Growing cannabis outdoors has been mans traditional method of growing his favourite recreational and medicinal herb for thousands of years. Learn how to choose an outdoor grow site for cannabis and how to harden off, support, and protect the marijuana plants as they mature. Growing marijuana outdoors produces a higher yield, gives your buds a unique flavor, and it's far less energy-intensive than using indoor grow lights. Outdoor cannabis plants can grow up to tall and produce of quality weed per plant–and…
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 Grow Marijuana Outdoors
Growing marijuana plants outdoors is generally easier than growing them indoors because Mother Nature chips in to do some of the work. Even so, you have to lay the groundwork for a successful grow to ensure that your plants receive the nutrients they need. Here, we lead you through the process of preparing a site for outdoor cultivation.
As long as you have a sunny location in an area where you get at least eight to ten weeks of relatively sunny weather and temperatures between 60 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, you can grow cannabis outdoors. If your growing season is short, you can get a jump on things by starting your plants indoors and then transplanting your seedlings (after a brief hardening period). If you live in a warmer climate, you can simply plant your seeds outside after the threat of frost passes.
How to choose a cannabis grow site
- Compliance: Your grow site must comply with all local rules and regulations. It must be private property owned by you. In most locations, your garden must be secure with a privacy fence and plants no taller than the fence. Any gates must be locked to prevent kids from getting to the plants and to discourage theft.
- Space: The amount of space you need depends on the number and types of plants you want to and are legally permitted to grow. Your plants will need to be spaced at least three to five feet apart, so they all get plenty of sun and breeze.
Think ahead. Will each plant have enough space when fully grown? Will plants shade other plants from the sun?
- Soil: Cannabis can grow in a wide variety of soil types, as long as the soil has sufficient drainage. If it doesn’t, you can amend the soil or plant in containers.
- Sunlight and darkness: Cannabis plants need at least five hours of direct sunlight plus at least five hours of indirect sun daily. They’ll reward you for more sun with a bountiful harvest. Also, don’t plant a photoperiod strain under or near a bright street lamp; otherwise, it may not flower properly.
Consider surrounding objects such as buildings and trees and how the angle of the sun changes over the course of the growing season. As a result, an area that gets full sun all day long during one part of the growing season may be shaded part or all of the day during another part of the growing season. Ideally, your grow site will get sun all day long throughout the growing season.
- Convenient access: You’ll be tending to your plants regularly and be eager to watch them grow, so pick a location with easy access. A backyard garden may be ideal.
- Access to water: Unless it rains every few days, you’ll need to water your plants regularly, so pick a site that has easy access to water.
Cannabis must be grown on private property, so you must own the land. Growing on public land, such as a national park or forest, is illegal.
Evaluate the soil
- Loamy: Loam soil is a combination of approximately equal parts of sand and silt along with relatively little clay. It retains moisture, but it also drains well, so plants aren’t sitting in saturated soil in which they’re susceptible to root rot and other diseases. Loam soil crumbles easily in your hands. If the soil is rock hard when dry, it contains too much clay. If it doesn’t hold together at all when you squeeze it into a ball, it may be too sandy.
- Fertile: Healthy soil also contains organic matter, such as decomposing wood and other plant matter. You can mix mulch and other amendments into the soil to increase its fertility, if necessary.
- Slightly acidic: You can use a pH meter to test the soil’s pH, which should be in a range of 5.5 to 6.5. Anything lower is too acidic, and anything higher is too alkaline.
- Alive: Good soil is home to many critters, including earthworms and beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms. If you don’t see anything crawling around in your soil, it’s probably lacking in organic matter.
Take a soup can of soil from several areas around your grow site to your local nursery or university extension office to have your soil tested. Test results show pH levels; levels of key nutrients, including potassium, phosphorous, and nitrogen; concentrations of organic matter; and so on. You may also receive specific recommendations on amendments needed to improve soil quality.
For a more thorough guide to evaluating outdoor soil, check out the free Willamette Valley Soil Quality Card Guide published by Oregon State University.
