The sun is shining and the days are finally getting longer, all signs that the outdoor growing season is fast approaching. It’s right around this time of year that outdoor growers become giddy with anticipation as summer creeps into view. In this month-by-month guide, we at Marijuana.com, will walk through the preparations needed for a stellar outdoor season.
Dig Holes (or purchase pots) – One of the most labor-intensive steps of growing outdoors is creating a spacious home for your plants in the ground. Depending on your soil fertility and the size of your operation, you can either dig holes directly in the earth or purchase large pots. Digging into the dirt allows your plants’ roots to stretch as far as they want and will result in much larger plants. Using pots provides full control, but at the price of limiting root expansion. If you go with pots, you’ll want to be sure to purchase cloth pots because the classic black plastic pots get really hot in the summer sun and will inhibit your plant’s growth.
Consider Water Storage – At the beginning May, you’ll want to start thinking about how you’re going to store water. Cannabis is a thirsty crop and how much water you will need is dependent on what size pots you are using. In peak season, your plants will typically drink as much water per week as the pot size they’re in (200-gallon pot = 200 gallons a week). This water consumption can add up quickly if you have a 100 plant operation in 800-gallon pots (80,000 gallons of water a week during peak season), which is typical in Southern Oregon and California. Purchasing a reservoir is the best way to store water, you can find water storage tanks up to 10,000 gallons. Another solution, if you have the equipment and water rights, is to excavate a natural water reservoir, such as a pond.
Pick out your Nutrients – Depending on what growing medium you chose, coco coir or organic soil, the nutrients you use will vary. Growing in organically amended soil is the recommended and easiest medium outdoors. With organic soil, it’s helpful to spike your soil with potent worm castings and compost throughout the growing cycle. Aside from that, you “just add water.” However, if you have chosen coco coir or other mediums that aren’t organically amended, you’ll need a constant supply of base nutrients and bottled supplements. Be mindful that growing outdoors means that there are environmental consequences for using pesticides and/or chemical nutrients that don’t work harmoniously in your local ecosystem. If you’re growing outside and need to use bottled nutrients, choose an organic nutrient line and carefully examine the ingredients. The more conscious you are of your environment, the more it will help your plant thrive throughout the growing season. One of the best parts of growing outdoors is that you have a balanced ecosystem to help ward off pests and disease.
Place your Plants Outside – It’s finally time to place your plants in paradise! Towards mid-to-late May, when the danger of frost has disappeared, and there are about 16 hours of light per day, your plants are ready to experience the great outdoors. Some old-school growers like to plant their seeds directly into the soil outdoors, but more and more outdoor growers are beginning to start their plants inside, as recommended in April’s Outdoor Grow Guide. This choice is up to you; the only difference is in size: the plants started inside are a month of growth ahead of the seeds you might direct sow.
Build Your Light Dep. *optional – This step is for those of you who have chosen to grow in greenhouses. One of the biggest advantages of greenhouse gardens is that you’re able to harvest twice during the season which is only achievable through a light deprivation cover. The concept of light deprivation is just how it sounds; you deprive your plants of light (just like you would inside) so that they begin their flower cycle early. You will need to cover your greenhouse daily with a tarp or custom poly-weave, forcing 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness. Choosing to light dep. your plants is a two-time daily commitment, and it’s imperative your 12-hour timing is on point. While it may be a major pain to set the alarm and run out to pull the tarp every 12 hours, the extra labor is well worth the reward…Light dep growers can expect to double their harvest!