How to Grow Marijuana Outdoors – Growing weed or growing marijuana is achievable in most habitable places around the world. 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? Picking the best cannabis seeds for your outdoor grow season is easy with this guide at hand. Spring is coming – time to grow weed outside!
How to Grow Marijuana Outdoors – Growing Weed
With marijuana being legalized or decriminalized in a number of US states and other countries around the world, there are many people who wish to grow their own weed. Indoor hydroponic systems are becoming easier to master and can produce some very satisfying yields, but there is something about letting cannabis plants flourish in an outdoor environment that can be incredibly rewarding. Left to grow naturally marijuana can produce even better yields than indoors and flavors are often said to be more intricate. For those people who prefer things more natural, it is also possible to grow marijuana outdoors in a 100% organic way.
So, for all you budding guerilla gardeners out there, this guide will cover the basics, giving you all the information you need to start growing your own top grade weed outdoors.
Lots of people think that you require a hot, sub tropical climate to grow marijuana outdoors. This is not the case. If you think about the high areas of Central Asia where cannabis originally comes from, the climate can be harsh and often cold at altitude. There are also cannabis strains bred specifically for outdoors in colder climates, such as Early Skunk. Strain selection is a crucial part of a successful outdoor grow, read about it more in the section about cannabis strain selection. With some care and planning you can grow cannabis outdoors from the hottest tropical regions to as far north as Alaska or Scandinavia.
Selecting the right site for your outdoor marijuana grow is of the utmost importance. When considering a potential site you will need to think about the basic requirements of your marijuana plants as well as how you are going to get to and from the site and whether the plants are going to be hidden from view. We have a full section on outdoor growing site selection.
Even though you may live in a place where it is not illegal to grow marijuana outdoors, weather you are growing in your backyard or elsewhere stealth is still one of your primary concerns. Growing marijuana is still a contentious issue to many people, possibly including your neighbors, and some people just don’t like it. There’s always the danger of theft too. Any smoker who happened to stumble upon your lovely ripe plants while out walking in the woods or seeing it over your back fence one day might be likely to help himself to some. If you are growing in your garden, after you consider the best locations in terms of sunlight start thinking how you will conceal the plants. Usually the best way to do this is with other plants such as tomatoes as they grow quickly like your weed will. If you are growing in the woods consider locations that are far away from tracks or paths used by walkers. You might need to get your hiking boots on and head across country, away from people. Dog walkers and hikers get everywhere so look out for signs of their passing and look for places that they might think too awkward to get to. If you live somewhere where there is dense ground cover, it is sometimes possible to worm your way under the foliage to clearings within. Using ‘fox holes’ like this can be an excellent idea as their entrances are easily concealed with branches and leaves. Choosing a site near a stream or brook means that it may be accessed via the water. This is a good way to avoid leaving paths or tracks that clearly show to others where you have been. Farmer’s fields can be useful if you know the area well and know which bits are regularly visited and which aren’t. Field margins are often overlooked and can provide good locations for outdoor grows. However, be careful if there is any chemical spraying going on in the area. Industrial sites should not be ignored either, especially derelict or run down sites. Sometimes these locations can go for years without being visited at all. They often contain hidden away bits of scrap land that are all but forgotten by everybody. There is a more extensive guide to picking a spot in the woods in our guerilla grow guide.
Once you are satisfied with the security of your chosen site, you will have to then consider if it offers all of your plants’ natural requirements. The first of these is sunlight. The more sunlight your cannabis plant gets, the more it will grow. As an absolute minimum, cannabis plants require around six hours of sunlight per day. More would be much better. When selecting a site try to envisage or calculate with a compass how much light it will get throughout the day, and throughout the summer. Note where the sun rises and sets and imagine the arc that it makes, both now and at high summer and into fall. Will your plants get enough light throughout their entire life cycle? Watch out for surrounding plants and if they will shade out your babies now and in the future when they grow, can you cut them back. Remember, if you are checking a site out in spring, there will be a whole lot more foliage come the summer.
If you live in a climate with adequate rainfall then water shouldn’t be too much of a problem. However, if you live somewhere that experiences long dry seasons then a good supply of water is crucial. Near to a river or stream is ideal, but remember that they may flood in spring or autumn. Is there a strand line that shows you where the high water has been? If you are able to, situate a water tank nearby on a slow drip or try stashing some large containers of water nearby so that you can water the plants easily in times of drought. Be sure to keep an eye on the weather forecasts during your grow. You should know if any adverse weather like a late or early cold snap or long days of hot weather – know beforehand and not get caught out by surprise to find your babies dead.
