How to grow weed outdoors – a comprehensive guide
Growing marijuana outdoors is often considered the most simple and natural method, as it replicates the way it has grown in the wild for thousands of years. This basic guide to on how to grow weed outdoors will provide you with the information to make the most out of what nature has to offer.
The benefits of growing marijuana outdoors?
Growing marijuana outdoors provides many of the expensive essentials that need to be paid for when growing indoors, free of charge. The sun provides the equivalent of 2000 watts of light per square foot and natural air provides a level of CO2 that is extremely difficult to manufacture indoors. Plants grown outdoors receive far more light which helps develop the buds growing at the bottom of the plant as much as those at the top. Although you don’t have the control of an indoor grower, successfully growing marijuana outdoors provides you with a much larger yield.
Where can I grow weed outdoors?
Successfully growing weed outdoors is dominated by climate, soil, and water supply, regardless of whether you are in your back garden, or in a remote mountain patch. In order to have a bountiful outdoor grow your plant will need at least 5 hours of direct sunlight a day.
Grow tip – If you’re growing weed outdoors check the light supply by standing in your chosen location. You’ll be able to tell if there are any light blockages.
Growing weed outdoors in your backyard enables you pay close attention to your plants and have relatively good control over their environment. Prepare your soil in fall, removing weeds and digging beds for your plants, turning the soil. Cover your turned soil with mulch over the winter months to hold in the nutrients. You will be able to transplant your seedlings in April or after the last frosts.
Growing Marijuana Outdoors in Pots
If you’re growing marijuana outdoors in pots, it’s likely that you’re growing on a terrace, patio, rooftop or balcony. If you have your pots in a high location, take precautions against strong winds, as these can dehydrate your plant and carry rogue male pollen.
Try to keep your plants out of prolonged direct sunlight as this may overheat the pot and destroy the plant’s roots.
To put it simply, Guerrilla growing is farming outdoors away from your own property, mostly in a remote location where it is unlikely to be found. Security and location are considered the main factors for the guerrilla grower. It’s recommended that the guerrilla location you choose is remote, near a good water source, receives a good amount of light and is out of direct wind.
Grow tip – Guerrilla growing – take your water in a container that makes it look like you’re hiking.
There are many different types of soil with some being more suitable for outdoor marijuana growing than others. This basic guide on soil for your outdoor marijuana plants should help, regardless of your growing location.
Clay soil – Prepare clay soil at least a month before growing by adding compost and manure or perlite. Clay soil holds a lot of water so can drown roots and suffocate your plant. Be sure to excavate deep, adding a lot of organic material to increase drainage and air circulation.
Sandy Soil (Sandy Soil) – Marijuana plants can achieve excellent root penetration in sandy soil, but doesn’t hold nutrients well. Add compost and mulch or vermiculate to sandy soil to increase its water and nutrient retention.
Loam Soil (Loam Soil) – Loamy soil holds moisture well, has good drainage and is easy to work with and is perfect for growing marijuana outdoors. Loamy soil is dark, fertile and crumbly in the hand. Check the PH of loam soil as this varies and ideally, your soil’s PH should be between 6.5 and 7.5.
Grow tip – If you have poor soil for outdoor marijuana growing, dig holes that are 3 feet deep and wide, filling with a good compost or potting soil.
Most of the water your plant requires will be provided by fresh rainwater. If your plants do not receive the water they need through natural means, it is up to you to supply it. Remember, the bigger the plant is, the more water it needs so keep an eye out for signs of under-watering. Plants will show signs of wilting throughout the hot summer month, but this is normal. If you get 1 inch of water a week, you won’t need to water your plant. There is more information in our water section.
Fertilizing your outdoor grow will help your overall final yield, especially if your soil quality is not great but be careful not to over fertilize young plants! Use a fertilizer high in nitrogen for the vegetative growth stage, changing to high phosphorous formula when your plant is flowering. More information on the nutrients can be found in our nutrient section.
Harvest your weed before the cold, damp weather of fall starts to set in. Many strains can take a short freeze, but sustained periods in temperatures below freezing will kill your plants. Harvest your guerrilla grow at night time to avoid detection. Information on when your plant is ready for harvest can be found here.
Choosing your weed strain
Not all strains are good when growing weed outdoors. Its important that you pick a strain that suits your outdoor growing environment. Use our outdoor weed strain collection to help you make the right choice.
Grow tip – When growing marijuana outdoors, germinate your seeds and start the seedling for 2-3 weeks indoors before transplanting outside.
What problems can you face when growing marijuana outdoors?
