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Growing Marijuana Outdoors



Cultivating marijuana outdoors offers numerous benefits, notably cost-effectiveness and reliance on natural sunlight. With access to a sunny area in a private yard, balcony, terrace, or rooftop, you can embark on outdoor weed cultivation. While your cultivation will be influenced by the sun, seasons, and local weather, you can bypass the hefty expenses associated with indoor growing equipment and utilities.


Engaging with a community of cannabis cultivators in your vicinity is highly advantageous when growing outdoors. Local climates vary, making it beneficial to observe how others are cultivating in your specific environment. Discovering which strains flourish in your area and learning about optimal planting times and harvest periods can greatly enhance your outdoor growing experience. While online forums and social media groups are valuable resources, your local grow shop is an excellent starting point for connecting with fellow growers.


Advantages of Outdoor Weed Cultivation:

Cost-Effectiveness: By harnessing the natural power of the sun, outdoor cultivation significantly reduces expenses. Minimal investment is required for essentials like soil, fertilizer, seeds or clones, and perhaps a small greenhouse. Furthermore, there's no need to bear the costs of electricity for lighting, air conditioning units, or dehumidifiers. Additionally, rainwater collection is a viable option.


High Yields: Outdoor plants have the potential to reach impressive sizes, with yields limited only by manageability. A single plant can yield anywhere between a half-pound to a full pound of dried cannabis, offering an abundant harvest. In contrast, indoor cultivation often faces space constraints, limiting potential yields.


Environmental Friendliness: Outdoor cultivation is inherently eco-friendly, utilizing free resources such as sunlight and wind. Unlike indoor grows, which consume significant amounts of electricity to power lighting, fans, and other equipment, outdoor cultivation minimizes environmental impact.


Enjoyable and Therapeutic: Gardening outdoors offers a delightful and therapeutic experience. Spending time in nature, engaging in hands-on activities, and witnessing the growth of your plants can be incredibly rewarding and relaxing. Moreover, consuming cannabis that you've cultivated yourself adds an extra level of satisfaction to the experience.


When is the best time to plant cannabis outside?

The optimal time to plant cannabis outdoors varies depending on the specific climate and location within the Northern Hemisphere. Typically, outdoor weed growers aim to transfer their plants outside in April or May. However, the timing may differ slightly based on regional factors; for instance, in California, it might be a bit earlier, whereas in Washington state, it could be a bit later. Planting before this timeframe risks exposing delicate seedlings to potentially damaging cold temperatures.


To ensure robust growth, many growers initiate the germination process and cultivate seedlings indoors in a warm, controlled environment. This practice allows the plants to develop for weeks or even months before being transplanted outdoors in the spring. By starting indoors, growers can extend the growing period and produce sturdier plants better equipped to thrive once they are relocated outside.



How to set up your outdoor marijuana grow

Before embarking on an outdoor marijuana cultivation journey, it's essential to take some key factors into account.


Understanding the Climate:

Having a comprehensive grasp of the local climate where you intend to grow is paramount. While cannabis is adaptable, it's vulnerable to extreme weather conditions. Sustained temperatures exceeding 85°F can halt plant growth, while prolonged exposure to temperatures below 55°F can cause damage or even death. Additionally, heavy rains and strong winds pose risks of physical harm to plants and can diminish yields. Excessive moisture, especially during the flowering stage, can foster mold and powdery mildew.


Temperature Considerations:

For optimal growth, cannabis plants prefer temperate climates ranging from 60-75°F. Temperatures below 50°F can impede growth and harm plants, potentially leading to freezing. In hotter climates, temperatures between 75-85°F are manageable, but anything surpassing 85°F can have adverse effects, causing wilting. During periods of high temperatures, plants will require increased watering to mitigate heat stress.


Selecting the Ideal Growing Site:

Once familiar with the local climate, several factors must be weighed when choosing a suitable outdoor cannabis cultivation site.


