Discover the 10 most common mistakes made when growing cannabis outdoors and how to avoid them and become a pro. Growing cannabis outdoors has been mans traditional method of growing his favourite recreational and medicinal herb for thousands of years. 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?
The 10 Most Common Mistakes When Growing Cannabis Outdoors
Do you grow outdoors? You might be making mistakes that you didn’t know were affecting the quality of your harvest. In this post, we’re going to help you identify 10 of the most common mistakes so that you can increase the quality of your flowers. What are you waiting for? Keep reading!
Table of Contents
Growing Cannabis Outdoors: 10 Common Mistakes
Every year we see how people repeat the same mistakes when it comes to growing outdoors, and we’ve decided to put them all together in one post to help others out and prevent them from making the same mistakes. Pay attention to these 10 common mistakes when growing cannabis outdoors and get ready to fill up your pantry this season!
Germinating seeds wrong
- Germinate the seeds between moistened kitchen towel; if you plant the seed in soil and water, you’ll most likely end up sinking the seed in deeper and making germination take much longer. Plus, when germinating in soil it’s much harder to keep stable temperatures between 20 and 24°C.
- Take care of your saplings. Cannabis plants are never as weak as they are at this exact time; a soaked flowerpot can cause growth to stunt and even kill the plant. If you plant during spring when nights are still cold, growth can be slow; we recommend using a greenhouse or propagator to keep them safe. A propagator can also help to protect recently germinated cannabis seeds from birds.
If you want more information about how to germinate your seeds, check out our post on germinating cannabis seeds. Recently germinated plant
- Look for high quality cannabis seeds. You can’t plant an unlimited amount of seeds, so it’s important to guarantee that the ones you plant are going to work and have decent genes. At La Huerta Grow Shop we have a wide range of seed banks that you can choose from.
- Choose your strains wisely. Look for cannabis seeds that adapt to your growing conditions. For example, long flowering plants that are harder to grow might be a bit too much for a beginner.
- Look for a type of growing format that matches your experience and available time. If you don’t have much experience, we recommend looking for simple fertilizer brands with few products and good results.
- If this is one of your first times growing your own plants, remember that you’ll get better results from a simple grow with strains that are easy to grow. It’s better to play it safe than to end up ruining strains that need more experience. At La Huerta Grow Shop you can find a wide range of high-quality fertilizers.
Common watering mistakes
Water is the vehicle through which your plants consume nutrients. Being careless with water quality or watering incorrectly is a mistake that your plants can pay dearly for. Keep in minds that most tap water has chlorine, as well as bottled water – although we can drink it, it can be bad for plants and the microbial life in soil. If you use tap water, let it sit for 24h in order to get rid of most of its chlorine. On the other hand, if you have an osmosis filter, you shouldn’t have any issues; osmosis filters get rid of chlorine as well as other salts.
Dissolved salts (EC)
- Soft water: 0 to 0.4mS
- Normal water: 0.4 to 0.8mS
- Hard water: 0.8 to 1.2mS
- Unusable water: 12mS+
Keep in mind that EC levels in tap water vary depending on the location. For example, the Mediterranean coast in Spain tends to have very high concentrations – we recommend using an osmosis filter to make your water ideal for growing. You’ll need to add some calcium and magnesium to your purified water until it reaches about 0.4 – 0.5mS. Osmosis water that has been treated properly is ideal for watering or mixing with nutrients.
In order to properly absorb nutrients, macro and micronutrients need substrate with a certain amount of acidity. In grows that use soil substrate, pH should be between 6 and 7 for nutrients to be properly absorbed. In order to control pH you’ll need to use a pH reactive kit or a digital pH meter.
Plants’ roots need nutrients, humidity, and oxygen. If you soak them, the lack of oxygen can produce a lot of stress; plants stop growing and their leaves go yellow. Make sure to water only when your plants need it, and get used to lifting the flowerpots and testing their weight to see if they need to be watered yet. Excess water can cause fungi such as Fusarium to appear in cannabis plants.
Using Bad Substrate/Growing Medium
- Don’t use generic substrates. A big mistake is to try and save money by using lower quality soil that isn’t designed for cannabis. Cannabis plants have a series of specific requirements when it comes to acidity, salts and fertilizers; once the plant has made its home, you won’t be able to change it and it can end up influencing the entire process.
