Growing marijuana outdoors produces a higher yield, gives your buds a unique flavor, and it's far less energy-intensive than using indoor grow lights. Outdoor cannabis plants can grow up to tall and produce of quality weed per plant–and… Solely planting some cannabis seeds and waiting for them to grow just won't cut it (pun intended). Follow these 9 crucial tips for growing outdoors! Are you interested in growing cannabis outdoors this summer? Find out what you’ll need to get started and how to get the best yield from your plants.
How to Grow Cannabis Outdoors
This article was co-authored by Jamie Corroon, ND, MPH. Dr. Jamie Corroon, ND, MPH is the founder and Medical Director of the Center for Medical Cannabis Education. Dr. Corroon is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor and clinical researcher. In addition to clinical practice, Dr. Corroon advises dietary supplement and cannabis companies regarding science, regulation, and product development. He is well published in the peer-review literature, with recent publications that investigate the clinical and public health implications of the broadening acceptance of cannabis in society. He earned a Masters in Public Health (MPH) in Epidemiology from San Diego State University. He also earned a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine degree from Bastyr University, subsequently completed two years of residency at the Bastyr Center for Natural Health, and is a former adjunct professor at Bastyr University California.
There are 20 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.
wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 97% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status.
This article has been viewed 62,117 times.
Growing marijuana outdoors produces a higher yield, gives your buds a unique flavor, and it’s far less energy-intensive than using indoor grow lights. Outdoor cannabis plants can grow up to 14 feet (4.3 m) tall and produce 4–8 pounds (1.8–3.6 kg) of quality weed per plant–and it’s not rocket science to grow cannabis outdoors. We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to tell you everything you need to know about picking a location, germinating marijuana seeds, and maintaining your crop to get the highest possible cannabis yield.
Top 9 Tips for Growing Cannabis Outdoors
Growing cannabis outdoors is not as simple as just throwing some seeds in the ground and hoping they grow. To ensure a good harvest, outdoor growers should do some research—analysing the local soil, preparing the site, and thinking about appropriate pest-control methods—and a great deal of maintenance.
Naturally, we all have our favourite strains, which we can’t wait to plant after the cold, tough and long winter months. Each situation is certainly unique, with the circumstances of someone living in Russia being different from those of someone living in Spain. Even so, there are enough varieties to be enjoyed in every corner of the globe.
Once you’ve chosen your favourite cannabis seeds, the first step is obviously to germinate them. It goes without saying that this must be done correctly, as otherwise the seeds will be useless. Be patient and bear in mind that some seeds may need a bit more time to sprout. For best results, follow this germination method.
The good thing about cultivating outdoors – and which makes us appreciate spring – is that, among other things, you can obtain considerable crops with a minimum of investment. And in times like these, who doesn’t want that?
Once we are clear on the conditions that we need – the right environment, the right growing spot, the outdoor growing method, and the variety that best suits our needs – we can get started.
1. Pick the right strain when growing cannabis outdoors!
It is important to choose the right strain of cannabis when growing outdoors. Depending on your location and climate, you may be limited in your choice of strain.
For example, if living in regions in the far north or south of the globe, where year-round temperatures are cool and summer growing seasons are short, you will need to choose strains that are acclimated to such conditions. Picking the right strain means curating your strain choice to suit the climate that you will be growing in.
Outdoor cannabis strains for cold temperate climates
Those who live in colder temperate climates, such as Northern and Eastern Europe, have to choose their strains accordingly. Summers are short and winter frosts are strong enough to destroy any cannabis crop. Therefore, timing and strain choice are essential.
Strains ideal for this kind of climate include Early Skunk Feminised and Jamaican Pearl. They are hardy strains with early flowering times.
Outdoor cannabis strains for warm temperate climates
Those who live in warmer temperate climates have a little bit more freedom when it comes to growing cannabis. In fact, the majority of commercial strains have been developed for growing specifically in warmer climates. Mild winters and long summers is the perfect growing condition for cannabis.
Those living in warmer climates can grow almost any strain. Both sativa dominant varieties and indica dominant varieties can be grown.
What is Veganic Growing? New Take on Organic Cannabis
2. Start your plants indoors if possible
It is advisable to germinate your seeds indoors, and allow your plants to grow in pots for at least a week or two under artificial lighting (which could be a simple household CFL light) or on a windowsill.
This will protect your seedlings from being eaten by birds or insects while they are young and tender, as well as giving them a head-start if outdoor conditions are still a little too cool.
When it’s time to expose your young plants to the outdoor world, it is advisable to go through a period of ‘hardening-off’ so that your plants gradually become accustomed to the change in environment.
At first, out your plants outside for a few hours at a time, and be sure to keep them sheltered from the elements.
