Our guide to growing weed outdoors step by step gives you a detailed rundown of the cannabis cultivation process. Whether you're planting an open-air or greenhouse garden, growing cannabis outdoors can produce a bountiful yield with flavorful and aromatic flower buds. Here's everything you need to know about growing weed outdoors.
Step 1: Plan Ahead
Growing cannabis plants outdoors has many benefits including reduced energy costs, huge yields, sustainable cultivation practices, and flavorful buds. However, you must plan ahead to get the best results from your outdoor-grown weed. Here are a few factors to consider before growing weed plants outdoors.
- Climate: What's your region's climate? While cannabis can grow almost anywhere, extreme weather can make it more difficult. In addition, strong winds and heavy rain can damage your plants and increase the risk of mold, especially during the flowering stage. Also, consider the day lengths in your area. Knowing how much sunlight you get during the year can help you time when you want to switch from the vegetative to the flowering stage.
- Location: Choose an outdoor location that gets the most amount of light during the day, especially during the middle of the day. Over time and as fall gets closer, your cannabis plants won't get as much light, which can stimulate flowering. In addition, ensure your plants have a good air flow in your location. Finally, ensure your outdoor grow is allowed by your local laws and it is secured and not visible or accessible to the public.
- Genetics: Certain strains are more able to thrive in certain climates and locations. Choose a cannabis strain that meets your particular medical or recreational needs.
- Seed or Clone?: Growing from seeds can produce strong plants but you'll need to invest in feminized seeds so that you don't end up with any pollinating males. If available, you may start off with a clone to skip the germination phase, although they are harder to grow for beginners since they can be more vulnerable to disease and pests.
- Soil: Growing cannabis outdoors requires high-quality soil. Preferably, your plants will need loamy soil that has proper drainage, good aeration and water retention, and plenty of organic nutrients.
- Nutrients: Cannabis needs three main macronutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. You can buy ready-to-use soil mixtures that already have organic nutrients, but stay away from long-release fertilizers which can make it tricky to time feeding schedules, especially for first-time growers. Ideally, stick with organic fertilizers that use microbes in the soil to improve nutrient uptake and growth.
- Container: If you can't or don't want to dig a hole into your backyard, you can invest in containers for outdoor growing. Containers offer the advantage of being able to be moved depending on where the sun is shining or away from heavy winds or extreme heat. Keep in mind, containers can restrict root growth, so stick with at least a 5-gallon pot for up to medium-sized plants.
- Water: While your plants can rely on rain and groundwater, they will most likely need to be regularly watered, especially during the hot summer months. Water them daily first thing in the morning. If you get heavy rains, consider a variety of drainage improvements to keep your roots from dying.
- Greenhouse: If possible, invest in a greenhouse setup to have even more control of your climate including protection from pests, theft, and environmental stressors.
Step 2: Germination
If you're starting from seeds, you have to germinate your seeds first. One of the most effective ways to germinate your cannabis seeds is using a moist starter cube/plug and a heat mat. However, one of the easiest ways to germinate your seeds is through the paper towel method using the following:
- Cannabis seeds
- Paper towels
- Two plates
Find step-by-step instructions on how to germinate seeds using the paper towel method on our blog resource.
Step 3: Vegetative Stage
Once your seeds have sprouted and cotton their first leaves, this is when the vegetative stage begins. From Spring until fall, the vegetative phase uses sunlight and nutrients to grow its roots, leaves, and stems. During this stage, your plans will need higher levels of nitrogen to fuel their growth.
During this stage, you can experiment with different cannabis training techniques including low-stress and high-stress techniques. In addition, make sure you're closely monitoring your plants water intake. As it grows bigger, it will need more water. Make sure to water your plants away from the stalk to allow your roots to stretch out.
Step 4: Flowering Stage
Here's where it gets exciting. The flowering stage is when your plants begin to grow their resinous flower buds that we all know and love. Generally, you'll be growing photoperiod plants which require a 12-12 light schedule of lightness and darkness.
Autoflowering plants don't flower according to a light cycle. Instead, they begin flowering after a certain period of time.
