It does not matter if growing indoors or outdoors. Before even thinking of germinating the seeds, preparing the growing space and all the items and materials needed needs to be undertaken. A fundamental understanding of the life cycle of cannabis plants helps in planning and scheduling, leading to healthy growth. It also entails familiarity with the local weather and climatic conditions.
The Life Cycle of Growing Marijuana Outdoor
Cannabis plants may take anywhere between 3 to 8 months to grow outdoors. The duration varies from strain to strain, the type of seed, and the growing technique. In essence, the growth cycle consists of 4 stages:
- Seed germination
Seed Germination (5 to 10 days)
After making all the necessary preparation, it is time to pop the seeds, marking the start of the cannabis life cycle. On how to germinate weed seeds, there are more than a few methods. A tried and tested way is by using the paper towel method. Providing the seeds with enough moisture, oxygen, heat, and light causes the taproot to form, cracking, and emerging from the protective shell.
Factors that may affect the rate of germination are age and quality of the seeds. These are concerns that Homegrown Cannabis Co. has taken care of, supplying only fresh, premium quality hand-picked seeds.
The best time to start the seeds is during early spring or the spring equinox (around March 19 to 21). Germinating the seeds in April is also ideal in warmer climates. In colder regions, popping the seeds may have to wait until May.
Seedling Stage (4 to 6 weeks)
Once the taproot emerges, it becomes the primary root system. It burrows into the ground to anchor the sprout, searching and absorbing nutrients.
The seedling stage starts when the plant has grown its first set of leaves. Each seedling is then transplanted in small pots once it has developed a healthy root system. Most people use a solo cup filled with potting mix. The small size of the containers makes watering more manageable.
A common practice among most growers is to keep the seedlings indoors to protect it from the elements. In warmer places and idyllic conditions, the seedlings could be planted outdoors straightaway.
Transplanting to a larger container is essential before the seedlings outgrow, or leaves growing past the edges of the current pot. This is usually by May or June. In general, 5-gallon containers (or larger) serve as the final home of the plants. It varies, though, from strain to strain. As a rule of thumb, allot 2 to 3 gallons per 12 inches (30 cm) of growth.
One exemption to planting the seedlings in solo cups are marijuana autoflowering varieties. Transplanting causes stress, and autos should not put in such a situation as it negatively impacts its growth. These plants bypass small pots and instead are planted in the final containers.
Vegetative Stage (3 to 16 weeks)
During the vegetative period, cannabis plants build strong and healthy roots, develop sturdy stems and branches, and form dense foliage. As a result of this growth spurt, the nutrient, water, and light requirements increase. The plants also undergo topping or training. It is during this period when the defining characteristics of Indica or Sativa varieties become apparent. Towards the end, during the pre-flowering phase, the plants should reveal their gender.
Cannabis plants normally start vegetating during springtime. The plants need to be outside by the time the summer solstice (the longest day of the year) sets in during mid-June. This ensures that it can absorb all the sunlight it needs to photosynthesize. Transplanting by May or June ensures that you are right on schedule.
This period has no fixed duration. Photoperiod strains would stay in this phase as it continues to receive ample sunshine. It could last from 3 to 16 weeks, depending on when the seeds were first germinated. For example, sowing the seeds by early spring means that the plants will already be vegetating come summer. On the other hand, starting much later may result in a vegging cycle that only lasts for 1 to 2 weeks.
Auto-flowers are different. These plants do not rely on light cycles. After 2 to 4 weeks, depending on the specific strain, it automatically enters the flowering phase.
Flowering Stage (6 to 12 weeks)
The flowering phase is the final growth stage of cannabis. It is when the plants stop growing and instead pour their energy into developing the much-desired resinous buds. Upon reaching full maturation – or when the trichomes turn milky white – the flowers are harvested.
In the outdoors, cannabis plants transition to the blooming phase as they receive less light. Typically, it occurs during mid or late summer when the days get shorter than 12 hours. Marijuana strains with Indica growth pattern will finish flowering within 7 to 9 weeks. On the other hand, Sativa strains require a lengthier period that lasts 12 to 16 weeks.
At any rate, the colas should be ready for collection during the autumnal equinox, or towards the end of September. It is important to harvest before the cold season sets in, which could make the buds more susceptible to molds. In warmer regions, however, you could still gather the flowers until mid-November. Also, before the winter solstice (around December 20 to 23), ensure that the plant matter has already been trimmed, dried, and cured.
Tips for Growing Marijuana Outdoors Successfully
Growing marijuana outdoors is not complicated. All that is needed is sunny open space, high-quality soil, a convenient water supply, and shelter to house the plants in case the weather gets awry. By keeping a few factors in mind, even first-time cultivators could raise and harvest the desired cannabis plants.
1. Consider the Climate
Having a good understanding of the local climates is essential for healthy plant growth. Although a highly adaptable species, know that cannabis is not impervious to severe weather conditions, including extreme temperatures, heavy rains, high winds, and excessive moisture. These factors could cause irreversible damage, lowering plant quality, and yields.