After a week or so of increasing exposure to outdoor conditions, they will be hardy enough to be left outside full-time, either in pots, bags, or in holes dug into the soil.
3. Choose soil or pots for outdoor growing
Every grower gets to choose whether they will sow their seeds or seedlings directly into the ground or whether they will be cultivated in pots. Each choice has its advantages and disadvantages, so let’s focus on the pros of each growing method.
Advantages of growing in soil
- Unrestricted access to nutrients and moisture from the ground
- Plants can reach maximum height as there is no restriction on root growth
- Keeps costs low as there is no need to purchase pots
Advantages of growing in pots
- Flexibility to move plants around
- In the case of extreme weather, pots can be moved indoors
- Easier to conceal a growing operation
- Maximum control over the size and growth rate of plants
- Ensures no contamination of soil from surrounding environment
Benefits of Organic Cannabis – A How-To Guide for Growing Your Own
4. Good soil is crucial when growing cannabis outdoors
Making sure your soil is prepared correctly is perhaps the most fundamental aspect of outdoor growing.
Soil should be checked to determine pH, and if it is too low or too high then additives such as lime (to increase pH/make more alkaline) or sulphur (to decrease pH/make more acidic) must be mixed in.
Consistency of soil is also important—too much clay, and soil will be sticky and will drain poorly; too much sand, and drainage may be too rapid.
Cannabis prefers loamy soil, or soil that consists mainly of sand and silt with a lower ratio of clay (around 40%-40%-20% silt-sand-clay is a good rule of thumb).
As well as this, soil fertility is important. Does the soil support a large amount and diversity of vegetation?
If not, adding mulch or manure is a good way to invigorate soil and increase the levels of available nutrients for your plants. If soil is poor, or if you just want to go the simple and hassle-free route, you can buy commercial soil, and even grow your plants in pots—or dig them into the ground, but keep them in bags so they are not exposed to surrounding soil.
5. Pick the right spot
The ideal spot for growing cannabis outdoors will be sunny, sheltered, well-irrigated, and will have good drainage. It will also be far enough off the beaten track that little human activity occurs in the vicinity—so no popular hiking trails or logging roads, for one thing!
A forest clearing that receives a good amount of sunlight and is sheltered from wind (as well as prying eyes!) is ideal; mixed broad-leafed forest is preferable to coniferous, as soil in the vicinity of coniferous woodland is often very acidic.
If you are growing in hilly terrain, aspect is an important and often-overlooked factor. Just as a south-facing balcony is preferable for apartment growers, a south-facing hillside is ideal for outdoor grows as it maximizes hours and intensity of sunlight.
The angle at which the sun’s rays strike the surface of the planet varies from the perpendicular according to latitude; in the northern hemisphere a south-facing spot will receive more sunlight, and in the southern hemisphere, a north-facing garden is preferable for the same reasons.
If you’re at all doubting your spot (for any reason), it is perhaps better to put your plants in pots. This way, you can move your plants around as necessary until you find the optimum spot to grow your cannabis plants. If you put them in the ground too soon, you won’t have the liberty of transporting them in the case of extreme weather or sub-optimal conditions.
6. Pick the best time to grow outdoors
In most climate zones, you should be aware of changes in seasonal temperature, rainfall and hours of daylight. If you live in the temperate zones, the change in daylight hours is considerable between seasons. This acts as a cue to photoperiod-dependent cannabis varieties to either perform vegetative growth (during the long days of late spring and early summer) or commence flowering (when the hours of daylight drop in the latter half of summer).
If you attempt vegetative growth in early spring, hours of daylight may still be short enough to induce flowering, so it is best to wait until at least mid-April (northern hemisphere) or mid-October (southern hemisphere) to put out your seedlings.
If you live in particularly warm climates, you may be able to achieve more than one harvest in a year; in locations near the equator, this should definitely be achievable by taking advantage of the year-round warm temperatures and intense sunlight.
If located in a tropical region that experiences seasonal monsoons, it is best to avoid this time of year due to the increased risk of mould.
How Do I Grow Cannabis Outdoors?
Growing cannabis outdoors is as much art as it is science. Many cannabis cultivators swear by indoor growing. You can control your indoor environment a lot more easily than an outdoor plot, and pests are less of a problem. Also, many states that allow growing require a person to grow in an enclosed area. Indoor grows are more practical.
Yet, outdoor grows have a number of advantages. The taste and effects that come from sungrown cannabis are often deemed superior. Some growers claim that natural sunlight develops the full range of cannabinoids and terpenes (sunlight has various wavelengths, whereas indoor grow lights are often tuned to a specific spectrum, which can limit which cannabinoids are expressed in the final product). Other advantages include potentially massive yields and the natural environment’s soil and water (although some cannabis gardeners use coco coir and nutrients or a preferred organic potted soil).
