Outdoor cannabis growing has become a popular way to grow your own cannabis easily. But how to harvest cannabis, when and what's best to do? Growing marijuana outdoors has many advantages! We've asked the experts and here are reasons why you should consider growing weed outside. With many states legalizing it, backyard gardeners are starting to cultivate plants outdoors. Here are helpful tips for how to grow marijuana.
How to harvest cannabis, dry and cure your outdoor crop
Growing cannabis outdoors is perhaps the lowest cost way to grow your own. All you need is a few good quality outdoor cannabis seeds and a sunny, sheltered spot with reasonable quality soil. You can always supplement the soil with additional high quality compost and fertiliser if necessary.
You don’t need to live in a warm, tropical climate to be able to grow great quality outdoor cannabis. High quality autoflower seeds can grow from seed to harvest in around 100 days outdoors (they are even faster indoors). Even those with short summers can find a good 3-month window to grow and harvest some autoflower seeds outdoors. But what are the best ways to harvest, dry and cure outdoor grown cannabis? Read on for some expert tips and advice.
Harvesting advantages of autoflowers grown outdoors
Growing autoflower seeds offers some tremendous advantages to the outdoor grower. Autoflowers have earned a solid reputation for being easy and convenient to grow. With their fast life cycle and short size they are a fast way to grow plants which will hide easily behind other plants and shrubs.
- Autoflowers grow from seed to harvest in around 100 days outdoors. That’s much faster than photoperiod outdoor strains and ideal for those with short growing seasons.
- Autoflower seeds tend to produce short, stocky plants which are around 1m tall. These are much easier to hide than 3-4m monster plants grown from photoperiod outdoor feminised seeds.
- Autoflower seeds are easy to grow with little maintenance required. If you choose a sunny location with good quality, moist soil you can expect a straightforward grow with little effort.
Harvesting advantages of photoperiod feminised strains grown outdoors
Your other main option for outdoor cannabis growing are feminised photoperiod cannabis seeds. Unlike autoflower seeds, you won’t be able to grow these in short 100-day summers. You will typically need 5 months or so to grow these larger plants. But harvests can be huge. Yields of well over 1Kg from a 3m tall specimen are quite possible.
If you enjoy a reasonably long growing season you will be able to harvest your outdoor photoperiod cannabis plant before the worst of the late-season weather arrives. For some outdoor cannabis growers, feminised photoperiod cannabis seeds are the preferred choice.
- For the largest harvests, outdoor cannabis seeds with photoperiod genetics are the best choice.
- Plants can be 3-4m tall and just as wide in optimum conditions. However, for some growers such large plants can present security/risk issues and are difficult to hide.
- You need to ensure that your preferred outdoor photoperiod strain is able to complete the bloom cycle before the growing season ends.
One other advantage of growing photoperiod feminised seeds is that they may be able to recover somewhat more easily from a pest attack or accident than an autoflower.
Autoflowers have a fixed life cycle outdoors, usually around 100 days. If an autoflower plant suffers any kind of grow incident/accident in its prime, it may not have the time to recover from it. A photoperiod plant, with a longer growth phase before bloom, may be able to recover slightly better when it comes to dealing with attacks from slugs, rabbits or other pests.
When to harvest outdoor cannabis, autoflower seeds vs photoperiod feminised seeds
In general, autoflowers take around 100 days from seed to harvest outdoors (indoors, with optimised conditions they often take nearer to 75 days). This means that growers in warm climates can get 2 (or even 3) successive outdoor autoflower harvests per year. That’s one of the reasons autoflower seeds have become so popular with outdoor growers.
Outdoor feminised seeds often have a 5-6 month life cycle. That’s longer than the life cycle of an autoflower, but the grower is usually compensated by heavier harvests than those produced from smaller autoflower plants. However, unless you live close to equatorial latitudes, you will only be able to grow one outdoor photoperiod crop per year.
Note that some growers of photoperiod feminised seeds can artificially force extra productivity from their plants if they grow in greenhouses equipped with blackout blinds. This can allow growers to ‘force’ an early bloom and create quicker harvest cycles by creating 12/12 light conditions manually. Some balcony growers also use this technique.
When to harvest outdoor cannabis according to trichome appearance
Many growers will examine the colour of the trichome resin glands and monitor the transition from clear, to cloudy to amber. This technique works well for both autoflower strains and traditional photoperiod outdoor strains.