Check the soil of the site first. Good soil should compact when you squeeze it, be dark brown in color and but should break apart again with only a small amount of pressure. You should know good soil when you see it really; if you have any doubts take a look online for what it should look like. You need the soil to be well drained, try to avoid places with patches of standing water, clay or rocky soil. Cannabis does not like being waterlogged. Look at what else is already growing at the site. If there are plenty of grasses, weeds and nettles then chances are that the location is already blessed with decent soil and water. A soil pH meter is relatively cheap to buy. This is not essential, but the more effort you put in now, the better your weed will be. Cannabis likes a very slightly acidic soil, pH 5.5 -6.5 is ideal. You will be very lucky if you find the ideal soil, but don’t despair. It is easy to improve soil, try digging in a mix of some potting compost, well rotted manure and Perlite or vermiculite to improve drainage and aeration. Cannabis roots need plenty of oxygen so try to lighten heavy, compacted soils. Having selected your site, clear the area completely of weeds. When your plants are young they can easily be swallowed up by indigenous plants so you need to give them a head start. If you are able, dig a hole out for each plant approximately two feet deep and two feet in diameter and line the base with two inches of gravel to enable good drainage. Now fill the rest of the hole with your prepared soil/compost mix. This is a lot of work and to fill it with good potting mix and gravel will take plenty of trips with a heavy backpack. Your site is now ready to take your plants but you still have some more decisions to make.
Indica or Sativa
As stated earlier, the cannabis strain that you choose is going to be crucial to the success of your grow. This is an area where it is worth doing a bit of research. If you live somewhere frost free with an incredibly long growing season you can pretty much choose whatever strain you want. This includes nearly all the indicas and the old school sativas, like the Hazes which have a long flowering period but which can produce immense yields. Climates which are less tropical, but otherwise sunny, like the Mediterranean or the southern states, have less choice. However, you can still grow most indicas and, with modern breeding techniques, you can grow some hybridized sativas such as Silver Haze #9, which is a Haze with a shorter flowering cycle.
Those millions of us without the luxury of such an environment, who live in colder, damper environments, need to be a bit pickier. Although it is mostly indicas that can be grown in these environments, again, some modern hybrid strains allow you to get sativas such as Bangi Haze. Or, you could just work with what you have and select a good indica strain such as Sensi Star, or Holland’s Hope which has been specifically bred for growing outdoors in northern climates.
Autoflowering cannabis strains
The ever increasing amount of autoflowering cannabis strains available is of great interest to the outdoor cannabis grower. Their fast finishing time ensures missing any untimely frosts and their diminutive stature makes stealth much easier. Auto strains get their autoflowering qualities from Cannabis ruderalis genes and many of them are suitable for growing outdoors in cooler conditions. Consider Auto Frisian Dew or Snow Ryder.
Of course, we are not all granted the luxury of being able to pick and choose which strains we grow. Lots and lots of people have great success with growing seeds found in bags of purchased weed. You might not even know what type of cannabis it is, but it’s always worth giving it a go. Nothing ventured – nothing gained. If you do grow bag weed try and identify it as soon as you can. If it grows with thin fingered, light green leaves and long internode lengths it could be sativa dominant and take longer to finish flowering. Dark, thick fingered leaves and a short, squat structure can indicate an indica dominant plant which should flower more quickly.
Clones or seeds?
If you have access to clones then this is nearly always the best decision to make. Clones have guaranteed genetic traits, particularly if you only require female plants. They also give you a head start over seeds by being more developed with existing leaves and a root system. On the other hand, buying seeds from a shop or online resource gives you much more choice over which strain you grow. Buy your cannabis seeds from a reputable source and try to buy the best you can afford. If you do use clones, be sure treat them with care and make sure their roots are properly developed before planting them out.