Download Free Beginner’s Guide to Growing Cannabis
The only downside is that, due to the elements, outdoor growing is fraught with the possibility of failure. Here’s how best to ensure a decent outdoor cannabis grow, barring any major environmental changes or acts of God!. If you want more precise details with regards to germination, growth cycles and nutrients, check out our post on growing cannabis for beginners. Our friends at Homegrown Cannabis Co. also have an excellent article on growing cannabis outdoors, which we highly recommend reading for an even greater understanding of growing outdoors, and the knowledge being passed on by Swami Select.
What’s Your Latitude – How Much Light Do You Get?
Latitude is key to growing cannabis outdoors successfully. Where you’re located geographically will determine what time of year you plant and how much light you get everyday. Choosing an ideal cannabis seed suited to growing in that environment is also crucial. Here’s a rough guide:
The Northern Hemisphere, 25°N – 50°N: Most cultivators start their grow by the end of March to the beginning of June, which is when the plant vegetates and forms preflowers that you can separate into males and females. The longest day in the year occurs between 20 and 23 June (summer solstice), which is when the plant starts flowering. The shortest day (winter solstice) is between 20 and 23 December. Most outdoor grows are harvested between September and November.
Mediterranean climates are ideal for growing in this region. It is often possible to grow two large crops per year in such environments when done right, including long-flowering sativas. Outdoor varietals like Taängie (California Orange x Skunk #1) or Chocolope x Kush do extremely well in such regions.
Further North, and you may want to go for more indica-leaning and autoflowering varieties like Hawaii x Purple Skunk, Critical x No Name or Early Skunk x Northern Lights may be better choices.
The Southern Hemisphere, 25°S – 50°S: The growing season starts between September and October, although some growers plant as late as December. Harvest time is between March and May. Outdoor growers can harvest up to two large yields per year in a good growing season. You can grow similar strains to the ones mentioned above, just mirror-flipped for the South.
If you go too far North or South, outdoor growing becomes extremely difficult if not outright impossible, as there’s not enough light and temperatures are too low. With that in mind, there are some hardy strains that may do well in climates that are a little further than the 50°N or 50°S borderline, like Hindu Kush, which can withstand harsh, windswept mountainside regions. Master Kush may also do well, but has a slightly longer vegetative period. Autoflowering varietals mixed with such Kush genetics could be ideal.
Intertropical Zones & Equator: Lies between Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, and receives an even 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dark per day. These regions are perfect for large equatorial sativa varieties. Cannabis can be grown year-round.
Cannabis ruderalis (autoflowering cannabis strains): Native to Central and Eastern Europe and Russia, this type of cannabis is dependent upon age rather than the light cycle to mature and flower. Autoflowering varieties can be grown from seed from June in the Northern Hemisphere and January in the Southern Hemisphere. A long vegetative period is not needed. Yields are usually lower, but is an excellent introduction to outdoor growing for beginners. Even experienced cultivators grow autoflowering varieties alongside their Cannabis sativa counterparts, due to their reliability and high CBD content.
Best Soil for Growing Cannabis
The best type of soil is loamy soil, which is a combination of sand, silt and clay soils, with a slightly acidic pH of between 5.5 and 7.0. Loamy soil is ideal for water retention, drainage and nutrient content. Some growers add bat guano as a natural fertilizer, fungicide and compost activator, speeding up the decomposition process. Many states have pockets of loam soil, including Ohio, Illinois, California, Oregon and Wisconsin. Many cannabis gardeners tend to buy their loam soil.
If you are fortunate to have plenty of earthworms in your natural soil, then count your blessings and grow away – earthworms are a sign that your soil is healthy and nutrient-rich!
Growing Cannabis in Coco Coir
Coco coir is a natural fiber extracted from the outer husk of coconut, and is an alternative medium to growing in soil. Coco Coir is mixed with sand, compost and fertilizer to make good quality potting soil, and has an acidic pH of 5.5 – 6.5. Coco coir is also inert; it contains no nutrients. All needed fertilizer must be added.
Watering a Cannabis Grow
Too much water can drown plants. Too little can dehydrate them. Any rain will water outdoor cannabis plants naturally, but you may still need to water your plants. A good standard is one gallon of water per day for each pound of processed flower you expect to harvest from each plant. Water accordingly.
Best Temperature Range for Cannabis Grows
Ideally, temperatures shouldn’t fall below 12℃ or above 30℃. Some form of shelter from excessive heat or torrential downpour can be helpful; a temporary tarpaulin or a greenhouse is ideal.
