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The Basics of Cannabis Outdoor Growing (Part 1)

Indoor growing with modern technology is amazing but requires equipment and energy. Get to know the natural, sustainable, and cheap alternative – organic outdoor growing.

Royal Queen Seeds decided to put together basic information on outdoor cannabis growing to help our customers who might have never grown outdoors before, to get ready for the upcoming season. Our common goal: Large yields of high quality cannabis, produced by Mother Earth itself, maybe with a little help from an enthusiastic gardener.

Good preparation helps when we want to reach certain goals. Outdoor cannabis growing is no exception and requires long-term thinking, time being spent in nature doing physical work, and a certain level of flexibility to overcome obstacles that threaten our harvests. Being motivated to get things right is very helpful, but won’t necessarily guarantee good results. It’s the mistakes we make, teaching us our most valuable lessons. Mahatma Gandhi once said: “Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.” This is maybe a good mantra for novices who just found about the rewarding hobby of cannabis cultivation.

“The Basics of Outdoor Growing” divides into four parts, covering some of the most important steps worth thinking about when planning an outdoor grow. Here is quick overview of what to expect in each part of our brief outdoor grow guide.

1. CHOOSE THE RIGHT STRAIN

The process of outdoor growing starts with choosing a strain that matches the climatic conditions present at the grow location. Most growers will also base their decision on personal preference concerning effects and taste, flowering time, size, and yields. The harvest month in which a strain finishes outdoors is of primary importance, along with its genetic heritage meaning Indica or Sativa, and the actual size of a plant.

A. The Harvest Month

• The harvest month of a feminized strain is our main concern

• Reason: Mould due to heavy rainfall and high humidity in autumn (our viscous enemy!)

• October is the most crucial month of the entire season; many feminized strains finish in this month; high humidity levels and rain in October are often the cause of mould

• Analyze weather data from past years and choose a strain that finishes on time, before the weather is likely to shift

• Autoflowering strains don’t have the issue of late harvests; they will start and finish their flowering period in disregard of the amount of light hours per day

B. Indica or Sativa?

• Indica-dominant strains have a greater resilience to tough weather conditions

• Sativa-dominant strains like higher levels of light intensity and warmer temperatures

• Norhern European growers: Try to choose indica-dominant strains that finish in late September to early October (e.g. Somango XL, Critical)

• Southern European growers: You’re lucky and can pretty much grow whatever you desire, including sativa-dominant strains and late finishers (e.g. Amnesia Haze, Royal Moby)

C. What about the size?

• Feminized strains can reach 2-3m in height; most autoflowering strains stay below 1m

• The plant growth above the surface of the soil correlates with the size of the root bale

• Not restricting the root bale by a planting pot will get you the biggest plants

• Compact plants are easier to hide in natural vegetation and urban environments

2. FINDING A PROMISING SPOT

Finding a promising spot is one of the most important steps of the entire process, and growers usually invest some time to think this one through. The first question we have to ask ourselves is how close we want to be to our plants. There are two basic principles of outdoor growing. The easiest and more convenient way is to grow on the property you own or rent. You’ll be close to your plants, can care for them every day, and watering is not an issue.

Prohibition and restrictive cannabis laws also made a different approach popular – guerilla growing. It already sounds exciting, and it really is. Guerilla growers will grow their plants on land that doesn’t necessarily belong to them, which comes with the benefit of reducing legal risks. Finding a good spot for a guerilla grow is a complex topic, a reason why we think of releasing a separate, and more detailed blog about this in the future. Since we’re already at it – here are some basic things home gardeners and guerilla growers can consider when looking for a promising spot.

A) Growing at your home or garden

• Balconies facing south are a good option

• Roof terraces are pretty much the best-case scenario

• Think of places in your garden where cannabis plants blend in, and receive a lot of direct sunlight

• Greenhouses ensure low visbility and aren’t overly expensive

B) Characteristics of a promising spot for guerilla growing

• Water accessibility within walking distance (use Google Earth to find rivers, lakes, or ponds)

• Lots of direct sunlight from sunrise to sunset (use online tools like suncalc.net)

• There is no reason for someone to go there (>1h away from civilization)

• Cannabis plants will blend into the natural vegetation (similar sized bushes etc.)

Outdoor season is coming up quick, and good preparation helps to get the best results. Read this blog and get an overview on how to grow cannabis outdoors.

How To Grow Cannabis Outdoors (2020 Guide)

Looking to grow cannabis outdoors this season? Follow our comprehensive guide for a smooth and easy experience.

A guide to growing cannabis outdoors in 2020.