Sunlight Exposure:

Cannabis plants thrive on full, direct sunlight for a minimum of 6 hours daily. It's crucial to ensure that your chosen site receives ample sunlight, preferably during midday when light quality is optimal. As the season progresses towards fall, sunlight duration diminishes, triggering the flowering stage.


Wind Conditions:

While a gentle breeze is beneficial for plant health, excessive winds, particularly in hot climates, can be detrimental. Consider planting near a windbreak such as a wall, fence, or dense shrubbery to mitigate the adverse effects of strong winds.


Privacy and Security:

Privacy and security are vital considerations, especially in areas with nosy neighbors or potential theft risks. Tall fences and dense vegetation provide effective concealment, ensuring compliance with state laws that often mandate keeping cannabis plants out of public view.

By carefully assessing these factors, you can establish a successful outdoor marijuana grow operation while mitigating potential risks and maximizing yield potential.




Types of outdoor grow spaces:


Container Cultivation:

Some growers opt for container cultivation on secluded balconies or rooftops to maintain privacy. Others construct sturdy wire cages to safeguard against theft and wildlife intrusion. When choosing a method, consider the desired size of your plants, as outdoor cannabis has the potential to reach heights of 10 feet or more, depending on cultivation practices.


Garden Plot:

A garden plot is a popular choice for outdoor cultivation, often alongside other vegetables. This setup provides ample space for cannabis plants to thrive while integrating seamlessly with other garden crops.


Balcony:

Utilizing a balcony for cultivation can be advantageous if it receives adequate sunlight, ideally facing south. While balconies typically benefit from good airflow, privacy concerns may necessitate additional screening to shield plants from prying eyes.


Roof:

Roof spaces offer excellent sun exposure but may be susceptible to excessive wind. Despite this drawback, rooftops can be viable outdoor growing locations, provided measures are taken to mitigate wind effects.




Choosing soil and other media for outdoor cannabis growing:

At its core, soil constitutes the uppermost layer of the earth where plants flourish, comprising a blend of organic matter, clay, and rock particles. Cannabis plants thrive in soil abundant with organic material, necessitating optimal drainage.


Many outdoor marijuana growers either excavate a hole and introduce fresh soil for planting or utilize pots, providing greater control over the growing medium and nutrient intake.


Direct planting into existing soil requires understanding its composition and making appropriate amendments. Conducting a soil test is advisable in this scenario, minimizing complications and offering cost-effective solutions. A soil test provides insights into soil composition, pH levels, potential contaminants, and recommendations for soil amendments and fertilization.

Soil comes in three primary consistencies, characterized by various ratios of clay, sand, and silt, each with distinct properties affecting plant growth and cultivation:


Silty Soil:

Ideal for cultivation, silty soil warms quickly, retains moisture effectively, and is rich in nutrients. Dark, crumbly loam represents the epitome of fertile silty soil, often requiring minimal amendments.


Sandy Soil:

Although easy to work with and providing good drainage, sandy soil struggles to retain nutrients, especially in wet climates. To enhance nutrient retention, large holes should be dug, incorporating compost, peat moss, or coco coir. Mulching is recommended in hot climates to aid water retention and prevent root overheating.


Clay Soil:

Heavy and slow-draining, clay soil necessitates substantial amendments to improve aeration, drainage, and nutrient availability. Mixing in compost, manure, or worm castings several weeks before planting facilitates soil conditioning and provides essential nutrients.


Loam Soil:

Considered ideal for cannabis cultivation, loam soil comprises a balanced mixture of sand, silt, and clay. Identified by its loose structure and near-neutral pH, loamy soil offers excellent drainage, water retention, and nutrient availability, supporting microbial activity crucial for plant health.


Identifying loamy soil involves tactile assessment, with sandy soil resisting compaction, clay forming a tight ball, and loamy soil yielding a loose ball that disintegrates into large chunks.


Potting soils commonly used in gardening typically consist of loam soil, characterized by its rich texture, dark color, and vibrant aroma, indicating fertility and microbial activity.



