For centuries, cannabis has been cultivated and grown exclusively outdoors and for even longer landrace and heirloom strains have been growing on their own in the great outdoors naturally. Only by some ingenuity of growers during the 1960s and 1970s and availability of strong enough lights has cannabis found its way indoors. Both indoors and outdoors have their advantages and disadvantages and some may be better suited for some strains, setups or growers.
Outdoor season starts in Spring, when last winter snow, ice and frost melt, usually from April for the Northern Hemisphere and from August for the Southern Hemisphere, finishing in Fall – November for the Northern and April for the Southern Hemisphere. If you’re living closer to the Equator you won’t be experiencing harsh winters and climate changes so you may grow, more or less, throughout the whole year.
It’s an old growers saying that when growing outdoors, you need to plant 5 plants – one for the cops, one for the thieves, one for the animals, one for the ‘elements’ and one for you to harvest. Although it’s just a funny saying, there’s some truth to it, especially if you grow a large number of plants.
Advantages of growing outdoors
The biggest advantage of outdoor growing is cost – no electric bills for lights, vents and fans, heaters, ACs, humidifiers, timers and the rest of the equipment which can add up to a considerable amount once the grow is finished.
The second biggest advantage of outdoor growing is possibility to grow your plant to their maximum size, you’re not limited by your lights or grow space, allowing you to harvest considerably more per plant then you would indoors. In countries and states where plant count exists, meaning that you’re limited to a number of plants you can legally grow, size of your plants plays a huge and important role.
Although there’s a constant debate among growers which is better, indoor or outdoor cannabis – if done right, both can provide for some great and potent medicine. That being said, there’s still no light that can match the Sun and cannabinoid and terpene profiles you get outdoors are significantly different than ones you’d get from the same strain indoors. Different doesn’t always mean better but if grown right, outdoor plants will end up with high potency and terpene levels matching those of the best indoor and then some.
Disadvantages of growing outdoors
The biggest disadvantage of growing outdoors is the lack of ability to control the environment. Although some small adjustments can be made to most of the environmental factors, you really can’t affect the weather. Problems with over or under watering, too high or too low temperatures or humidity can affect the quality of your crop or even kill of plants that aren’t suited for the surroundings they’re in.
Second biggest disadvantage is that your plants are vulnerable to pests, diseases or thieves that may attack your crop. Various animals, insects and fungi will try to attack all the parts of your plants from roots to buds and your plants will be vulnerable to all and any diseases that might come from surrounding plants and flora.
Although all these problems may occur indoors too, being out in the open and out of constant supervision, they will spread faster and with greater consequences if not taken care of. Strains that are made for outdoor growing have better resistance and can easily combat any issues that may attack them.
Another “disadvantage” is that, in most cases, you’re limited to just one harvest a year. Although by using greenhouses and light deprivation methods, or by planting autoflowers one can have multiple harvests even when living in moderate climates.
Choosing the right strain
Choosing the right strain is crucial for having a good outdoor harvest. Unlike indoors where you can adjust every single thing to best suite the strain, outdoors you rely on the weather and climate you’re in.
The biggest factor to consider when choosing a strain to grow outdoors is flowering time. You can have the best yielding, high potency strain, that’s resistant to mold and pests but if it doesn’t finish in time you have no use for it. You’d want to choose the strain depending on how many sunny and warm days you have before the rains and snow come in.
Sunny and warm parts of the planet that don’t have cold winters may provide a good climate for long flowering Sativas, while parts with harsher climates would be more suited for shorter flowering Indicas or autoflowering strains.
Other environmental factors like temperature, humidity, elevation and rainfall can play an important role in how a certain strains does in that environment. Some strains like a more colder weather with less humidity, some like warmer weather with more humidity and not providing them with optimal conditions may result in lesser quality and yield of your harvest.
Because plants outdoors are vulnerable to all the elements, good, healthy, vigorous and resilient strains that are resistant to drought, harsh or hot weather, pests and diseases would be a smart choice for your outdoor crop.