- Get used to calculating how much soil you’re going to need. At La Huerta Grow Shop you can find a wide range of substrates at decent prices designed for high quality outdoor growing.
- Choose the right growing medium. Always check the ingredients, which is to say, the quantity and type of fertilizer, water retention etc. For small plants, you’ll want a substrate that drains quickly such as Light Mix by Biobizz; a water retaining substrate could be an issue during the first stages.
- Use perlite to add oxygen to the substrate.
- Use an expanded clay base at the bottom of the flowerpot to increase drainage, as well as isolate roots from heat reflecting off the ground.
Another common mistake made on balconies and terraces is that not many people keep in mind the heat reflected off the tiles on the ground. You’ll need to be extremely careful with hot floors; the roots can end up heating up too much, and if you look at it this way, nature does the exact opposite – the ground is supposed to be nice and cool.
If your plants’ roots heat up too much and end up causing the plant to stress out it can easily stunt growth and cause issues during the flowering period. Stress can reduce the quality and quantity of the final product, and plants also become more susceptible to insect and fungi infestations.
At La Huerta Grow Shop you can find white flowerpots which are ideal for outdoor grows; they reflect light instead of absorbing it and heating up the roots. White flowerpots can be squared, round and even come in large sizes with handles. Fabric flowerpots are also ideal for outdoors. If the plants are going to be on a surface that heats up easily, remember to isolate them using wooden pallets or some sort of isolating material.
Watering and Fertilizing in Summer
During the summer, water evaporation is a lot higher, so you’ll need to water more often. If you fertilize with the same amount every time you water you could end up overfeeding them; they need water, not necessarily nutrients. In order to avoid this, we recommend distributing nutrients into less doses and more water when increasing watering frequency. Excess heat in cannabis plants can cause all types of nutrient deficiencies.
Preventing Insect Infestations
Insects are always around in outdoor grows, and stopping them from becoming a problem is a task that shouldn’t be avoided. If you find insects you should act immediately before it becomes an infestation.
Essential Care for Growing Cannabis Outdoors
Discover the essential care needed to grow cannabis outdoors, from the first growth stages; do you know the dangers?
- Routinely check both sides of plant leaves to check for insects and spiders.
- Thrips and leaf miners are common at the start of the growing period.
- Halfway through spring, white flies and aphids appear.
- During the summer the biggest issue tends to be red spider mites .
- During the flowering stage, keep an eye out for bud worms burrowing in your flowers.
- Don’t reuse substrate/soil, especially if it has had a previous infestation.
Visit La Huerta Grow Shop to treat your outdoor cannabis plants with the best insecticides and fungicides. Bud worms are one of the most feared infestations during the flowering period.
Rot and Fungi Prevention
Another common mistake is to slack when it comes to preventing fungal infections or not acting fast enough when the first symptoms arise. Fungus on cannabis spreads easily and can quickly finish them off or make the flowers unusable.
- Clean and disinfect pots with bleach before using.
- Use preventive products such as horsetail, cannacure etc.
- Use curative products such as Lexor 25 as soon as the first symptoms appear.
- Make sure to get rid of any infections as soon as possible.
Using Nutrients and Fertilizers
- Choosing the wrong type of fertilizer for your grow. Make sure that you’re getting the product you need. At La Huerta Grow Shop you can find professional advice when needed.
- Inexperienced growers using complicated feeding charts.
- Incorrect use. Make sure to start with half of the dose indicated by the manufacturer and increase it little by little.
Products are designed to be used alongside others by the same brand. If you plan on replacing or combining a product with another brand, keep this in mind and choose one with the same characteristics in order to make sure they’re compatible. At La Huerta Grow Shop you can find information about the best fertilizers for each type of grow. A cannabis plant with the necessary amount of nutrients produces more yield than a plant that has been over-fed.
Don’t Forget the Roots
Forgetting all about the plants’ roots is another common mistake to consider. A healthy root system is necessary to have a healthy plant that provides high yields of healthy flowers. Over time, roots colonize their environment and end up running out of space. Regular and feminized strains will need to be transplanted periodically when planted in flowerpots; changing to larger pots allows roots to grow even more.
Keep in mind that the final flowerpot depends on the size and yield of the plant outdoors. Transplants should be done using root stimulants, mycorrhizae and Trichoderma. These additives are designed to keep soil healthy and avoid pathogens.
