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The best outdoor grow set-up consists of nutrient-rich soil, intense sunlight, a light breeze, and prolific cannabis plants. It reduces the cost of cultivating weed and produces abundant harvests of sticky, sun-grown buds.
Marijuana has grown in the wild for thousands of years — but you can still optimize its environment for better and more reliable results.
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Things to Consider
Open-air cultivation has a lower barrier to entry than indoor set-ups, but it introduces several unique challenges. Consider the following before starting an outdoor grow:
- Legality: Marijuana laws vary by state. Always check whether you’re allowed to grow, and if so, how many plants. Some regions also impose licensing, reporting, and privacy rules. You may also be required to keep your cannabis plants in an enclosed space and out of public view.
- Growing season: You can grow from late April to early October in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere, this time is from mid-September to mid-March.
- Climate: Weed adapts to various environments but suffers when the conditions are extreme. Analyze the local weather and purchase strains that perform well within it. Consider greenhouses if you have sustained temperatures over 85°F or under 55°F.
- Location: You don’t need a full-blown garden for cannabis, but the space must fit it at its largest. On average, a mature plant takes up about four square feet, but the figure varies significantly based on the pot size.
- Land quality: Ground with excessive sand or clay contents isn’t optimal for marijuana. Visit a lab with a soil sample for analysis and amend it accordingly. You can also buy a potting mix and keep plants in containers.
- Security: Secluded areas are best for marijuana. Practice security measures if you live in a high-crime, high-traffic, or anti-pot neighborhood.
Consider the above to prepare for the legal and practical aspects of growing weed. Analyze your environment and pick the strain, variant, and techniques accordingly.
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Unlike indoor growing, outdoor gardens are pretty low-cost. They use the natural environment as their source of warmth, light, air, and sometimes even water and nutrients. Some purchases are necessary before you begin your cultivation journey, though.
Seeds or Clones
You can produce marijuana from seeds or clones.
Clones are tricky to propagate and yield less than seed-grown plants. Also, they’re more susceptible to stress and disease, so they’re better suited for controlled indoor grows.
Most outdoor growers do better with cannabis seeds. These take somewhat longer to develop but produce big plants with robust traits and high harvest potential. Their benefits double if you get premium genetics from a reputable seller like our partner Homegrown Cannabis Co.
You can get these types of seeds:
- Regular seeds develop into an approximately 50-50 split of male and female plants. They’re in the vegetative stage until the days shorten and take around six months to become harvest-ready. Choose them if you want to breed new strains or want stable plants with a high stress threshold to teach you the basics of cannabis cultivation.
- Feminized seeds grow photoperiodically just like regular cannabis seeds but produce only bud-bearing female plants. They’re the top option if you’re cultivating weed for smoking purposes.
- Autoflower seeds are non-photoperiod and often feminized. They flower automatically after 5-6 weeks in vegging and ripen in 3-4 months. They’re ideal for cold-weather and short-summer regions but require more care to thrive.
Once you have the cultivar, consider the strain’s environmental requirements. As a rule, choose indica in cold and dry areas and sativa if the weather is hot and humid.
Soil is the most straightforward medium. You may sow germinated seeds directly into the ground or use pots for easier transplantation.
In the latter case, buy high-quality potting soil from a gardening store. These mixes contain minerals and eliminate the need to fertilize for the first few weeks of the life cycle. Organic cultivators may opt for super soil, a pre-fertilized blend that feeds the plants from start to finish.
Experienced cultivators sometimes use alternative grow media, like coco coir, peat moss, hydroton, Rockwool, or perlite. As a newbie, learn the basics of watering, feeding, and pH management before trying these options.
Potted weed needs containers; their capacity determines outdoor plants’ size and harvest potential.
You might sow germinated seeds straight into their final container. In this case, five-gallon pots are suitable for small and mid-sized plants. Use seven-gallon buckets to meet the space requirements of large strains.
Alternatively, get multiple pots of different sizes and transplant your weed as it stretches. Use solo cups for the seedling stage, three-gallon containers for early veg, and five-gallon or seven-gallon ones for flowering.
Expert tip: Pick breathable fabric pots in humid climates to help combat moisture issues.
When grown in soil, cannabis plants only absorb nutrients at 5.8-6.2 pH. As a result, you should shower them with slightly acidic water.
Tap water is somewhat alkaline in most states, so you might need to treat it with a pH-Down solution. Bottled and distilled sources are optimized but pricier: you can reduce costs by using a dechlorinator to filter your source at home.
If possible, use reverse-osmosis water, as this source is optimal for marijuana.
Nutrient needs vary throughout the cannabis growth cycle but mainly revolve around nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. You have two ways to supply them.
The first is using store-bought soluble fertilizer for each growth stage. You buy the best nutrients for weed, dissolve them in water, and feed them per the manufacturer’s instructions. This alternative is straightforward, but your garden is vulnerable to deficiencies and pH fluctuations.
The second is using the best soil rich in minerals and microbial life. These substrates contain organic matter and bacteria that break it down into plant food. This option isn’t as clean and precise, but nutrient troubles are infrequent.
