Growing cannabis is both fun and therapeutic, no matter how you choose to do it. Indoor grows are easier to control, but outdoor grows are so much more natural. Nothing beats the sun’s natural cycle for cannabis. The problem for the newbie grower, however, lies entirely in timing, especially in the pacific northwest. You want to grow big beautiful plants and harvest massive, sticky colas, but the seasons in Oregon can be tricky to time. The winter solstice sets in early and spring can come a little late depending on the harshness of the previous winter. So, which season should you start an outdoor grow in Oregon for the best results? Here’s everything you need to know.
At the end of June in 2015, Oregon legalized the cultivation of recreational weed. As it stands, there’s nothing to keep Oregonians from adding a cannabis plant or two – or even four – to their backyard vegetable gardens. Great news, right? Absolutely. But before you even consider growing your own weed, you need to be sure of a few things. You must comply with Oregon cultivation laws, meaning that you and everyone in your household must be aged 21 or older, and your yard must be private so that passersby and neighbors can’t easily see your blossoming buds. The law allows people to possess legal marijuana, but also to grow it at home. Every household can have up to four marijuana plants growing at a time.
Now, you can’t just go out and buy a plant. You can’t buy a clone from a dispensary unless you already receive medical marijuana care. If you want to cultivate weed but you don’t have a medical card, make sure you talk to someone who can buy a clone for you. Whether it’s a medical marijuana cardholder or a licensed grower, you must rely on the generosity of your fellow pot smokers. “To be more than two people removed from a marijuana grower in this city is hard,” said Bernstein, owner of Roots Garden Supply, a North Portland grow shop that supports cannabis growers.
When you finally have your plant, what are you supposed to do? Don’t freak out. Bernstein says “It’s harder than a tomato plant, but not difficult to grow. The difficult part is harvesting flowers that aren’t going to have mold and mildew.” But that’s a conversation for another day. Let’s get started on when to start outdoor marijuana grows in Oregon.
Growing Outdoors in Oregon
Most growers in Oregon opt for outdoor grows, even though it is a little trickier and less controlled. The reason is that Oregon’s climate, while not totally ideal, is still pretty good for outdoor cannabis. The temperatures are nice, the soil is often nice and loamy, and there’s plenty of rain. Oregon identifies as a mostly oceanic state with places experiencing steppe, desert, and continental climates. All of which are decent, and much unlike Colorado, since the altitude in Oregon is mostly at sea level.
People also choose outdoor grows over indoor grows because the initial setup is so much cheaper. The initial investment is cheaper compared to an indoor setup and it will give growers a full season to get familiar with the plant, meaning that it will be the best way to experience the life cycle of cannabis. Just like growing veggies, practice makes perfect, and practice takes time.
It costs about $200 for an outdoor grow in Oregon. This includes pots, soil, fertilizers, compost teas, and amendments for four plants, as well as decent trimming shears for harvesting. An indoor set up at its most basic level will cost about $1000, including the lights.
If you want to plant your weed directly in the soil, I’d advise against it. The rainy season in Oregon is pretty serious, and if you leave your plants in the dirt, they’ll drown, causing an onslaught of problems including root rot, moldy flowers, nutrient washout, stunted growth, and other problems. These issues can prevent you from harvesting any marijuana at all, and in some cases can kill your plant before it even starts flowering. I recommend pots, that way if it starts getting too wet and cold outside, you can bring your cannabis plants inside a south facing window so they can stay dry and get sunlight. When the weather clears up, you can gently move them back outside. Be careful though, as young plants are a little finicky. Don’t disturb their roots too much.
When you get your plant, transplant it into a plastic or cloth pot, using a soil mix designed for cannabis. Leave it in the shade for two to four days before introducing it to sunlight over the course of a week, a process called “hardening off.” February is a good time to start seeds indoors if you want to move your plants outside by May. Early spring is the best season to start an outdoor grow in Oregon, meaning you plant outside in March, April or May when the weather is cool, and the days are getting longer. This way you start flowering in July, and you can harvest before September.
Make sure you don’t overwater your plants out there. The cannabis newbie is most likely to overwater and overfeed their cannabis plants. At the beginning, the soil should be pretty dry before you water. Not bone dry, but if you put your finger in the topsoil, it should stay dry until you’re about an inch deep. As the plant grows, you will need to water more often. As for fertilizing, you should feed the plant a compost tea every 10 to 14 days.
Whether you grow healthy plants with a decent crop depends largely on the weather, said Bernstein. A couple of rainy days in early fall can lead to moldy flowers. “If we have no rain through September, I think everyone will do great,” he said. If it’s an especially damp September, harvesting early is a possibility. The flowers won’t be as potent, which may appeal to new cannabis consumers. Early harvests produce flowers that “don’t smoke as nice, they don’t taste as good,” he said. “They are typically a little harsh.” Instead of smoking them, he suggested using flowers from an early harvest to make brownies or other baked goods.
Much like any other plant you should keep a close eye on it and treat pests as you see fit. Take care to trim your plant and prune her back. Make sure you talk to whoever you got the plant from about the life cycle of the specific strain you’re cultivating. The growers will have a better idea about the flowering time for whichever strains you picked out. Flowering periods typically range from 45 to 70 days. Strains such as Cinex and Blackberry Kush, both widely available and popular in Portland, have 55 and 60-day flowering times. Take note of when the plant’s first flowers form and harvest at the end of the flowering time. There are also other ways to play it by ear, so look closely at your plant’s trichomes and pistils. Look for color.
When it’s time to harvest, cut down the plant and hang the stems upside down for five to seven days. Once you can easily snap the flowers off the stems, they’re ready to be trimmed. Stash dried flowers in a glass or plastic container for about 10 days, opening and closing it every couple of days to allow an exchange of air.
Remember that nobody is a cannabis growing rockstar right off the rip, so keep it simple and overall, have fun! Practice makes perfect, so don’t get discouraged.