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Leafly’s outdoor cannabis grower’s calendar

Growing cannabis outdoors is easy. All you need is a nice open space that gets lots of light, a water supply, good soil, and a way to cover the plants when the weather turns.

One of the most important things to know is that cannabis is dependent on a photoperiod, meaning that it changes from the vegetative to flowering stage when days start to shorten and nights get longer. You want to time things right so your plants can maximize their exposure to light during the summer before fall sets in.

Growing and harvest times here reflect ranges of time in the Northern Hemisphere. For more growing tips on specific regions, check out this guide on different climates.

On the West Coast of North America, cannabis farmers in Northern California have a long season: They can put plants outside early and harvest later into the season because of the region’s relatively warm weather.

Washington state, on the other hand, will have a shorter time frame, as plants can’t be put outside until later in the season because there’s not enough sunlight yet. Harvest needs to be completed earlier, before cold weather descends on buds and makes them wet and moldy.

Important dates

The Spring Equinox is a good reminder that it’s time to kick off the outdoor growing process and start germinating your seeds.

As the sun reaches up high in the sky, your cannabis will want to as well. Make sure all of your plants are outside by the Summer Solstice.

The weather will start to turn and the sun will begin descending in the sky as your plants fatten up with sweet, sticky buds. It might be tempting, but wait until around the Fall Equinox to start harvesting.

Everything should be cleaned up, dried, and curing well before the Winter Solstice. Now’s a good time to make your own cannabutter, topicals, or tinctures with all that trim from the harvest. Kick your feet up, relax, and hunker down for the cold, it’s been a long growing season!

Notes on phases

I can’t stress enough that the time frames on this graphic are ranges of time for the Northern Hemisphere. You’ll need to adjust them based on your specific region and local weather and climate.

Be sure to keep a grow journal to track the progress of your plants. Looking back on your notes will help you learn from mistakes and maximize the quality and quantity of your buds.

Take meticulous notes on when and how you perform each step, as well as what the weather is like. Other notes can include how much water you give plants, at what intervals, and how much nutrients you give them. Pictures will also give you a better sense of how your plants look along the way.

Buy seeds

Figuring out which strains you want to grow, where to purchase them, where on your property you want to grow, and your local climate and weather can take some time and work. And once you order seeds, it can take a few weeks for them to arrive. Be sure to do your research early and get a head start so you aren’t scrambling at the last minute and miss the ideal time to grow.

Germinate/Sow seeds

It takes about 3-7 days to germinate a seed. A lot of growers will do this indoors because seeds are delicate and it’s easier to control the temperature and climate inside. But if you live in a warmer climate, by all means, start growing them from seed outside. You can also use a small greenhouse outside to keep them warm.

When you start growing your seeds depends partly on how big you want your plants to be for harvest. If you’re going for high yields, the earlier you grow your plants, the bigger they’ll be. But keep in mind that smaller plants are more manageable and easier to top and prune.

Move outdoors/Put in the ground

If germinating seeds and growing them indoors first, this is the time frame that you’d move your plants outside so they can get some serious sunlight. You want them to get at least 6 inches – 1 foot in height before putting them outside, so they’re big and strong enough to handle the weather.

Some old school gardeners will tell you to wait until after Mother’s Day to take them outside, and generally speaking, you want them in the ground by the Summer Solstice at the latest.

Top/Prune plants

Most growers top their plants a few times (two or three) throughout the season to encourage outward development and make plants bush out. It’s a good idea to give them an initial top after the plant develops five or so nodes.

Once your plants start flowering and producing buds—generally, sometime in August—you want to stop topping your plants.

Pruning and cleaning up plants is done as-needed. You want to get rid of dead leaves and lower branches that won’t get light so the plant can use that energy for producing buds in healthier branches.

Growers can clean up their plants anywhere from 1-4 times during the season, depending on how big the crop is and how much labor is needed.

Harvest

What kind of strain you have and what climate you live in will determine when to harvest your strains. Indicas typically grow stouter and bushier and there is more of a concern that their dense buds will get moldy, so they’re usually harvested on the early side of the season. Sativas are generally taller and less dense, so they usually get harvested later.

