Sandy soil is easy to work, drains well, and warms quickly, but it doesn’t hold nutrients well, especially in rainy environments. You’ll want to dig large holes for your plants and add compost, peat moss, or coco coir, which will help bind the soil together.
Most potting soils used in gardening are loam soils. If you’ve ever worked with potting soil, you’ll know that its composition is rich and diverse, and it looks dark and hearty. Beyond texture and color, the soil should smell rich and alive.
For most first-time gardeners, we recommend buying a quality potting soil that will provide your plants with enough nutrients to get them through most of their growth cycle without having to add many amendments. This pre-fertilized soil—often referred to as “super-soil”—that can grow cannabis plants from start to finish without any added nutrients if used correctly.
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.
Heavy rains and high winds can cause physical damage to plants and reduce yields, and excessive moisture can lead to mold and powdery mildew, especially during the flowering stage.
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.
Having a constant breeze is good for your plants, and especially in hot climates. But if you live in an area with a lot of high winds, consider planting near a windbreak of some sort, like a wall, fence or large shrubbery.
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.
If you don’t have a suitable patch of earth to make a garden, containers can be placed on decks, patios, rooftops, and many other spots. If needed, you can move them around during the day to take advantage of the sun or to shield them from excessive heat or wind.
Start off with fertilizers that are inexpensive and readily available. Some release nutrients quickly and are easily used by the plant, while others take weeks or months to release usable nutrients. If done correctly, you can mix in a few of these products with your soil amendments to provide enough nutrients for the entire life of your plants. Most of these items can be purchased cheaply at your local nursery.
While some plants thrive in their native soils, which are usually one of the compositions listed above, cannabis plants are best grown in soil that includes a combination of the three consistencies above—this mixture is known as loam.
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.
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.
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.
Most outdoor weed growers will either dig a hole and add fresh soil for the plant, or grow their weed in pots. This will allow you to better control the growing medium and the amount of nutrients your plants receive.
Soil also varies in:
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.
Garden plot: Probably the most common outdoor growing spot, many will plant cannabis alongside other growing veggies.
Here are some important considerations before starting an outdoor marijuana grow.
Roof: This can be great for sun but may have too much wind.
While shopping for soil, you might be overwhelmed by the options available at your local garden store. The soil type is the basic structure of your soil. From there, look at nutrients, microorganisms, and other amendments that improve the soil. Your choices will be flooded with words like:
Once you have an understanding of the climate in your area, you’ll need to consider a few things before planting your weed.
In general, 5-gallon pots are a good size for small-to-medium outdoor plants, and 10-gallon pots or larger are recommended for big plants. Regardless of size, you’ll want to protect the roots of your plants from overheating during warm weather, as pots can quickly get hot in direct sunlight. This will severely limit the growth of your plants, so be sure to shade your containers when the sun is high in the sky.
We recommend these organic fertilizers:
You must root the clones indoors before they are ‘hardened off.’ This is the process of moving a plant outdoors for a few hours a day. This method gradually exposes them to air, cold nights, and sunlight.
Indoor growers tend to grow their marijuana from clones, while outdoor growers prefer to grow from seed. You can get quality buds using either method, and they both have their advantages and drawbacks.
Make sure you layer the compost heap and ensure it has proper airflow. Turn the heap every few weeks and test the pH regularly to ensure it is balanced. These days, consumers are turning to super-soil to help fertilize their plants. This is organic pre-fertilized soil, which contains all the nutrients your marijuana needs.
Although rainwater helps your plants grow, too much of it results in mold and mildew. This problem is at its worst during the flowering stage.
It is best to maintain the temperature between 55-86 degrees Fahrenheit for as much of the growing cycle as possible. Marijuana plants can survive outside this range for short periods.
Cannabis Seeds vs. Clones – Choosing the Best Seeds on the Market.
Composting is the way forward because it is cheap and relatively simple. You can also add all sorts of organic matter from fruit clippings to animal manure. Avoid using meat or animal fat as it will attract pests.
High winds are a significant problem for cannabis growers as it can damage the plants. It can break branches, damage trichomes, and leave your weed vulnerable to disease and infestation. Any type of excess strain like this can over-stress the plants, causing the buds to produce seeds. You do not want this to happen.
The plant’s trichomes should have turned an opaque white color at this stage, too. This is a good indication that they are fully mature and ready for harvesting.
