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Learning how to grow cannabis outdoors is super easy. In fact, you won't need to break the bank to get your garden started. All you need is the right space that gets enough natural sunlight during the day. Compared to indoor cannabis growing, outdoor gardens require less equipment and less energy use over time.
If you're new to growing marijuana outdoors, there are a few things to keep in mind. From your local climate to your soil medium, there are many factors that can affect the size of your yield and the quality of your flower buds. Our grow guide can help jump-start your garden no matter where you're growing weed.
Choose the Genetics
Before you consider setting up your outdoor garden, think about what type of cannabis strains you want to grow. Consider if they are able to handle your specific environment and climate. As an outdoor grower, you can choose to grow seeds and/or cannabis clones. However, outdoor cannabis growers tend to start from seeds.
If starting from clones cut from a mother plant, you’ll need to prepare your young plants for the great outdoors. Hardening-off your plant involves starting it indoors and gradually moving it outdoors for a few hours a day.
Most outdoor growers choose to grow their cannabis plants from seeds because of the larger yields and flavorful buds. You can choose between regular, feminized, and autoflowering seeds, each with its own pros and cons.
- Feminized: Only produces female flowering plants
- Regular: 50/50 chance of producing non-flowering males or flowering females
- Autoflowering: Plants that automatically flower at a certain age (not based on the photoperiod)
Select a Location to Grow Cannabis Outdoors
When growing weed outdoors, it's important to be familiar with your local climate. While cannabis strains can grow in nearly any type of weather, extreme weather fluctuations can negatively affect your crop. Ideally, you want to grow weed in temperatures between 75 and 85º F. Anything higher or lower can shock your plants and limit their growth.
Size & Space
Cannabis strains vary in the amount of space they need to grow. Generally, sativa strains may grow slender and tall, while indica strains may grow short and bushy. Make sure you’ve done your homework and have selected a space that has enough room for your fully developed plant.
In addition, you're going to need to choose a space that gets enough sunlight during the day. Make sure your plants are placed in a space that gets at least 10-12 hours of direct sunlight per day. Otherwise, your plants won't get the energy they need to produce buds. Limited direct light can slow down growth and limit your cannabis yield.
Every state that allows for cannabis home cultivation has certain requirements on where you can grow weed and how it must be secured and contained. If it's legal to grow outdoors in your area, you're going to need to take precautions to hide your plants from public view.
Since cannabis can grow tall and emit a pungent odor, it's up to you to create a space that hides your plans and reduces the odors. Keeping your weed out-of-sight also reduces the risk of theft.
Once you've chosen your space, it's time to select the right type of soil to get your garden started for planting in early spring at the start of the cannabis growing season. When choosing your cannabis growing medium, you must assess its acidity, texture, and potential pests and harmful microorganisms.
Ideally, you want to grow weed in light and loamy soil that can drain excess water and retain some moisture for the roots. Loamy soil is characterized by a blend of sand, clay, and silt.
- Sand: The most common type of soil featuring large granules of rocks and minerals.
- Silt: The ideal soil type featuring medium-sized granules.
- Clay: The finest granule type.
Cannabis plants can grow in any of these native soil types with small amendments to make up for their aeration and drainage issues. However, cannabis thrives in a loamy growing media with a combination of these consistencies.
If you don't want to go through the trouble of amending your soil, you can buy pre-made potting soil and mix it into your natural soil. You can also add additional additives such as bonemeal, manure, mulch, and other additives to improve its nutrient uptake.
Ideally, soil pH levels should be between 5.5 and 6.5 (slightly acidic). Having soil under or over this pH level can create nutrient deficiencies. A pH monitor can help you adjust your soil's pH. Some outdoor cannabis growers use sulfur to reduce the pH. Some use agricultural lime to increase it.
If you're buying pre-made soil, you don't need to sterilize it. If you're working with native soil, you may need to sterilize it before use. Below are some unique ways to sterilize your soil.
- Solarization: Involves tilling the soil, watering, and covering the soil with a sheet of clear plastic to create high temperatures that kill harmful microorganisms.
- Steam: Steaming for about 30 minutes with or without a pressure cooker can help sterilize your soil.
- Microbes and insects: Introducing these organisms can drive away or kill pests without harming the plant.
When growing cannabis outdoors, you can choose to grow your plants in pots, bags, or directly in a hole you've dug. Growing in a pot or bag allows you to use pre-made or amended high quality soil. However, the container can limit the size of your cannabis roots and plants. A 5-10-gallon pot can work for everything from small to large plants.
Growing in pots or bags may require you to transplant your plants if they get too big. You may also need to provide them with additional water since they can't obtain it from the surrounding groundwater.
Digging a hole and planting your immature plants allows them to grow to their maximum potential. Roots can gain access to groundwater and may require less maintenance. However, you will be exposing your plants to natural pathogens and potentially harmful runoff.
Cannabis plants require certain macro and micronutrients throughout its life. Different levels of nutrients are needed for different stages of the plant’s growth. The three main nutrients needed are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
- Vegetative Stage: Need more nitrogen for root and foliage growth
- Flowering Stage: Need more phosphorus and potassium for bud growth
For beginners, choose pre-made (organic, if possible) cannabis nutrient solutions designed for either the vegetative or flowering cycle. Nutrients can come in powders or liquids or be assembled from scratch.
Watering and Feeding
Watering and feeding schedules vary by strain and growing conditions. Plants grown in containers may need more watering than ones grown directly in the soil. This is due to the plant’s ability to absorb groundwater. In addition, the size of your plant and the intensity of the sun can determine how fast your water is used.
Generally, you want to hand-water your plants when the top 1 inch of the soil feels dry. Check at least every day to ensure your soil has not completely dried out. Also, check for signs of dehydration. Wilting cannabis plants and dry soil may mean your plant needs water. Droopy leaves and wet soil may mean you’re watering too much.
Master Cultivator Certification
Now that you know the basics about growing weed outdoors, you can get started on planting your garden. If you want to know the nuances of outdoor gardens, enroll in Cannabis Training University’s online cannabis training program. Our curriculum, assembled by master growers in the biz, covers every step of the process in great detail.
Start growing weed outdoors today! Sign up to learn more about growing cannabis.