growing marijuana outdoors

To grow cannabis outdoors, the bare minimum required is basic gardening tools, soil, water, and a spot in your backyard that receives ample sunlight.

Greenhouse structures range from inexpensive polyvinyl chloride (PVC) tubes, often called “hoop houses,” to highly engineered, fully automated, and purpose-built steel greenhouses. Due to their efficiency, greenhouses are quickly becoming the preferred growing method for many large-scale cultivators.

The amount of water a plant needs largely depends on its size, the size of its container, the soil type, and general environmental conditions such as the weather and the intensity of the sun. Larger plants in warmer environments tend to use more water than smaller plants in cooler weather. The amount of water needed will change throughout a plant’s life cycle.

How to grow marijuana outdoors.

Avoid spraying synthetic insecticides on your cannabis plants as further research is needed to determine the health effects of smoking plants treated with synthetic chemicals. Organic pesticide and insecticide solutions can be effective if used properly. If you can avoid it, it is always best to not spray anything on your plants while they are flowering.

Daytime temperatures between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit (23.9 to 25.4 degrees Celsius) are ideal for cannabis, while temperatures above 88 degrees Fahrenheit (31.1 degrees Celsius) or below 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15.6 degrees Celsius) can delay growth. Cannabis is considered heat-tolerant, but sustained highs and extreme lows will usually lead to complications that could eventually kill your plants.

There are also many advantages and disadvantages of using clones. They can often be found at your local dispensary, are from a proven genetic lineage, and typically do well outdoors, making them the perfect choice for inexperienced growers. On the other hand, clones develop a fibrous root system, as opposed to the deep taproots that seeds develop. Fibrous root systems can reduce the plant’s ability to deal with environmental stress and predatory insects.

Container gardens can be convenient as they can be moved around the garden to maximize sunlight or protect them from harsh conditions Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps.

Determining the optimum location is another important factor that can affect the yield and quality of your plants. Cultivators in the Northern Hemisphere should attempt to place their plants in an area with southern exposure to ensure their plants are getting the most available sunlight. The opposite is true for the Southern Hemisphere.

Organic sources of nutrients include alfalfa meal, bone meal, kelp meal, bat guano, fish emulsion, dolomite, and earthworm castings. Each contains different ratios of nutrients that can be used for different phases of the plants’ growth cycle.

Security.

When possible, use natural structures and formations in your garden as windbreaks to prevent excessive stress on your plants that could lead to branches breaking.

Whether using seeds or clones, many cultivators start growing their plants indoors to ensure they are not exposed to damaging weather conditions as they develop their initial root system. The plants can be transitioned outdoors when the weather and light conditions are ideal. Extending the indoor vegetative growth period can help increase yields and allow growers time to select the best plants to be moved outdoors.

During the vegetative stage, water your plants thoroughly, then not again until the top 1 inch (2.54 centimeters) of soil has dried out. This can be every day or every four days, depending on conditions, but the time between watering will become shorter as the plant grows its roots. Container gardens tend to dry out faster than soil beds, so they’ll need to be watered more frequently.

Quality soil should be dark, rich in nutrients, and have a light and fluffy texture. The structure of your soil should be capable of retaining water but also allow for drainage of any excess. Organic potting soil blends from your local garden center will do just fine, but more advanced growers prefer to blend their own organic super soil from scratch. The soil itself should be slightly acidic with a pH of around 6. This can be tested with a soil pH meter or test kit.

Containers vs. in-ground.

Plants grown from seeds are typically heartier and more vigorous than clones, as they produce a sturdier taproot that clones are not able to replicate. The vigor that comes from deep roots can be an advantage when dealing with harsh environmental conditions and pest pressures. The disadvantages of growing seeds are the additional attention required to germinate the seeds, the necessity to eliminate any males before they pollinate the females, and the high variability in growth characteristics that results from their genes.

Wilting plants and dry soil are a direct sign that plants need water. Droopy leaves along with wet soil are a sign of overwatering. Both are common mistakes and can be avoided with some practice.

For a small garden, hand-watering is the easiest, cheapest way to go. It also allows you to get familiar with each cultivar’s needs, and gives each plant the exact amount of water it requires. Irrigation systems can be convenient for a large number of plants or for times when you cannot be in your garden.

During the first half of the season, the daytime period increases until the summer solstice, which occurs in the Northern Hemisphere on or around June 21 and in the Southern Hemisphere on or around December 21. While the daylight hours increase, the plant’s vegetative stage takes place. During vegetation, the plant will develop the roots and stems that will serve as the foundation for growth until flowering.

Plan to put plants in the ground based on the temperature, season, and light where you live so your cannabis plants have time to finish flowering before cold, rainy weather sets in.