When growing autoflowering plants, we recommend using a decent-sized flowerpot as you can’t transplant autoflowering plants; they have a short growth period and need as much space for their roots as possible, without going overboard. A decent root system in a healthy plant with optimal yield.
Leave the Plant Alone!
Fiddling with your plants too much can end up being counterproductive. Don’t stress the plant out; if it isn’t growing or flowering like it should, there’s a factor at play that you need to solve for it to continue as normal.
Working on the wrong issue won’t help and it can be bad for the plant. For example, the quality of the water used is not right and your plant is having nutritional issues, you won’t be able to solve this by using more nutrients or stimulants – the solution is to use better quality water.
At La Huerta Grow Shop we have a team of specialists that can help you to find the issues that are stopping your outdoor plants from growing properly outdoors. Cannabis plant flowering outdoors.
Growing cannabis outdoors
Growing cannabis outdoors has been mans traditional method of growing his favourite recreational and medicinal herb for thousands of years.
Nature has provided cannabis with the adaptations and toughness needed to grow in many regions. Specialist selective breeding by the more professional cannabis seed suppliers has produced some truly outstanding varieties that will produce excellent cannabis in non-tropical northern European climates and even thousands of metres above sea level.
For those growers that don’t wish to grow cannabis indoors or in greenhouses, outdoor growing is a great and easy way to produce your stash. Growing cannabis outdoors with good quality feminized cannabis seed not only gives amazingly powerful weed but it also produces some of the best tasting cannabis with deep flavours and rich aromas.
What is important to know
How to choose an outdoor or garden growing spot?
For some people, outdoor growing means a secure and private part of their back garden or even a balcony. In some parts of the world this is too risky, so growers will choose a private and often remote spot in the countryside where they can grow their cannabis seeds.
Internet maps or local knowledge can be used to find private sun-facing locations. It’s very important that you put your plant in a spot with as many sun hours as possible. Also check if there is any moss growing near the spot you wish to grow. Moss is often an indication for an abundance of moisture, which can give you mold troubles during flowering.
Is your chosen grow location a windy spot or not? While some wind can help strengthen the stems and plant itself, too much wind will damage the plant, restrict growth rates and can cause them to die early. Not enough wind in an enclosed environment can also cause troubles with humidity because of still air, so choose wisely. Many growers like to have a few different grow locations, spreading the risk.
Growing outdoor cannabis seeds
Selecting your location
Which type of soil do you have at your grow location? Is it possible to carry your own soil to the location? If the location is too remote to allow you to carry your own soil you will need to consider if you can work with the soil which is available. If the soil at your chosen grow location is just too sandy or has too much clay you may struggle to grow.
Is there water available nearby? If you are in a hot and dry climate it is always preferred to grow near a river, lake or stream. This allows easy access to water in hot conditions.
Can other people see your plants? Privacy is key if you want a successful harvest. When growing in your own garden it is recommended to keep plants low so neighbours or people that pass by can’t actually see the plants. It’s a risk you should avoid. If people can see cannabis plants, it’s usually just a matter of time before problems start. Often people call the police or steal the crop themselves.
SCROG grow technique
Growing autoflowers (which often stay around a metre in height) or using grow techniques like an outdoor SCROG to reduce the height of the plants are both popular with outdoor growers using their own garden. When growing guerrilla style, it is very important to protect your plants from the eye of unwanted visitors. Many that see your plants will wait until it is almost time to harvest and steal your plants before you can put your scissors to good use.
Those growing outdoors on their own land should be able to ensure that the plants receive all the water and nutrients that they need. This should guarantee the very best results assuming they originally invested in quality feminized cannabis seeds or autoflower seeds.
Those lucky enough to live in a Mediterranean climate with a private sun terrace are ideally placed for easy outdoor cannabis growing.
How do I select the perfect outdoor cannabis seed variety?
Which climate are you in? Northern European climate, Mediterranean? Desert or Jungle? Select the right variety that is most suitable for your environment with a bloom time which works for your climate..
Are you growing them in your own garden or guerrilla style? Some plants will be more suitable for guerrilla farming. Dutch Passion Hollands Hope for example was developed to be grown in the corn fields to become mature and ready to be cut faster than the corn that was grown by the farmer.