Wind and your Cannabis Plants
Limited wind can provide a cannabis plant with beneficial stress, helping it grow stronger. Too much wind, however, can knock plants down. You may need to erect barriers or fences. If you plan on mulching, go for heavier substrates pinned down with rocks, as opposed to straw and sawdust. Mulch is a thick layer of material placed over the soil and around plants, used to suppress weeds and lock moisture into the soil, while acting as a physical barrier to drying winds and direct sun.
Consider Other Light Sources
Can you ensure that your cannabis plants will receive the appropriate 12 hours of dark time during the flowering period, and that there won’t be other light sources (e.g. street lights, light pollution from buildings and cars) that prevent your crop from flowering, or cause your female seeds to hermie (produce male parts and self-pollinate)? Appropriate dark time is essential for growing cannabis successfully and getting a bumper yield.
Cannabis Plant Genetics
Choosing the appropriate type of seed for the environment you are growing in is the best way to ensure you get the best out of your plant. Equatorial sativas are not ideal for growing in cooler climates, where indicas and autoflowering strains may be a better bet. A landrace variety of cannabis from, say, Brazil may not be ideal to grow outdoors in the middle of Massachusetts! There are many examples of great, vigorous outdoor cannabis varieties available here.
For most people wanting to grow something sturdy and reliable, a well-established hybrid like Skunk #1, Blue Dream or Gorilla Glue could be better choices. Leave the rarer and unique cannabis strains for the more advanced growers, who may end up making a seed stock that’s more reliable in a few years’ time! Check out our post on where to buy cannabis seeds if you want to find the genetics right for you.
In What Sort of Outdoor Spaces Can I Grow Cannabis?
There are many locations where you can grow cannabis outdoors (except perhaps the front lawn!). These include:
The Balcony: If south-facing, can receive plenty of sunlight. The fresh air and breeze can provide some stress training. However, growing on an extremely high balcony may prove too windy, and you cannot grow well on a north-facing balcony.
Rooftop or Terrace: Receive sunlight all day long, plenty of rainwater, and much easier to conceal than balcony grows. However, rooftop grows are exposed to lots of heat and wind, and plants can be susceptible to being blown away or drowned during storms. Rooftop cannabis cultivation is more exposed to the view of any police helicopter cameras (the “eye in the sky”); so using other plants and camouflage is important for open sky grows.
The Garden: Growing naturally outdoors in your own garden can provide one of the most satisfying feelings. If there’s plenty of space, you can grow many different plants together in a polyculture, which can improve the soil and control pests, weeds, and disease without major chemical inputs. However, garden grows are also more susceptible to pests and mold. You can grow in pots in the garden, or a garden bed with loamy soil.
Greenhouses: Greenhouses can provide the best aspects of both indoor and outdoor growing, with natural light provided by the sun and protection from some pests and the more extreme elements. However, greenhouses must be properly ventilated in order to prevent stale air and humidity buildup. Plants may also become stressed and overheated during heatwaves.
Guerilla Growing: This is growing outside of a person’s own property, ideally somewhere concealed and out-of-the-way. Guerilla Growing is one of the cheapest ways of cultivating cannabis. You are letting nature do most of the work. You also don’t have to worry about being caught with cannabis on your own property, which can be an issue. However, in states where it is legal to grow cannabis, it is probably more of a legal risk to grow in a place not your own. You also run the chance of someone else stumbling upon your crop and co-opting or destroying your efforts.
Why Grow Cannabis Outdoors?
Growing cannabis outdoors can be a bit of a challenge. We certainly advise most beginners to grow their first cannabis indoors in order to develop a greater understanding of the plant’s growth cycle. Still, few cannabis related activities are more satisfying than harvesting a large, sungrown crop that produces a yield large enough to ensure you will probably not need to grow again for another year, let alone go to a dispensary or other vendor.
Download Free Beginner’s Guide to Growing Cannabis
Well-planned outdoor cannabis grows may also reduce your carbon footprint, reduce or eliminate any non-organic pesticide or fertilizer use and save you cash, making it the better choice for cannabis consumers who are more environmentally conscious. And for anyone who is finding it difficult to get their outdoor setup running, enlisting some advisors and an outdoor grow kit will make your work simpler!
Article written by
Dipak Hemraj Head of Research and Education
Dipak Hemraj is a published author, grower, product maker, and Leafwell’s resident cannabis expert. From botany & horticulture to culture and economics, he wishes to help educate the public on why cannabis is medicine (or a “pharmacy in a plant”) and how it can be used to treat a plethora of health problems. Dipak wants to unlock the power of the plant, and see if there are specific cannabinoid-terpene-flavonoid profiles suitable for different conditions.
Manténgase actualizado con nuestras redes
Teléfono: +1 (800) 660-9085
©2022 Leafwell. Nota: La información en esta página no corresponde a consejo médico o legal.