Growing cannabis outside is one of the easiest, cheapest methods to get a stellar harvest. If you live in the right type of climate, you can grow massive plants that give you massive yields. The problem is that outdoor plants are susceptible to all sorts of risks, like pests, thieves, weather, and legal technicalities. If you have access to an outdoor space and you’re considering growing weed there, there are some things you need to keep in mind when growing cannabis outdoors.
Choosing an Outdoor Grow Location
The first and most important choice you’ll make for your outdoor grow is where you want to put it. There are two main choices for this: land you own, or land you don’t own. Land you own is a simpler choice, because you presumably control can access the space and you can build infrastructure. However, if you don’t have your own land, or if you want to remain anonymous with your grow, you can try guerilla growing.
Guerilla growing is the process of growing cannabis on public land. In climates where marijuana grows easily, it’s not unusual to see cannabis growing like a weed in public forests. The biggest problem with guerilla growing is that it is frowned upon to alter public land. If you are connected with a guerilla grow, you might face legal penalties depending on your district. You also don’t have any recourse against random people taking your plants, since they are technically public property. It’s helpful to really explore your options before you committing to a guerilla grow.
What to Look for In An Outdoor Cannabis Garden
When you’re choosing where to start a garden, there are a few basics to consider, regardless of your crop. What is the lighting like? What’s the condition of the soil? Is it easy to get water to the garden? What type of plants already exist in the area? The trick is finding a balance of all of these characteristics.
The sun exposure of the area is probably the most important aspect of an outdoor grow. After all, if you’re just going to grow in the shade, you might as well grow indoors. When you think a place might be a good location for your grow, try to visit it during several different times of the day. You want to make sure that it’s sunny all day, and not just in the morning or afternoon. If there is some shade, especially in the early morning or evening, you should consider supplementing with grow lights.
The soil is just as important for cannabis growth. It’s just slightly easier to amend soil than it is to move buildings or trees that block light. Ideally, you want a soil that drains well, with a pH of 6.5. A good black loam with the right pH is great, but sandy or clay soils can be amended as well. If the soil is completely unacceptable, you can also grow your plants in pots with the soil you want. This can also allow you to move the pots if you find your plants aren’t getting enough light.
You want your plants to receive enough water, but not too much. Your cannabis garden shouldn’t be in the lowest part of your yard, because puddling water can drown your plants. You should be easily able to run a hose out to your plants. Keeping your garden easy to water also keeps it generally easy to access. The easier it is for you to take care of your plants, the more you can do for them to increase your harvest.
Finally, clear out weed plants and shrubs. You don’t want native weeds choking your plants out of the garden. If you notice lots of tall weeds or shrubs in the area, you will probably spend time weeding or using herbicide in your garden.
Equipment for Outdoor Cannabis Grows
One of the great things about growing outside is that you can customize your equipment. If you live in the right climate, you might even get by with nothing but regular watering and occasional fertilization. On the other hand, you can go the more complex route, with lots of tools and support. What style you use is mostly a personal choice. Tools can make things easier, but they might stretch your budget. It’s up to you what you use. Things you can consider for your garden include:
Greenhouses or Grow Tents
A greenhouse or outdoor grow tent can mitigate a lot of the potential problems of outdoor growing. A greenhouse can be closed and locked, keeping out animals or human thieves. It can also protect cannabis from cold overnight temperatures or even frost.
The biggest downside to greenhouses and grow tents is that you can’t rely on rain for water. You must go and water your plants yourself, or set up an automatic watering system. If you live in a cooler climate, this tradeoff can be worth it when you want to grow outside.
General Gardening Tools
If you’re growing outside, you’re going to need some basic tools. You need a water source, like a rain barrel or a hose hookup. If you grow directly in the ground, you need shovels and hoes to loosen the soil and place plants. Otherwise, you need pots and soil to fill them with. You should have gloves for handling the plants and tools for trimming them. Many of these tools overlap with an indoor grow, but they’re necessary for even the most relaxed outdoor garden, too.
Depending on your latitude or garden location, you may choose to supplement your plants with extra light. If your garden is in shadow in the evening, floodlights can make up for the shorter amount of full sun. This, of course, requires that you have an outlet or generator that can power a bank of lights.
Automatic Watering Systems
If you’re using a greenhouse or live in a dry climate, automatic watering is a huge help. By setting up a watering system, you can make sure your plants get enough water without your input. Hand-watering even ten plants during the flowering stage involves lugging a lot of water around. Running a bunch of drip hoses means that you can do the work once and reap the rewards later (and it’ll be easier on your back).
If you’re worried about garden invaders, human or animal, a security system can be helpful. Even a simply camera can help you identify what you’re dealing with. More advanced systems can let you set up a perimeter and will send you alerts if something comes too close. A tall fence can be helpful, too.
Outdoor cannabis can grow to absurd heights. Stakes can help support big plants, as well as help you train them into bushier forms.
Sunlight vs. Light Supplementation
The main reason to grow outside is to use the natural light of the sun. That’s what cannabis evolved to use, so it’s guaranteed to help your plants. Sometimes, though, there just isn’t enough sunlight in a day. If you’re growing in a greenhouse out of season, or if you are dealing with shadows for part of the day, light supplementation is your friend.
The biggest problem with light supplementation is that you need to power the lights somehow. That means you need electricity. If you’re growing on your own property, you can run extension cords out to your garden. Just make sure that you’re using an outlet that can handle running banks of lights.