If you are growing your plants from seed you have the choice of either germinating them at home and then planting them out, or sowing them directly in their final location. The choice is yours and each has its benefits. Germinating them at home gives you more control over the very delicate early stages whereas sowing them directly avoids possible damage when transporting and transplanting them. There are a number of ways of germinating cannabis seeds. Everyone has their own way of doing it. Perhaps the simplest way is to place your seeds between layers of moist (not soaking) tissue paper and put them somewhere warm and dark. Your seeds should crack their shells in just a few days. Let your seedlings develop a small web of roots before potting them on. When they have, get a small pot full of fine potting compost and make a hole in it with the end of a pencil. Carefully place your young seedling into it, making sure that the roots go down into the hole. Sometimes the roots become woven into the fabric of the tissue paper. If this is the case, do not risk damaging them by pulling them apart. Simply cut a small circle out of the paper, around the roots, and put the plant in the pot with the paper still attached. Some people just plant the seeds directly into a small pot and let them sprout naturally. If you do this, try soaking the seed for 24 hours before planting to soften up the shell. If you are going to sow your seeds directly into the ground at your chosen site, simply make a tiny hole in your prepared soil, about ¼” to ½” deep, and pop the seed in it, pointy side up. Make sure that the soil is watered and clear all other plants from the area to give your baby a chance to get going.
If you have started your seed off at home, which is recommended, you will want to plant it out when it is around six inches tall with three or four internodes. Make a hole in your prepared soil that will accommodate the whole contents of the pot without disturbing the roots. Remove the cannabis plant from the pot by turning it upside down and tapping the base. Now place the root ball in the hole and firm it in. Make sure you give it a good drink at this point. Once established your seedlings will soon enter a vigorous vegetative growth stage. From such fragile beginnings plants quickly become full and robust. Unlike growing marijuana indoors, you have no control over the duration of the vegetative growth stage and over the course of a summer plants can become huge. It is a good idea during this phase to feed your plants well with some quality, nitrogen rich, fertilizer. Your cannabis plant is now growing in your carefully selected site. If stealth is important to you, you will want to keep visits to the site to a minimum. If it is safe to visit your site then keep looking and clearing away any plants that begin to encroach on your babies. If you want to grow only female cannabis plants there is one visit that you will not be able to avoid. At some time, probably between the fifth and sixth week of vegetative growth, your plants will display their gender and you will need to act accordingly.
Sexing Your Marijuana Plants
Why sex your marijuana plants?
Whether you remove the males from your grow or not depends on whether you want seeds or sensimilla. Sensimilla literally means ‘without seeds’ and is obtained from female plants that have not been pollinated by males. Instead of putting their energy into seed production, these ‘virgin’ plants put all their resources into THC production and produce weed that is more potent and has no seeds. Of course, you might want seeds to provide for next year’s harvest. If this is the case then you do not need to worry about removing males. Weed with seeds is fine to smoke too. However, if you are like most people you will want to remove those pesky males as soon as possible. To do this you will need to sex your cannabis plants.
How to Sex Marijuana Plants
Before we start talking about preflowers it is worth mentioning that cannabis plants often exhibit their gender before the appearance of preflowers. Male cannabis plants tend to be taller and leggier than females with sparser foliage. Males also have fewer leaf nodes and are often lighter in color than females. If you have plants that fit these descriptions chances are that they are males. The 100% sure way of sexing your plants is by the appearance of preflowers. Sexing is often considered to be one of the trickiest parts of growing your own marijuana, like a lot of things however it is easier than you think and will become easier as you gain more experience. Usually the preflowers will start to show between the fifth and sixth week and appear around the fifth or sixth nodes. Ideally you will need a magnifying glass to get a proper look at them. Female preflowers are small with delicate white hairs protruding. Male preflowers appear as small bumps right on the node. These bumps are the beginning of the male pollen sac. If you have positively identified male plants at your site and you want to produce seedless weed, remove them immediately.
Growing marijuana outdoors means that your plants are open to all the pests and problems associated with outdoor growth. A lot of problems are specific to your locality but there are two major problems that affect marijuana growers everywhere.
Bud rot, AKA grey mold, is properly known as Botrytis cinerea and is a fast spreading necrotic fungis that can destroy a whole cannabis garden in just a matter of days. Most commonly bud rot affects plants during the flowering phase when kolas get big and fat and damp. The first sign is often when a small leaf sticking out from the kola begins to wither and die. A small, localized clump of mold will quickly appear at this site and this can very quickly infect the whole plant. Left untreated bud rot will turn all your flowers to slime. The best way to treat bud rot is prevention. Try to ensure that your growing area is well ventilated with good air circulation. Some people like to spray their plants with an organic fungicide as a matter of course, whereas other seek to avoid this. If you do spray, only do so before the flowers have began to form. Smoking fungicide is dangerous and to be avoided at all costs. If you find bud rot on one of your plants you need to act immediately. Carefully remove the affected section of bud from at least an inch below the mold with a pair of sterilized scissors. Be very gentle with it, shaking it about will spread the millions of spores to other parts of the plant. Place the infected material in a plastic bag and remove it from the site completely. You will now need to check your plants daily, looking carefully for further signs of mold. Try bending the kolas so that you can see the stem underneath. This is where the bud rot starts. If you see any signs of mold remove the affected part of the plant immediately. Because bud rot tends to affect plants during the later part of the flowering period it is sometimes worth cropping the plant early to avoid further contamination. If you only have a week or so to go before your planned harvest date you might want to consider this.
