What’s the Best Time to Start an Outdoor Cannabis Grow?
Saturday July 4, 2020
I t’s amazing how quickly the world can change, isn’t it? In the past 25 years, cannabis has moved from an illicit substance relegated to the shadowy corners of the black market to an “essential” industry because of COVID-19. In many states, local cannabis laws allow you to grow your own, and why not? When you grow your own, you can do your own quality control, know the purity of your product, and manage your own supply. Luckily, no matter where you live in the country, you can start your own grow in a container as small as a flower pot. However, cannabis is a picky plant and will need at least four-to-six hours of light each day and a few months to produce its desired cannabinoid goodness, so there is some variability in the growing season depending on where you live.
B efore we move on, here are some date ranges to help guide your growing plans. When Spring Equinox comes around, start germinating your seeds. Make sure those plants get outside by Summer Solstice in June, and harvested around Fall Equinox. For more specifics, you’ll need a fortune teller. Better yet, look into a book by celebrated cannabis growers like Ed Rosenthal’s Marijuana Grower’s Handbook, and of course, every green thumb’s favorite, The Farmer’s Almanac.
For a (shallow-ish) deeper dive into what to expect for your outdoor cannabis grows, here’s a look at optimal grow times for regions across the U.S.
Northwest (Northern CA, OR, WA)
When you plant cannabis in this loamy region you’ll never have to worry about rain. However, mold development and lack of sunshine can make growing outdoors a more difficult proposition.
Hybrids that flower earlier are suggested as the most successful grows, especially in Washington and Oregon. California plants can be put in the ground earlier due to the region’s warmer weather. Your best clue indicating when it’s time to get your plants outdoors is when daylight hours increase and the temperature starts to warm.
Southwest (Southern CA, NV, AZ, NM, CO)
If you choose to grow your plants outside in this scorching climate, be prepared to pay attention to the temperature, where highs that regularly exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit will slow your plant’s growth. Sativas and sativa-dominant hybrids do well in this environment because of their lineage tracing back to the equator, where the weather is uniformly hot. Before moving your plants outdoors, make sure the last frost has passed
Midwest (IL, MI, Eastern CO)
This region is tricky because the weather is highly variable; rainy and muggy, and/or hot and dry. Winter may come early to this region, so choosing an indica-dominant hybrid strain might be your best bet for growing outdoors since its flowering time is shorter. Try to shoot for germination after the final frost of spring has passed in these regions.
Northeast (NY, MA, PA, NJ, ME, VT)
With its rich soils and abundance of water, the northeast region can be a great place to cultivate cannabis outdoors, especially if you choose an early harvest strain that can finish up before fall kicks in. Best time to move your plants outdoors in this region is the middle of April, when days are longer.
The temperatures in Florida might be good for cannabis growing, but the humidity definitely is not.
In fact, because of all that moisture in the air, it’s best to avoid indica strains and grow sativas instead to avoid the mold that inevitably comes along with humidity. In this region, you could start the germination process as early as February. Just make sure that the last frost has passed before moving your plants outside.
Of course, there are many different factors that go into the timing of an outdoor grow. Use these estimates as rough guidelines and adjust as needed. Happy growing!
Erin Hiatt is a New York City-based writer who has been covering the cannabis industry for more than six years. Her work – which has appeared in Hemp Connoisseur Magazine, PotGuide, Civilized, Vice, Freedom Leaf, MERRY JANE, Alternet, and CannaInvestor – covers a broad range of topics, including cannabis policy and law, CBD, hemp law and applications, science and technology, beauty, and psychedelics.With the summer growing season in full swing, many of you have reached out asking what's the optimal time to start an outdoor cannabis grow. Check out some recommendations based on different regions where marijuana cultivation is popular.
Outdoor Florida Grow Guide
Outdoor growing in Florida
First and foremost, Florida is an Illegal state. More details can be found here: http://norml.org/laws/penalties/item/florida-penalties
Growing in the wilds of the state of Florida brings with it a new set of challenges. The Sunshine State has some diverse regions, from the Sandy Shores to the Hardwood forests. I will be discussing important topics such as security, Soil, maintenance, watering, and harvest.
The Site of the Guerilla grow is very important. Several things must be taken in account. Security, Sunshine, Soil, and water.
Living in one of the most populated states in the country, it can get difficult to find a secret place well away from prying eyes. A good rule is to walk atleast 30 minutes from any well established trails. This gives you some peace of mind in ensuring nobody stumbles upon your grow accidentally. You should also follow common Guerilla techniques. Do not take a straight line to your grow. Do your best not to leave any trails or evidence for other to follow you to the grow site, and as always DO NOT speak of your grow to anyone that doesn’t absolutely need to know about it! You may enlist the help of 1 close friend to help. If word about the grow gets out, you know who to go to.