Buying the right soil for an outdoor cannabis grow:

For novice gardeners, investing in high-quality potting soil is typically recommended, as it can sufficiently nourish plants throughout much of their growth cycle without requiring extensive amendments. This pre-fertilized soil, often termed "super-soil," is capable of nurturing cannabis plants from germination to harvest, provided it is used correctly.


Super-soil can be crafted at home by blending ingredients like worm castings, bat guano, and other components with a quality soil mixture, allowing it to mature for a few weeks. Alternatively, pre-made super-soil mixes are available for purchase at local nurseries or grow shops.


When perusing soil options at garden stores, the variety of choices may seem overwhelming. Understanding the basic structure of soil types is crucial. Additionally, consider nutrients, microorganisms, and other amendments that enhance soil quality. Common soil amendments include perlite, worm castings, bat guano, biochar, peat moss, compost, fish meal, bone meal, glacier rock dust, and plant food.


These amendments serve various purposes and are often tailored to different soil types. Some heavily amended soils boast comprehensive lists detailing organic nutrients they contain. Certain companies offer soils with a solid foundation of nutrients while allowing growers to customize supplementation according to their preferences.



Growing containers:

If your soil quality is subpar or if you're unable to engage in the labor-intensive process of amending soil, container gardening may be the optimal solution for growing cannabis outdoors. Containers offer versatility and mobility, making them suitable for various locations such as decks, patios, rooftops, and other confined spaces where traditional gardening may not be feasible.


Containers provide the flexibility to move plants throughout the day to maximize sun exposure or shield them from excessive heat or wind. However, it's essential to acknowledge that plants grown in pots, buckets, or barrels are likely to be smaller than those planted directly in the ground due to root growth limitations imposed by the container size. Generally, the size of the pot dictates the size of the plant, although skilled cultivation techniques can enable the growth of sizable plants in relatively small containers.



What size pot do I need:

As a rule of thumb, 5-gallon pots are suitable for small-to-medium outdoor plants, while 10-gallon pots or larger are preferable for larger plants. Regardless of the container size, it's crucial to safeguard the roots of your plants from overheating, especially during warm weather conditions. Pots can rapidly absorb and retain heat when exposed to direct sunlight, potentially impeding plant growth.


To mitigate the risk of root overheating, it's advisable to provide shade for your containers when the sun is at its peak. Shielding the pots from intense sunlight helps maintain optimal root temperatures and fosters healthier plant growth.



Choosing fertilizers and nutrients for outdoor soil:

Cannabis plants have a substantial nutrient requirement throughout their life cycle, primarily relying on nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. 

The amount of nutrients needed depends on the soil composition.


Typically, outdoor growers incorporate soil amendments when transplanting cannabis plants outdoors. These amendments, usually in powder form, are mixed into the soil.


It's advisable to begin with affordable and easily accessible fertilizers. Some fertilizers release nutrients quickly, while others have a slower release rate over weeks or months. By combining a few of these products with soil amendments, you can potentially supply sufficient nutrients for the entire plant life cycle. Most of these items are budget-friendly and available at local nurseries.


Recommended organic fertilizers include:

  • Blood meal or fish meal for nitrogen

  • Bone meal or bat guano for phosphorus

  • Wood ash or kelp meal for potassium

  • Dolomite lime for calcium and magnesium

  • Epsom salts for magnesium and sulfur


Commercially available soil blends that contain the appropriate mix of these ingredients are also an option.


For novice growers, it's advised to steer clear of commercial fertilizers like long-release granular varieties, unless one has a thorough understanding of their workings and the specific needs of the plants. Additionally, it's recommended to avoid using nutrients designed for indoor cannabis cultivation, as they often contain synthetic mineral salts that can harm soil bacteria.


Having your soil tested is highly beneficial, as it provides insights into soil amendments and the types and quantities of fertilizers needed. If unsure about the appropriate amount of fertilizer to use, it's best to be conservative initially. If plants exhibit signs of nutrient deficiencies, additional nutrients can always be applied to the soil surface, a practice known as "top dressing."

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This should be printed and pinned in everyone's tent or shed.

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