Growing weed outdoors will mean you have a lot less control over the environment your plants are in, which brings with it a different set of issues that may affect your plants.
Rogue Pollen (Bursts Pollen sacks) – Pollen from rogue male plants or hemp can pollinate you female flowers. Although this is a difficult problem to avoid, there are measures you can take. June and July are when pollen levels are at their highest, so plant with the intention of flowering in August. Keep a close eye on the wind direction, and read pollen reports that are easily found online.
Pests – Check your plants regularly for any damage from pests. Caterpillars, slugs and snails can eat away at your plant. Attracting birds to your grow using bird feeders will provide it with some natural caretakers.
Animals – Look out for any animals that may cause your outdoor marijuana grow some damage. Keep animals away from your plants with wire mesh. Avoid picking a place that is inhabited by deer and rabbits, as both like a nibble on growing marijuana.
Frost (Frost Damage) – Although marijuana is a hardy plant, it cannot survive long spells of temperatures that are below freezing. Avoid frosts by planting in April, choosing a strain that will go through a full growing cycle before the first frost come. Indica strains have a shorter cycle than sativas if local frosts come early.
Mould – As you can’t maintain the humidity or the amount of rain supplied by Mother Nature, keep a close eye on your buds for any mold growth. You can reduce the risk of mould by shaking your flowers out after any large rain falls. Remove moldy buds before they spread.
Learning how to grow weed outdoors will allow you to take full advantage of mother nature. The detailed guide above will have you successfully growing weed outdoors in no time at all.
Discover the best way to grow weed outdoors from easy outdoor setups to a complete guide on guerrilla growing with pictures and top tips.
How to grow marijuana outdoors
Growing marijuana outdoors is great because you won’t need to spend a ton of money on it and you can rely on the power of the sun. If you have access to a sunny spot in a private yard or even a balcony, terrace, or rooftop, you can grow weed outside. You will be tied to the sun and the seasons and local weather, but you won’t have to spend a bunch of money on equipment and utilities like indoor growers.
If you’re growing weed outdoors, it’s great to find a community of cannabis growers in your area to see how others are growing in your specific climate. Local climates vary, so it can be helpful to see what strains thrive where you are, and also when other growers are popping seeds, harvesting, and more. You can also join online forums or Social media groups, but a great place to start is your local grow shop.
Benefits of growing weed outdoors
Relying on the power of the sun, you won’t need to spend a ton of money on an outdoor grow. You’ll need some soil, fertilizer, seeds or clones, and maybe a small greenhouse to get them started. You won’t need to pay for electricity for lights, AC units, or dehumidifiers, and you can even collect rainwater.
The sky’s the limit with outdoor plants—you can let them get as big and tall as you want, as long as they’re manageable. One plant can potentially yield between a half-pound and full-pound of dried weed! Growing a handful of hands for yourself is more than enough. With an indoor grow, your space is a lot more restricted.
Indoor grows can be wasteful, using a ton of electricity to power all those lights, fans, and other equipment. The sun and the wind are free!
It’s fun and relaxing
Don’t underestimate the therapeutic value of gardening. It’s relaxing to spend some time outside, roll up your sleeves, and get your hands dirty for a while. And there’s nothing better than smoking something you grew yourself.
How to set up your outdoor marijuana grow
Here are some important considerations before starting an outdoor grow.
Climate in your area
It’s crucial to have a good understanding of the climate in the area you’re going to grow. Cannabis is highly adaptable to various conditions, but it is susceptible in extreme weather.
Sustained temperatures above 85°F will cause your plants to stop growing, while continued temperatures below 55°F can cause damage and stunting to plants, even death.
Heavy rains and high winds can cause physical damage to plants and reduce yields, and excessive moisture can lead to mold and powdery mildew, especially during the flowering stage.
The main concern with growing outdoors is you need the right space—not only do you need physical room for them, but they need to be in a place that will get full, direct sun for at least 6 hours a day. You may have a backyard, but it might not be great to grow there if it doesn’t get full sun every day.
Your cannabis plants should receive as much direct sunlight as possible, ideally during midday, when the quality of light is best. As the season changes and fall approaches, your plants will get less and less sunlight throughout the day, which will trigger the flowering stage.
Having a constant breeze is good for your plants, and especially in hot climates. But if you live in an area with a lot of high winds, consider planting near a windbreak of some sort, like a wall, fence or large shrubbery.
You also want to consider privacy and security. A lot of people want to conceal their gardens from judgmental neighbors and potential thieves. Tall fences and large shrubs or trees are your best bet, unless you live in a secluded area. Also, most state laws require that you keep cannabis plants concealed from the street.