If you’re choosing to supplement light outside, you may need bigger and more powerful lights than you would for the same number of plants inside. Without the light-reflecting walls, more light can go to waste. However, you’re also using the lights for a fraction of the time you would indoors. Overall, your electric bill is still going to be lower when supplementing light outside than it would be indoors.
Light supplementation is also difficult to keep stealthy. The light intensity that helps cannabis grow bloom is bright enough that it’s hard for neighbors to miss. Light supplementation is best for people who aren’t worried about bothering neighbors or being noticed by the public.
Growing your plants truly outside takes most environmental control off of your hands. The right climate can keep your humidity and temperature in the right range for you. If you’re somewhere that’s cold and dry, though, you might want to use a greenhouse.
Using a greenhouse gives you all the benefits of an outdoor grow, with a little bit more control. You get all the sunlight and you can collect all the rain, but keep heat and humidity under control. A closed greenhouse will keep the humidity or temperature from dipping too low by keeping heat from escaping. That’s what the greenhouse effect was named after.
Sometimes, during the day, you might notice temperatures or humidity levels climbing outside the comfortable range. Your greenhouse should have vents that can be opened. They may even be mechanical vents that run on a timer. These are a great way to keep things from overheating during the peak of the day while keeping warmth in during the night.
Outdoor gardens benefit from getting watered naturally every time it rains. In some cases and lucky climates, this is enough. However, droughts can happen anywhere, and greenhouse-growing cuts you off from this resource. Outdoor watering is made much simpler if you set up some watering infrastructure. You can even make it automatic with a simply solar-powered timer.
There are many different styles of outdoor watering system. If you have access to a hose spigot with water pressure, you’re on easy street. You can distribute drip emitter hoses on or under the soil throughout your garden. You can bury PVC pipe and connect it to sprinklers or drip hoses. It really depends on what you’re interested in building.
If you don’t have access to a hose spigot, you may have to bring in your own water. In this case, the easiest method is to place your garden near an outdoor water source to begin with. The best-case scenario is downhill from a river, so you always have fresh water and you don’t have to carry water uphill. Otherwise, rain barrels can help you collect extra water, and work great if you’re using a greenhouse.
Depending on your soil, you may need to fertilize your plants lightly or heavily. You can get your soil tested for nutrients, but that does cost money. Another option is to go to your local garden store and ask for recommendations. Tomatoes are a good analog plant – ask what they recommend for a tomato garden in your local soil. If you added soil amendments like coir or compost, then basic, cheap tomato fertilizer is probably a great option for you.
If you’re watering by hand, you can easily add liquid fertilizers to that water. Otherwise, you might want to look into slow-release pellets. You can even combine these two methods if you read the product labels and follow the instructions.
Drying Cannabis Outside
Drying your cannabis is what takes your plants from salad to smokable. You can dry your buds outside if you want, as long as you take some precautions. In fact, outdoor drying is one of the best ways to go, as long as you protect your plants from the elements.
A garden shed can be the perfect place to dry weed. You need a dark, dry place with plenty of ventilation. A drafty shed provides all of this in one. The biggest problems can be the smell and your plants getting too warm during the heat of the day. By installing a fan with a carbon filter to blow air out when it’s hot, you take care of that all at once.
Drying your harvest will take four to fourteen days, so make sure no one is going to need the shed during this time. You should also keep an eye on the humidity levels because mold likes to grow on humid, drying buds.
Don’t dry your buds in the sun. Once plants are cut down, sunlight starts to degrade the potency and colors of bud, instead of building it. Sun-dried bud tends to be brittle, tasteless, and not very strong. Keep it somewhat like a shed to preserve its power.
Stealth growing takes some care when you’re growing outside. Since cannabis gets so tall and has such a distinctive shape and smell, it’s easy for neighbors to notice. That doesn’t mean that it’s impossible, however.
The easiest way to handle smell problems outside is to choose low-odor strains. Northern Lights and Blue Mystic are both known for discreet scents. You can also plant flowers or evergreen plants with strong scents nearby, to help cover the smell.
If you use generators or other noisy equipment, be cautious. If the sound doesn’t happen frequently, you can mow the lawn or do some other normal loud yard activity. If you’re regularly using something loud, consider replacing it or installing sound insulation. Noise is a big way to annoy your neighbors.
There are plenty of ways (and reasons) to hide your grow, if you want. First and foremost, you should have a fence. A seven-foot privacy fence is a pretty typical sight in today’s American yards, and shouldn’t arouse suspicion. If you’re using a greenhouse, you can also frost the glass, so the garden isn’t transparent.
You can also play with marijuana’s distinctive shape a couple ways. Some growers who are only growing a few plants will cut the tips off of all the leaves, so the 5-pointed star shape is less obvious. You could also grow the Duckfoot strain, which only has three points.
If that’s not your style, try using LST to shape your plant differently. The Screen of Green method will help you shape your cannabis plant like a low hedge instead of tall stalks. That alone can distract the eye. If you plant other flowering or colorful plants around your cannabis, you can confuse viewers into seeing a small traditional garden instead of your cannabis grow.
Cannabis evolved outside, so growing it outdoors can result in beautiful bud. If you’re not in a climate that’s absolutely perfect for cannabis, don’t worry. There are plenty of ways to help your outside grow, from light supplementation to greenhouse growing to fertilization. You can grow your bud outdoors and enjoy nature’s bounty as long as you take have the right setup.