Thinking about growing cannabis outdoors, but not sure where to start? Get tried and true industry tips from the experts at SunMed Growers

Growing Cannabis Outdoors

If you're growing your own cannabis for the first time, it might feel like more trouble than it’s worth to try growing it outdoors. When it comes to producing the best crop possible, growers love to have control over every part of the process, and cultivating plants outside is always going to leave some variables.

But with a good understanding of the process, anyone can successfully grow weed in their yard, garden, or greenhouse. It's natural, sustainable, and rewarding, but it also requires diligent care and keen attention to detail.

bud of cannabis against sunlight

What’s So Special about Growing Cannabis Outdoors?

Growing cannabis outside in natural sunlight gives it a certain extra something. Think about wine. Master sommeliers can tell you where a grape came from – what country, what kind of soil, the weather when it was growing – all just from tasting the subtleties in a glass of wine.

You can do the same thing with good weed. The outdoor environment imbues the plant with unique characteristics: cannabis grown outdoors will develop a distinctive taste and aroma that can't be replicated in an indoor grow room. It also lets the plant grow to its full potential, under natural sunlight.

Higher Yields

For one thing, when you grow outdoors there’s potential for higher yields. With enough space and light, cannabis plants can grow larger and produce more buds than when grown indoors. Light and space are key factors that influence cannabis yield, and generally the more of them you have, the better.

More Terpenes from Natural Light

Natural sunlight also helps cannabis plants produce more terpenes, the aromatic compounds that give weed its unique scent and flavor. Outdoor cannabis plants typically have a richer and more complex terpene profile than their indoor counterparts. These compounds don’t just make for a richer aroma; they also make the weed more potent by enhancing its psychoactive effects.

Lower Carbon Footprint

Compared to indoor growing, outdoor cannabis cultivation significantly reduces the carbon footprint. It eliminates the need for high-intensity lights, air conditioning, and other energy-draining indoor cultivation equipment. That’s why growing cannabis outdoors is also generally more affordable.

When Does the Cannabis Growing Season Start?

When you’re growing outdoors, you need to make sure the environment will provide your plants with reliable light and warmth – ideally 12 or more hours of sunlight and daytime temperatures of 70-85°F. (It sounds goofy, but if you’re enjoying the weather, usually so are the plants.) Depending on where you live, that could mean planting anywhere from late April to early June and harvesting between mid-September and early October. However, in warmer climates, or in greenhouses, cannabis can be cultivated all year round. 

7 Tips for Growing Cannabis Outdoors

Now that we've talked about the benefits, let's get into some helpful tips for growing cannabis outdoors. These come from our wealth of experience here at SunMed Growers, where we've perfected the art of cannabis cultivation in natural sunlight using our state-of-the-art Dutch-style greenhouse. Applying these tips to your home garden can help you get higher yields and healthier plants.

1. Make Sure Your Plant Has Full Sunlight

Getting full sunlight is absolutely crucial for your cannabis plants. When we say “full sunlight,” we mean a location that receives a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight each day and at least 12 hours of light total. Cannabis doesn’t grow well in the shade. 

Sunlight triggers photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert light energy into chemical energy, leading to growth. Areas with less sunlight can stunt growth, resulting in lower yields and harm to the plant's overall health.

When you're deciding where to plant, remember that the sun's path across the sky changes over the year, so make sure the place you choose will get enough sunlight all throughout the growing season.

2. Decide Between Growing in the Ground or Pots (and How Each Method Impacts Watering)

Growing your plant in pots (no pun intended) affects the plant's water intake, overall size, and even yield. Growing in the ground provides more space for root expansion, leading to bigger plants and ideally larger yields. But it also leaves you at the mercy of weather patterns and soil conditions for watering. 

However, pots give you more control over watering and soil conditions, which can be beneficial in regions with unpredictable weather or poor native soil. Over time you’ll learn what works best where you live.

Perhaps the best advantage of growing in pots, however, is that it enables you to bring your plants indoors when necessary. If there's a sudden drop in temperature, for instance, you’ll be able to protect your plants overnight. 

trays of cannabis growing in a greenhouse

3. Know Your Soil

Good soil is the foundation for a successful garden. For cannabis, your soil should be rich in organic matter, well-aerated, and have good drainage. It should also have a balanced pH, preferably around 5.8-6.5 for optimal nutrient absorption. 

Poor soil conditions can lead to nutrient deficiencies, stunted growth, and even plant death. Before embarking on a new garden project, especially in the case of sensitive plants like cannabis, conduct a soil test to identify any deficiencies and adjust accordingly with fertilizer.

4. Learn about Natural Pest Prevention Methods

Pests are one of the biggest threats to outdoor cannabis plants. Common pests like spider mites, aphids, and caterpillars can severely impact your yield and plant health. However, since you will ingest or inhale your cannabis, you want to avoid the use of harsh chemicals.  