Outdoor cannabis plants become very bushy in the vegetative stage. Their dense foliage may retain moisture and shade the lower branches and bud sites. For this reason, you should prune your garden every week.
Get a large and a small pair of ergonomic scissors for this task. We suggest non-stick materials to easily remove resin when you prune in flowering. As a bonus, they double as trimming tools at harvest time. You can also collect and use the resin from the scissors.
Setting Up an Outdoor Grow Space
Once you have your equipment, choose the best time to start growing weed outdoors.
In the Northern Hemisphere, weed growers take their plants outside after the last spring frost in late April or early May. It’s a good idea to germinate several weeks earlier and have the seedling stage in controlled indoor conditions.
While you wait for the weather to improve, take these steps to prepare the best outdoor grow set-up for marijuana.
1. Choose a Location
The best place for outdoor cannabis ticks the following boxes:
- Enough space: Remember that larger plants stretch horizontally and vertically, and plan your garden accordingly. There should be a foot between their canopies.
- Light exposure: You’re not using artificial lights, so ensure six hours of direct sunlight for healthy plant growth and high yields.
- No light pollution: Unprotected apartment balconies and backyards may get exposed to street lamps. Flowering plants revert to the vegetative stage if they get over 12 hours of daylight a day, so use opaque coverings to shelter them.
- Air circulation: Plants require fresh air to breathe and avoid moisture issues. Pick a breezy spot but install protections from harsh wind.
A variety of locations may meet these criteria. You may use the following:
- Balconies: Excellent control and easy access to plants but limited space. Be careful about wind in high-rise apartments, and pick compact cultivars.
- Rooftops: Plenty of space, sunlight exposure, and very concealed but vulnerable to weather extremes. Install protection from the elements to prevent damage.
- Backyards and gardens: Plenty of space and sunlight and excellent environmental control. Watch for mold, pests, and pollen for the best results.
- Greenhouses: These controlled spaces offer the convenience of a grow room while employing natural sunlight. They can be pricey to set up, though.
2. Consider Pest Control
Pests are among the main challenges of growing pot outdoors. There are several actions you can take to prevent or minimize their activity:
- Install physical barriers around your garden. Erect a chicken wire fence around the perimeter to keep larger pests from munching on your marijuana.
- Introduce predatory insects to your space. Ladybirds and parasitic wasps don’t harm cannabis but prey on pest species.
- Plant companion flowers. Strong-smelling basil, dill, and lemon balm repel insects. Brightly-colored marigolds and sunflowers take the attention away from your buds.
- Treat the medium with beneficial fungi. Mycorrhizal fungi capture and kill microorganisms that may attack the roots.
3. Secure Your Garden
Security is a significant point of concern while growing cannabis outdoors. It relates to several factors:
- Pollination: Even if you’re using feminized seeds, pollen from other male plants can travel for miles and land on your cannabis. Consult with any neighboring growers you may have to prevent that from happening.
- Concealment: Many state laws require your weed garden to stay hidden from the public. Tall fences also keep away thieves and judgemental eyes.
- Weather protection: Torrential rain and intense wind damage the canopy. Install a windbreak and a retractable roof on your balcony wall, or erect a barrier around your garden.
4. Prepare the Soil
To prevent future health issues, you should treat the soil before taking your seedlings outdoors. The process depends on where you’re planting.
If sowing directly into the ground, remove the weeds from the area by hand. Then water the land, sprinkle it with organic matter, and move the soil around with a shovel. Doing so adds fresh oxygen and makes the medium more welcoming to plant life.
Potting mixes require less hands-on labor. Most modern manufacturers produce blends to be used straight out of the bag: all you need to do is pack the container. Pour it inside and gently press down. Repeat till the substrate is an inch below the planter rim.
Expert tip: If cultivating in coco coir, soak the medium and let it drain before introducing your seedling. You could also treat it with a small dose of organic nutrients and CalMag supplements.
5. Germinate Seeds
Sprout seeds after you finish your grow set-up and the nighttime temperatures surpass 59°F. Germination results in a taproot and makes your garden stronger.
Once seeds pop, place them in lightly-fertilized potting soil and leave them in warm and humid conditions. Only take them out when they have three nodes. Then move on to the spring and summer caring for your garden, following the usual outdoor cultivation procedures.
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Frequently Asked Questions
When should I top my plants outdoors?
Topping is a valuable technique for outdoor growers, but doing it too soon can cause irreparable stress. As a rule, only top a plant when it has four or five nodes, which should happen during the second or third week of the vegetative stage.
What is the best temperature for a grow room?
The temperature requirements of weed plants depend on their life stage. Seedlings enjoy moderate heat (68-77°F), vegging pot likes things hot (70-85°F), and flowering cannabis prefers slightly cooler conditions (70-80°F). Nights should be 5-10°F colder than days.
What is the best temperature for the flowering stage?
Flowering stage cannabis enjoys temperatures of 70-80°F. Most strains can withstand anything in the 65-85°F range, but hotter and cooler conditions cause trouble. Excessive heat dries out the trichomes, while chilly environments put your garden at risk of mold and rot.