Adding these to the soil before planting means you won’t have to add as much fertilizer during the growing cycle. After planting your marijuana in premium quality soil, you don’t need to add anything else for a few weeks.
Even if it is legal to grow outdoors in your location, there will always be judgmental individuals and possible thieves. Try and plant your marijuana so that it is hidden behind tall fences or shrubs.
Whether you like it or not, certain strains don’t grow well in specific climates. No matter how much care and attention you give your crop, its yield will always be disappointing.
The growing process can take anywhere from two months to 8+ months. Your plants are ready to be harvested when approximately 70% of its pistils turn from white to a reddish-brown color. If the pistils are turning red, harvest immediately!
Airflow is also critical, so be sure to invest in breathable containers. These enable air to penetrate the root zone quickly and ensure that oxygen gets to the roots. Once marijuana plants breathe in the CO2, the roots use the most with the highest consumption occurring at night.
Most cannabis strains are ready for harvest between the end of September and the first week or two of October. Although, this does depend on the strain and climate conditions. Monitor pistil and trichome formation to gain a better idea of when your plants are ready for harvesting.
Look for a plot that gets direct sunlight early in the day and filtered sun later in the afternoon. It is also ideal if you can find a place that offers a constant breeze. However, bear in mind that this increases water consumption.
Picking the Right Marijuana Strains for Your Climate.
Lastly, make sure female plants are not exposed to males. Otherwise, pollination could occur – a process that decreases the quality of the harvest. If your strain begins flowering during a wet season, excess moisture exposure could prove troublesome. In this instance, find shelter for the plants to prevent mold and mildew growth.
It is imperative that you keep your marijuana healthy because blooming plants have a natural resistance to specific pests. You can add ladybugs and lacewings, as these predators keep harmful pests at bay while doing no damage themselves.
If you live in a wet climate, choose a mold-resistant marijuana strain, and support it with stakes or cages. Otherwise, the rain will collect on buds and leaves, and your plants will be weighed down. Alternatively, try and predict wet spells and be prepared by adding a makeshift shelter to your crop.
If you decide to use the soil in the earth, make sure you have its pH tested. Otherwise, purchase the soil from a garden store. Please remember that even store-bought soil could use added nutrients from compost. Your options include:
There’s no doubt that growing marijuana outdoors comes with challenges (which we address later on), but it also has a list of cool benefits:
Obviously, your plants need water, and the benefit of growing outdoors is that your marijuana should be exposed to rainwater. However, in places like California, the hot summer months mean minimal rainfall, so you have to water your plants manually. The main danger is overwatering your cannabis. A good rule of thumb is that a large plant needs 10 gallons of water a day during hot weather.
It is also an outdoor growing guide designed for small-scale cultivation. It is crucial that you check your state’s laws before proceeding. For example, weed is legal for recreational use in Colorado. You can grow marijuana plants as long as you’re aged 21 or over.
Step #4: Add Some Fertilizer to the Plants.
You must be careful not to wait too long to harvest because marijuana plants suffer a decline in health once they have completed the flowering phase.
Although it’s possible to purchase high-quality weed from a dispensary, there are few things more thrilling than growing cannabis outdoors.
If you live in a dry and hot climate, then try this tip. Dig beneath your plants before adding rocks or clay-rich soil beneath the planting holes as a means of slowing drainage. Some growers believe that adding polymer crystals to the soil helps improve water retention as these crystals absorb water.
However, once the temperature goes below 42 degrees Fahrenheit, most varieties of cannabis will be damaged quickly. If excessively cold temperatures are a problem, use protection such as cold frames, hot caps, or cloches.
Don’t use a container smaller than five gallons. If you want large plants, try 15+ gallon containers. There are even 100-gallon container bags!
It is a fact that some store-bought soils are too acidic at the beginning. This means you have to use organic fertilizers after a couple of weeks because the plants are lacking crucial nutrients.
When harvesting outdoors, make sure you have the requisite tools. When it’s time, bring sealable bags. We recommend carrying a holdall if you use Ziploc bags for added security. Cut the marijuana plants into lengths that make them easy to transport. In other words, make sure they fit in your bags!
Take note that growing the weed in containers will impact the size of the plant. Container-grown marijuana will be smaller because root growth is restricted. In other words, the size of the container determines the size of the plant.