Sunshine is always abundant here. You just need to find a good spot that has plenty of it. Your Plants need atleast 5-6 hours of direct sunlight daily to thrive. Any less and your yields will suffer. You may also invite mold into the plant. Morning sun is best for many reasons. For starters, It isn’t as harsh as the dry evening sun. Another thing to consider is it allows the plants to dry off more quickly from the evening dew, limiting mold growth. The morning sun also gets the plants woke up and started earlier in their growing.
Water is another thing to consider. You can get your water from a cew places. Nearby lake or stream, Rain, or from home. A Nearby lake or stream is a must when growing. Natural springs are located all over the state. We have a very high water table, so finding surface water shouldn’t be too difficult. Rainfall varies from one part of the state to the other. The Panhandle seems to get more rainfall than the peninsula, but we can all agree, that we all see our share of rain here. This is both a blessing and a curse. along with our high water table, it allows less frequent trips to the grow site during the hot summer months (Majority of rainfall from June-Sept) It also invites moisture that promotes Bud Rot. Ways to combat this will be discussed later on.
Another thing that varies from one location to the next is soil. Florida is home to several main soil types:
- Histosols – Histosols soil is peat or mucky soil that forms in wet conditions like in the Everglades and many other swamp regions of Florida. These muddy soils are thick and are about 30 percent organic matter. The high level of organic matter in histosols soil causes a high carbon content. Scientist can take samples of the pollen in the soil to determine previous plant life. This soil quickly diminishes when dried out. Dried peat easily burns due to oxidization but is popularly used as a form of compost on crops. It will degrade at a rate of about one inch per year.
- Spodosol – Spodosol soil is found in the plethora of flatwoods in Florida. Spodosol soil is characterized by sandy, ash-colored dirt atop a clayey subsurface that is high in iron and aluminum; this layer can be as deep as 6 feet into the soil. Pine trees, which are common in Florida, drop their needles. These decompose into a weak acid that works with water to break down and transport most nutrients and minerals to the subsurface layers. According to the University of Idaho’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, only the presence of lime allows vegetation in spodosol.
- Ultisols – Ultisols soil has a moderately sandy surface on clay-rich or loamy soil; this yellowish to reddish layer of soil is about 30 inches deep. Ultisols soil is found in and around the Florida’s panhandle; these regions are a few degrees cooler and humid. These conditions keep the soil watered but well drained. This soil is better suited for agriculture but still requires fertilizer. It also provides a more stable foundation for construction projects.
- Entisols – Entisols are the sandiest of soils in Florida. This is what you imagine at the beach but is naturally found in very dry regions of Florida; there is a lack of soil profile. Agriculture is nearly hopeless without adding compost.
Site Preparation is very important in Florida. No matter what part of the state you wish to grow, there will need to be changes that need to be made the plot.
Most of the soil areas do not hold nutrients very well. It is recommended to bring in good garden soil to grow. There are many brands out there, so I will not go into detail on this. If you wish to amend your soil, it is best to take soil samples to your local Ag department to have it analyzed, and make your amendments thusly. Tell them you are growing vegetables. Florida Soil is generally Acidic, especially around Pine trees. The soil pH should be in the area of 6.5 to increase the uptake of the nutrients. Dolomite Lime is a good amendment to adjust pH into the appropriate range. If everything about the location is perfect except soil and drainage, it may be a good idea to build a raised bed to grow your plants. this allows you to control everything below ground and also allow the tap root to dig deep enough to find a water source.
A good soil to bring in is Subcool’s Super Soil. This soil has all of the nutrients a plant needs in order to live a productive and fulfilled life. You need only to water! Recipe can be found here https://www.rollitup.org/subcools-old-school-organics/338384-2010-revised-super-soil-recipe.html.
Many soil brands have some nutrients to get you through the first month or two. Some also have additional time released fertilizers that can feed for several more months. These have their dark side too. The name “Time Released” should say “Water Released” because most of these type ferts are released when the soil is watered. This can be ok if the area well drained. However, if the area needs watered frequently, you could be over fertilizing the plants, or just washing the fert right through the soil. I like to mix some time release fert in the soil, but at low doses, to give the plants some light feeding for awhile. Mainly to last through the vegetative phase. After that I tend to use a flowering fert, and occasionally throw some time-release on the top of the ground when I know I will not be in the area for awhile. I prefer to use Organic nutrients as opposed to chemical fertilizers. This allows us to do our part in keeping pollutants out of nature and generally gives the best finished product.
Florida is home to an abundance of wildlife. There are many critters here that want to eat your plants, such as Deer, rabbits, pigs, and rodents. You can try to repel such animals by purchasing repellants, or by other homegrown means. Things such as hair, predator urine, soap, or any other strange scents not common in the area may repel most animals. Sometimes they come to accustom themselves to the smell and you may need to find other means of repelling. Fencing is a good deterrent for the natural wildlife. Use small hole fencing near the bottom to deter rodents, those sneaky guys can squeeze through some small holes.
I cannot stress this enough. Every time you go to your plot, choose a different route. do not make easily seen trails, or use game trails when you can. Check every so often to know if you are being followed. Listen to the woods. Insects get quiet in the area around an intruder.