Other Dutch Passion outdoor cannabis seed varieties, like Frisian Dew, Passion #1 and Durban Poison are real outdoor champions. They will do well both in guerrilla style grows as well as the garden, because they have vigorous growth and better resistance to mould and fungus.
Autoflowers need to be checked more regularly because of their short, accelerated growing cycle. They benefit from a little more protection more than traditional photoperiod strains, which have 2-4 months just for vegetive growth. Where possible, regular visits to your outdoor autoflowers allows you to keep on top of small pest outbreaks, nutrient & water issues etc.
What type of plant are you looking for? A big yielding plant? A certain type of high? Type of flavor? Does the strain need to be short? Will it cause visibility problems if the plant gets too tall? You may wish to keep your plant below a certain height to prevent others from seeing it.
If so, don’t grow Sativa dominant fem varieties, choose Indica’s, Indica-dominant hybrids or grow strictly autoflowers if you want them below 1.50 – 1.75m. Choose wisely. A stretchy Sativa variety can easily reach 3m tall and will be visible from some distance.
When growing cannabis outdoors think carefully about the variety. Not all strains are suited to outdoors, so read the reviews carefully and choose a good seed supplier. The best outdoor strains for Northern-Western Europe (or similar climates) were often developed over a period of several years, selectively breeding those offspring that displayed the best suitability to outdoor conditions as well as retaining premium potency levels.
This is a full time job that requires an expert ability not just to create premium outdoor strains but also to stabilise them. Some good examples are the best selling outdoor varieties Frisian Dew®. Hollands Hope®, Passion#1® and Durban Poison®.
You can also choose one of the autoflowers, which are all suitable for growing outdoors during spring and summer.
When can I start growing cannabis outdoors?
It’s important to place your cannabis plants outside after the last frost. That’s because young seedlings struggle to survive if planted out too early. Starting around the middle of May is generally a safe option for northern European growers. The outdoor grower typically grows from April/May to October in the northern hemisphere.
Outdoor growers often germinate the cannabis seeds indoors and give their plants a head-start by growing them indoors under lights for a few weeks with an 18/6 or 20/4 light schedule. Outdoor cannabis growers often acclimatise their plants to outdoor temperatures gradually before permanently planting them outdoors. This allow the plants to adapt slowly from indoor conditions to outdoor life.
It’s also possible for northern European growers to start growing cannabis outdoors around the beginning of April with the help of a greenhouse or polytunnel. This will help protect the plants from the worst of the early season weather. In mediterranean climates the growing season is longer and more varieties can be successfully grown. Growers in the southern hemisphere often grow cannabis outdoors from October to April.
When can I harvest my outdoor cannabis?
Harvest times given on this website are for the Dutch climate and latitude. Most outdoor varieties you can find in the ‘Dutch Outdoor‘ selection on our website. All our outdoor feminized cannabis seed varieties are carefully selected, developed and bred in Holland. This makes them very suitable to grow in the Dutch climate (or similar), which can be very wet and cold from time to time.
Important for these varieties is that they finish flowering early in the year. Good examples are varieties like Frisian Dew®. Hollands Hope®, Passion#1® and Durban Poison®. You can harvest these outdoor varieties from around the end of September until late October. Because the genetics of these outdoor varieties have been bred to handle bad weather conditions, in combination with an early finish, they are perfect for outdoor growing in Northern latitudes.
Many outdoor cannabis growers with short growing seasons grow feminized autoflower seeds. These grow from seed to harvest in around 100 days outdoors, the shorter life cycle of the autoflowering cannabis varieties makes them a good choice for outdoor growers.
With autoflower seeds it is possible to grow 2 successive crops in one outdoor growing season, (or even 3 in warm sunny Mediterranean conditions) but you need to prepare and time it well.
Can I grow ‘indoor’ cannabis seed varieties outdoor as well?
All “indoor” and “outdoor” cannabis seed varieties can be grown outdoors at warmer latitudes. For this reason, the harvest time under natural light is also given for all the “indoor” varieties.
Greenhouse seed varieties and indoor varieties can be grown outdoors in Central and Southern Europe with very good results. In more Northern latitudes (Scandinavia, UK etc) only the outdoor varieties that are harvested early can be grown outdoors. Frisian Dew is particularly well regarded by northern European growers.