  • 1. Growing cannabis indoors vs outdoors: differences
  • 2. Growing cannabis outdoors
  • 2.a. Benefits of growing outdoors
  • 2.b. Choosing location
  • 2.c. Genetics
  • 2.d. Germination
  • 2.e Maintaining the plant
  • 2.f. Preventing pests
  • 3. Outdoor Grower’s Calendar 2020
  • 3.a. Indoor germination
  • 3.b. Seedling stage / growing indoors
  • 3.c. Sowing and moving outdoors
  • 3.d. Topping and training
  • 3.e. Sexing
  • 3.f. Pruning
  • 3.g. Harvest
  • 1. Growing cannabis indoors vs outdoors: differences
  • 2. Growing cannabis outdoors
  • 2.a. Benefits of growing outdoors
  • 2.b. Choosing location
  • 2.c. Genetics
  • 2.d. Germination
  • 2.e Maintaining the plant
  • 2.f. Preventing pests
  • 3. Outdoor Grower’s Calendar 2020
  • 3.a. Indoor germination
  • 3.b. Seedling stage / growing indoors
  • 3.c. Sowing and moving outdoors
  • 3.d. Topping and training
  • 3.e. Sexing
  • 3.f. Pruning
  • 3.g. Harvest

Growing cannabis outdoors comes with many benefits. Apart from being a thoroughly enjoyable experience, it allows growers to rear bigger plants with better yields. Read on to learn how to grow cannabis outdoors.

GROWING CANNABIS INDOORS VS OUTDOORS: DIFFERENCES

Growing outdoors usually means more space to work with, plenty of sunshine, free rainwater, better ventilation, and the joy of cultivating in the elements.

However, growing outdoors also comes with a set of challenges. Plants are more vulnerable to pest insects, larger predators, heat waves, and cold snaps.

Growing indoors offers plants more shelter, and cultivators are in complete control of the growing environment. They are free to change temperature and humidity settings, and their plants are more concealed.

With that said, indoor growers usually have less space at their disposal, less potential for massive yields, and have to splash money on electricity bills to run their setup.

GROWING CANNABIS OUTDOORS

Sun. Fresh air. Soil. Growing cannabis outdoors offers a plethora of benefits for cultivators and cannabis plants alike. Everything from free resources to more time spent outside make it a worthwhile pursuit.

BENEFITS OF GROWING OUTDOORS

– Larger plants
– More space
– Free rainwater
– Sunshine (cheaper than lighting)
– No need to change light cycle
– Ventilation helps keep mould at bay
– Companion plants
– Beneficial insects
– Soil rich in native microbes
– Opportunity to practice regenerative methods

CHOOSING LOCATION

After deciding to grow outdoors, you’ll need to decide where to position your plants. Find an area that provides stable temperature, adequate sunlight, and shelter from harsh weather.

Make sure the area of your garden/position of your planting containers meets the following demands when growing in Europe in 2020:

• Temperatures never drop below 12°C
• Temperatures never exceed 30°C
6–8 hours of direct sunlight each day (south-facing location is ideal)
Shelter from torrential rain and heatwaves (e.g. temporary tarpaulin, greenhouse)

GENETICS

After selecting a location, you’ll need to choose a strain to grow. Here, you’ll need to consider your growing environment, and what kind of effect you’re looking for from your cannabis.

If you live further north and experience a shorter growing season, hardy and fast-flowering genetics such as autoflowers are a good choice. For those living further south, towering sativas that take longer to flower are a suitable option, and hybrids will thrive in these conditions.

Are you looking for a specific flavour? Research the terpene profiles of the strains you’re considering. This will give you a window into the sensory experience. Do you prefer fruity or earthy? Citrus or candy?

You can also use seed bank data to estimate the size, flowering time, and yield of a particular strain. If you can grow openly, consider a tall and highly productive strain. If you need to be more discreet, choose a smaller and more stealthy variety.

GERMINATION

The first phase in your cannabis plant’s life is germination. During this process, your seed will form its first taproot and emerge into a seedling. Germination requires three specific factors: darkness, humidity, and moisture. Together, these elements will activate your seed. It just so happens that soil provides the perfect venue!

Growers in warm climates can start their plants directly in pots or garden beds outdoors. However, plants require high humidity during the seedling stage. Consider starting outdoor plants in a greenhouse or polytunnel.

Those in colder climates can get a head start by raising their seedlings indoors during the chilly spring. Transplant them directly into the soil or into larger outdoor containers when the weather warms up.

Before germinating your seeds, secure some high-quality soil. Organic soil provides everything your plants need to thrive: nutrients, beneficial bacteria, and synergistic fungi.

