How to Grow Cannabis Outdoors: A Guide to Getting Started

Come coltivare Cannabis Outdoor: una guida per iniziare

How to Grow Cannabis Outdoors: A Guide to Getting Started

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Growing your own cannabis can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it can also be challenging, frustrating and expensive. As mentioned in our article where we looked at the pros and cons of indoor and outdoor , we saw that for a novice grower with limited resources, indoor growing might prove too expensive to be an option. The good news is that a small outdoor garden can grow a lot of quality cannabis without a large monetary investment. If you have access to a sunny spot in a private backyard or even on a balcony, terrace or rooftop, you can grow cannabis successfully. Our outdoor growing guide will look at the different factors you'll need to take into account when planning your first outdoor grow.

Step 1: Consider the Climate

It is crucial to have a good understanding of the climate in the area where you live. Cannabis adapts well to different climatic conditions, but is still sensitive to extreme climates. Sustained temperatures above 30°C will stunt the growth of your plants, while temperatures below 12°C could damage them and stunt their growth , or even kill them. Heavy rain and strong winds could physically damage plants and reduce yields, and excessive humidity can lead to the growth of mold and ascomycetes, especially during flowering.

In addition to climate change, you need to understand how the length of days changes in your area in different seasons. For example, at a latitude of 32°N (San Diego), during the summer solstice (the longest day of the year) there will be 14 hours of light, while at 47°N (Seattle) there will be 16 hours of light on the same day.

One useful resource is Sunset Magazine's zoned climate map , which takes into account several factors, such as elevation and proximity to large bodies of water. Another good idea is to use local resources, as gardeners in your area will surely have a lot of information about growing flowers and vegetables that can also be applied to growing Cannabis. If you have some experience in gardening and growing vegetables, you may also find that growing cannabis outdoors is a rather simple undertaking.

Step 2: Choose a Location

Choosing the right location for your garden will be the most important decision you make, especially if you're planting in the ground or in large, stationary containers (some plants grow outside in containers that can be moved depending on the weather and sun position) . Your Cannabis plants should receive at least 5 to 6 hours of direct sunlight each day, ideally in the middle of the day when the light quality is best.

If you live in an area where daily temperatures are consistently above 30°C, you should choose a spot that receives direct sunlight early and filtered light in the hottest parts of the day. An area with a constant breeze is a good choice in hot climates, although this will increase water consumption. On the other hand, if you live in an area with a lot of strong winds, you should consider planting near a windbreak of some kind, such as a wall, fence, or shrubbery. Those who live in colder climates may benefit from planting near something that retains heat, such as a south-facing brick wall or fence, while those who live in warm areas will definitely want to avoid these spots.

Finally, you'll want to take privacy and security into consideration. Many people will want to hide their gardens from critical neighbors and possible thieves. High fences and large bushes or trees are best unless you live in a remote area. Some plant in containers on balconies or rooftops, hidden from view, while others build large-diameter wire cages to keep thieves and animals at bay. Whatever you decide to do, remember that outdoor cannabis plants can grow to 4 meters or more, so plan accordingly.

Step 3: Buy some soil

The soil is made of three basic components, in various quantities:

  • Clay
  • Sand
  • Silt

Cannabis plants need well-drained, slightly acidic soil rich in organic matter to thrive. If you decide to plant directly into the ground, you must first understand what it is made of and modify it accordingly.

Clay-rich soils dry out slowly and don't hold oxygen well, so they will need lots of additives. At least a month before planting, dig large holes where you will place your cannabis plants and mix in large quantities of compost, manure, vermicompost or other decomposed organic matter. This will provide aeration and drainage, as well as nutrients for the plants.

It is easy to work with sandy soil, drains very well and warms up quickly, but does not retain nutrients well, especially in rainy environments. Again, you'll want to dig large holes for your plants and add things like compost, peat moss and coco coir, which will help bind the soil, providing food and air circulation. In hot climates, sandy soil should be covered with mulch to aid in water retention and to keep the roots from getting too hot.

Loamy soil is ideal for cultivation. It is easy to work with, heats up quickly, retains moisture and has good drainage, and contains many nutrients. The best loamy loam is found in prehistoric river beds or at the bottom of lakes. This dark, crumbly soil is the most fertile, and it will need very few additives.

If you want to ensure you get good results and minimize headaches, you can have your soil tested, which is easy and relatively cheap. A soil testing service will tell you the composition and pH of your soil, tell you about any contaminants, and tell you about suitable additives and fertilizers.