With cannabis growing naturally throughout the planet, landrace or heirloom strains provide for excellent strains for those areas because they’ve already adjusted to the environment and climate they grow in, sometimes in a process more than few centuries long. Those strains are also great breeding genetics for strains that are crossed to be grown outdoors in that area. Landraces that originate from geographically similar areas might also be a good choice as they could easily adjust to similar growing conditions and environment.
Choosing the right location
Besides choosing the right strain for your climate, selecting the right location is the most important factor in your outdoor grow. Cannabis plants need a lot of light to grow, during vegetation they can use as much light as they can get. Depending on your geographical position, your plants can be exposed to light more or less, but your plants should be getting at least 8 hours of direct light in vegetation and at least 5 hours of direct light during flowering to ensure for optimal growth. Some strains like to be exposed to the direct Sun while some like a more shadowy place to grow.
To pick a nice and sunny spot for your garden you can now use various apps that will show you the position of the Sun depending on your GPS coordinates. Like Google Sky Map shows you the stars, galaxies and the rest, these apps will show you the position of the Sun for that location. You can change the time and date and see where Sun will be during Summer and Fall months or in different times of the day.
Besides light, second most important factor when choosing your outdoor location, should be security. It doesn’t matter if you’re growing legally or illegally, security should always be on top of your list when choosing your outdoor growing location. When growing commercially, security aspects are considered and taken care of by professionals but when growing for yourself, either as a guerrilla grow or as a legal outdoor grow, your plants will be an interesting find for many people.
To find a best place, you should look for your location in late Fall, because at that time your plants will be most exposed, with the rest of the foliage bare, without leaves, your lush and big green plants can stand out. Make sure that the location isn’t close to any major trafficked roads and that people don’t have reason to go there. It is better to choose the location farther away from people, especially if other factors like nice soil and nearby water are present.
Have in mind that your plants can use a lot of water during their growth cycle, it’s almost impossible to overwater your plants if they are planted directly in soil. Having access to usable water closeby is very important, otherwise you’d be forced to move all the water to your location which makes you a decent suspect to anyone that may see you.
If you plan to plant your outdoor plants directly in the soil, you should check the soil before transplanting your plants. Cannabis likes slightly acidic soil with PH between 6.2 and 6.8, that will ensure for the best availability and absorption of micro and macro nutrients, as well as for the best health of your root zone.
You can take samples of the soil and get it tested in a lab, which will give you a more thorough and accurate analysis, that you can later use to enrich the soil with needed elements or to adjust the PH of your soil and make it an optimal growing medium. If you don’t have access to a lab, you can easily test, at least the PH at home by using PH stripes or meters. A good rule of a thumb is if you see plants, that are similar to cannabis growing there, it’s a good chance that your cannabis plants would thrive in that environment too.
If you’re growing a larger plant count, it would be advisable to split your grow into few different locations, in case anything happens to one of them, you still got the other(s). If you’re growing in an more urban area, make sure that your plants get real darkness, that no street or house lights are located nearby, as it will mess with plants flowering cycles.
With popularity and raise in legality of cannabis growing, a lot of growers plant their plants in more urban environments. Greenhouses, roof terraces and balconies have become popular places to grow your plants but when growing in more populated areas you need to be extra careful.
Planting your plants
When growing outdoors you have a choice of planting your plants directly in the soil or planting them in container or pots. Both have their pros and cons but most growers use containers when the soil at the location isn’t suited for growing. No matter what you choose, you should start your plants indoors for a few weeks then transplant them outside, once the root system has been established.
Having your plants in smaller containers allows you to easily move them if needed but having them growing directly in soil allows for the root mass to develop much larger and in return provide for larger plants. Having your plants growing directly in soil makes them more vulnerable to pests and disease, as they are directly connected to the flora in their environment but makes them extremely harder to overwater or overfeed, as any excess water or nutrients are easily absorbed by the surrounding plants and soil.