Many growers buy an small magnifying glass (sometimes known as a jewellers loupe) to make accurate close-up judgements on the trichome appearance. You can also buy a sophisticated digital microscope which will also do a great job at showing trichome appearance.
Cannabis harvested with clear, colourless trichomes tends to have a lively, uplifting and energetic high. However, THC levels may not have quite peaked and the buds may not have finished growing. Most outdoor growers prefer to wait a little longer as this tends to give heavier harvests and slightly stronger weed.
Waiting until the clear trichomes are transitioning to cloudy/milky allows your buds to pack on more weight. It also allows THC content and resin coverage to increase, meaning stronger buds. Many growers like to harvest their cannabis when the trichomes are mostly cloudy. You may notice that a few trichomes are starting to show some amber colour at this point.
Leave your buds another week or two and you will notice more and more of the trichomes have transitioned from cloudy/milky to amber or red. Some growers prefer to harvest at this point, feeling that their cannabis has more of a narcotic, heavy effect. Many consider that a majority of red trichomes represents a somewhat over-ripe crop. But some growers prefer it that way e.g. medical marijuana growers who want a strong body effect with good sleep inducing qualities.
When to harvest outdoor cannabis according to pistil (hair) colour
As well as considering the appearance of the trichomes, many cannabis growers also monitor the colour of the pistils. These are the hairs which come out of the buds. Initially the pistils tend to be white. As they start turning increasingly brown it is an indicator that the plant is approaching harvest.
50% brown pistils
Cannabis is approaching harvest, though with many pistils still white in colour growers will often wait a little longer until they harvest.
70% brown pistils
At this point the majority, but not all, pistils are brown. For many growers this represents a good harvest point.
80-90%+ brown pistils
For some growers this would represent a mature cannabis crop with heavier, narcotic effects. Although some growers might consider such buds to be a little over-ripe, there are plenty of growers who consider the extra bloom time well worth the wait. But it’s worth saying that we all have a unique endo cannabinoid system that responds differently to cannabis.
One of the great joys of growing your own cannabis seeds is that you (not an unknown grower/dealer) decide precisely when to harvest the cannabis in order to deliver maximum personal satisfaction. Some cannabis users have strong preferences for specific strains which have been grown to a perfect ripeness level for them.
100% brown pistils
Most growers would consider a crop to be over-ripe if all the pistils are brown, but there are a minority of growers who would disagree.
The next time you grow some cannabis seeds, try taking (and drying) buds at different ripeness levels and comparing the high/effects from them. You may be surprised to find you have a clear preference which influences your harvest timings for future cannabis crops.
When to harvest your outdoor crop according to sativa vs indica genetics
If you know the cannabis genetics contained in your strains it will help you estimate the approximate harvest time. Much depends on the latitude that you are growing at as well as the specific climatic conditions experienced during your grow. But in general, indica genetics tend to reach maturity faster than sativa or haze genetics.
In the northern hemisphere, late blooming Haze varieties may not be ready to harvest until late November. For northern European growers that is simply too late for outdoor growing. Knowing which outdoor strains will grow well in your conditions is part of the skill of the experienced outdoor cannabis grower.
Drying cannabis buds grown outdoors
Drying your outdoor grown cannabis plants requires careful planning. If you plan to dry them outdoors you will need a warm and dry climate, though this can be difficult to guarantee around fall/autumn as the weather often turns cooler and wetter. That’s why many outdoor growers invest in some specialist drying equipment at home.
If you are growing cannabis outdoors in the hills and countryside you will probably be used to chopping down the plants and putting the heaviest branches and buds in large sealed bags to transport home. This can be a nervous journey since the freshly harvested weed can have a powerful odour. Stick to the speed limits and don’t attract attention on the drive home!
Once the buds and branches are at home you can begin the process of drying them. Even if you never grow cannabis indoors, many outdoor growers buy a small tent and some drying racks to dry their buds in. Some people hang the larger branches from clothes hangers or a piece of cord suspended across the top of the grow tent. You will need an extraction fan and a carbon filter to eliminate the smell. Drying an outdoor cannabis harvest without odour protection is always tremendously risky when others live nearby.
Often the buds will take around a week to dry. One drying tip is to start at 60% humidity for the first few days, slowly working your way down to 55% again for a few days. After 7-10 (max) days you may wish to set your dehumidifier to 50% to dry the buds a little further.