If you're growing from regular seeds, this is where it gets tricky. Feminized seeds are most likely going to yield female flowering plants. During the flowering stage, you've got to keep an eye on your plants grown from regular seeds since there's a possibility that you may end up with a male pollinating plant.
Male plants grow pollen sacs without the tall-tale white hair pistils of female plants. Make sure to remove the male plants immediately to avoid pollinating females and ruining your crop.
Make sure to pay close attention to the status of your flowering plants since they may require fine-tuning with nutrients and pruning due to the focus being spent on the bud growth.
Some growers choose to flush their crops before harvest. Flushing involves feeding plants only water to remove the nutrients from the plants right before the harvest.
Step 5: Harvest
After many months of carefully tending to your plants, it's time to harvest your crop. But, how do you know when your buds have reached their peak freshness? Here are some guidelines to consider to perfectly time you are harvest:
- Pay attention to your senses. Your garden should be very pungent and feature bud sites with tons of trichomes that start off as white, hair-like glands.
- Allow about half of the trichomes to darken over time to a golden-yellow color signaling higher cannabinoid levels.
- Allow about two-thirds of the trichomes to darken for a more sedating and anti-anxiety experience due to the THC content converting to the calming CBN.
- If possible, use a magnifying glass or loupe to assess the color and formation of your trichomes.
It takes a bit of trial and error to perfectly time your harvest, especially if you have trouble estimating the color and percentage of trichomes that have changed. Over time, it gets easier. Now, it's time to sanitize your scissors, and start cutting the plant down to begin the final stages.
Step 6: Drying
After you cut down your cannabis branches and have trimmed off the excess leaves and foliage from the buds, it's time for the drying stage. Drying takes place in a cool, dry, and dark area.
Growers generally hang the branches (using clothes hangers or similar tools) upside down for them to dry out. An ideal drying environment is about 70º F with 50% humidity.
Drying your buds is a slow process that requires patience. There's no shortcut. Allow your buds to dry until they feel dry to the touch and their small stems produce an audible snap sound when bent. Thicker stems may usually bend slightly. When they’re fully dry, it’s time to move on to the curing stage.
Step 7: Curing
Curing cannabis is a similar concept to drying it, which removes the excess moisture. However, curing takes place in an airtight mason jar in a dark and cool location. Simply fill your mason jar about 3/4 of the way full and allow your buds to sit there for a few weeks.
Every day, open the jar for a few minutes to allow your buds to get fresh air and the moisture to be released. Excess moisture can lead to mold which can ruin your flower.
When your buds start to feel dry when you open them after a week or two, you can open the lid fewer times (about once a week). Curing timelines vary by grower. You will need to experiment to find your preferred curing length.
Step 8: Storage
Once you've harvested your trichome-laden buds, the work's not done, although it gets much easier from here.
If you're looking to store your flower buds for the long-term and preserve their freshness, consider your storage practices to avoid a reduction in potency, flavor, and aroma. Here are a few tips for the keeping your buds fresher for longer:
- Humidity packs: If possible, add a humidity pack into your bud jar. These moisture-balancing packs absorb or release moisture as needed. Humidity packs are available in a range of relative humidity levels between 58% or 62% humidity depending on your environment.
- Airtight containers: Invest in an airtight mason jar or other airtight containers to store your flower. Ideally, stick with glass or ceramic over plastic. Vacuum bags can also work.
- Dark environment: Heat, moisture, oxygen, and lights all can age your weed. Ideally, invest in a container that is opaque or UV protected. Light entering the bud jar can reduce the potency and quality of your buds. In addition, keep your weed storage area dark, as well.
- Cool environment: Keep your weed storage area under 78° F to reduce the risk of mold in your bud jar.
Conclusion on Growing Weed Outdoors Step By Step
Now that you have a better idea of growing weed outdoors step by step, you're ready to embark on your journey as a cannabis grower.
If you want to perfect the art of cannabis cultivation, enroll in Cannabis Training University. Our online cannabis training program covers every aspect of the cultivation process and more. Learn how to grow weed inside and outside on a budget. We’ll even show you how to turn your gardening hobby into a career.