Aside from this, be aware of how the day length changes throughout the growing season as well. For instance, during the summer solstice, Seattle (at 47° N) would experience 16 hours of daylight. Meanwhile, San Diego (at 32° N) would only receive 14 hours. If possible, ask the seasoned gardeners in the area for some tips. Moreover, check the detailed articles and outdoor marijuana strains guide published in this site.
2. Select an Optimal Spot
Picking a site for the garden is one of the most decisive factors when growing weed outdoors. It rings even more true for those who intend to plant directly in the ground or large immobile pots.
Choose a spot that receives plenty of direct sunlight, especially during midday. It should also have constant access to a light breeze.
In areas with gale-force winds, consider planting near a screen, fence, wall, or even large shrubs or rows of trees. These would act as a windbreaker and protect the crops from violent gusts. Not to mention, these also help camouflage the garden, ensuring that it is safe from prying eyes.
3. Pick a Suitable Genetic
The success of outdoor cannabis harvest often comes down to growing the right cultivar. It should not only meet the individual needs and preferences but be suitable for the local climate and conditions as well.
Another important consideration is choosing between seeds and clones.
Starting from seeds is generally more preferred when growing outdoors, mainly because the ovules are hardier against inclement weather. Moreover, each seed is genetically unique, which means that no two seeds (even if they are of the same strain) are alike. It also tends to produce larger yields and more flavorful buds.
For seeds, decide on which type to grow – regular, feminized, auto-flower, or fast version. Furthermore, this site also has several articles featuring the best outdoor marijuana strains.
4. Use Only the Best Soil
Soil is primarily made up of clay, sand, and silt. Cannabis plants flourish in a slightly acidic soil that is rich with organic matter. It should also have a loose texture, adequate water-holding capacity, and excellent drainage. There may be a need to amend the chosen soil to achieve these qualities.
Silty soil is the ideal medium when growing cannabis outdoors. It is easy to work with, holds plenty of nutrients, retains moisture, and drains well. Dark, crumbly loam, in particular, is the best type of silty soil. It already has the right makeup and fertility, and will most likely not require any amending.
Regardless of choice, consider having the soil tested beforehand to reveal the soil pH, composition, and presence of contaminants, among others. These pieces of information make it easy to amend and enhance the substrate as needed.
5. Fertilize the Plants
Cannabis plants will require varying amounts of nutrients throughout the growing cycle, mostly in the form of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. For best results, opt for all-natural fertilizers such as compost, worm castings, and kelp meal. These organic nutrient solutions encourage the microbial populations in the soil, hence improving the quality and fertility. This translates to superior plant growth.
Generally, these materials are mixed in with the soil amendments, then added before planting. If done correctly, there should be enough nutrients to last the entire life of the crops.
At any rate, stay away from synthetic chemical fertilizers at all costs. These harms the soil microorganisms, affect the flavor and aroma of the buds, and leave toxic residues that may ultimately be passed on to humans.
6. Choose an Appropriate Container
Some growers prefer to plant directly in the ground. Not everyone, however, has a suitable patch of land where they could set up a garden. In this case, containers are used instead, which could be placed on patios, decks, and other spots. These may be moved throughout the day to optimize exposure to sunshine, or to protect the plants from extreme weather. Generally, 5-gallon pots will suffice for small-to-medium-sized plants, whereas large plants may need 10-gallon or more containers.
7. Know the Right Watering Habit
Although outdoor plants have access to rainwater, there is still a need to water them by-hand regularly. This is especially true during the hot summer months. Large cannabis plants, in fact, may consume up to 10 gallons of water per day during warm weather.
In hot, arid regions, you may want to dig down and add clay-rich soil or rocks beneath the planting holes to slow down the drainage. To improve moisture retention, consider placing some water-absorbing crystals. Then, irrigate early in the morning to keep the plants hydrated throughout the entire day.
On the other hand, you would have to improve the drainage to prevent the plants from becoming waterlogged in rainy climates. One option is to mix in perlite, clay pebbles, or gravel to the soil. Another is to plant in raised mounds or beds. Finally, channel water away from the garden by digging ditches.
As for hot and windy areas, frequent watering is needed to compensate for the high evaporation rate. Moreover, plants in containers may require daily watering – or when the top inch of the soil feels dry.
Incidentally, tap water contains chlorine. This antimicrobial is going to kill beneficial organisms in the soil. Hence, before putting into use, draw water and let it sit for 24 to 487 hours so that chlorine could dissipate before watering the plants.
8. Protect the Plants
Take extra measures to protect cannabis plants from the wrath of nature, such as temperature fluctuations, severe weather conditions (including strong winds and rain), and pests. Without enough shielding, the plants may get injured or even die. Greenhouse, plastic sheeting, and other similar covering materials could safeguard the plants against temperature changes or heavy rain. Furthermore, setting up a windbreaker would help against winds, whereas building a fence may fend off pests and other animals. Also, inspect the plants regularly for any signs of pesky bugs, and use organic pesticides if needed.