As soon as the branches start to snap (or almost snap) you can be sure that the buds on those branches are just about ready to be put into your curing jars. Be aware that the larger buds/blooms can take a day or two longer to dry.
Buds that are bright green at harvest often fade to a paler, less vivid appearance after drying. Often, you may notice brown colourations and perhaps even some blue or red hues as drying/curing progresses.
Trimming cannabis buds grown outdoors
Some growers don’t mind waiting until the buds are dry before trimming off the excess leaf material. Usually, after around a week of drying the buds are considered dry enough to think about jarring and curing. This is usually around the time that the branches have dried sufficiently to snap. The only problem with waiting until the buds are dry is that you may lose some of the trichomes when trimming dry buds.
For that reason, many growers prefer to try to trim the buds when freshly picked, or shortly afterwards. Some rubber gloves help keep your fingers clean, and a good pair of scissors (or trimming scissors) is highly recommended. From time to time, you may need to scrape the scissor hash off the blades to save for a post-harvest celebration smoke/vape. The trimmed leaf material can be frozen and used to make hashish or cannabis concentrates.
Curing and storing your outdoor cannabis crop
Curing and storing your outdoor grown cannabis buds is exactly the same process as that used for indoor cannabis harvests. If you have dried your cannabis well (without over-drying it and losing your delicious terpenes) you are ready to cure your buds.
Curing is the slow process of slowly removing the last remnants of moisture while allowing the buds to reach a state of preservation where they will last for months, or years. During this process the aroma can intensify to produce quite breathtaking flavours and aromas. A great terpene profile not only makes your buds taste delicious, they may also modulate the type of high you experience.
As the cannabis buds reach the curing stage they have lost most, but not all, of their moisture. The final curing stage is the last, and perhaps the most important part for the connoisseur cannabis lover. Growers often use glass jars. Plastic containers are less desirable since they can be softened or discoloured by the sticky resin. The well trimmed buds are placed in the glass jars leaving a centimetre or two at the top of the jar. The jars are sealed, and left in the dark.
The jars are then unsealed occasionally, once or twice a day, to allow any moisture to be released. Some people call this ‘burping’ the jars. Two or three weeks is considered a minimum cure time. Many connoisseurs prefer to wait longer, feeling that curing is complete after around 1-2 months. The cured buds will vape with a clean flavor, without a ‘chlorophyll’ taste.
Once your buds are fully cured you may prefer to store them in a freezer to fully preserve potency and ensure no degradation. Never store your buds in a high temperature environment (e.g. a hot loft space) if you want the best long term storage.
Fine control of the cannabis curing process with Boveda or Integra humidity sachets
You bought the best cannabis seeds and you grew them to the best of your ability. The last thing you want is to open your jars to find that the buds are mouldy because they were insufficiently dry.
Likewise, you don’t want to open your jar of precious buds and find that they are just too dry and crispy, with poor taste and aroma. This can feel like the buds are low quality and too old with a harsh effect when vaped/smoked.
When you open your jars you want to see and smell premium quality buds, with optimized potency, a well cured aroma and a delicious taste. One way to help achieve this is with humidity control sachets from companies like Boveda or Integra.
These sachets release moisture if your buds are too dry, or they absorb moisture if the buds are damp. You can select different products from these companies. From Boveda we recommend the “58% Humidity” sachets. From Integra we recommend the “55% humidity” packs.
Frequently asked questions about harvesting cannabis
If you have never grown cannabis outdoors then it’s something you may want to try. The costs of growing outdoor cannabis are far lower than indoor grown cannabis. You won’t need a grow light, you won’t need to pay for energy costs either. If you are worried about your carbon footprint, then outdoor growing holds a lot of attractions. Even growers at extreme northern and southern latitudes are able to grow autoflower seeds outdoors in short summers.
Do environmental factors affect the cannabis grow season?
Growing and harvesting outdoor grown cannabis really is enjoyable and rewarding fun. Understanding your own climate, the onset of spring and fall/autumn is an important starting point. Environmental factors play a large part in determining which strains will best suit you. You need to select the best cannabis seeds for your own requirements and climate.
Many outdoor cannabis growers grow both autoflower seeds as well as outdoor feminised photoperiod cannabis seeds. The grower can usually rely on their autoflower plants finishing in time even if stormy fall/autumn weather arrives early and damages the photoperiod cannabis harvest.