Balcony: This can be a great spot if it gets good light—ideally, it faces south—and will usually get good wind. However, you may need to cover your balcony from peeping neighbors.

The sky’s the limit with outdoor plants—you can let them get as big and tall as you want, as long as they’re manageable. One plant can potentially yield between a half-pound and full-pound of dried weed! Growing a handful of hands for yourself is more than enough. With an indoor grow, your space is a lot more restricted.

Low costs.

Types of outdoor grow spaces.

Big yields.

Don’t underestimate the therapeutic value of gardening. It’s relaxing to spend some time outside, roll up your sleeves, and get your hands dirty for a while. And there’s nothing better than smoking something you grew yourself.

The best way to identify loamy soil is by touching it. How does it feel? Sandy soil should be difficult to compact while clay should compact into a tight ball that won’t crumble. When squeezed, loamy soils should form a loose ball that will hold its structure momentarily before breaking apart in large chunks.

Your cannabis plants should receive as much direct sunlight as possible, ideally during midday, when the quality of light is best. As the season changes and fall approaches, your plants will get less and less sunlight throughout the day, which will trigger the flowering stage.

Roof: This can be great for sun but may have too much wind.

Some growers plant in containers on balconies or rooftops that are shielded from view, while some build heavy-gauge wire cages to keep thieves and animals at bay. Whatever you decide, think about how big you want your final plant to be—outdoor cannabis plants can grow to 10 feet tall or even more, depending on how much you let them go.

Here are some important considerations before starting an outdoor marijuana grow.

How to set up your outdoor marijuana grow.

It’s fun and relaxing.

Environmentally friendly.

It’s crucial to have a good understanding of the climate in the area you’re going to grow. Cannabis is highly adaptable to various conditions, but it is susceptible in extreme weather.

These are just some examples of amendments commonly used in different types of soils. Heavily amended soils will have long lists that break down all organic nutrients they contain. Some companies create soils that offer a great structure with base nutrients, but allow you to fill in the gaps as you desire.

Indoor grows can be wasteful, using a ton of electricity to power all those lights, fans, and other equipment. The sun and the wind are free!

Benefits of growing weed outdoors.

Silty soil is the ideal growing medium. It’s easy to work, warms quickly, holds moisture, has good drainage, and contains a lot of nutrients. The best silty soil is dark, crumbly loam—it’s fertile and probably won’t need any amending.

Soil, at a basic level, is defined as the topmost layer of earth in which plants grow—it’s a mixture of organic remains, clay, and rock particles. Cannabis plants thrive in soil rich with organic matter, and they need good drainage.

However, plants grown in pots, buckets, or barrels will likely be smaller than those planted in the ground because their root growth is restricted to the size of the container. In a broad sense, the size of the pot will determine the size of the plant, although it’s possible to grow large plants in small containers if proper techniques are used.

You can plant directly into the ground, using the preexisting soil, but you’ll need to understand your soil’s composition and amend it accordingly. If you go this route, we recommend getting your soil tested, which will minimize headaches, and it’s easy and relatively inexpensive. A soil test will tell you the makeup and pH of your soil, any contaminants present, and will recommend materials and fertilizers to amend your soil.

You may need to put all of your plants in containers if you don’t have great soil. Also, if you’re unable to perform the heavy labor needed to dig holes and amend soil, containers may be the only way for you to grow your own cannabis outdoors.

We recommend these organic fertilizers:

As your plant is growing, start out with no bracing. Let the wind shake the branches a bit in order to make the branches stronger — often referred to as ‘low-stress training (LST).’ Use a fan to keep a constant breeze on the plant if at all possible.

As a cannabis plant gets larger, especially during the flower stage, the surrounding branches of the plant will become heavy and start to lean and bend. Eventually, the entire plant will fall over — a true disaster when it happens.

Do you want to learn how to grow bigger buds outdoors? If the answer is yes, then you will want to consider the factors listed below.

Be aware that seeds or clones of the same strain name may vary from breeder to breeder. Your best bet is to find someone you trust who has successfully cultivated a particular cannabis genetic in your area — see if you can replicate what they have already accomplished.

So many factors will determine whether your garden produces a limited number of small buds, a large amount of potent buds, or something in between — or for that matter, any buds at all!

Bracing Is Important.

The quality of the soil and water a cannabis plant uses is vital. Many new growers think the soil in their yard is sufficient to grow a healthy cannabis plant, however, that’s rarely the case. It is a far better strategy to cultivate cannabis in a container.

Some cannabis strains do better growing outdoors under the sun than other strains. You will obviously be limited by what is available in your area, however, if you can find a strain in your area that is a notoriously solid outdoor strain to grow, go with it.