Step 4: Get some Fertilizer

Cannabis plants require large amounts of food throughout their life, mainly in the form of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, and how you choose to feed them will depend on your methods and soil composition. Here we have dedicated a detailed article to the optimal nutrients for your girls, take a look ;)

Commercial fertilizers aimed at home gardeners can be used if you have a good understanding of how they work and what your plants need, but in general less experienced growers should avoid them (particularly long-release granular fertilizers). You can purchase nutrient solutions made specifically for cannabis from your local grow shop, but they are often expensive and can harm soil bacteria, as they are usually made up of synthetic mineral salts and created for indoor, soilless cultivation.

Many experienced outdoor growers are devoted to organic fertilization methods, because they take full advantage of the microbial life in the soil and minimize harmful runoff. There are many different natural and organic fertilizers available in nurseries, such as blood meal, bone meal, fish meal, bat guano and kelp meal. Informing yourself about what they are and how they work will be very useful to you.

Focus on products that are cheaper and more readily available. Some of these materials release their nutrients quickly and are easily absorbed by plants, while others take months or years to release usable food. If done correctly, you can mix some of these products with your soil additives to provide enough nutrition for the lifetime of your plants. Again, having your soil tested can give you very useful information about the types and amounts of fertilizer you should use. If you're not sure how much to use, don't overdo it; you can always add more later if your plants start to show deficiencies.

Another method of fertilizing used more and more often these days is pre-fertilized organic soil, i.e. "super-soil", which can be homemade or store-bought. Either way, it's more expensive than simply adding additives to your garden soil, but it requires almost no effort, as all the necessary nutrients are already there. You just need to dig large holes for your plants, fill them halfway with super soil, and put regular soil on top.

Step 5: Water your Cannabis Plants

Even though outdoor cannabis gardens have the benefit of rain and soil water that you don't have indoors, you will most likely still need to water your plants frequently, especially in the hotter summer months. Large Cannabis plants can consume up to 38L of water every day in hot climates. Growers who live in hot, arid places often dig deep and place clay soil or rocks under the holes where they will plant, to slow drainage, or plant in shallow depressions that act as a funnel to the plants. Adding water-absorbing crystal polymers to the soil is another good way to improve water retention.

If you live in a particularly rainy climate, you may need to do a couple of things to improve drainage in your garden, as Cannabis roots are very susceptible to fungal diseases when under watery conditions. These techniques include:

  • Plant in a raised bed or mound
  • Dig ditches that direct water away from the garden
  • Add things like gravel, clay pebbles and perlite to the soil

If you're using tap water, it's a good idea to have it tested first. The water may contain high levels of dissolved minerals that can build up in the soil and change the pH level, or it may have high levels of chlorine, which can kill beneficial soil life. For these reasons, many people filter their water.

Container gardens dry out much faster than gardens created on the ground, and will often need to be watered every day. Plants grown in hot and/or windy conditions will need to be watered more frequently; high temperatures and winds force the plant to transpire at higher rates. Remember that overwatering is the most common mistake for inexperienced growers. The general rule is to water heavily, then wait until the top 2-3cm of the soil is completely dry before watering again. An inexpensive soil moisture meter is a good tool for the beginner.

Step 6: Choose your Containers

Container gardens are often a good choice for people who don't have an ideal place to grow or who have terrible soil conditions. There are numerous benefits to growing outside in containers, but there are also disadvantages. If you're unable to do the heavy lifting involved in digging trenches and laying out soil, shipping containers may be the only way you can grow your cannabis.

If you don't have a suitable plot of land for a garden, containers can be placed on terraces, patios or roofs, and moved during the day to take as much advantage of the sun as possible, or to shield the plants from excessive heat or wind. Plus, you can use regular cannabis nutrients designed for indoor growing, solving the fertilizer problem.

These advantages lead many beginners to use containers for their first outdoor grow. However, plants grown in pots, buckets or barrels will likely be much smaller than those planted in soil, because their root growth is restricted to the size of the container. In a general sense, the size of the pot will determine the size of the plant, although it is possible to grow large plants in small containers if you use the right technique.

In general, 20L is the smallest size to use, and 40L or more is recommended for larger plants. Regardless of size, you will want to protect the roots of your plants from excessive heat during hot weather, as potting soil pots can quickly reach 90°F or higher on hot days. This will greatly limit the growth of your plants, so be sure to shade your containers from sunlight. Finally, you will need to water your container much more frequently, even every day in the summer. Water your plants deeply in the morning so they have an adequate supply of water throughout the day.

Step 7: Protect your Cannabis Plants

Without the ability to control the environment, as you might indoors, outdoor cannabis growers must figure out how to protect their plants from storms and other weather events that could damage or even kill them.

  • Temperature Changes

Temperatures below 4°C can quickly damage most cannabis strains, so if you live in a climate where late spring and early autumn freezes are frequent, you will probably need to use cloches, protective barriers, cold tunnels or any other type of protection.

