How to Grow Cannabis Outdoors
If you ask the average person how hard they think it is to grow cannabis outdoors, you’re likely to get an answer something along the lines of, “it grows like a weed, right?” Honestly, they’re not wrong!
The cannabis plant dates back as far as mankind and most likely much, much longer.
If you have ever smoked a bowl of Hindu Kush, or OG Kush, or any Kush for that matter, you may or may not have made the connection between that strain and the actual Hindu Kush mountain range that stretches through war-town Afghanistan and into the reclusive no-mans-land of Pakistan.
It is here that squat, bushy, often purple-hued, “Indica” cannabis plants flourish, naturally producing massive trichome-swathed colas as far as the eye can see. The climate, the latitude, the soil, and the lack of human environmental destruction has preserved this cornerstone of cannabis history to this day.
So, surely, you should be able to grow some top-shelf buds on your back patio, right?
Well… it’s not quite that easy. Yes, it grows like a weed, but if you’re hoping to harvest top shelf cannabis here are a few tips to answer the age-old question of – How do you grow cannabis outdoors?
A TIME & A PLACE
First you need to know if you are even allowed to grow cannabis outdoors where you live. This will not only vary from state the state, but from county to county and city to city as well in many states.
Some municipalities will require that the plants be out of sight, or behind a locked gate, or may even ban outdoor cultivation altogether, regardless of state law.
For decades, outdoor cannabis growers evaded harsh laws prohibiting such behavior with “guerilla grows”, using natural camouflage, tree canopies, and unique terrain to hide their crops from the cops. Many of those same tactics can be employed today just to avoid the prying eyes of nosy neighbors.
If you have done that research and determined that you are good to grow, the next thing to remember is that outdoor cannabis crops flower once per year. That’s right, you only get one shot at it, so make it count!
Due to this semi-predictable seed-to-flower cycle, choosing when to plant is imperative. Though it will vary a bit depending on where you are located, most growers here in California put plants in the ground in the late spring, leading into summer – April or May. This gives them around six months until ‘Croptober’ when the majority of outdoor, sungrown cannabis crops are ready to be harvested.
TIP: Got a late jump on the growing season? Consider starting with a clone instead of a seed and you could get back some of the weeks you lost!
TERROIR OR NOT TO TERROIR
If you have spent much time reading about outdoor cannabis you may have come across the term terroir. Sparing you the dictionary definition, it’s basically a way to define specific geographic regions based on a combination of things like soil type/quality, latitude/longitude, climate/seasonal specifics, air quality, and more.
You may also have heard the term if you are into champagnes and wines, as that is where the cannabis culture learned it from. For example, that bottle of bubbly is not technically champagne unless it comes from the Champagne terroir in France.
How does this relate to how to grow cannabis outdoors?
Well, once you decide to grow outside you also need to chose whether you will put your plants in pots full of pre-mixed, nutrient-rich, store-bought soil, or if you will put them right into the ground, into their natural terroir.
Though this is a personal or even ideological choice for some farmers, it is not an option for others as their local soil just cannot provide what the plants require. Both methods can produce ideal flowers as long as the roots are getting the nutes they need.
One of the arch enemies of the outdoor cannabis farmer is bugs. Not all bugs, though, and that just so happens to be the best solution for the problem, should the problem ever arise.
Instead of introducing harmful and toxic chemical pesticides that could taint your crop and lead to failed lab tests, you can incite your own bug war right in your garden by introducing the right kind of troops onto the battlefield.
Super soldiers like lacewings, lady bugs, and praying mantises will wipe out aphids, spider mites, and any other cannabis-wrecking bug they come across, without harming your plants.
Additionally, a slight sprinkle of the powdery, white diatomaceous earth (DE) on and around newly sprouted cannabis plants, and then around the base of more mature plants, will deter munching bugs from doing damage. Though it feels like powdered sugar to us, and is harmless to the plants when used sparingly, it is like a million razor blades to those six-legged pests.
HOW TO KNOW WHEN TO HARVEST YOUR OUTDOOR CANNABIS CROP
From the time you put your pot plants in the soil you will watch them transform almost daily in the months leading up to Croptober.
Some pruning and topping may be beneficial throughout the vegetative and flowering stages to ensure that the bud-producing branches are getting the attention they deserve from the plant and from the farmer.
For larger plants, those flowering branches will become heavy from the weight of the buds and may require netting or trellising to support them as they get even bigger so that the branch does not break.
Assuming you planted in late spring, as you approach the middle of September, you’ll start to pay special attention to the buds, or flowers, on each plant focusing specifically on the trichomes on those buds. Using a magnifying scope, the thoughtful farmer will wait until those trichomes are bulbous and swollen, and of a certain clarity, telling them that harvest day has arrived.
WILDFIRES & THEIR IMPACT ON WEED
There have been over 7,000 fire-related incidents in California this year alone, and at points this summer there were over 600 certified wildfires raging at the same time across the state.
Just as thousands of acres of outdoor cannabis crops are blooming into their flowering stage and nearing harvest, they are being blanketed in the residual smoke from nearby wildfires. This air pollution can linger for days in valleys, making for itchy eyes and aggravated lungs for humans stuck within it.
For cannabis plants, it can be a two-way street. While they do benefit (to a certain extent) from the added carbon in the air, there is such a thing as too much, and falling ash can be a nightmare at this stage of the crop’s growth cycle.
If your plants get dusted with ash, the best thing you can do is gently shake them and hopefully most of the ash will come loose. If that is not an option, and you feel that the plants must be washed, it’s best to soak them thoroughly. You do not want that residual ash/water paste to accumulate on your buds or leaves.
If in any given year there are fires are burning during and after the Croptober harvest, another danger is having that smoky air taint the flavor of buds being hung and dried prior to the curing process.
This, of course, pales in comparison to the loss of lives and property brought on by these fires and our hearts here at Cannasafe go out to all those affected by these natural disasters.
Stay safe, friends & farmers!