Growers in colder climates will need to finish their harvests earlier, sometimes as early as September, for fear of wet, cold weather setting in and molding out buds. Warmer climates can sometimes harvest well into November.

This post was originally published on January 15 31, 2019. It was most recently updated on May 1, 2020.

Growing cannabis outdoors is easy, but timing is important. This guide will tell you what you need to know to get the most out of your garden.

Outdoor Cannabis Growing Basics by LuckyAcres

by LuckyAcres (Check out his Instagram and Youtube for more!)

Are you ready to start growing cannabis outdoors? If you’re a wannabe grower looking for a quick and basic tutorial on how to grow weed outside, this is it. Check out these plants and learn how to grow plants just like them yourself!

Plants grown outdoors can get huge if you care for them properly

Growing auto-flowering strains can help keep plants from getting so big. This is Night Queen Auto by Dutch Passion not long before harvest.

What you need to get started growing outdoors:

Here’s a complete list of supplies you need to grow plants outdoors.

Seeds (or clones)

  • You need to get your plants somewhere. If you can’t get plants locally, here’s a list of online seed sources that deliver anywhere.

Root Riot Plugs

  • Seedlings get germinated in RootRiot Plugs (the extra michoryzae is nice!)

Container(s) – Air pots or Nursery Pots

After 20 years of being around black “nursery pots”, airpots have become my number one choice. Better root growth, better access to air, massive root terminals…. day and night to what I was accustomed to. Grow bags can retain salts and pests if not dealt with properly between grows. My access to sun changes thru the season so I must be able to move my ladies as needed.

Soil

  • Fox Farm Ocean Forest soil does the job. There are better ones out there but I’m happy with the results for the price.

Nutrients

Nutrient companies seem to have reached a status quo imo. They all seem to sell different variations and packagings of the same ingredients. Buy what you can afford. Keep it simple. The sun brings the food, nutes are the vitamins. When it comes to nutrients, you can use just the “base nutrients” or you can get the whole line (which also includes additional supplements that are nice but not necessary).

I’ve had similar results using at different times the full lines of nutes by Emerald Harvest (you can use just the base nutrients or the whole line), Roots Organics (base nutrients are Buddha Grow and Bloom, and they offer the whole line in a kit) and Fox Farm (soil base nutrients or whole line)…

Supplements

I swear by Foliar Essence foliar spray weekly. Mammoth P is great to lubricate the nutes highways. I use Mad Farmer Detox right before harvest, which is a cleaning/flushing solution.

PH and PPM Tester

To test the pH, I use a Bluelab PH Pen. I also use a PPM meter to measure the strength of nutrient solutions.

Watering can

I use old hydrogen peroxide bottles(quart size) that I cut at the top for a wider neck. 3 or 4 rounds of these will feed one auto.

How to Start Growing Cannabis Outdoors

Follow these steps and you will be harvesting your plants in a few months:

1.) Find a growing location

When growing cannabis outdoors, it’s important to find a private spot with easy access to water and 6+ hours of direct sun each day.

I built my backyard for privacy long before growing cannabis outdoors so it was canna-ready, but if fence height and privacy are an issue I’d recommend growing autos or scrogging photos. Have a dog to keep away cats and rodents as much as possible. Be nice to your neighbors, and a little sharing goes a long way! Sunlight availability is my number one challenge. 2-3 hrs in the morning and 3-4 hrs in the afternoon. The more the better!

A private, secluded area with plenty of sunlight is perfect for growing cannabis. Make sure you have access to water!

2.) Set up your containers with soil

Nursery pots are straight forward. Fill with loose soil to the rim, bang the pot lightly 2-3 times on the ground, add soil up to the rim again and that’s it.

In airpots the soil has to be pushed lightly into the holes on the sides as it’s poured in but same tapping and refilling method works great afterward.

3.) Germinate your seeds and place in containers

I germinate seeds in RootRiot plugs (the extra michoryzae is nice!) I drop the seed in water(shot glass in a dark spot for a day or two usually) until the tap root pops out and is about half an inch long.