Daylight hours and outdoor cannabis flowering
Indoors growers use a 12/12 light schedule to artificially induce bloom. But outdoors the plants go into flowering a considerable time before 12/12 outdoor light conditions are reached. Precise timings for bloom can of course be vary from strain to strain. But most of them are triggered to start flowering when daylight hours drop to around 14 hours per day and below.
In the northern hemisphere at Amsterdam latitude there are around 16-17 hours of daylight at the peak of summer. In the northern hemisphere, outdoor cannabis plants usually start preparing to flower in August when daylight hours are quickly diminishing.
Between 10 – 25 August daylight hours start to decline from 15hrs per day to 14hrs. This is often the period outdoor plants start preparing to go into flowering. 12/12 outdoor light conditions are seen around 25 September at Amsterdam latitude. Around 25th October there are only around 10 hours of daylight. This (or before) is usually the date that most outdoor strains are harvested.
You will need to know the average last frost date for your region and be careful to put your seedlings/plants outside after that date.
Some growers will germinate their cannabis seeds indoors and grow them under indoor lights for a few weeks to give them the best possible start before planting them outdoors, after the last frost. The best outdoor cannabis growers will gradually ‘harden’ their seedlings by exposing them increasingly to outdoor conditions before they are finally transplanted outdoors.
The seedlings will need to be protected with slug/snail pellets. Some growers also surround their grow location with thorny brambles to give further protection from animals such as deer, goats and rabbits.
If the soil quality is poor, it can be easily improved with high quality compost from the garden centre. This will help improve the quality of your outdoor cannabis harvest. Once the plants are settled in their final grow position you can let them do the rest of the work. Just protect them from thieves and wild animals. In times of drought you may need to transport water to the grow site, but other than that there will be little to do.
Is there an optimal time to harvest your plants?
In an ideal world, you will know your own preferences for early vs late harvested cannabis. And with a little experience you will soon feel quite confident about judging cannabis ripeness from trichome appearance or pistil appearance. But the astute outdoor cannabis grower also has to consider the local weather patterns and plan ahead carefully.
If winter storms are due earlier than normal then it makes sense to harvest your plants early rather than allow them to get battered by bad weather. If you cannot be certain of the onset of winter weather, then it may be worth considering growing autoflower seeds rather than relying completely on photoperiod outdoor strains.
Some outdoor cannabis growers feel that growing their plants under natural sunlight gives the buds an extra ‘kick’, delivering a particularly satisfying high. Outdoor grown cannabis is certainly cheaper to grow with no energy costs. It can also be great fun finding an outdoor grow location and watching your cannabis seeds grow into healthy, heavy yielding plants. However you go about it, enjoy your outdoor growing and good luck!
6 Comments . Leave new
Generally your guides are good, so thanks. But this one on drying is not comprehensive enough. For instance, how do I dry the plants? If outside is it best to hang the whole plant upside down from a tree so the wind and the sun dry it with little risk of mould or do you strip all the good bits from the plants, discarding the trunk and branches and just dry the flowers/leaves in some other way?
Indeed you are right, this blog is not that extensive. Here you can check out an updated document about drying and curing https://dutch-passion.com/en/blog/the-best-way-to-dry-and-cure-cannabis-n918
Growing 3 plants 8 to 10 ft. Fertilized with raw fish only. My plants are as wide as high! I’need 2 strong men to pull them by the roots, hose the dirt off w
ith warm water then hang whole plants by their roots for six weeks in dark un-heated garage. What say you.
Why you should grow marijuana outdoors (and how)
It may seem that growing marijuana outdoors is fraught with challenges and risks which is why some growers prefer to grow indoors. But with some preparation and effort, outdoor growing can be more rewarding and satisfying.
Information about growing marijuana outdoors
While it may seem like growing indoors is more private, this is not necessarily true. The same goes for the yield you can expect from grow rooms. Sometimes, even when a grower can control all the variables, it’s still difficult to get a bountiful harvest. So, even though indoor growing sounds convenient, it still has its drawbacks.
Outdoor growing, on the other hand, has many unexpected advantages. Here are some reasons why you should consider growing weed outside.
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The benefits of growing marijuana outdoors
Despite the increased control on the growing variables in an indoor setup, growing marijuana outdoors still has many advantages – to the environment, the plant, and the grower.
Reasons to grow marijuana outdoors
There are many reasons to grow marijuana outdoors, here are five of them.
