As popular as indoor cultivation has become over the past few decades, outdoor cannabis growing still offers many benefits to new and seasoned growers alike — namely, the ability to grow big, beautiful, high-quality cannabis at a significantly lower long-term cost.
The biggest difference between growing outdoors and indoors is that an indoor grow is a completely manufactured environment. That means your energy costs for controlling lighting, temperature, air quality, humidity and other environmental factors will be significant.
Growing cannabis outdoors requires none of these environmental control costs, which is good news for beginner growers. The trick, though, is understanding nature’s timeline and coordinating your outdoor grow efforts to coincide with Mother Nature’s schedule.
That’s exactly what we’ll be exploring in this article: a month-by-month timeline to help you understand exactly how to grow bigger, more potent yields of cannabis outdoors.
First Thing’s First: Geographic Considerations
The first thing an outdoor grower needs to consider is geographic location.
Generally speaking, the timeline presented here reflects the seasonal patterns of North America, so you’ll need to fine-tune the specifics according to your particular region. For example, growers in California typically put their plants outside earlier and harvest them later than farmers farther north along the West Coast in Oregon and Washington. One helpful resource used by many outdoor cannabis growers is a farmer’s almanac, which provides projected seasonal patterns on an annual basis.
Outdoor Cannabis Grow Calendar: Month-By-Month Task Planner
Here’s a month-by-month breakdown to help you understand how to grow bigger buds outdoors.
As winter starts to subside after the last frost, it’s time to start prepping for the outdoor grow season. Make sure you have your seeds and/or cloning supplies on-hand and ready to go by early March.
If you live in a warmer climate, you can start your plants outdoors from the get-go. However, if it’s still too cold outside when you first pop your seeds or cut your clones, you’ll want to keep them indoors for the first few weeks until the weather is more favorable.
Alternatively, some growers prefer to start their plants earlier in winter and let them veg indoors for several weeks, giving them a head-start on the outdoor grow season.
During the long days of summer, your crop will be in the throes of vegetative growth. Your plants’ roots, branches and leaves will be growing vigorously, and adequate water and nutrition is needed to ensure healthy development. You’ll also want to top your cannabis plants to help ensure maximum vegetative growth.
If you’re growing from seeds, you’ll also need to determine the gender of your plants in order to separate the males from the females before you begin the flowering phase. If a female plant is pollinated by a male plant, she’ll focus on seed production rather than bud production — which, unless you’re a breeder, is not what you want.
Your cannabis naturally shifts from vegging to flowering as the light cycle changes. After the summer solstice, the days slowly become shorter, so expect to see the beginning of bloom phase.
In the outdoor cannabis flowering stage, it’s important to protect your outdoor crops from critters and pests. Fencing can keep bigger animals at bay, like rabbits and deer. You’ll want to examine your plants every day for signs of pests or disease like bud rot, so that you can catch it early and nip it, quite literally, in the bud.
You should also plan and prepare for potential environmental hazards, like extreme temperature changes, rain and wind. While rain can help water your crops, too much rain can damage your plants. Consider some type of temporary cover you can quickly employ in case of heavy rainfall.
It’s also a good idea to locate your outdoor cannabis near a natural windbreak. If this is not possible, you can surround your crop with plastic sheeting to protect it from wind damage.
By the end of September, around the fall equinox, it will be time to start preparing for harvest.
In the late bloom phase, your plants will be pushing those big, beautiful buds. And while it may be tempting to harvest sooner rather than later, it’s important to time your harvest correctly to ensure flowers are at peak potency.
There are a few things you can do before harvesting your crop to help ensure high potency and yield. For example, pruning older, yellowed and dead leaves can free up energy that your cannabis will then use for flower production and ripening.
It’s also important to flush your plants prior to harvest. This will help get rid of excess salts and nutrients that may have built up in your plants through their grow and bloom cycles.
Once you’ve harvested your cannabis, it’s time to dry, cure and trim those buds before winter sets in.
Properly drying and curing your buds can enhance your crop in several ways. Flowers that are dried and cured correctly can have increased potency, flavor, aroma, smoothness and shelf life.
Trimming your buds is also important. First of all, trimming makes your buds look nicer. But more importantly, trimming makes consumption smoother, because excess leaves can lead to a harsher smoke.
Secondly, you can use your bud trimmings to make other products, like edibles, tinctures, butter and tea.
Whether you trim before drying (called wet trimming) or after your buds have dried (dry trimming) depends on several factors, but for the most part, we recommend dry trimming.
Easily Keep Track Of Your Outdoor Cannabis Grow Tasks
While growing cannabis outdoors doesn’t require the same level of meticulous attention to detail as an indoor grow does, it’s still critical to stay on top of your outdoor grow tasks and ensure your plants are receiving the attention they deserve.
Here at Advanced Nutrients, we’re all about helping growers achieve the best harvests possible. That’s why we’ve created helpful tools, like the BudLabs app and our online Nutrient Calculator, to help you get the most from your crops.
These tools allow you to easily calculate feeding ratios, whether you’re growing indoors or outdoors. If growing outdoors, you can stretch both the vegetative and flowering periods over your particular outdoor season’s timeline. And if you have any questions about adapting feed charts to your outdoor cannabis grow, you can always call our Grower Support hotline at 1-800-640-9605 to speak with an Advanced Nutrients grow expert.
For some inspiration, check out the video below with Greenbull Farms, an Oregon grow that cultivated 4,000 cannabis plants outdoors with ideal cannabinoid and terpenoid levels. Discover their outdoor cannabis nutrient schedule, tips on genetics selection, and more!