To germinate your seeds, poke a hole into the topsoil in a garden bed or pot. Place the seed in the hole and gently cover with soil. Add a little water. You’ll see the first shoot emerge within 2–7 days.

The seedling stage will last around two weeks. Provide consistent lighting, humidity levels of around 70%, and water sparingly.

MAINTAINING THE PLANT

The vegetative phase begins once the seedling stage comes to an end. During this time, your plants will focus on photosynthesising and creating energy to fuel development. Expect a flurry of large fan leaves to proliferate throughout this phase. To maintain your plants, you’ll need to consider the following:

Only water after the top 3–5cm of soil has become dry. If you don’t wait long enough, your plant can become vulnerable to root rot and other nasties.

Test your soil occasionally and make sure it stays within a pH range of 6.0–7.0—the optimal range for nutrient absorption.

PREVENTING PESTS

As one of the main challenges for outdoor growers, pests can be managed and prevented using the following tips:

Predatory insects: Introduce predatory insects such as ladybirds and parasitic wasps to protect your plants against pest species.

Companion planting: Plant basil, lemon balm, or dill to repel pest insects.

Beneficial fungi: Soil that contains mycorrhizal fungi can help capture and kill nematodes—soil microorganisms that attack cannabis roots.

Physical barriers: Erect chicken wire fences and other barriers to prevent larger animals such as deer and birds from munching on your crop.

OUTDOOR GROWER’S CALENDAR 2020

This calendar revolves around the average climate in Europe. If you live in a more extreme climate (or in a different hemisphere), it’s worth looking into the relevant growing conditions.

Also, different strains will move much faster or slower than others. Keep the individual traits of your chosen cultivar in mind.

You’ll also notice that our calendar takes the time of year and the position of the moon and sun into consideration. Many gardeners work around the moon cycle due to the way the celestial body influences movements of moisture, sap, and subtle energies.

INDOOR GERMINATION

Start germinating your seeds indoors around March 9th if you live in a cooler climate. This date falls just before the full moon and encourages larger and more aromatic buds.

The spring equinox takes place on March 20th. During this time, the sun crosses the celestial equator, marking the first day of spring. Longer days and increased sunlight mean the growing season has begun! The seed will take anywhere between 2–7 days to complete germination and enter the seedling stage.

SEEDLING STAGE / GROWING INDOORS

The seedling stage lasts around two weeks before the vegetative phase begins. Continue to raise plants indoors in colder regions until mid-April to meet temperature and light demands.

SOWING AND MOVING OUTDOORS

If you live in a warmer climate, now is the time to germinate seeds directly outside. You’ll also be able to move indoor plants outside and transplant them into soil or larger containers.

If you decide to orient your grow around the lunar cycle, aim to transplant while the descending moon enters its crescent phase.

After transplantation, plants will become established in the ground, continue vegetating, and put on some serious mass. The shift into summer will see them receive plenty of light. They’ll continue to stretch upward as the North Pole reaches its maximum tilt towards the sun.

TOPPING AND TRAINING

Once your plants settle in, growers have the option to top and train them. Doing so will increase their yields, open up their canopies, and make them easier to tame.

Measures such as low-stress training can be conducted throughout June and July into early August. After this, plants will begin edging toward the flowering phase, and additional training won’t be beneficial.

Aim to top and train your plants when the ascending moon is in its crescent phase, ideally in a water constellation.

SEXING

Before flowers appear, your plants will enter the pre-flowering phase. Use this time to sex your plants to ensure no unwanted males end up fertilising your ladies. Pre-flowers occur at the nodes—points at which each branch meets the main stem.

Female pre-flowers feature a small bulb and a protruding hair, or pistil. In contrast, male pre-flowers feature a hairless bulb. Remove any males if you’re not looking to create seeds.

PRUNING

Your plants have entered the flowering phase. As the fall equinox approaches, the days begin to get shorter, and plants get the signal to blossom. Tidy them up and make sure each bud site has an adequate amount of light exposure.

Prune your crop between mid-July and the end of August in preparation for harvest time. Snip away excess fan leaves during a descending moon in the waning phase.

HARVEST

Perhaps the most exciting time of the entire grow occurs between mid-September and mid-November. It’s time to revel in your hard work and harvest your precious flowers. The weather becomes cool, the days shorter, and winter solstice approaches.

Harvest your buds in the morning during a descending moon in the waning phase.

Learn how to grow cannabis outdoors in 2020 using these essential tips and our outdoor growing calendar. Look forward to great harvests of top-tier bud!