With the popularity of indoor growing comes the excessive consumption of energy. Grow rooms require lights, ventilation systems, and other equipment that eat up a lot of electricity.
In California, estimates show that a single household uses up as much as 8% of energy growing marijuana. That’s roughly using 200 pounds of coal to produce a pound of weed.
In contrast, outdoor growing needs only the sun, air, and water to thrive. It does not produce any carbon footprint, and it even contributes to the dynamics of the ecosystem. So, if we want to save the planet, the outdoor option is the better choice.
Blessed by the sun, natural soil, and fresh air, outdoor cannabis develops a distinct flavor. It is often nothing like the ones grown indoors. As such, some weed enthusiasts even swear that they can taste the earthy essence in strains grown outdoors.
Buds are marijuana grower’s prized possesion. Curious how to maximize buds? Just read “How to grow huge marijuana buds“
Aside from its pleasant aroma, a home grower knows they are producing top-notch buds merely because they are the ones tending it. Poor quality weed is harsh to smoke and may give a bad headache instead of a good high. Therefore, it’s way better to plant our own vibrant green buds that are safer and provide more satisfaction.
Incredibly cheap and effortless
One of the obvious benefits of growing weed outdoors is the free sun. The plants get unlimited sunshine that is many times better than grow lights. Also free are the infinite supply of fresh air, carbon dioxide, and rainwater. As we know, these are all the elements that the hardy marijuana plant needs to flourish.
Growing outdoors also doesn’t require that much expertise. You only need good seeds and the proper care to germinate them. Once they sprout, they can technically grow by themselves, but, of course, you’re going to do more than that. Even with the least amount of effort, however, you’re going to get something.
Larger cannabis yields
Growing outdoors will most definitely lead to huge buds and an overall higher yield. With the help of the sun and carbon dioxide, the plants will grow extra-large leaves. This, in turn, will help accumulate more energy to produce huge buds.
Assuming that we have a secure location, a plant can grow larger than 180 cm. With this size, it can potentially produce around 500 g of dried buds. With just 5 to 7 plants that are this size, you have a year’s worth of supply of high-quality weed. For patients who use marijuana for medication, this type of yield is especially useful. Obviously, growing plants that are this enormous would be impossible indoors.
Safer for the grower
As we know, security is the main issue when growing cannabis outdoors. Again, this is the primary reason why cannabis cultivation shifted indoors. However, a suitable outdoor location can be even more secure than keeping the plants inside our homes.
Why is this the case? Ownership of an outdoor garden is tougher to trace than an indoor one. You can always deny it if caught, preventing the worry of being charged with a crime. You cannot do that as easily when growing indoors.
These reasons show how growing outdoors is better for both the plant and the growers. If being cheaper, more relaxing, and safer isn’t enough to convince you, being incredibly easier might. Just like any other gardening skill, you need patience and knowledge to be successful, but once you do, growing outdoors can be a walk in the park.
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Getting started growing outdoors
Now that you know why you should grow marijuana outdoors, it’s time to learn how to get started.
Depending on where you live, you can plant marijuana outside in the late spring all the way through to the middle of July. Planting earlier basically ensures a much bigger plant. Starting late can prevent plants from getting too large before flowering begins.
Factors to consider when growing cannabis outdoors
When growing marijuana outdoors, you must account for the impact of latitude on day length. There are also ways you can try to maximize plant growth and yield.
The plants can be grown directly in the ground where they generally do very well, or they can be grown in five- to twenty-gallon containers. Plants growing in larger containers will naturally produce more bud.
The lengthening nights of the late summer trigger the plant’s flowering stage. Some varieties will cease growing vegetatively almost instantly, but others could continue growing and quadruple in size.
It generally takes between 55 and 70 days for the buds to mature after the plants have started flowering.
When the plant starts flowering, switch the fertilizer to a bloom formula so that the plants will acquire nutrients needed for larger buds.
- Grow with my Quick Start Guide
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- Avoid common grow mistakes
Marijuana plants switch to flowering when the uninterrupted dark period passes the minimum amount of time. This period varies by variety and is usually between 8 and 11 hours. If your plants respond to a shorter dark period, they are early season varieties. Plants that respond to a longer dark period are, of course, late-season varieties. Outdoor plants with a short dark period are best suited to higher latitudes.