Some growers plant in containers on balconies or rooftops that are shielded from view, while some build heavy-gauge wire cages to keep thieves and animals at bay. Whatever you decide, think about how big you want your final plant to be—outdoor cannabis plants can grow to 10 feet tall or even more, depending on how much you let them go.
Soil and other media for outdoor growing
Soil, at a basic level, is defined as the topmost layer of earth in which plants grow—it’s a mixture of organic remains, clay, and rock particles. Cannabis plants thrive in soil rich with organic matter, and they need good drainage.
Most outdoor weed growers will either dig a hole and add fresh soil for the plant, or grow their weed in pots. This will allow you to better control the growing medium and the amount of nutrients your plants receive.
You can plant directly into the ground, using the preexisting soil, but you’ll need to understand your soil’s composition and amend it accordingly. If you go this route, we recommend getting your soil tested, which will minimize headaches, and it’s easy and relatively inexpensive. A soil test will tell you the makeup and pH of your soil, any contaminants present, and will recommend materials and fertilizers to amend your soil.
Soil has three basic consistencies, in various ratios:
Soil also varies in:
- pH level
- Water retention
- Nutrient makeup
Silty soil is the ideal growing medium. It’s easy to work, warms quickly, holds moisture, has good drainage, and contains a lot of nutrients. The best silty soil is dark, crumbly loam—it’s fertile and probably won’t need any amending.
- Medium granular size
- Naturally fertile (contains nutrients)
- Retains water
- Stabilizes plants
- Poor drainage
- Easily compacted
Sandy soil is easy to work, drains well, and warms quickly, but it doesn’t hold nutrients well, especially in rainy environments. You’ll want to dig large holes for your plants and add compost, peat moss, or coco coir, which will help bind the soil together.
In hot climates, sandy soil should be mulched to help with water retention and to keep roots from getting too hot.
- Large granular size
- Low pH
- Good drainage
- Prevents compaction
- Easy to work with
- High oxygen levels
- Poor water retention
- Dries out quickly
- Nutrients get washed away
Heavy clay soils drain slowly and don’t hold oxygen well, so they will need to be heavily amended. A few weeks before you plant, dig large holes where you’ll be placing your weed plants and mix in big amounts of compost, manure, worm castings, or other decomposed organic matter. This will provide aeration and drainage, as well as nutrients for the plants.
- Small granular size
- High pH
- Provides minerals
- Retains water
- Stabilizes plants
- Poor drainage
- Heavy soil
- Hard to work
While some plants thrive in their native soils, which are usually one of the compositions listed above, cannabis plants are best grown in soil that includes a combination of the three consistencies above—this mixture is known as loam.
The best way to identify loamy soil is by touching it. How does it feel? Sandy soil should be difficult to compact while clay should compact into a tight ball that won’t crumble. When squeezed, loamy soils should form a loose ball that will hold its structure momentarily before breaking apart in large chunks.
- Mixture of sand, silt, and clay
- Near neutral pH
- Water retention
- Naturally fertile
- Easy to work
- Nutrient retention
- Supports microorganisms
- High oxygen levels
- Can be costly
Most potting soils used in gardening are loam soils. If you’ve ever worked with potting soil, you’ll know that its composition is rich and diverse, and it looks dark and hearty. Beyond texture and color, the soil should smell rich and alive.
Buying the right soil for cannabis
For most first-time gardeners, we recommend buying a quality potting soil that will provide your plants with enough nutrients to get them through most of their growth cycle without having to add many amendments. This pre-fertilized soil—often referred to as “super-soil”—that can grow cannabis plants from start to finish without any added nutrients if used correctly.
You can make this yourself by combining worm castings, bat guano, and other components with a good soil and letting it sit for a few weeks, or it can be purchased pre-made from a local nursery or grow shop.
While shopping for soil, you might be overwhelmed by the options available at your local garden store. The soil type is the basic structure of your soil. From there, look at nutrients, microorganisms, and other amendments that improve the soil. Your choices will be flooded with words like:
- Worm castings
- Bat guano
- Peat moss
- Fish meal
- Bone meal
- Glacier rock dust
- Plant food
These are just some examples of amendments commonly used in different types of soils. Heavily amended soils will have long lists that break down all organic nutrients they contain. Some companies create soils that offer a great structure with base nutrients, but allow you to fill in the gaps as you desire.
You may need to put all of your plants in containers if you don’t have great soil. Also, if you’re unable to perform the heavy labor needed to dig holes and amend soil, containers may be the only way for you to grow your own cannabis outdoors.