Auto-flowering strains

I move autos in their final pot as soon as they’ve germinated (5-gallon container(= #7 Airpot USA), though 10 gallons is better for the longer cycle strains and super autos.)

Photoperiod strains

Photoperiod plants go to a 1-gallon pot first then 5 or 7-gallon then to their final pot. I use 15 or 20-gallon nursery pots for photos.

4.) Water plants regularly

Cannabis plants like when the root environment is slightly acidic. The optimal ph is 6-7 for cannabis plants grown in soil. It’s important to check the pH of your water because plants get nutrient deficiencies if it’s too high or too low. The city water where I live has a 6.5 ph so on plain-water days it comes out straight out of the hose.

If it’s a day I give nutrients, I mix nutrients then take ppm readings. Once everything looks good I ph the water. Nutrients tend to lower the ph, so on feeding days I usually have to adjust the ph up before giving it to the plants. Your experience may vary depending on the ph of your water source. Here’s a tutorial on how to test the ph of your water.

How often do you water the plants?

  • Every other day to every 3 days

How often do you water seedlings?

  • I make sure they stay moist until I know the root growth is sufficient to allow for the top to dry out between watering.

How often do you water bigger plants?

  • Bigger plants, especially later in the summer get watered every day in between feedings, not a full round of water but enough to sustain them thru the heat. And it helps them use up whatever nutes leftovers were there…

How much water do you give at a time?

  • Full pressure on the hose wand, set on shower, and I count until 3 or 5 seconds while I release water.

5.) Plant care

Make sure photoperiod plants don’t get light at night. A privacy fence or a hedge will block street lights pollution enough. No direct bright light at night is the ticket!

A young outdoor marijuana plant

Watch for bugs or nutrient deficiencies and react quickly to problems

  • Every day, twice a day I survey my plants, if something is spotted I make sure to treat it as soon as possible. Once a week I spray a pesticide and make sure to rotate between them, spinosad, neem oil, insecticidal soaps etc… to keep any kind of invasion from happening.
  • Diagnose some common plant bugs and other plant problems with this cannabis plant doctor.

Do you do any plant training like LST, supercropping, topping, etc?

  • All of it! Depending on the plant or my mood I might top one and not the other but supercropping is a constant for sure.

How to deal with caterpillars

Caterpillars are one of the most common cannabis pests for outdoor growers. They will eat leaves and may even tunnel through the middle of your buds.

There’s a worm in there, that’s what this leaf tells me… Now I must remove the whole bud.

“B.T.” is an organic and OMRI certified insecticide that kills caterpillars but won’t hurt people, bees, animals or plants. It is safe to use on your plant up until the week of harvest. Get Monterey B.T. Ready-to-Use Spray on Amazon.

Anything else major to keep an eye on?

  • The tip of the leaves, if they remain green you’re good, but watch for that yellowing tip, every day! Too much food! When it happens, it’s time to flush!

6.) Harvest plants when ready

When to Harvest

Plants are getting close when most trichomes are cloudy(autos and photos). At that point, I start flushing with mad farmer detox. I chop when the first ambers show up at about 10% max. Learn more about trichomes and when to harvest.

Autoflowering plants are ready to harvest on their own schedule as determined by the breeder.

For photoperiod plants the exact timing depends on your local latitude, but are typically ready to harvest in mid to late fall. Harvest here runs from mid-September to early November for those late sativas.

How to Dry and Cure Buds

My methods remain the same for autos and photos. (Here’s an alternative guide)

  1. Chop
  2. Hang for 10 days at 70F and 60% humidity
  3. Dry trim
  4. Store in brown paper bags for another 7-10 days
  5. Store in glass jars with a 62% humidity pack

That’s it! A quick and dirty tutorial that will get you all the way to your first outdoor cannabis harvest!

More from LuckyAcres

Check out more pictures and videos by LuckyAcres on Instagram and Youtube.

Are you ready to start growing cannabis outdoors? If you're a new grower looking for a quick and basic tutorial on how to grow weed outside, this is it!