The other universal problem associated with growing weed outdoors is spider mites. These tiny arachnids generally live on the underside of leaves and puncture the leaf cells to feed. They can cause a great deal of damage and an infestation can quickly get out of hand. Small brown and yellow dots and a scorched look to leaves is the first sign that you may have a spider mite infestation. If this is the case, place a piece of white paper underneath the leaf and tap the leaf gently. Are there small, slow moving specks on it? If so, chances are you have spider mites. Spider mites have many natural predators so there is no need to worry too much at first. However, if the problem appears to be getting worse you will need to act. Spider mite infestations on cannabis plants are fairly easy to control with insecticides. You can choose whichever you prefer although most cannabis growers favor the organic ones. There are also lots of recipes for homemade sprays which can help. You can try spraying with a diluted detergent mix at around five tablespoons of detergent per gallon of water. Be sure to spray the undersides of the leaves as well as the tops.
When to Harvest
As you approach the end of your grow and summer turns to fall you will start thinking about harvesting and sampling your handiwork. Don’t get impatient now and spoil it all. Exactly when to harvest your cannabis plants is a subject on which a lot of different people have a lot of different opinions. With some experience and careful observation it is possible to choose the best harvest time to suit your own personal preferences and whether you like an upbeat smoke or a sitting down smoke. Read this article on [the best time to harvest]. It may be that you don’t have the luxury of daily visits to ascertain the exact best moment for you to harvest. If your access to the site is limited you may just have to take them when you can. If the flowers are sticky and swollen and shine with resin and the opportunity for future site visits is in question, then take them. What could go wrong?
How to harvest
This is just about the easiest and most enjoyable part of the whole process. Having decided that it is now time to harvest your weed, simply cut each plant off at its base with a sharp knife. If you have to transport the plant to your house, turn it upside down and place it in a bag until you get home.
Drying and curing
To dry your hard earned cannabis you will need a dark space with good air circulation. Cut off each branch. Trim off all of the fan leaves and the smaller leaves quite close to the buds. Hang the branches upside down, ensuring good air circulation all round. Cannabis will take around a week to dry out properly, depending on the air circulation in your drying area. Some heavy kolas may take longer. Don’t be impatient and smoke your weed when it is still too wet. That harsh, chlorophyll taste doesn’t do justice to the time and effort that you have put into your grow. Once you are happy that your weed is dry, place it in glass jars to cure. You should remove the lid from the jar for around twenty minutes per day for a further week, making sure that your weed is not too cramped in the jar. This final process will cure the weed; improving flavor and making sure there is no danger of mold spoiling your bud.
Read more about Guerilla Grow Guide.
For more information about growing marijuana outdoors, check out these pages:
Site selection and preparation – This is the real key to growing outdoors. Getting the right light, soil and access to important water is crucial and if you are doing a guerilla grow then security is paramount. Seed germination – For an outdoor grow it is best to think ahead and get the seeds germinating indoors so that you have strong seedlings ready for the first good frost free night of Spring. Seedling and vegetative grow outdoors – Getting you marijuana off to a good start will keep hem healthy and strong right through to harvest. Marijuana sexing – When you are growing outdoors and using regular seeds you need to get rid of those pesky males plants as early as you can, here we have a guide on how to do that. Crucial outdoor visits – This is more if you are growing away from home, you will have some crucial visits to be planned. Harvesting marijuana outdoors – This is the end game, the result of all that hard work. Get it right and you will have achieved what many think is the most satisfying smoke out there, organic, sunshine filled marijuana grown by nature herself.
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.
Kickstart Your Outdoor Grow!
Each year, when February tips over into March, we see the first signs of spring emerging. That’s a breath of relief for us all after the grim realities of a harsh winter, but spring is especially heart-warming for cannabis growers! Now is the time to start planning new grow adventures, starting with picking the best cannabis seeds to work with. Of course, we are here to help you make the most of every last ray of sunlight once this year’s outdoor grow season kicks off!