The biggest advantage of growing directly in soil is low maintenance. If you’re having enough rainfall and your soil has all the needed nutrients for optimal growth, all you have to do is watch your plants grow and do a little pruning or training here and there.
The biggest disadvantage of growing in containers is stealth. Especially if you’ve chosen a more isolated location, if anyone comes by and sees plants in containers, they’ll know what’s up or it will intrigue them enough to check it. Growing directly in soil helps to blend in more.
But, like we said, the biggest reason people don’t grow directly in soil – is the state of soil. If you’ve tested your soil in a lab, you know exactly which elements, ph levels and everything else are present in your soil. By adding nutrients, correcting the PH and ensuring for better drainage, moisture content, porosity and microbiological life in your soil, you can provide the best possible medium for your plants.
Feeding and watering when growing outdoors
Growing outdoors is very different than growing indoors when it comes to nutrients. Because your plants are generally in much bigger containers than they would be inside, or they’re planted directly in the soil they can use up much more nutrients than your indoors plants. Using liquid nutrients and feeding your plants when watering can be very costly so it’s advised to mix a good soil mix that will last you from when you transplant your plants outdoors until they finish flowering.
By adding beneficial microbiological life to your soil, you can have what’s called ‘living soil’ or kind soil, or supersoil. A mixture of soil with all the possible micro and macro nutrients that will allow you to just water your plants and have them in full and optimal health throughout their life cycle.
Because your plants are in the open, Summer heat can warm and dry up the soil pretty quick, especially if you’re growing your plants in containers. Depending on the size of your containers and your soil mix, you may need to water once a day or more if you want to keep your plants healthy.
Being vulnerable to the elements means that a rainy season, or a longer period of rainy days can greatly damage your plants, especially when in flower. If your plants are left in stale water, no matter in which stage of their life cycle they may be, it will cause them a lot of troubles, from root rot to various diseases and death. Planting your plants on a gentle slope will ensure that the excess water drains out, but you need to make sure that in cases when rain is limited, the water that gets there won’t just drain away.
If your plants are close to any body of water you might want to connect some piping and pumps and connect them directly to water. Collecting rain water or using a nearby well is also an excellent source of water. By ensuring your plants have plenty of water you minimize the need to go to the location yourself.
Protecting your outdoors plants
To help your plants grow healthy and big and to insure that they will finish and provide you with a nice harvest, you need to protect your plants as best as possible. Growing outdoors, exposed to all the elements, animals and other humans is definitely more challenging than indoors, where you can control all of those parameters.
Choosing the right location, out of sight, will take care of any prying eyes and minimize the chance that other humans will find your grow. Having a difficult to access location is great when it comes to security but it also make it harder for you to access, when you need to move water or anything else there. Many growers tend to compromise on this and find a place that’s somewhat secluded but easily accessible when needed.
If your climate is harsher, you may need to shield your plants from strong winds that may break or damage your plants. You can plant some plants that will provide protection from strong winds and colder temperatures, as well as help with blending your plants into their surroundings.
By planting other, so called “companion plants”, around your cannabis plants, you can provide them with various advantages and help with many issues such as: adding nutrients, repelling unwanted insects and attracting beneficial insects, providing better resistance to various pests or disease, keeping the roots at optimal humidity and temperature as well as provide for better water absorption and use. Companion plants will provide for excellent cover crops enabling your plants to blend in even more into their surroundings.
Why not head on over to The Vault Cannabis Seeds Store and pick up some cannabis seeds now, whilst taking advantage of the discount codes VAULT15 for 15% of your order total and don’t forget to check out our discount cannabis seeds page for all the latest offers, promos and competitions!
Make sure you never miss another Vault promo and sign up for our newsletter at https://www.cannabis-seeds-store.co.uk/the-vault-newsletter
Remember: It’s illegal to germinate cannabis seeds in many countries including the UK. It is our duty to inform you of this important fact and to urge you to obey all of your local laws. The Vault only ever sells or sends out seeds, or seed voucher prizes for souvenir, collection or novelty purposes.