So you are still around, eh? I guess it’s time to plant!
You should plant after the last hard frost, which in Florida is usually late February- Early march. however, the best time to plant is after the daylight hours are long enough to facilitate vegetative growth, which in the Sunshine State is mid to late April.
Now, I’m sure you are wondering what strains to plant. Sativas are better suited to the humid environment. the plants are generally more airy and allow more airflow around the buds to prevent bud rot. They take longer to mature and that works well with our longer growing seasons. Popular Sativas include TGA Subcool Seeds Chernobyl, Jilly Bean, and Vortex or often include the word “haze” in its name.
Whether you plan to start from seeds or clones, it is always best to start the plant indoors and move it outside after it has developed a few sets of nodes. It is a good practice to weather harden your plants before transplanting then outdoors. You can do this by placing the plant outside for a couple hours each day to acclimate the plant to the climate outside. You can actually see and feel a difference in the plant. depending on your soil and location you can now plant your new baby. Carry your plant to the location and depending on pot type, either remove the pot or if it is biodegradable, just set it in the ground. I like to plant the stem until right under the first set of nodes. Then water the plant in thoroughly.
The second biggest job to the Guerilla grower is watering the plant during drought. when it hasn’t rained for a few days, you will need to water the plants.
This can be done many ways. the easiest of course is by lugging heavy jugs to the plot. However, this method can be tiresome and create unwanted trails. It is best to have a nearby water source you can either pump from or carry the water only a short distance, thereby minimizing trails. I will not go into details on this as there are many resources around that already cover it.
This is determined by the location, weather, and soil. Some Locations have plenty of water close enough to the surface that the tap root can pull enough water for the plants, and you will only need to water with the nutrients. During the rainy season, you shouldn’t need to water much if any. Just periodically check the plants to make sure the rain is draining properly and not destroying your plants. Your soil is also a factor in watering frequency. if your soil holds moisture well, you will not have to water as often. Various soil amendments can help with this. Silt, Clay, Peat, Vermiculite, and organic compost all help to retain moisture. Another additive is a product that goes by many names, one common name is “water crystals”. These little beads absorb a great deal of water and release it slowly for the plant to use.
Even after planting, we must return to the scene to make sure our babies are growing up in an appropriate environment!
It is a good Idea to return to your plot after heavy rains during flowering to shake excess water off of the plant. This helps to reduce mold and rot that can destroy crops. You can also check to see how the soil is draining. You may also need to do some cleaning around the area. Pick up any debris that may have fallen on your plant or fencing.
You may decide to do some training to your plants. This can be done for multiple reasons. One reason is to reduce plant height for stealth purposes. The other is for increasing cola production. There are many methods described elsewhere, so I will just mention the names so you can research them later. LST (Low Stress Training) methods include tying plants down, or guiding them to grow in a way other than straight up. HST (High Stress training) usually includes pruning, snapping branches, pinching, FiM, topping, Super crop, monster crop, and others.
Routinely check for pests. Insects, fungus, and other critters love our babies too. Use a good organic/environmentally friendly pesticide and fungicide. Spray the plants often during vegetative growth and leave some other native plants untreated, this encourages the pests to go for the untreated plants.
If you are not using a Super Soil, you will need to provide your plants with nutrients. I recommend organic nutrients because they are less invasive on the environment and produce the best smoke. A good Idea is to hide the nutrients close to the grow site so you aren’t having to walk into the woods with fertilizer for people to see. You can buy camo 5 gal buckets or paint yours camo to hide in the woods with a lid to safely store the containers of nutrients. The bucket is also a handy way of mixing the nutrients.
You mean you actually made it all the way to harvest? Your crop didn’t all rot away during the rainy season? Good job!
When to harvest varies from grower to grower. You can carry a pocket microscope out to the plot and check the trichomes for the percentage of clear to cloudy to amber trichomes if you like. What myself and some others prefer to do is just keep a close watch on the plants toward the end of the cycle. The buds will have a “finished” look about them. and look at the buds and sugar leaves in the sun. When they have a golden/amber sparkle about them, it tells you that trichs are turning amber and it is time to harvest. I like to harvest after a couple days w/o rain and late in the afternoon, to ensure the buds are fairly dry and will not start growing mold before you can get home and hang them up to dry.
The less weight you have to carry out of the woods, the better. I like to do my first pruning in the woods to get rid of the large stalks and any yellowing fan leaves. The rest is bagged depending on how you must carry it out. You can pile it all on a large tarp and roll it up to carry large quantities out. Or you can line a back pack with garbage bags and fill it up to pack it out in smaller quantities.
Transporting the finished bud can get tricky depending on your method of transport. This is something that you will have to tailor specifically to your needs.
- This is not meant to be a definitive guide on outdoor guerilla gardening, but is a resource of knowledge that can very well get you on your way.
- Any advice or questions are welcome. As well as constructive criticism.