The Outdoor Grow Season: Cannabis Gardening
No matter how fancy and high tech grow rooms or tents may be, most growers agree that nothing beats weed raised on the pure, raw power of nature itself. On top of that, cannabis as a species has evolved out in the open for millions of years. Obviously, every last shred of cannabis genetics is meant to thrive in its original habitat, which makes the case for growing weed outdoors perfectly clear. Less sun in the season? Choose an Autoflowering strain. Perfect climate? Feminized is the right choice. With prime genetics like Amsterdam Genetics cannabis seeds, anyone can prepare for a great kickoff to the outdoor grow season!
We’re all aching to catch a bit of a tan and soak up some much-needed vitamin D under the prevailing lockdown conditions. Gardening is a great way to do just that – including cannabis gardening, obviously. As the spring equinox approaches, it’s time to pick that perfect strain and start preparing to germinate and grow some plants!
When Does The Outdoor Cannabis Grow Season Start?
Several factors determine the perfect timing for the start of the outdoor grow season. Geographic location matters, as spring doesn’t bring warmth and sunlight to all regions simultaneously, or in equal measure. Still, from a global perspective, the spring equinox is an important point on any grower’s calendar. The spring equinox officially marks the first day of spring; in the Northern Hemisphere at least. Every year, around March 20, the Sun crosses the equator parallel, promising more hours of daylight and warmer weather to come. For the southern half of the planet, the March equinox hails the start of autumn, as the annual seasonal cycle proceeds in the exact opposite direction.
The Outdoor Grow Season, Step By Step
Let’s see how you can best prepare for the oncoming grow season. If you know what to do and when to do it for perfect timing, you can spend all spring and summer dreaming of that glorious harvest time as you watch your grass grow. Here’s our month-by-month guide to the ultimate outdoor grow season!
Late February Through March: Planning For Planting
Picking An Outdoor Grow Location
By late February, as the first brave snowdrops and crocuses burst from the soil, it’s time to stock up on seeds and pick the cannabis genetics that best match your taste and grow goals. This is the time for planning ahead – don’t forget that the time for planting is drawing closer every day now…
It all starts with great seeds…
Try to decide on the best spot to plant or pot cannabis plants after germination. Our outdoor grow locations blog helps weigh all the relevant factors and pick the prime weed growing spot in any garden. Aim for the optimal combination of sunlight, shelter from bad weather, and a stealthy spot to avoid unwanted detection. Growers who have found found that sweet weed spot are good to go. Start by loosening up the soil and add some organic fertilizer to optimize your natural open-air grow medium. Read up on the best soil for growing weed here.
Find The Perfect Match In Outdoor Cannabis Seeds
Picking the right cannabis seeds is possibly the most important step on the road to the harvest of your dreams. There are many things to consider here. Are you looking for specific genetics, such as sativa seeds or indica-dominant strains? Are you growing for specific effects, or a favourite flavour? Perhaps you want to grow medicinal cannabis for stress relief, to combat depression, or to treat (chronic) pain issues? You’ll find all of this and more among the thirty-plus world-class strains in our online seeds catalogue.
Growing Weed In Warmer And Cooler Areas
In the northern parts of the Northern Hemisphere, including Canada, US states up north and Northern Europe, summers tend to be rainier, cooler, and shorter than those in more southern regions. That is why southern growers can start germinating and pregrowing their seeds in March, planting them once the April sunshine comes. In northern areas, May is the best month to plant germinated seedlings outside. Growers could can decide to pregrow seedlings indoors as early as late February to give their weed a head start for when spring arrives.
The start of the outdoor season varies between regions.
Feminized, Autoflower, Or Regular Seeds?
Then there’s the choice between photoperiod seeds or autoflower strains that start flowering automatically. Regular seeds can grow into male or female plants, giving you extra options and flexibility, but feminized seeds maximize your grow efficiency by yielding 99% feminine plants with harvestable flower buds. That’s a lot of choices to make – better start picking the best feminized, regular, or autoflower seeds to order. Give the delivery guy or girl enough time to ship them over, because once you see the first signs of spring, April is just around the corner!
April: Germination And Pregrow Time
Come April, even northern outdoor growers can start growing seeds. As the days lengthen and the sun gains strength, this is a good moment to germinate your seeds. If you still haven’t decided, order your cannabis seeds now to make sure they arrive in time. Germination, as this blog explains, is the moment when a tiny weed seedling emerges from its protective seed shell. The first root and leaves peep out, ready for their first drink of water and touch of sunshine.
Germination: a special moment both indoors and outdoors.