Timing is key. A short vegetative phase can cause cannabis plants to flower early, while a long vegetative phase can prevent your plants from finishing their flowering cycle if the weather takes a turn for the worse. The Farmer’s Almanac is a reliable source for planning around the seasons and preparing your crop for success.
Beneficial insects, fungi, and bacteria can also be used to protect your plants from their parasitic or predatory counterparts. Jumping spiders, ladybugs, and other native, beneficial predatory insects can clear your crop of insects such as aphids and whiteflies. When sourcing beneficial insects, fungi, or bacteria, it’s important to research those which are native to your region.
Cannabis has been cultivated outdoors for thousands of years, but before you go putting a seedling in the ground, it’s best to know how the process works and how to make the most of Mother Nature’s gifts. You should also have some idea of how to handle those unwanted gifts you’d rather return — pests and weeds.
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.
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 plants can be moved around the garden to maximize sunlight or protect them from harsh conditions such as rain, heavy winds, or extreme temperatures.
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.
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.
During the vegetative phase, plants need more nitrogen in order to create the roots and leaves that serve as the base for flowering. During the start of the flowering cycle, the plants will require more phosphorus and potassium than nitrogen. Towards the end of the flowering cycle, once the majority of the nitrogen has been depleted, the plants will focus their attention on using the remaining nutrients. The lack of nitrogen is largely responsible for the vibrant purple and orange hues that can be seen on large fan leaves and throughout the plants’ colas.
Planting directly into the ground or a raised bed requires a bit more preparation but has its benefits as well. Without a container to restrict growth, roots can grow deep and thick to support a strong plant. The added surface area also allows the plant to access a greater quantity of nutrients and water in the soil, compared with a container garden. The major downside is that the plants cannot be moved and could require additional structures to protect them in the case of extreme weather.
Becoming intimately familiar with your local climate and seasons is one of the most important steps in producing high-quality outdoor marijuana. Before you grow, you’ll need to know the ideal temperature your plants require in order to thrive, the best site, optimal timing of planting and harvesting, and the season’s photoperiod — the amount and intensity of light available through the duration of the growing season.
Even if it is legal to grow cannabis outdoors where you live, you should still take some precautions to hide the plants from public view. And it’s often required by law. You can grow your cannabis plants among other plants in your garden to hide them in plain sight. Cannabis can easily grow taller than your average fence, though. Training techniques can help keep your plants shorter. The fewer people who know you are growing cannabis, the better. The ideal situation is to have your grow tucked away on a piece of land where your plants can truly flourish away from prying eyes and nosy neighbors.
Outdoor cultivators take what Mother Nature gives them and turn it into the best possible harvest. Many cannabis consumers prefer marijuana grown outdoors under the full spectrum of natural sunlight. That unique spectrum creates a greater variance of cannabinoids and terpenes than artificial lighting.
Greenhouses also offer growers the ability to harvest more than once per year, if they are equipped with a light deprivation system. These systems allow growers to control the hours of sunlight their plants receive, much like turning lights on and off in an indoor garden, by covering the greenhouse with a black tarp that deprives the plants of sunlight.
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.
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.
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.
In the Northern Hemisphere, cannabis can be planted in early to mid-spring and harvested in mid-fall, depending on the cultivar. In the Southern Hemisphere, the growing season will be reversed with planting in early to mid-fall and harvesting in the middle of spring.
While cultivars may vary, here are some general rules that will be useful no matter which one you choose.
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.
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.
How to grow marijuana outdoors.
After the solstice, the available daylight hours decrease, allowing the plant to naturally transition into the flowering period. Cannabis is a short-day plant, meaning it will begin to flower as the nights get longer and the hours of sunlight decrease.
Pests come in many forms, from large deer and gophers to small slugs and spider mites. Larger animals and pets can be kept out of the garden with fencing, while gopher wire beneath your soil beds can keep rats and gophers from eating the plants’ roots. Weeds will not damage cannabis, but they will compete for the nutrients in the soil and reduce the quality and yield of your crops. A light layer of mulch on top of your soil can prevent weeds from sprouting in the middle of your plants’ cycle.
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.
The three primary nutrients required for cultivating marijuana are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
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.
Cannabis requires more nutrients than many of the other plants you may have in your garden. Quality soil contains enough organic nutrients to start the growth cycle, but as your cannabis plant grows and transitions into flowering, it may deplete the available nutrients and require additional fertilizers.
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.
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. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps.