving it a go. Nothing ventured – nothing gained. If you do grow bag weed try and identify it as soon as you can. If it grows with thin fingered, light green leaves and long internode lengths it could be sativa dominant and take longer to finish flowering. Dark, thick fingered leaves and a short, squat structure can indicate an indica dominant plant which should flower more quickly.
Clones or seeds?
If you have access to clones then this is nearly always the best decision to make. Clones have guaranteed genetic traits, particularly if you only require female plants. They also give you a head start over seeds by being more developed with existing leaves and a root system. On the other hand, buying seeds from a shop or online resource gives you much more choice over which strain you grow. Buy your cannabis seeds from a reputable source and try to buy the best you can afford. If you do use clones, be sure treat them with care and make sure their roots are properly developed before planting them out.
If you are growing your plants from seed you have the choice of either germinating them at home and then planting them out, or sowing them directly in their final location. The choice is yours and each has its benefits. Germinating them at home gives you more control over the very delicate early stages whereas sowing them directly avoids possible damage when transporting and transplanting them. There are a number of ways of germinating cannabis seeds. Everyone has their own way of doing it. Perhaps the simplest way is to place your seeds between layers of moist (not soaking) tissue paper and put them somewhere warm and dark. Your seeds should crack their shells in just a few days. Let your seedlings develop a small web of roots before potting them on. When they have, get a small pot full of fine potting compost and make a hole in it with the end of a pencil. Carefully place your young seedling into it, making sure that the roots go down into the hole. Sometimes the roots become woven into the fabric of the tissue paper. If this is the case, do not risk damaging them by pulling them apart. Simply cut a small circle out of the paper, around the roots, and put the plant in the pot with the paper still attached. Some people just plant the seeds directly into a small pot and let them sprout naturally. If you do this, try soaking the seed for 24 hours before planting to soften up the shell. If you are going to sow your seeds directly into the ground at your chosen site, simply make a tiny hole in your prepared soil, about ¼” to ½” deep, and pop the seed in it, pointy side up. Make sure that the soil is watered and clear all other plants from the area to give your baby a chance to get going.
If you have started your seed off at home, which is recommended, you will want to plant it out when it is around six inches tall with three or four internodes. Make a hole in your prepared soil that will accommodate the whole contents of the pot without disturbing the roots. Remove the cannabis plant from the pot by turning it upside down and tapping the base. Now place the root ball in the hole and firm it in. Make sure you give it a good drink at this point. Once established your seedlings will soon enter a vigorous vegetative growth stage. From such fragile beginnings plants quickly become full and robust. Unlike growing marijuana indoors, you have no control over the duration of the vegetative growth stage and over the course of a summer plants can become huge. It is a good idea during this phase to feed your plants well with some quality, nitrogen rich, fertilizer. Your cannabis plant is now growing in your carefully selected site. If stealth is important to you, you will want to keep visits to the site to a minimum. If it is safe to visit your site then keep looking and clearing away any plants that begin to encroach on your babies. If you want to grow only female cannabis plants there is one visit that you will not be able to avoid. At some time, probably between the fifth and sixth week of vegetative growth, your plants will display their gender and you will need to act accordingly.
Sexing Your Marijuana Plants
Why sex your marijuana plants?
Whether you remove the males from your grow or not depends on whether you want seeds or sensimilla. Sensimilla literally means ‘without seeds’ and is obtained from female plants that have not been pollinated by males. Instead of putting their energy into seed production, these ‘virgin’ plants put all their resources into THC production and produce weed that is more potent and has no seeds. Of course, you might want seeds to provide for next year’s harvest. If this is the case then you do not need to worry about removing males. Weed with seeds is fine to smoke too. However, if you are like most people you will want to remove those pesky males as soon as possible. To do this you will need to sex your cannabis plants.
How to Sex Marijuana Plants
Before we start talking about preflowers it is worth mentioning that cannabis plants often exhibit their gender before the appearance of preflowers. Male cannabis plants tend to be taller and leggier than females with sparser foliage. Males also have fewer leaf nodes and are often lighter in color than females. If you have plants that fit these descriptions chances are that they are males. The 100% sure way of sexing your plants is by the appearance of preflowers. Sexing is often considered to be one of the trickiest parts of growing your own marijuana, like a lot of things however it is easier than you think and will become easier as you gain more experience. Usually the preflowers will start to show between the fifth and sixth week and appear around the fifth or sixth nodes. Ideally you will need a magnifying glass to get a proper look at them. Female preflowers are small with delicate white hairs protruding. Male preflowers appear as small bumps right on the node. These bumps are the beginning of the male pollen sac. If you have positively identified male plants at your site and you want to produce seedless weed, remove them immediately.
Growing marijuana outdoors means that your plants are open to all the pests and problems associated with outdoor growth. A lot of problems are specific to your locality but there are two major problems that affect marijuana growers everywhere.
Bud rot, AKA grey mold, is properly known as Botrytis cinerea and is a fast spreading necrotic fungis that can destroy a whole cannabis garden in just a matter of days. Most commonly bud rot affects plants during the flowering phase when kolas get big and fat and damp. The first sign is often when a small leaf sticking out from the kola begins to wither and die. A small, localized clump of mold will quickly appear at this site and this can very quickly infect the whole plant. Left untreated bud rot will turn all your flowers to slime. The best way to treat bud rot is prevention. Try to ensure that your growing area is well ventilated with good air circulation. Some people like to spray their plants with an organic fungicide as a matter of course, whereas other seek to avoid this. If you do spray, only do so before the flowers have began to form. Smoking fungicide is dangerous and to be avoided at all costs. If you find bud rot on one of your plants you need to act immediately. Carefully remove the affected section of bud from at least an inch below the mold with a pair of sterilized scissors. Be very gentle with it, shaking it about will spread the millions of spores to other parts of the plant. Place the infected material in a plastic bag and remove it from the site completely. You will now need to check your plants daily, looking carefully for further signs of mold. Try bending the kolas so that you can see the stem underneath. This is where the bud rot starts. If you see any signs of mold remove the affected part of the plant immediately. Because bud rot tends to affect plants during the later part of the flowering period it is sometimes worth cropping the plant early to avoid further contamination. If you only have a week or so to go before your planned harvest date you might want to consider this.
The other universal problem associated with growing weed outdoors is spider mites. These tiny arachnids generally live on the underside of leaves and puncture the leaf cells to feed. They can cause a great deal of damage and an infestation can quickly get out of hand. Small brown and yellow dots and a scorched look to leaves is the first sign that you may have a spider mite infestation. If this is the case, place a piece of white paper underneath the leaf and tap the leaf gently. Are there small, slow moving specks on it? If so, chances are you have spider mites. Spider mites have many natural predators so there is no need to worry too much at first. However, if the problem appears to be getting worse you will need to act. Spider mite infestations on cannabis plants are fairly easy to control with insecticides. You can choose whichever you prefer although most cannabis growers favor the organic ones. There are also lots of recipes for homemade sprays which can help. You can try spraying with a diluted detergent mix at around five tablespoons of detergent per gallon of water. Be sure to spray the undersides of the leaves as well as the tops.
When to Harvest
As you approach the end of your grow and summer turns to fall you will start thinking about harvesting and sampling your handiwork. Don’t get impatient now and spoil it all. Exactly when to harvest your cannabis plants is a subject on which a lot of different people have a lot of different opinions. With some experience and careful observation it is possible to choose the best harvest time to suit your own personal preferences and whether you like an upbeat smoke or a sitting down smoke. Read this article on [the best time to harvest]. It may be that you don’t have the luxury of daily visits to ascertain the exact best moment for you to harvest. If your access to the site is limited you may just have to take them when you can. If the flowers are sticky and swollen and shine with resin and the opportunity for future site visits is in question, then take them. What could go wrong?
How to harvest
This is just about the easiest and most enjoyable part of the whole process. Having decided that it is now time to harvest your weed, simply cut each plant off at its base with a sharp knife. If you have to transport the plant to your house, turn it upside down and place it in a bag until you get home.
Drying and curing
To dry your hard earned cannabis you will need a dark space with good air circulation. Cut off each branch. Trim off all of the fan leaves and the smaller leaves quite close to the buds. Hang the branches upside down, ensuring good air circulation all round. Cannabis will take around a week to dry out properly, depending on the air circulation in your drying area. Some heavy kolas may take longer. Don’t be impatient and smoke your weed when it is still too wet. That harsh, chlorophyll taste doesn’t do justice to the time and effort that you have put into your grow. Once you are happy that your weed is dry, place it in glass jars to cure. You should remove the lid from the jar for around twenty minutes per day for a further week, making sure that your weed is not too cramped in the jar. This final process will cure the weed; improving flavor and making sure there is no danger of mold spoiling your bud.
Read more about Guerilla Grow Guide.
For more information about growing marijuana outdoors, check out these pages:
Site selection and preparation – This is the real key to growing outdoors. Getting the right light, soil and access to important water is crucial and if you are doing a guerilla grow then security is paramount. Seed germination – For an outdoor grow it is best to think ahead and get the seeds germinating indoors so that you have strong seedlings ready for the first good frost free night of Spring. Seedling and vegetative grow outdoors – Getting you marijuana off to a good start will keep hem healthy and strong right through to harvest. Marijuana sexing – When you are growing outdoors and using regular seeds you need to get rid of those pesky males plants as early as you can, here we have a guide on how to do that. Crucial outdoor visits – This is more if you are growing away from home, you will have some crucial visits to be planned. Harvesting marijuana outdoors – This is the end game, the result of all that hard work. Get it right and you will have achieved what many think is the most satisfying smoke out there, organic, sunshine filled marijuana grown by nature herself.
Top 9 Tips for Growing Cannabis Outdoors
Growing cannabis outdoors is not as simple as just throwing some seeds in the ground and hoping they grow. To ensure a good harvest, outdoor growers should do some research—analysing the local soil, preparing the site, and thinking about appropriate pest-control methods—and a great deal of maintenance.
Naturally, we all have our favourite strains, which we can’t wait to plant after the cold, tough and long winter months. Each situation is certainly unique, with the circumstances of someone living in Russia being different from those of someone living in Spain. Even so, there are enough varieties to be enjoyed in every corner of the globe.
Once you’ve chosen your favourite cannabis seeds, the first step is obviously to germinate them. It goes without saying that this must be done correctly, as otherwise the seeds will be useless. Be patient and bear in mind that some seeds may need a bit more time to sprout. For best results, follow this germination method.
The good thing about cultivating outdoors – and which makes us appreciate spring – is that, among other things, you can obtain considerable crops with a minimum of investment. And in times like these, who doesn’t want that?
Once we are clear on the conditions that we need – the right environment, the right growing spot, the outdoor growing method, and the variety that best suits our needs – we can get started.
1. Pick the right strain when growing cannabis outdoors!
It is important to choose the right strain of cannabis when growing outdoors. Depending on your location and climate, you may be limited in your choice of strain.
For example, if living in regions in the far north or south of the globe, where year-round temperatures are cool and summer growing seasons are short, you will need to choose strains that are acclimated to such conditions. Picking the right strain means curating your strain choice to suit the climate that you will be growing in.
Outdoor cannabis strains for cold temperate climates
Those who live in colder temperate climates, such as Northern and Eastern Europe, have to choose their strains accordingly. Summers are short and winter frosts are strong enough to destroy any cannabis crop. Therefore, timing and strain choice are essential.
Strains ideal for this kind of climate include Early Skunk Feminised and Jamaican Pearl. They are hardy strains with early flowering times.
Outdoor cannabis strains for warm temperate climates
Those who live in warmer temperate climates have a little bit more freedom when it comes to growing cannabis. In fact, the majority of commercial strains have been developed for growing specifically in warmer climates. Mild winters and long summers is the perfect growing condition for cannabis.
Those living in warmer climates can grow almost any strain. Both sativa dominant varieties and indica dominant varieties can be grown.
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2. Start your plants indoors if possible
It is advisable to germinate your seeds indoors, and allow your plants to grow in pots for at least a week or two under artificial lighting (which could be a simple household CFL light) or on a windowsill.
This will protect your seedlings from being eaten by birds or insects while they are young and tender, as well as giving them a head-start if outdoor conditions are still a little too cool.