Growing cannabis outdoors with the best autoflower seeds
Many growers at extreme northern/southern latitudes find that autoflower seeds are the best option for a short growing season. Many dedicated ‘Indoor’ varieties simply finish flowering much too late. This increases the risk of bad weather conditions destroying your harvest.
A Haze variety which would finish outdoor bloom in November may be possible to grow in southern Spain, but it would be unsuitable for central or northern Europe. Most “outdoor” varieties cannot be grown indoors as well, unless mentioned in the variety description.
Grow in pots or directly into the soil?
Those growing on their own land may have the option of growing the cannabis plants in plant pots or rooting them directly into the soil. Plant pots have the advantage of being portable but will need regular watering in hot weather. Putting your plant in a pot also allows the user to place and relocate the plant into a sunny spot when needed.
The experienced grower will often avoid ‘black’ plant containers which get very hot in direct sunlight. They will also avoid putting plant pots directly onto a hot surface (e.g. tiled terrace) which will stress the roots.
Bigger pots for oudoor grows
When growing outdoors in pots it is recommended to use bigger pots than usual. For photoperiod plants you can use pots from 50litres upwards to a few hundred litres if you want to grow Californian style monsters.
For outdoor autoflowers use anywhere between 20 – 50 litre containers. The longer the autoflowers grow, the bigger the pot needs to be. The extra soil in the pot will create a bufferzone to prevent the soil from completely drying out. Even though most autoflowers will not fill the 50L pot completely with roots, the pot itself will hold more moisture than a 10L pot. This increases your chance of success and reduces the chance of plants struggling due to lack of water. Make sure to use a well-aerated pot like Autopot, Rootpouch or Smartpot for the best results.
Growing in pots gives you more control (as described above) and provides the plants with more air/oxygen at the root zone which stimulates faster and healthier growth.
Furthermore rain water will flush plants that are grown in pots more than plants which are rooted into the ground. This gives the grower a better control of nutrients when growing plants in containers.
What should I look for when growing outside? (Guerrilla cannabis grow)
One of the most important factors for the outdoor grower is to correctly identify and prepare the site. Your cannabis seeds are valuable, so it’s well worth taking extra time to check and evaluate plenty of possible grow sites.
The ideal grow site should get unrestricted sun for as much of the day as possible. Protection from strong winds will also shield your crop. A grow site will often benefit from shelter; a small earth bank, a fallen tree stem or thick bushes can not only protect the plant from prevailing winds but it may also protect the plant from animals and unwelcome human attention.
Having a close source of water, such as a nearby stream can make it easy to get water to your crop during hot weather.
How do I pick a private safe spot for my outdoor grow?
Those growing outdoors may not always be able to visit the plants regularly so a grow spot has to be chosen which is private, sunny and with some protection from animals such as rabbits and deer that will eat the cannabis. Some growers surround their secret grow spot with branches and undergrowth to conceal the crop and deter grazing animals.
Other growers deliberately plant thorny plants (blackberry plants etc) around their grow area to provide lasting and effective protection. This technique usually involves systematically surrounding the grow patch with a thick, tall and impenetrable barrier to humans and animals
How do I protect my outdoor guerrilla plant?
Those growing outdoors may not always be able to visit the plants regularly so a grow spot has to be chosen which is private, sunny and with some protection from animals such as rabbits and deer that will happily munch the plants if not kept away.
Some growers surround their secret cannabis grow spot with branches and undergrowth to conceal the crop and deter grazing animals. Other growers deliberately plant thorny plants (blackberry plants etc) around their grow area to provide lasting and effective protection. This technique usually involves systematically surrounding the grow patch with a thick, tall and impenetrable barrier to humans and animals. When done properly there is absolutely no way that anyone could guess cannabis plants are growing nearby.
Often the only way into the centre of such a grow is by crawling along the ground through a single secure route that can be easily covered and hidden.
A good tip for outdoor growers is to surround the plants with chicken wire, or a similar green garden wire. This helps keep animals away from the young and vulnerable plants. Once the plants are larger they become more difficult to be eaten.
How do I prepare the soil for the cannabis seeds?
