Coloradans get to experience some of the most strange weather in the country thanks to the weather patterns coming over the Rocky Mountains paired with the altitude of the state. Colorado can be warm and dry outside in the middle of February or March but suddenly drop a foot of snow in May or golf-ball sized hail in June. If you’ve ever thought about growing your own cannabis in Colorado, it can be tricky to pinpoint when and where to start growing cannabis outdoors. With weather this wacky, when is the best time to get started? Here’s what we’ve learned.
I love the spring season. I find gardening very therapeutic and rewarding because I get to spend time in my garden preparing soil and planning where I’m going to put my favorite fruits, veggies, and herbs. My favorite herb by far is marijuana, but she is a finicky mistress and sometimes Colorado can be too much for her. There’s a lot more to growing cannabis than deciding when and where to plant her, though. There are a lot of laws in Colorado for how accessible the plants are, who can come in contact with them, how many you can grow, and where they can be grown. It makes growing cannabis a bit time-consuming. More on that later.
Start your seeds inside in March. March is the perfect time to start plants from seed. By April they are showing their gender, and by the beginning of May, you can plant them outside in your greenhouse. The end of April typically marks the end of the cold snaps that can kill young plants or force premature flowering, but due to our weird weather, it’s safest to not plant directly until after Mother’s Day. The average temperatures at night are over 30 degrees during this time. If you’re starting with clones, pick them up at the end of March and give them a few more days indoors to get properly rooted before planting them outside.
Your greenhouse should get plenty of sunlight. Make sure that you build your greenhouse in an area that will receive full sunlight for at least 6 hours a day. There should be no tall buildings, trees, or hills in the way. Cannabis needs a lot of light and the warmth it provides the greenhouse, especially in the spring when it’s very chilly outside during the day.
Don’t underestimate the power of pots. My first year, I planted my cannabis directly into the soil beneath my greenhouse. The ladies went crazy in there and their growth was explosive. I received a good yield, but my plants were getting too tall. I was having trouble keeping them trimmed and weaved, and their growth was smothering the vegetables I planted in the same space. The next year, I planted with pots and I was able to limit their growth by limiting the space I provided their roots. I used 1-gallon pots. If you have space and you like control, go for 5 or 10-gallon pots. Pots are also excellent when it comes to weird weather. If you just set your ladies in the greenhouse and we get a plant killing cold snap, you’ll be able to bring the plants inside without uprooting them. Pots are superior to direct sow because you have control over what nutrients your plants are getting and the space they take up.
Train your plants. If you want to maximize your outdoor grow, you need to train your plants. It’ll help you maximize your plant’s efficiency for the space you have provided it. I’ve always topped my plants so I can get multiple top colas from one plant. Cages, trellises, low-stress training and super cropping will encourage lateral growth and more top nugs.
Mind the weather. We have the strangest weather in the country. It’s constantly changing. A lot of the issues with Colorado weather, like snow, wind, and rain, can be mostly ignored thanks to the protection the greenhouse provides, but we get exceptional conditions at times. This year we’ve seen wind that flipped over semi trucks on I-25, which means that it’s highly likely that someone somewhere lost their greenhouse and their plants. If it’s forecasted to get crazy out there, bring those girls inside. It’s a good idea to have some indoor grow lights for conditions such as these in the event that they need to stay indoors for a few days because of high winds or temperatures below 30 degrees.
You should also take into consideration that your plants will become big and aromatic. If you choose to grow your plants in pots, the size of the plant will be limited, but if you stick them directly into the soil inside your greenhouse, your plants will have plenty of room to expand their roots which won’t limit their growth. As for the smell, keep in mind that marijuana omits a very powerful aroma towards the end of the flowering cycle and can cause a problem with your neighbors or your homeowner’s association. A carbon filter in the greenhouse can help with this problem. Finally, as with any outdoor plants, your cannabis can be susceptible to pests. The greenhouse will keep out the larger critters but spider mites, aphids, and other pests can still find their way in, so make sure you’re prepared with organic pesticides and deterrents.
Other than that, cannabis grows well under most circumstances. Anyone who says you can’t put the seeds in the dirt with some sun and a little water to get a good crop is wrong. It’s an easy process. Just make sure you’re following the laws and you’re setting yourself up for success.
Things to Consider
As we previously mentioned, there are a few laws you must understand before even considering an outdoor grow. If you don’t want to get in trouble with the law or your neighbors, make sure you are familiar with these 3 things.
The first big one is that home growers in Colorado can only grow up to 6 plants per adult aged 21 or over, with a maximum plant count of 12 per household. However, you are only allowed to have half of your plant count flowering at one time. When you’re growing outside, all of your plants will begin flowering around the same time, typically around September and October when the days begin to get shorter. Instead of planting all 6 and killing 3, you can buy 3 feminized seeds or clones.
The next one to consider is that plants must be grown in an enclosed, secure location when planted outside. You can’t plant cannabis outside unless it’s in a completely enclosed location, like a basement, garage, or greenhouse with a locking door. The location you choose must be closed off at all times and an open window, for example, doesn’t count as a closed space anymore. Nothing beats the sun, so go for the greenhouse. You can build one yourself for a relatively low price.
The last major rule is that kids can not come into contact with your plants. Only adults 21 and over can have access to your grow operation. Colorado law states that adults aged 18 with a valid medical card can have access to a grow as well.
If you want more information on Colorado’s cultivation laws and penalties, click here.