Decide whether to grow in-ground or in containers
- Planting in-ground is generally easier and more forgiving. With quality soil, you don’t have to worry so much about plants becoming root bound or developing root rot, and you may not have to water as frequently.
- Containers add height which may make your plants taller than allowed by law or taller than the privacy fence you built.
- If containers are too small, plants can get root bound, preventing them from absorbing the water and nutrients they need. In containers, plants may also be more susceptible to root rot if the plants don’t drain properly.
- You can move containers around if the sunny locations in your space change over the course of the growing season.
- If you have poor quality soil, you need to amend the soil prior to planting, which adds to the cost and work involved.
- In a container, you can easily customize your soil mix to create the perfect grow medium for your plants.
Harden off your marijuana plants
If you start your plants inside (in a grow room or on a windowsill), harden them off before transplanting them to an outdoor location. Hardening off is a process in which plants gradually become acclimated to the outside environment over a period of seven to ten days.
Take your plants outside for 30 minutes or so on the first day and place them in a sheltered area where they receive indirect sunlight and perhaps a gentle breeze. Continue to increase this time by 30 minutes or so each day, gradually increasing their exposure to more direct sun. Watch your plants carefully for signs of heavy stress such as burning or wilting. Light stress is good, and it will accelerate the hardening off process, but heavy stress can kill a plant or severely impact its ability to flourish.
You should also harden off your plants against the cold. If frost is possible, keep the plants inside at night. Otherwise, gradually expose them to the cold nights. You may want to place them in a cold frame or under a box or bucket at first to provide some shelter from the cold without having to bring them inside, just be sure to uncover them the next day or they may overheat. Over the course of seven to ten days, they should be able to make it through a cool and frost-free night.
Support and protect your plants
When growing plants outside, you may need to provide them with support and protection from the elements, especially cold and frost as the summer growing season ends.
First, focus on providing your plant with structural support throughout its growth cycle especially in the flower stage. The idea is to provide your plant’s branches the support they need to grow big fat buds without becoming too heavy and breaking off from the main stalk. Bamboo stakes, along with twine or Velcro plant straps, are great and provide a variety of ways to stake your plants, such as the following:
- Place a stake alongside the stalk, and tie the stalk to the stake.
- Place three or four stakes around the periphery of the plant, and tie branches that need support to the stakes. You can also wrap twine around the stakes to create your own “cage.”
- Place a row of stakes in front of or behind several plants, and then tie stakes horizontally to the vertical stakes (or weave them together) to create a trellis. You can then tie branches to the trellis.
About This Article
This article is from the book:
About the book authors:
Kim Ronkin Casey has been a communications professional for more than 20 years and recently took a year-long leap into the world of cannabis as the communications manager for one of the leading dispensaries in North America. She now consults for companies in the industry on internal and external communications. Joe Kraynak is a professional writer who has contributed to numerous For Dummies books.
How to Grow Cannabis Outdoors
This article was co-authored by Jamie Corroon, ND, MPH. Dr. Jamie Corroon, ND, MPH is the founder and Medical Director of the Center for Medical Cannabis Education. Dr. Corroon is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor and clinical researcher. In addition to clinical practice, Dr. Corroon advises dietary supplement and cannabis companies regarding science, regulation, and product development. He is well published in the peer-review literature, with recent publications that investigate the clinical and public health implications of the broadening acceptance of cannabis in society. He earned a Masters in Public Health (MPH) in Epidemiology from San Diego State University. He also earned a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine degree from Bastyr University, subsequently completed two years of residency at the Bastyr Center for Natural Health, and is a former adjunct professor at Bastyr University California.
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Growing marijuana outdoors produces a higher yield, gives your buds a unique flavor, and it’s far less energy-intensive than using indoor grow lights. Outdoor cannabis plants can grow up to 14 feet (4.3 m) tall and produce 4–8 pounds (1.8–3.6 kg) of quality weed per plant–and it’s not rocket science to grow cannabis outdoors. We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to tell you everything you need to know about picking a location, germinating marijuana seeds, and maintaining your crop to get the highest possible cannabis yield.