Know ahead of time how long it will likely take to germinate the seed(s). Determine the best time to plant an outdoor cannabis plant where you live. Gather as much of the resources and materials you will need before you start planting.

If there is one bit of advice that you should take away from this article, it is that you should plan ahead of time to help boost your chances of success. Before you even try to germinate a seed, you should have a strategy mapped out as much as reasonably possible.

When someone who has never previously cultivated cannabis embarks on the worthwhile journey of becoming an outdoor cannabis grower, they often have visions of grandeur swimming around in their heads. People who fit this description typically think that if they can just get some cannabis seeds or clones, some dirt, and provide water and outdoor sunlight, that they will inevitably grow big buds outdoors. And when it comes time to harvest, they imagine themselves rolling in huge piles of weed.

Find a dark, dry place with a consistently moderate temperature to dry your harvest. Keep in mind that you want to be able to have the hanging branches separated to avoid any mildew or mold issues. Also, keep in mind that it is going to smell a lot in that area and that the smell will likely linger long after the buds are gone.

The best cultivators in the Emerald Triangle cultivate cannabis in containers that are as large as 200 gallons, with the soil filling the containers carefully selected for its nutrients (often referred to as ‘super soil’). Fiber pots are better than plastic pots, however, having to use plastic pots is not the end of the world.

Growing bigger buds outdoors is easier to do than it is indoors for various reasons. Growing indoors under grow lights has its advantages, not the least of which is benefitting from being able to control every aspect of the marijuana plant’s environment.

While it is perfectly fine to be ambitious, newbie cultivators need to temper their expectations and know that growing cannabis outdoors takes solid planning, a lot of work, and a predetermined strategy that’s been executed well.

Knowing what factors are involved and what they entail before you start growing is vital to success. Rather than scrambling in the middle of the vegetative stage or flowering phase to try to incorporate strategies or mitigate disasters, when it is likely too late in the game, it’s best to plan ahead.

Prepare For Harvest Ahead Of Time.

The foundation of a cannabis plant is its root base. The larger the root base, the larger the plant. The healthier the root base, the healthier the plant. How a cannabis plant grows and how healthy all of the parts of the plants in your garden will ultimately be determined by the plant’s root base. If you want to grow big, you need a solid base.

However, growing weed under the sun in a wide-open space allows the plants to grow large — much larger than in an indoor garden where space is usually limited. As long as sun-grown cannabis plants are provided the right nutrients, attention to detail, proper bracing, and other factors we’ll cover later in this article, the plants can yield several pounds each.

As the plant gets larger, start bracing it up using bamboo sticks, fencing, tomato cages, or whatever else you can find. Cannabis plants can get really, really tall if they are a sativa-dominant strain, so keep that in mind when coming up with your bracing strategies. It is far better to have a plant that is braced in a not-so-pretty-fashion than it is to have a plant that falls over due to a gust of wind.

If you succeed at cultivating outdoor cannabis plants that yield big buds, which is obviously the goal, you will want to prepare ahead of time for harvesting and drying those buds. A massive outdoor cannabis plant is going to produce a massive amount of buds.

When it comes to cultivating cannabis, the learning journey never ends. Even the most famous cannabis cultivators are still learning new things every day about the cannabis plant and how to cultivate it more effectively.

While it is rare, some of the best sun-grown cannabis cultivators in Southern Oregon and Northern California can regularly harvest 15-18 pounds of dried cannabis flower from one plant, in addition to all of the plant trimmings that can be used to make edibles, topicals, and concentrates.

Identify where your plants will be located well before you plant them. It needs to be a place on your property that gets a lot of sun — preferably all-day sun exposure (sunrise to sunset). Obviously, you will need the plants to be in a secure area out of public view, and that will be a factor. Your main concern will be getting your plants as much sun as possible.

Plan Your Grow Carefully.

Test your water source ahead of time. Know what the pH level of the water is so that you know if it needs to be adjusted. Be aware that most city water has chlorine and other additives in it. Research what goes into your local water and take measures to mitigate what’s in it as much as possible.

Purchasing seeds online, or acquiring seeds or clones from dispensaries — even the most reputable dispensaries — can be a bit like rolling the dice (and blatantly illegal in many instances), so be leery of any claims about particular cannabis strains. If what the seller is saying seems too good to be true, it probably is.

This article will provide you a great foundation from which to work, however, you will obviously want to take a deeper dive into learning about all things cultivation-related. One of the best ways to continue your education is via Green Flower’s Cultivation Certificate Program. The program is taught by the leading cannabis cultivators in the cannabis space. Sign up today and learn how to grow like the pros!