When it’s time to expose your young plants to the outdoor world, it is advisable to go through a period of ‘hardening-off’ so that your plants gradually become accustomed to the change in environment.
At first, out your plants outside for a few hours at a time, and be sure to keep them sheltered from the elements.
After a week or so of increasing exposure to outdoor conditions, they will be hardy enough to be left outside full-time, either in pots, bags, or in holes dug into the soil.
3. Choose soil or pots for outdoor growing
Every grower gets to choose whether they will sow their seeds or seedlings directly into the ground or whether they will be cultivated in pots. Each choice has its advantages and disadvantages, so let’s focus on the pros of each growing method.
Advantages of growing in soil
- Unrestricted access to nutrients and moisture from the ground
- Plants can reach maximum height as there is no restriction on root growth
- Keeps costs low as there is no need to purchase pots
Advantages of growing in pots
- Flexibility to move plants around
- In the case of extreme weather, pots can be moved indoors
- Easier to conceal a growing operation
- Maximum control over the size and growth rate of plants
- Ensures no contamination of soil from surrounding environment
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4. Good soil is crucial when growing cannabis outdoors
Making sure your soil is prepared correctly is perhaps the most fundamental aspect of outdoor growing.
Soil should be checked to determine pH, and if it is too low or too high then additives such as lime (to increase pH/make more alkaline) or sulphur (to decrease pH/make more acidic) must be mixed in.
Consistency of soil is also important—too much clay, and soil will be sticky and will drain poorly; too much sand, and drainage may be too rapid.
Cannabis prefers loamy soil, or soil that consists mainly of sand and silt with a lower ratio of clay (around 40%-40%-20% silt-sand-clay is a good rule of thumb).
As well as this, soil fertility is important. Does the soil support a large amount and diversity of vegetation?
If not, adding mulch or manure is a good way to invigorate soil and increase the levels of available nutrients for your plants. If soil is poor, or if you just want to go the simple and hassle-free route, you can buy commercial soil, and even grow your plants in pots—or dig them into the ground, but keep them in bags so they are not exposed to surrounding soil.
5. Pick the right spot
The ideal spot for growing cannabis outdoors will be sunny, sheltered, well-irrigated, and will have good drainage. It will also be far enough off the beaten track that little human activity occurs in the vicinity—so no popular hiking trails or logging roads, for one thing!
A forest clearing that receives a good amount of sunlight and is sheltered from wind (as well as prying eyes!) is ideal; mixed broad-leafed forest is preferable to coniferous, as soil in the vicinity of coniferous woodland is often very acidic.
If you are growing in hilly terrain, aspect is an important and often-overlooked factor. Just as a south-facing balcony is preferable for apartment growers, a south-facing hillside is ideal for outdoor grows as it maximizes hours and intensity of sunlight.
The angle at which the sun’s rays strike the surface of the planet varies from the perpendicular according to latitude; in the northern hemisphere a south-facing spot will receive more sunlight, and in the southern hemisphere, a north-facing garden is preferable for the same reasons.
If you’re at all doubting your spot (for any reason), it is perhaps better to put your plants in pots. This way, you can move your plants around as necessary until you find the optimum spot to grow your cannabis plants. If you put them in the ground too soon, you won’t have the liberty of transporting them in the case of extreme weather or sub-optimal conditions.
6. Pick the best time to grow outdoors
In most climate zones, you should be aware of changes in seasonal temperature, rainfall and hours of daylight. If you live in the temperate zones, the change in daylight hours is considerable between seasons. This acts as a cue to photoperiod-dependent cannabis varieties to either perform vegetative growth (during the long days of late spring and early summer) or commence flowering (when the hours of daylight drop in the latter half of summer).
If you attempt vegetative growth in early spring, hours of daylight may still be short enough to induce flowering, so it is best to wait until at least mid-April (northern hemisphere) or mid-October (southern hemisphere) to put out your seedlings.
If you live in particularly warm climates, you may be able to achieve more than one harvest in a year; in locations near the equator, this should definitely be achievable by taking advantage of the year-round warm temperatures and intense sunlight.
If located in a tropical region that experiences seasonal monsoons, it is best to avoid this time of year due to the increased risk of mould.