These days, most intentionally cultivated cannabis plants spend their whole lives – seed to harvest – indoors. Indoor grow rooms allow the grower to precisely control environmental factors and avoid dealing with pests. On top of that, cannabis can grow year-round indoors, whereas outside there is only one growing season.
Despite the advantages that indoor grows have, outdoor grows have a lot going for them too. For one, if you plant your seeds in the ground instead of in pots, the roots will be free to spread out. This means that your plants can grow just about as big as you want (or at least as big as you can manage).
Outdoor grows are also much cheaper than indoor ones and don’t require nearly as much of an up front investment, which makes outdoor grows perfect for new or first-time growers. Sunlight is free, there’s no need to power a dehumidifier or a fan, and whenever it rains your plants get some free water. So, what do you need to know to get started?
Choose the Right Strain for Your Climate
Before you even buy your seeds, do some research and find out which strains will grow best in your climate. Sativa plants like high temperatures and long summers, so they thrive near the equator.
If you live in northern climates like Canada, summers are shorter and plants that don’t mature quickly may be ruined by frost before they can be harvested. For this reason, Indica-dominant strains and autoflowering strains work best in this type of climate.
When to Start
It’s important to start at the right time so that your plants will have time to mature and flower before the weather gets too cold, but the exact “right time” depends on where you live. Obviously, you’ll want to start your plants in the spring, but you should check weather and temperature averages in your area to find out when exactly to plant. Sustained temperatures lower than about 13°C (55°F) can stunt, damage, and even kill plants, while temperatures above 30°C (86°F) can stop your plants’ growth.
Besides just temperature, you need to know how long the days are around the year. The length of days changes with latitude as well as the season. Once your plants start getting less than 12 hours of sunlight a day, they’ll go into their flowering phase. Start them early enough that they’ll have reached maturity by then!
If you live somewhere with shorter days, you may want to start your plants indoors a bit early (mid- to late-April in northern climates) to give them a head start. In Canada, it’s traditional to place plants outdoors on Victoria Day.
Planting Cannabis Outdoors
Once you have selected the seeds you want to grow, it’s time to decide what to plant them in.
Pots or planters are a convenient option, as they can be placed anywhere and moved around if needed.
On the other hand, unless you use really large pots, your plants may not grow as big as they might if planted in the ground where their roots have unlimited room to spread out. But, depending on your needs, larger plants could be a minus instead of a plus – and remember that planting in the ground won’t get you out of buying soil!
For best results, you’ll want to dig a hole in your yard and then refill it with fresh, high-quality soil. And, you’ll still want to germinate your plants indoors and give them a few weeks of growth before moving them outside.
Where to Place Your Cannabis Plants
When it comes to placing your plants, there are three factors you need to consider: light, exposure to weather, and visibility.
- Light. To make sure your plants grow as big as they can during their vegetative stage, you’ll want to maximize the amount of light they receive during the day. Make sure nothing blocks their light, and if you live in the northern hemisphere, try to find a place where you can set your plants on a south-facing slope. If you can’t find the perfect location, growing autoflowering strains may be the best choice but will suffer from a lack of light.
- Exposure. While some rain can be helpful and might let you skip watering your plants a time or two, there can be too much of a good thing. Excessive moisture for too long can cause mold and mildew, and you don’t want your plants rained on while they’re flowering. If you don’t want to invest in a greenhouse, you may want to buy some plastic sheeting. If you know bad weather is on the way, you can use the plastic as a windbreak as well as a way to keep the rain off.
- Visibility. In many areas where it’s legal to grow cannabis, it is illegal to grow it in places where plants can be visible from public places, such as the street outside your house. However, even if you don’t need to worry about this particular law, you should still try to keep a low profile. Plant theft can be a big problem, especially in the fall when the plant is flowering. So, plant your seeds somewhere the adult plants will be hidden from view. Grow autoflowering strains to keep the plants small, or use low-stress training to encourage your plants to grow wide instead of tall.
- Drainage. This is more likely to be a significant factor in rainy climates, where cannabis roots may become waterlogged. If you’re growing in the ground or a large planter, add some stones to the bottom to increase drainage and prevent roots from sitting in waterlogged soil.
Consider Companion Plants
In the wild, cannabis is used to growing alongside all kinds of other plants. Some relationships are harmful, with plants competing for resources, but some can be symbiotic. Companion plants can help keep pests away, and they can also help camouflage your cannabis plants – both visually and by helping to cover up the signature smell of cannabis with other herb or flower fragrances.
What about clones?
There are advantages and disadvantages to growing from clones instead of from seeds. Seed-grown plants have stronger roots, which makes them hardier and more resistant to pests and adverse weather.
However, it does take some extra work to germinate the seeds and then remove any male plants (assuming you aren’t using feminized seeds) before flowering.
Seed-grown plants also need to be started about a month earlier than a clone does in order to give them time to develop strong taproots.
Clones can be purchased from reputable professional growers, have provable and predictable genetics, and don’t take a lot of time to get started. However, without a taproot, clones develop a fibrous root system instead and may not be as hardy.
Regardless of how you decide to start, it’s a good idea to let plants grow indoors for a few weeks to ensure that they have a head-start before you move them to their final containers.
With modern technology, it’s easier than ever to grow cannabis indoors. But, assuming the season permits, you can’t beat the simplicity of growing outdoors with natural sunlight and free-moving air. Choose the right time to start, plant your seeds and clones, and enjoy having an excuse to spend a little more time outside in the sun with your plants!
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