Growers working in Mediterranean climates can start planting seedlings and pregrown cannabis plants outside in April. For the northern parts of the US, Canada, and Northern Europe, this is the time to start germinating the seeds you bought. Once they pop, put them in small flower pots in the window sill where they get lots of early sun. Another option is to set seedlings off in a (pregrow) tent under artificial lighting. That way, your young plants are stronger once you take them outside in May. Having a little greenhouse available makes it safer to plant outdoors in late April, but even then, the option to bring fragile sprouts back inside if a late frost spell hits is a safe bet.
May: Time To Plant Your Outdoor Cannabis Grow!
Yay – you’ve made it to May! This is when spring peaks all over the northern half of the world, ready to tip over into summer warmth. June and July are the most prolific growing months of the year, so planting young plants in May lets them make the most of the summer throughout the vegetative stage of their life cycle. By now, your pregrow should be past its infancy, with the first real branches and characteristic weed plant leaves starting to shoot upwards to the heavens. If you haven’t germinated your seeds yet, you’ll want to do so now, preferably planting them outside as soon as they pop without further delay.
Useful Tips For Your Outdoor Grow Season
If you’re not sure which seeds to pick for this year’s outdoor grow season, we have a few suggestions to help you on your way.
Outdoor Indicas & Indica Dominant Strains
Our seeds catalogue indicates the average flowering times of every strain we have. As a rule of thumb, cannabis with more indica-dominant genetics tends to flower faster. They evolved in mountainous Asian regions where they had to flower quickly before the cold weather returned. That makes them great for northern climes and their shorter summers. Added benefit: indica strains tend to grow short and bushy, making them easier to hide and manage in gardens with limited space. Pineapple Kush is a good example of a heavily indica-leaning strain, as are Strawberry Glue and our sweet-tasting Chocolato. Broadly speaking, these same considerations also apply to hybrids with dominant indica genetics.
Strawberry Glue is a nice indica-heavy outdoor strain.
Outdoor Sativas & Sativa Dominant Strains
Sativa genetics evolved in warmer equatorial regions, enabling them to enjoy long, hot summers and loads of sunshine. That is why sativa strains tend to have longer flowering times than indicas, making them more suited for sunny, southern areas closer to the Mediterranean, or the southern coastal areas of the US. If you are growing weed up north and you’re after typical sativa highs and their cerebral, energizing head buzz effect, try finding a strain with a nice balance of indica and sativa genetics. Cannabis seeds such as White Choco, Tangerine G13, or Choco Cheesecake are good examples. Sativa genetics tend towards tall plant growth, which can make stealthy growing tricky. On the other hand, sativa strains usually feature open, airy bud structure. That can help prevent mold damage from culprits like bud rot or mildew. Indicas tend to have more compact buds that can prove risky during the cool, damp conditions associated with harvest time up north.
White Choco: legendary hybrid outdoor genetics.
Autoflowers Make The Most Of The Cannabis Grow Season
Autoflower strains are a brand apart when it comes to outdoor growing. These plants carry cannabis ruderalis genetics in the mix, which enables them to start flowering at their own preferred time rather than waiting for the days to grow shorter around midsummer. If you play your cards right, planting autoflower strains early in the season (preferably pregrown indoors for a solid start outside), you could squeeze in two or even three grows into a single cannabis grow season. Depending on your location and the weather conditions, you could take autoflower plants outside in April (if there’s no chance of late frost).
Choco Kush Autoflower in full bloom.
Pick an autoflower with a very short flowering and grow phases and you should be able to harvest in late June or July. That gives you enough time to get another grow going before it gets too cold – even if you don’t have much space. Do keep in mind, though, that the speed at which the automated beauties develop limits your options to guide them or correct your mistakes. Try to pick a robust, rugged strain with high resistance to pests and fungi. Milkshake Kush Auto and the hugely popular White Choco Autoflower strain are our prime suggestions for your automated outdoor grows. Autoflowers are usually vulnerable to overfeeding, so go easy on the nutrients and keep them close for daily inspection.
Time To Start Picking Those Seeds!
As you can see, there’s plenty to consider before getting that fresh outdoor grow season started. Whichever approach fits your location, taste, and garden options best, now is the time to start shopping for seeds that will make the most out of your grow. The better you’re prepared, the more time you’ll have to soak up that spring and summer sunshine while your crops shoot up around you…
Better get that hammock ready – enjoy watching that grass grow!
You now know all you need to kickstart your outdoor grow season. Remember: summer is approaching fast… Grab those seeds and enjoy your outdoor grow season!