Several years after marijuana legalization in Colorado, it isn’t uncommon to run into someone who grows their own cannabis. Seeds are readily available online as well as in a dispensary, where clones are also available. After all, there is a subtle reason why the plant is sometimes referred to as “weed”. Even if you are new to growing, I’m sure you realize that growing cannabis is just a different iteration of gardening. That being said, you are allowed to make mistakes; the plants themselves will to adapt to any misunderstandings, but usually at the behest of optimal growth.
If you’re wanting to know how to achieve the biggest yield outdoors, there are three considerations worth making:
- Strain Genetics
Each of these considerations works in tandem throughout the entire plant life cycle. If your plant isn’t getting enough sunlight, nutrient absorption and energy production are shunted. If you begin your canna-gardening too early, seasonal variability in temperatures can hinder plant growth. Let’s take a deeper look each of these three considerations, see if we can distinguish any other areas of overlap.
Growing Outdoors: Seasonal Considerations
When learning how to achieve the biggest yield outdoors, the time of the year is paramount to success. This is based primarily on light cycles, but temperature extremes can also affect how your plant children mature into bud production. In fact (and I do mean to sound dire), extremes in the type of weather can actually kill your canna-crop under certain conditions. Here’s what you need to know:
Temperatures can vary, but only so much
Temperature is something we have learning to manipulate with exactitude. However, when I go camping, I cook everything on a fire — just an example that it isn’t always feasible to expect the clinical precision of a thermometer in some natural, outdoor environments. We will find out more about the genetic disposition your plants may have a bit later, but for now, I’ll just provide a basic rule:
Tip No. 1: The temperatures shouldn’t fluctuate below 40 degrees Fahrenheit
Ideally, you’d want it to be at least 20-25 degrees warmer than this through the evening, dark hours and between 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit with sunlight. If you are in a warm or hot climate, making sure your root system has enough water can help prevent further ill-effects on the plant. Temperatures between 80-90 can produce elongated stems or airy — rather than dense — flowers. In order to achieve the biggest yield outdoors, how you protect the plant from temperature maladies AND encourage growth will influence how your crop ultimately turns out.
This could mean a greenhouse or the use of poly-film to shield the plants from detrimental temperature variations. However, such a practice could add a different level of complexity to the grow that isn’t suited for everyone.
Light cycles need to be synced
We will talk more about the genetics and how they will affect this later, but, in general, the following tip applies to big ol’ outdoor buds:
Tip No. 2: Plant life cycle is vital knowledge
The best judgments are made with the most accurate and available information. Think of the ounces of marijuana you’ll cultivate. Think about how you will know everything about the plant you are putting into your body. In order to get to this end, learning how to achieve the biggest yield outdoors requires us to think of the plant life cycle as different chapters of a book. Since books are typically the places people seek some sort of wisdom, it is the plant life cycle that we can divine how much light is needed at each of the various stages in the plant life cycle.
Okay, the plant life cycle goes like this:
Germination: Best done a few weeks prior to when spring weather begins to come around, indoors. For more information, this article tells all on the subject of germinating cannabis seeds.
Seedling: This stage can last between 3-6 weeks. The plant will begin to show a leaf system, indicating the stable growth of the root system. At this point, keeping the plant in a bucket so you can easily move it between indoors and outdoors if the temperature drops is a safe bet. You want about 16-18 hours of light. Late spring-early summer.
Vegetative: This is essentially cannabis puberty. The plant undergoes vast periods of growth, increasing in height and width all while developing a supportive root and stem system. Lasting between one and two months, this stage requires at least 18 hours of light to synthesize enough energy to sustain the flowering stage. Summer-late summer.
Flowering: This is when energy from water, nutrients, nitrogen, oxygen, Co2, is all used to chemically conjure the cannabinoids we know and love. This stage varies from six to ten weeks in length. During this stage, only 12 hours of light are necessary (OH HEY AUTUMN), and you’ll want to prune any excess leaf, exposing the flowers more directly to sunlight.
Outdoor Marijuana Grows & Plant Genetics
All the factors discussed above are in one way or another affected by the genetics of the seeds or clone you have. Let’s dive into what else genetics mean in the scheme of how you can achieve the biggest yield outdoors.