Many outdoor growers will use organic fertilisers such as bat guano, worm castings, bloodmeal, bonemeal etc to improve soil condition before the grow starts, perhaps digging in plenty of compost as well. More proficient outdoor growers will test the soil when preparing the site and fertilise it accordingly. Professional soil testing kits can be bought from garden centres which will indicate the soil type, the pH and factors such as sand content, loam and clay content etc. There is no ‘perfect’ soil for growing in and different varieties will often perform well in a range of conditions so long as nutrients are present, drainage is good and pH is within 5.8-6.5.
Growing cannabis seeds outdoors organically
These days many outdoor growers often have a preference to grow organically, avoiding chemical pesticides, additive and fertilisers where possible. BioTabs are a nutrient company who specialise in making grow additives from entirely natural materials. A full range of products are available. One of the most popular products are the palm-sized general fertilizer tablets.
BioTabs take plant root health very seriously, the products contain beneficial bacteria which create a healthy root zone as well as supplying all the required minerals for healthy plant growth. Just place a few of the tablets in and around the root zone.
Many growers dig a hole somewhere between 5-100 litres. Often they will fill this with a high quality pre-made soil from the garden centre/grow-shop. The plant (and supplementary BioTab nutrient tablets) are just placed in the hole and then watered.
For most growers it isn’t necessary to test soil pH, but professional growers with large crops and a business to run will take soil quality very seriously.
Helpful tips for preparing the soil
Visits to the grow spot will often involve checking the plants for pests and treating them accordingly. In dry weather water may need bringing to the plants. Some outdoor growers transport their own soil to the grow site, often it will have been pre-enriched with e.g. worm castings and perhaps water absorbent gel crystals will have been added.
Water absorbent gel crystals can be bought in many garden centres and absorb excess moisture swelling into large water retaining gel particles. These then slowly release the water during dryer times. They allow plants to thrive with additional water reserves for their roots even in drought conditions.
It is crucial to keep the soil in the best condition possible for the plants. This allows the plants to grow in optimized conditions, and gives you the best chance of producing the best results from your cannabis seeds. Some growers mix coco fibre in with the soil, this increases aeration and is particularly useful if the soil is heavy with a high clay content.
As previously mentioned, BioTabs produce compressed nutrient tablets which slowly release all necessary nutrients into the soil throughout the full grow cycle of the cannabis plant. BioGrow are another proven nutrient provider for outdoor growers. As well as releasing nutrients, BioTabs also produce a healthy microbiological root zone for the plants.
Check the soil doesn’t become too dry during summer. Your plants will need moist nutritious soil to reach their full potential. Although it isn’t absolutely critical to offer your outdoor plants supplementary nutrition, many experienced outdoor growers like to monitor their plants through the complete grow cycle and will add extra nutrition to the soil when they feel it necessary. The best quality outdoor cannabis seeds will produce exceptional results in optimized soil/environmental conditions.
Growing cannabis in the canopy of a tree
Some growers prefer the seclusion remote forests, woods or mountains for complete peace-of-mind and security. A new technique is to grow cannabis plants in large soil-filled sacks that have been hoisted into the tree canopy.
This technique allows growers to choose locations that may be closer to home since the plants are completely invisible to people passing nearby. Plants grown in this way benefit from all-day sunlight and can be grown relatively close to cities and villages without raising suspicion. Just make sure that the sack is securely fixed in place.
Please note that this method does not allow a grower to keep close track of their grow and comes with certain risks of getting your plants where they need to be.
Outdoor growing can be challenging but fun
Sometimes the hardest part of outdoor growing is selecting the right location and preparing it for the cannabis plants/seeds. Often the outdoor grower will have several different grow locations and accepts that losing the occasional plant is an occupational hazard.
Once the spot is ready it will often be used for many years of harvesting by the outdoor cannabis grower. Outdoor growing is challenging but fun, it may require ingenious thinking and professional preparation but when done correctly the outdoor grower can experience the thrill and satisfaction from harvesting all his herbal supplies free of charge, the way nature intended.
A well planned outdoor grow deserves fully proven genetics. Dutch Passion have been relied on since the 1980’s for the best outdoor cannabis seeds. With numerous cannabis cups over many decades, Dutch Passion have earned their reputation for their high quality outdoor cannabis seeds. You can expect heavy yields of top strength cannabis from varieties which are easy to grow and less susceptible to disease and pests.
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.