During the last few years, we have seen an unprecedented run of weed legalization throughout the US and Canada. Some parts of Europe are following suit with legalizing cannabis for medicinal reasons. Although the world is a mess these days, those are certainly good times for smokers all over the world.
In the past, it would be unthinkable to grow marijuana outdoors without seriously considering the consequences. However, as we race towards total legalization, it becomes easier for people to grow weed in their own property. As we have seen in previous articles, in the long run, home grows are a smart investment. You save money, time and ensure that you only get marijuana of the highest quality. But what if you want to grow outdoors?
Why Grow Marijuana Outdoors
Outdoor marijuana growing many benefits:
- It is much cheaper and simpler to set up than an indoor grow room.
- Marijuana plants grow bigger and stronger outdoors.
- You get to learn a thing or two about nature!
That being said, growing marijuana from your windowsill is not a very effective way to potent yields. While your plant will indeed grow, it will not receive enough light to grow buds. That’s why you need your plants to be actually outdoors. A private area such as a balcony, a private garden is ideal, as long as it receives constant sunlight.
Outdoor marijuana plants will outgrow even the best indoor gardens. This is because marijuana thrives in its natural state, and it has been doing so for centuries. Natural sunlight is infinitely better for the plants than the best indoor lamp, as it provides all the necessary wavelengths for photosynthesis. With some basic equipment and access to a semi-private location, everyone can grow their own marijuana!
How Many Plants Can I Grow In Legal States
These are the numbers as of yet in legal marijuana states (recreational/medicinal):
|6 or 12 plants depending on the distance from the nearest dispensary
We’ll update this table as more states and countries are added to the legal marijuana list. However, it is important to do your research before starting an outdoor grow. Marijuana legislation is still fragile and subject to frequent changes.
Finding and Preparing a Spot
Your spot could be anywhere. Balconies, backyards, and rooftops are prime candidates for your outdoor operation. And although marijuana is mostly legal (or at least, not persecuted as much), privacy is always a big plus. Pets, pests or even thieves can take a liking to your plants, so make sure to protect your garden. If you live on a ranch or near the woods, you’ve hit the jackpot!
Consider enclosing your crop, to offer protection from the wind and nosy animals that can hurt your crop. Some fence will work well, so long as it only has a sealable entrance and a source of water can be found nearby. Remember that, apart from the sun, marijuana need a lot of water to grow and prosper!
Before you start, consult our comprehensive seed guide to read all about the seed strains that you’d like to grow. You must make sure that your seeds come from reputable sources and has good genetics. Also, it is important to remember that, although marijuana is literally a weed, it is still a good idea to get more hardy strains if growing in colder countries.
Outdoor Marijuana Grow Area Preparation
Your goal as an indoor grower should be to get as much sunlight as possible to your plants. That being said, you should make sure that they get at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight. To do so, it is important to take full advantage of morning sunlight and plant smartly, depending on where you live.
So, if you live in the northern hemisphere, consider planting your babies in a way, so they are exposed to the south. Doing so will ensure that the garden will “follow” the sun’s trail as it rises and sets. If you live in the southern hemisphere, plant them with a northern exposure for the same effects. If you live near the equator zone, you might as well grow your plants wherever you want! Those few extra hours of sunlight might be crucial for your crop, so choose carefully!
Also, if you are growing directly to the ground and not on containers, you should consider how many plants you want to grow. Root systems need space to grow, and you must make sure that all your plants get enough. Generally, the more plants you grow=the more space you’ll need to leave between them. For example, if you want to plant six marijuana seedlings, leave at least four feet of space between them.
Male Plants: The Scourge of Outdoor Marijuana Growers
Rarely have I been around outdoor marijuana growers that haven’t complained about male plants. As an indoor grower, I’d always assume that the most dangerous enemy of an outdoor grow would be the weather or the lack of nutrients. However, most of the time, it is male plants that ruin outdoor crops. Therefore, it is important to know how to find and exterminate them quickly and efficiently.
Why Does the Plant Sex Matter To You
We already have prepared a comprehensive article about male and female marijuana plants, that might come especially handy for outdoor growers. You can read the whole guide here. The important parts to remember are:
- Regular marijuana seeds have a 50-50 chance of turning either male or female.
- Female plants are the only ones that can produce seedless buds with the highest concentrations of cannabinoids.
- Cannabinoids are part of the marijuana plant’s immune system, and this is why most of them are concentrated on the trichomes surrounding the buds
- Hermaphrodites are a special category that produces both male and female genitalia and can pollinate itself. This is usually due to some genetic issue or environmental stress.
- There is no good reason to keep males around, except in the case you want to breed your own cannabis. Even if you do wish to keep them around, designate a particular breeding area away from your main garden.