  • Winds

High winds can break branches, damage trichomes and stress your plants, leaving them vulnerable to pests and diseases. If your garden is in a particularly windy spot, or if you are expecting a particularly strong gust, it is recommended that you erect some type of windbreak. It can be something as simple as attaching perforated plastic sheeting to garden stakes around your plants.

  • Rain

While it's helpful for watering your garden, rain is generally viewed as a nuisance by growers because it can severely damage your crop and cause mold and mildew problems, especially when plants are flowering. If summer and early fall rains are likely in your area, it is wise to choose a variety that has natural resistance to mold. Be sure to fully support your plants with cages or stakes, because rainwater will collect on leaves and buds, weighing your plants down and breaking branches. Otherwise, you can use plastic sheeting and stakes to build temporary shelters over your plants when you know it's going to rain.

  • Pests

Protecting your cannabis garden from pests can be difficult. It's easy to deal with deer or rabbits: fences and cages will keep them at bay. When it comes to the wide range of crawling and flying insects that can attack your plants, things get a little more complicated. The best protection is to simply keep your plants healthy; Most stronger cannabis plants have natural resistance to pests, making smaller infestations easy to manage. It's also a good idea to keep your plants separate from other flowers, vegetables or ornamentals, because their pests can spread easily.

Examine your cannabis plants daily for signs of pests, as it is much easier to deal with an infestation if caught early. Washing plants with a light soap and water solution can stop a minor infestation. In case that doesn't work, there are many organic insecticides created for use on cannabis, often derived from neem or other botanical extracts. When used correctly, they are quite effective.

Step 8: Decide on Genetics

The success of your outdoor cannabis cultivation will depend a lot on choosing the right strain based on your climate and location. If you live in an area with a history of cannabis cultivation, there is a good chance that there are many strains that can be grown successfully, or that were even bred specifically for your climate.

Poorly Paired Climates

Some strains simply don't perform well in unfamiliar climates, the prime example being tropical sativa strains. Cannabis plants start to flower when the days start to get shorter; these tropical plants are accustomed to areas closer to the equator, where the length of the days does not vary much. When you try to grow them in more northern latitudes, they start flowering too late, to take advantage of the late summer sun. These strains can take up to 50-100% longer to complete flowering, which means they sometimes finish in December. If you live in Southern California, you could grow these varieties without any problems; in Seattle or Vancouver they won't even be able to produce before being killed due to lack of light, heavy rain and cold climate.

Cannabis Seeds vs. Clones

While most indoor growers use clones (rooted shoots that are genetically identical to the plant they were taken from), outdoor growers often prefer to grow from seeds. Both options have advantages and disadvantages.

Cloning (via cuttings) requires a “mother plant,” which is a plant kept in light for 16-24 hours each day, to prevent it from flowering. Alternatively, you can buy clones at a local dispensary. The benefit of taking this route is that the “mother plants” generally produce quality buds, and all clones will be female plants with the same characteristics. These clones will need to be planted indoors, and then you will need to move them outside gradually, starting with a few hours a day, to accustom them to direct sunlight, just as you would a seedling whose growth began indoors.

One disadvantage is that clones tend to be weaker than seeds, meaning the plants are smaller and produce less, although you can still produce large plants by growing clones indoors in late winter and early spring, for start the growing season earlier. Plus, cloned plants don't develop tap roots, the thick central root that penetrates deep into the soil to stabilize the plant and absorb water from the soil, so they are more sensitive to high winds and drought.

Plants grown from seed are generally stronger when young compared to clones. Cannabis seedlings tolerate low temperatures and wet conditions, which means you can plant seeds directly into the garden in early spring, even in colder, wetter climates. If you choose to start indoors, however, they will still need to be gradually moved outside before being transplanted.

The main disadvantage of growing from seed is that there are no guarantees about what you will get from it. Each Cannabis seed is unique and will produce a different plant, so unless you choose an inbred seed line, you can't really be sure what the final product will be. Additionally, regular cannabis seeds produce both males and females, so you'll need to determine their sex once they reach maturity and eliminate the males. For this reason, many people choose feminized seeds.

Auto-flowering seeds are another popular choice for growing outdoors, because they start flowering as soon as they reach maturity, regardless of day length. Many gardeners in temperate climates get two harvests each year using autoflowering seeds, one planted in late winter or early spring, and another planted in early summer.

Hopefully, you now have enough information to be able to successfully begin your outdoor cannabis cultivation. Growing and growing plants should be a fun and satisfying pastime, so remember to spend plenty of time with your plants, and have fun!

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