Growing lush cannabis plants outdoors can be an extremely rewarding experience. With the right conditions and preparation, your outdoor cannabis garden can thrive and produce abundant yields.
Outdoor growing comes with some unique challenges compared to indoor cultivation. Your plants will be exposed to the elements and potential pests. Following best practices can help ensure your success in overcoming these hurdles.
In this post, we’ll share key tips for getting the most out of your outdoor cannabis garden.
Choose the Right Strain
With thousands of cannabis strains in existence, selecting the right variety for your climate is crucial. Seek out strains specifically bred for outdoor growing in conditions similar to your region.
Look for mold-resistant strains if growing in humid areas. Early flowering strains are ideal for northern regions with shorter seasons. Sativa-dominant strains that thrive in warmth and sun are great for southern climates.
Consider trying heirloom landrace strains that originated from nearby geographic areas. Their genetics will be naturally adapted to your local environment.
Find the Optimal Growing Site
Scout your property to find the best cultivation site. Cannabis plants need at least six hours of direct sunlight per day in the growing season.
South-facing sites are ideal to maximize sun exposure in northern hemispheres. Position plants in an open area without shade from trees, buildings or other obstructions.
Ensure the site has well-draining soil. Cannabis prefers slightly acidic soil with a pH between 6-7. Check your soil pH and amend if needed. Compost mixes are great for enriching soil.
Adequate wind protection is also key. Build windbreaks from materials like burlap, tarps or bamboo to protect plants from wind damage.
Prepare Soil for Planting
Getting your soil in optimal condition before planting is time well spent. Remove any weeds or debris from the area. Till the soil to break up compacted dirt.
Work compost or other amendments into the soil. This adds vital nutrients plants need and improves soil texture.
Consider installing raised garden beds, which warm up faster in spring and provide better drainage. Fill beds with high-quality potting soil mixed with compost.
Use soil tests to check pH and nutrient levels. Adjust as needed by working in pH modifiers or fertilizers before planting.
Start Plants Indoors
While you can direct sow seeds outdoors, starting plants inside gives them an early head start. This extends the effective growing season.
Germinate seeds in soilless potting mix using starter trays. Place them under grow lights on an 18/6 light schedule.
Gradually acclimate seedlings to the outdoors through a process called “hardening off”. Slowly increase their sun and wind exposure over 7-10 days before transplanting.
Time your last expected frost date, and plant seedlings outdoors 1-2 weeks after the date passes. This avoids exposing tender plants to frost damage.
Transplant seedlings carefully from trays, minimizing root disturbance. Water thoroughly after planting.
Use Smart Container Options
Choose container types suitable for outdoor growth. Fabric pots or plastic Nursery pots both work well. Make sure containers have ample drainage holes.
Bigger is better in terms of container size. Aim for at least 25 gallons, as cannabis roots need room to spread out. Use even larger containers or in-ground planting for bigger plants.
Smart pots are ideal as they air prune roots, preventing the plant from getting root-bound. Their fabric material allows for excellent airflow to roots.
Use anchors to secure tall, heavy plants once flowering begins. Stakes, ties or trellising prevents wind damage from toppling plants.
Follow Best Watering Practices
Cannabis needs consistent moisture, but overwatering encourages root rot. Stick your finger in the soil to gauge when plants need water, about 1-2 inches below the surface.
Water at the base of plants slowly and deeply, moistening the entire root zone. Let the soil dry out almost completely before soaking again.
Adding mulch around plants retains moisture while suppressing weeds. Use materials like straw, leaves, bark or wood chips.
Consider installing a drip irrigation system on a timer. This automates watering if you can’t water daily. Just don’t overdo irrigation volume or frequency.
Use Liquid Nutrients & Top Feeds
While amended soil contains nutrients, cannabis is a heavy feeder needing supplemental nourishment.
Use high-quality liquid nutrients formulated for the cannabis flowering and growth stages. Follow label strength recommendations.
Foliar feeds applied directly on leaves are absorbed quickly. Spray plants every 1-2 weeks with water-soluble nutrients.
Top feeds added to soil give roots an extra nutrient boost. Mix organic dry amendments into the top few inches of soil monthly.
Watch closely for signs of nutrient deficiencies, like yellowing lower leaves. Increase nutrients carefully if needed.
Control Pests Naturally
Outdoor gardens face threats from pests like spider mites, aphids, caterpillars and fungus gnats. Stay vigilant in monitoring for any signs of infestations.
Remove pests manually by spraying down plants with a strong stream of water. Use natural predators like ladybugs, praying mantis and lacewings.
DIY natural pesticide sprays using ingredients like neem oil, citrus oil and mineral oil keep pest populations controlled.
Apply preventative measures like kaolin clay or diatomaceous earth. These create a non-toxic insect barrier on leaf surfaces.
Set sticky traps near plants to catch adult pests. Change them out frequently to monitor which insects are active.
Practice Low-Stress Training
Low-stress training (LST) involves selectively bending and tying branches to optimize their growth structure. This increases yields for outdoor plants.
Gently tie down taller tops and side shoots. Position them horizontally to allow more bud sites to receive ample light.
LST directs growth outward rather than upward, facilitating more even light distribution. Just be cautious not to over-bend tender branches.
As plants grow, continue carefully bending them into an open umbrella shape. Add training ties as needed to maintain ideal form.
Control Odors & Privacy
Cannabis plants produce very pungent aromas in flowering, which can be a nuisance to neighbors. Take steps to be courteous with odor control.
position plants as far as feasible from nearby homes. Place them downwind from neighboring properties when possible.
Use smell-proof greenhouse sheeting or temporary privacy screens to contain odors and block views.
Hang odor neutralizing bags with activated carbon or zeolite above the garden. Replace the bags 2-3 times during flowering.
Plant fragrant companion plants like flowers and herbs around the garden’s perimeter. They help mask cannabis scents.
Harvest at Peak Maturity
Determine harvest time by examining trichome color and stage of flower maturation. Most strains are ready in mid-late October.
Look for around 70% of trichomes to be cloudy white and 30% amber. This signals peak THC levels before too much degradation occurs.
Pistils turning reddish brown and leaves yellowing also indicate maturity. Check flowers directly rather than just assessing whole plants.
For maximum flavor and potency, harvest in dry daytime weather. Wet conditions can cause bud mold if harvested too early.
Dry & Cure Properly
Proper drying and curing are just as crucial as growing for premium quality bud. Slow drying over 7-14 days at 60°F (15°C) prevents mold issues.
Trim away large leaves, but leave smaller sugar leaves on during drying. This slows the rate of water loss.
Use drying racks in a dark room with ample air circulation from fans. Keep humidity around 50-60% during initial drying.
Once stems snap rather than bend, transfer buds into sealable jars and maintain 60-65% RH for curing over 4-6 weeks.
By following these tips, your outdoor cannabis garden is sure to be a success. With ideal growing conditions and diligent care, you’ll be rewarded with a bountiful harvest!
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