- Male marijuana plants still contain trace amounts of cannabinoids so you can turn them into edibles or extract oils from them. Also, they make very good companion plants for other grows.
By reading the article we prepared for you earlier, you’ll be able to identify male marijuana plants early enough. Just be sure to get a powerful magnifier before you start!
Getting a Potent Yield
Getting the highest possible amount of cannabinoids is the aim of your outdoor marijuana crop. Whether that is psychoactive THC or soothing CBD, genetics is everything when it comes to potency. You can try every technique in the book, but marijuana plants have a genetic limit regarding the maximum THC and CBD they can produce.
However, there are a few things you can do to boost the natural tendencies of your plants. The most important of all is free and straightforward: Patience!
Ensuring Healthy Grow
Weed is quite literally …weed. Sturdy and self-sufficient, marijuana plant can grow perfectly well without you. It is very difficult to kill a marijuana plant, but on the contrary, a little bit of care can go a long way. Avoid under/over watering and always keep them in the sun. Also, try to protect them from extreme temperatures (below 60ºF and more than 80ºF). You will be rewarded with a healthy, high yielding plant!
Harvesting and Curing
Harvesting at the right time is extremely important to your grow, and proper curing can increase the value of your grow. You can read about both processes in our detailed article. Curing marijuana admittedly takes some time, but the result will be worth the wait!
Planting at the Right Time
Plant in the spring, harvest in the autumn is pretty much the standard for all marijuana strains. Check the specs of your seeds to see what the breeder recommends. Your plant will enter the flowering phase as days get shorter and winter approaches.
Re-Planting Your Seedling
We have covered plant germination in a previous IHL article, so I’ll cut straight to the chase: Whatever you do, start indoors! Germination can be done using several techniques, and you can read all about them here. Transplanting, however, is an excellent way to healthier, more vigorous plants. The recommended way to do that involves three phases:
- Place your germinated seeds in disposable party cups that you’ve pre-filled with soil (add holes in the bottom for better water drainage).
- As soon as the plant grows its first couple of leaves (cotyledons), cut the plastic cup and stick the plant to a 1-3 gallon pot.
- When the plant doubles in size, it will be ready for transplant into the final container.
When it comes to transplanting, be sure not to leave the young plant in the first container for very long, as it might become root-bound (the roots grow too big for the container). Transplanting just a bit earlier is better than too late: Root-bound plants absorb water very quickly and can suffocate if left in the same state for too long.
Here are some tips for successful transplanting:
- Make sure the soil is moist before transplanting.
- Dig a hole in the middle of the next container to make room for the root ball and make sure it is large enough.
- Do not try to pull the plant out of its old container by grabbing the stem! Instead, use a plastic knife to separate the root ball from the pot.
If you feel like all of the above are a nuisance, just stick the germinated seed into the final growing container. However, in case you do, be careful with watering in the first few weeks. The weak root system of the seedling might have a hard time finding oxygen in a large container.
Marijuana will grow just about anywhere. In India and South Africa, it basically grows on the side of the road. If the soil of your backyard is not entirely shitty, you can just stick your germinated seed inside it! However, if you need containers for your outdoor grow, you’ll need to obtain soil from a local garden store. Also, we recommend buying light plastic 5-gallon containers (and avoid porous materials that absorb moisture).
You can increase the quality of the soil by adding organic mixes. A good idea would be to create your very own compost, using stuff like used filter coffee or fruit peel. As they decay, they will provide your plant with nutrients and help them grow even healthier. Keep them in a paper bag and add them to your plants as necessary. Here is a handy guide to making your very own compost!
Planting Directly on the Ground
Planting on the ground is also a good strategy, as it will eliminate the need for nutrients, especially in high-quality soil. Don’t forget that nature knows best! Also, this option offers limitless growing space for your plants, that might, however, grow a little too big for their own good (some strains can reach 6′ in height).
Before you go planting outdoors, you must be sure that the acidity of the ground is not too high or too low. If it is, you will have to till the soil until an acceptable level has been reached. There are three types of soil: Clay, sandy and loamy. A visit to your local garden store will answer all your questions regarding the quality and type of soil in your area.
Reading the pH Levels of Soil
Marijuana thrives at levels between 5,5-7,0 which is a perfect middle ground in the pH spectrum that goes from 1 (acidic) to 14(alkaline). This range is surprisingly broad too, as the difference in value between two numbers in the pH scale is tenfold. That means that a pH of 5 is 10x more acidic than a value of 6. Whether too low or too high, extreme pH is not good for your plants as it can lock out certain nutrients, leading to the plant diseases or even death.