The effect of latitude
When growing marijuana, you must account for the impact of latitude on day length. For example, June 21 is the longest day and shortest night of the year. As you can see, Boston’s night length is 1 hour and 12 minutes shorter than San Diego’s.
|San Diego||St. Louis||Boston|
|Dusk to dawn lasts 8 hours and 44 minutes.||Dusk to dawn lasts 8 hours and 3 minutes.||Dusk to dawn lasts 7 hours and 32 minutes.|
Early season varieties growing at lower latitudes (such as San Diego) will be induced to flower early in the season and will remain small even during the maturation process. The generally shorter nights during the summer at high latitudes (such as Boston) give the plants a chance to grow before they flower. A late-season variety growing in the north might trigger late in the season but won’t get a chance to develop mature buds. It will not trigger during the early summer in low latitudes, but it will flower earlier as a result of the longer nights and milder climate.
Marijuana’s different flowering habits and the varieties that produce them have led to many strategies for growing. In northern areas, short-season varieties are needed to ensure that plants mature before the weather turns.
By contrast, gardeners in the south grow long season varieties during the summer that ripen in the fall. Certain short-season varieties will start to flower soon (a month or so after the summer solstice) and will be ready for harvest in early autumn.
If short-season varieties are not provided with extended exposure to daylight, they will not grow large enough to produce much of a yield. Long season varieties can be planted in the fall to mature a few months after planting.
In areas that tend to stay warm throughout the year, sativas and sativa-indica varieties can be planted in the fall. They will continue growing into the winter as they flower and will be ready in about 70 to 80 days after planting.
Understanding what you should grow in your climate is one way to enjoy the higher yield potentials of outside grows. Here are some more tips to help you successfully grow outdoors:
Pruning is sometimes needed to keep marijuana plants at a manageable size. When the main stem is cut, the lower branches increase in size, and the plant grows several other strong branches.
When these are pruned, the plant becomes bushier and puts less emphasis on growing taller. Plants with the main stem clipped will produce greater yields than unclipped plants.
Fertilize the plant with vegetable fertilizer mix or liquid, or use a hydroponic, vegetative formula to maximize plant growth and yield. Follow directions precisely or use less fertilizer than suggested. Never use more than the recommended amount as it can throw chemical balances out of order.
How to Grow Marijuana Outdoors
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical or legal advice. While the cultivation, possession, distribution, and use of marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes may be legal in certain areas, growing marijuana is illegal under U.S. federal law and in certain states and countries. Readers should consult the local and federal laws in their jurisdiction and qualified medical and legal professionals. Marijuana use can be harmful to certain individuals, including minors and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Cannabis was grown as any other kitchen garden plant when Humboldt farmers first started to cultivate it as part of the back-to-the-land movement of the ‘70s. California’s progression toward legalization over the last decade has made it easier for cannabis farmers to share their knowledge of how to grow marijuana with you today.
Growing marijuana is “a short-term commitment with a very big promise at the end,” Scott Davies, owner of Winterbourne Farms, says. “It requires some nurturing and attentiveness, but it’s a pretty resilient and eventually rewarding plant. I know that if I grow it well, I can use the plant to alter my state, to use it to relax at the end of the day.”
Davies is a second-generation cannabis farmer, currently based in Humboldt County. He’s a co-founder of Humboldt Legends, a benefit corporation of about 30 farms in Humboldt County who have pioneered organic methods for growing cannabis outdoors.
Below, Davies shares his best practices for how to grow marijuana and incorporating cannabis plants in your garden.
Scott Buttfield / Humboldt Legends
What to Know Before Growing Marijuana
. There could be regulations down to the block you live on. Local ordinances may ban cultivation outdoors. Currently, California and Colorado residents can grow up to six plants per household whether for recreational or medicinal use. In Oregon, the limit is four. In Nevada, the limit is TWELVE.
- Cannabis is dioecious; that is, the plants have distinct genders: male, female, and hermaphrodite. You only use the female plant for its flower, but you still use male plants for pollinating / reproducing. Separate select males and keep them far away from the female plants. If you keep male and hermaphrodite plants near your females, your yield will still be fully flowered, yet rife with seeds. (While a seed-filled yield is useful for breeding future harvests, seedy bud isn’t a desired outcome for consumption; users pick the seeds out before smoking or processing the flower for edibles or concentrates.)
- Each plant can yield one to ten pounds of flower and trim. The plant can grow up to 15 feet tall depending on the strain and the maintenance of the plant.
- It’s better not to start the plant’s life at the beginning of the year. Most of the farms working with Humboldt Legends plant in March and harvest by mid-October.