Plant Gender Matters
While the fundamental truth behind cannabis genetics communicate female plants are best suited for cannabinoid production. Weeding out male and female plants requires you to watch the seeds sprout to seedlings, watch the seedlings grow, and determine the plant gender.
Tip No. 3: Big, potent yields are a female thing
When male plants pollinate the female plants, this reduces the amount of energy used to put forth on cannabinoid production, used instead for making seeds. Alternatively (and more simple, in fact), you could just buy feminized seeds. Also, you can just go to the dispensary of your choice (assuming you are in a rec or med state) and purchase a clone, pre-feminized with genetics you’ve already experienced.
Sativa, Indica, or Hybrid?
Each strain has evolutionary motivations for the variances in form. Sativa plants are tall, with reaching limbs and fanning leaves. Indica plants, on the other hand, are shorter, more bushy. They grow dense. Hybrid plants can vary.
Tip No. 4: Know your Strain
There are also cannabis ruderalis, which is a cannabis variety low in cannabinoids, adapted to the colder temperature and conducts the flowering at a time interval rather than with environmental cues such as shorter days or temperature factors. This produces smaller plants that can be ready for harvest in ten weeks. Check out this article for more on auto-flower. Knowing your strain can give you clues when it’ll be transitioning from one stage to the next.
Nutrients, pH, and C02
Nutrients are the vehicles transporting the logistical aspects of the plant genetics. Without nutrients, the plant will be malnourished and unable to achieve any yield, outdoors or otherwise. How you approach plant nutrition should reflect the type of product you ultimately want to be putting in your body.
Plant other herbs in your canna-garden
In the interest of both covering the smell and increasing the yield quality, planting other terpene-rich herbs such as mint, basil, thyme, and rosemary can help to deter pests and often follow similar grow cycle patterns. This method makes outdoor cannabis cultivation low key and expands your fresh herb garden.
Tip No. 5: Co2 is vital
In order for your new-found herb garden to thrive, you need Co2. As we all know, outside is the habitat plants evolved under, indicating there is no lack of Co2 within it. If you are using a greenhouse, you may need to supplement C02. Co2 is used to create carbohydrates to feed the plant cell that can then metabolize organic compounds into cannabinoids, you know, the things behind the various effects you plant children can produce.
Water, pH, and soil
The water and soil pH are linked to nutrient absorption, making it fundamental and necessary to achieve the biggest yield outdoors. How much water should I be giving my plants? What should the pH be? Furthermore, how do you test pH? And what about the soil or compost?
In order to achieve the biggest outdoor yields, how you ensure the proper nutrients get to the plant can not only be simply checked, it can easily be adjusted. Presuming you catch the nutrient issue soon enough.
Tip No. 6: Spend the time learning about your plants
In general, outdoor growing requires a few things from both the soil and water:
Of the soil: Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (NPK) are the three macronutrients that aid in protein synthesis, root growth and flower development, and overall health. These are essential to any soil or compost. These are to be in equal ratios. Check out this guide for more on malnourishment and nutrient burn
Of soil & water: You’ll want to test the pH of your soil, compost, and any fertilizer you may use through the plant life cycle. An ideal pH for outdoor growing lay between 6.0 and 6.8. Additionally, this is the same pH range you’ll want any of the water you are feeding the cannabis plants to be within. Check out this page for more on adjusting pH levels
Of the water: You will want to know the general weather patterns and forecasts of the region you live as weather, particularly how much rain annually, can affect plant growth. Both a fine and often unclear line, your plant children won’t be able to directly tell you what is enough water. We do know, however, that there are distinct signs associated with both overwatering and underwatering
Combine them and you’ll find you’ve basically performed a character analysis of your plants. Albeit a rough one, you can now see what drives them; you’ll know what amounts nutrients are best suited to assist growth and what amounts are too little and too much.
On the macro-scale, each of these tips should steer you towards cultivation success. Learning how to achieve the biggest yield outdoors is not without it faults and legal pitfalls, however. For instance, in Colorado plants must be grown in a closed, locked space free from public view. This can be limiting to those who want to use the sun light but don’t have a fence, at least.
When you look at each consideration, the idea is to be able to approximate a tangible action plan that works for both the individual outdoor grow factor (think temperature) and overall plant health (think how does heat effect water requirements?). These tips aren’t the answer you were looking for; rather, they are meant to convey basic outdoor growing knowledge that can aid in approaching your grow synergistically. Knowledge is power, after all.