If you don’t have a suitable patch of earth to make a garden, containers can be placed on decks, patios, rooftops, and many other spots. If needed, you can move them around during the day to take advantage of the sun or to shield them from excessive heat or wind.
However, plants grown in pots, buckets, or barrels will likely be smaller than those planted in the ground because their root growth is restricted to the size of the container. In a broad sense, the size of the pot will determine the size of the plant, although it’s possible to grow large plants in small containers if proper techniques are used.
What size pot do I need?
In general, 5-gallon pots are a good size for small-to-medium outdoor plants, and 10-gallon pots or larger are recommended for big plants. Regardless of size, you’ll want to protect the roots of your plants from overheating during warm weather, as pots can quickly get hot in direct sunlight. This will severely limit the growth of your plants, so be sure to shade your containers when the sun is high in the sky.
What to look for in a pot
Your cannabis wants a safe, healthy place for root development. Without healthy roots, your cannabis will never thrive. Roots are in charge of water retention, nutrient absorption, anchoring the plant, and they also facilitate vegetative growth.
Drainage is key, as cannabis plants can get waterlogged and develop root rot. If you repurpose containers, be sure they have holes in the bottoms and set them in trays.
For a root system to develop and thrive, they will need the following:
- Drainage: Water retention is paramount for healthy plants—without it, your cannabis will wither and die. But too much water will waterlog your plant and lead to root rot, killing roots.
- Oxygen: Plant roots require oxygen to function properly. Choose a container that facilitates enough oxygen for root development without overexposing them to the elements—containers do this though various styles of perforation.
- Nutrients: Roots require optimal conditions for nutrient absorption to occur. This includes pH balance, optimal temperatures, and nutrient availability.
- Space: Roots need plenty of space to branch out. A container that is too small will cause it to become rootbound and choke the plant.
Traditional plastic containers
Standard plastic containers are a popular option for growers operating on a budget. These pots are inexpensive, but still provide the essentials for your plants.
- Low overhead costs
- Solid drainage (plus it’s easy to add more holes)
- Transplanting is easy and inexpensive
- Inability to protect root systems from temperature fluctuations
- Lack of durability which can cause cracks and structural damage over time
- May have airflow issues depending on the grow medium
These are quickly becoming the standard. Roots in fabric pots grow to the outer edges and attempt to bypass the porous fabric wall, but are cut back, allowing new growth to occur. This process, called “air pruning,” results in a denser root composition which promotes healthy growth and development.
- Promotes dense, healthy root systems
- Increased airflow to the roots
- Excellent drainage ideal for carefully-maintained gardens
- Require more attention and maintenance because they dry out quickly. Note: You can use larger pots to help slow drying.
- Flimsy structure can make plant support challenging
Terra cotta pots offer a unique set of benefits to growers in hot climates.
- Absorb moisture and retain lower temperatures during hot days
- Heavy weight helps to anchor larger plants
- Less than optimal drainage; drilling holes into clay pots is possible but requires special tools and is labor-intensive
- Heavy weight makes it difficult to transport plants
Fertilizers and nutrients for outdoor soil
Cannabis plants require a large amount of nutrients over their life cycle, mainly in the form of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. How much you need to add to your plants will depend on the composition of your soil.
Typically, outdoor growers will add amendments to soil when weed plants are transplanted outside. Outdoor amendments usually come in powder form that you mix in with soil.
Start off with fertilizers that are inexpensive and readily available. Some release nutrients quickly and are easily used by the plant, while others take weeks or months to release usable nutrients. If done correctly, you can mix in a few of these products with your soil amendments to provide enough nutrients for the entire life of your plants. Most of these items can be purchased cheaply at your local nursery.
We recommend these organic fertilizers:
- Blood meal or fish meal for nitrogen
- Bone meal or bat guano for phosphorus
- Wood ash or kelp meal for potassium
- Dolomite lime for calcium and magnesium
- Epsom salts for magnesium and sulfur
There are also commercially available soil blends that already contain the proper mix of these types of ingredients.
For first-time growers, we recommend avoiding commercial fertilizers like long-release granular fertilizers. These can be used, but you need to have a good understanding of how they work and what your plants need.
We also advise against using nutrients designed for indoor weed growing—they are generally composed of synthetic mineral salts and can damage soil bacteria.
Again, getting your soil tested can be very useful and will tell you how to amend your soil and what types and amounts of fertilizer to use. If you are unsure how much to use, be conservative, as you can always add nutrients to the top of soil—called “top dressing”—if plants start to show deficiencies.
Trevor Hennings contributed to this article.
Growing marijuana outdoors is cheap and easy. Learn how to set up your outdoor space, and about climate, soil, fertilizers, and more.