- Research each strain to understand its unique growing needs as well as how to yield its greatest potential and understand its effects. Indica, sativa, hybrids, and strong-CBD strains have different growing considerations depending on climate, elevation, and other natural factors. If you want to know how to grow marijuana strains that you prefer, our former garden editor Johanna Silver has a book on the topic.
What to Plant
Choosing whether to plant seeds or clones is a big decision for the course of your plant’s life. Seeds can be shipped to you, are discreet, and are easy to store. Your emerging plant comes pesticide- and microbe-free. You can also hybridize seeds to create new cross-strains to tailor the plant’s effects on you.
One drawback of seeds is that you won’t know the plant’s gender until it flowers; to stack the deck in your favor, seek out feminized seeds. If you do wind up with male or hermaphrodite plants, you can compost them and put them back into the soil eventually (or cook the leaf into butter).
Clones are usually taken from adult female plants, so you know exactly what you’re getting. They’re relatively easy to procure; as of now, can be purchased commercially in most places where cultivation has been legalized.
However, if your clone comes with mildew or mites, it won’t be immediately obvious. Even in its early stages, mildew presents itself with telltale white fuzz growing on the fan leaves. Mites come in a variety of species (spider, broad, etc.) and they are harder to spot than mildew. More readily noticeable are the signs of damage they wreak: yellowing or spotted leaves or drooping, lackluster structure. In more advanced stages, spider mites will leave webs all over the flowers.
Plant in full sun at the north edge of your garden. Chose a spot with well-drained soil. Make sure the plant has plenty of room to grow as plants can grow an inch to an inch-and-a-half a day. We have more tips on growing marijuana as a landscaping plant.
All of the plant’s energy goes into growing bigger. Start fertilizing at the vegetative stage of the plant (i.e. when stems and leaves are growing, but before the plant begins to flower) with nitrogen-rich fertilizer, which enables stems to be strong enough to hold the weight of heavy buds. Switch to phosphorous-heavy fertilizer when the plant starts flowering, usually six to eight weeks into the growth of your plant.
A warning about the use of pesticides, fungicides or harmful chemicals: Whatever you feed the cannabis plant, you wind up ingesting once the plant is harvested. Refrain from using any harmful chemicals that would be toxic upon igniting or baking.
Scott Buttfield/Humboldt Legends
Staking and Trellising
You’ll know it’s a flowering female by the appearance of pistils, small hairs that turn to denser nodes. The colors of the pistils change from white to red, green, and purple. Pistils don’t tell you anything about the potency or taste of the future flower, but they add a nice ornamental element to your garden.
The flower can get so heavy that when it rains, its branches break. Two to three weeks in, stake with 4-foot bamboo stalk (you can start with a strong center stake, but it isn’t imperative). Once the plant is much bigger, keep the stakes in place to maintain central support. You can also use trellis netting attached to a central stake to keep flowers up.
Watching out for Pests & Diseases
Botritis (bud rot) is especially worrisome as it destroys flowers from the inside out, leaving a rotten area that turns brown or gray and mushy. Good air circulation, arid conditions, and regular spraying with an organic fungicide will prevent or limit the damage. Other pests such as cucumber beetles will nibble on the fan leaves but leave the flowers alone. Calling a truce with these tolerable pests tends to be easier than fighting them off.
If your buds are blooming then the plant’s interior area is shaded, reducing the plant’s much-needed exposure to the sun. When your plant starts to flower, be aggressive in pruning the big yellow and brown fan leaves to reduce the chemical intervention of pesticides, fungicides, or other chemicals later on and to reduce pressure from powdery mildew and any kinds of molds.
Gracie Malley/Cannabis Now
When to Harvest
Start cutting in mid-October. More than half of the pistils should have turned colors by now, which signals when the buds are ready be harvested. On average, the home gardener can yield two to five harvests from each plant.
Hang your cuts in a dry, warm place with good air circulation for five to seven days. It need not be totally dark, but minimizing direct sunlight is important as it will degrade the plant’s effects more readily and fade or bleach the color of the flowers. You can use a dehumidifier on flowers that have a little bit of moisture to them. Stems should snap and not bend.
Trim and Separate
Finally, the reward for growing marijuana. Trim leaves, but not too close to the bud. Davies recommends separating big and small buds. The smalls buds’ trim and stems can be used to create tinctures, concentrates, and edibles.