Luckily, there are several natural pest control methods you can use to protect your garden. Introducing beneficial insects like ladybugs and predatory mites can keep harmful insect populations in check. Practices like crop rotation and companion planting can also help deter pests. And remember, sometimes the best prevention is regular monitoring and early intervention.

5. Learn the Art of Cannabis Pruning

Cannabis pruning is an often overlooked but essential part of growing cannabis outdoors. By strategically removing leaves and branches, you can increase light and air circulation for your plants, enhancing their overall health and productivity. Pruning can help shape your plant, control its size, and direct its energy towards producing more and larger buds. But remember, less is more when it comes to pruning. It’s easy to get carried away and over-pruning can stress the plant and hinder growth.

gloved hand pruning cannabis

6. Choose the Right Season for Cannabis Cultivation

Typically, the end of April to early May marks the sweet spot for planting in Maryland. Starting your seeds or young plants indoors a few weeks prior and gradually acclimatizing them to outdoor conditions can give them a head start. 

If you miss the spring window, don’t despair. Summer still offers opportunities for successful outdoor cannabis cultivation. June to July presents a viable window for transplanting well-established seedlings or clones into the soil. The ample sunlight and warmth during these months accelerate growth, enabling plants to catch up and produce bountiful yields by the time autumn arrives.

7. Consider Building a Greenhouse

If you're really committed to growing cannabis outdoors, you might want to consider building a greenhouse. With a greenhouse, you get the benefits of outdoor growing, like natural sunlight, but with a controlled environment similar to indoor growing. It can provide protection from bad weather, pests, and even thieves. Plus, it extends your growing season. 

That said, it does require an investment in time and materials up front. Costs for a greenhouse can range from a few hundred to many thousands of dollars. But we think it’s worth it for the environmental control and quality improvements if you’re really serious about growing cannabis.

If you do choose to build a greenhouse, keep in mind that you don’t need to use it for the full growing cycle. Many farmers and gardeners utilize small, DIY greenhouses with plastic coverings to protect plants during the germination phase, when they are the most vulnerable and benefit greatly from increased heat and light. 

Common Mistakes When Growing Cannabis Outdoors

Now that we’ve talked about what to do, let’s talk about what not to do. Here are some common questions and mistakes to avoid when growing your weed outdoors.

Why Is Growing Cannabis Considered Difficult?

Cannabis is often considered a difficult plant to grow, especially for beginners, because the plant needs specific conditions to thrive. Unlike many common plants that tolerate a range of environments and care routines, cannabis has some pretty particular requirements for successful cultivation that include the need for a lot of light, CO2, and a good deal of water.

On top of that, cannabis plants thrive in moderate conditions and can suffer in extremes. High temperatures can lead to wilting and reduced terpene production, while low temperatures can slow growth and increase susceptibility to certain diseases. High humidity can encourage mold and mildew, whereas low humidity can cause dehydration. Anyone can learn how to adapt to these needs, but it’ll take some time and determination.

Lastly, cannabis has distinct life stages — vegetative and flowering — each with its own light, nutrient, and care needs. A lack of understanding of these stages can lead to issues like premature flowering or poor bud development.

Does Outdoor Cannabis Need Full Sunlight?

Yes! Make sure your plants receive a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight each day and at least 12 hours of light total.

Do Cannabis Seeds Need 24 Hour Sunlight?

No plant that grows outdoors needs 24 hours of sunlight. Otherwise they'd be out of luck! But cannabis plants do benefit from extra sunlight, especially once they've first sprouted: 18 hours of sunlight a day is ideal during this phase. If you're growing plants in pots or in a greenhouse, this early stage is an excellent time to supplement the sunlight they receive with additional light to boost their early growth.

Can Cannabis Be Overwatered?

Yes, cannabis can be overwatered, leading to root rot and other complications. Cannabis grown in the ground needs around 6 gallons of water per day. However, when grown in more controlled environments such as inside pots or in a greenhouse, that number can be much closer to 2.5 gallons per day. 

If you’re using a pot, a good guideline is to water to about 25-30% of the pot’s capacity. Make sure you have a well-draining soil and adjust watering to the plant's growth stage.

Are Taller Cannabis Plants a Sign of Good Health?

Not necessarily. While height can indicate vigorous growth, cannabis plants that are too tall may have trouble supporting their weight and can be susceptible to wind damage. Taller plants can also be a sign that the plant is not receiving enough light. 

What Temperature Can I Put My Cannabis Plants Outside?

As we mentioned above, cannabis tends to prefer the same sort of outdoor temperatures people like: about 70-85°F (20-30°C) during the day and around 10°F cooler at night. It’s also good to aim for slightly lower temperatures during the plant’s flowering stage, ideally under 80°F if possible.

What Is the Lowest Temperature Cannabis Can Tolerate?

Cannabis can tolerate temperatures down to about 40°F, though sustained periods of cold will prevent the plant from thriving. Cannabis isn't frost-tolerant, so you should protect your plants by covering them or moving them indoors if possible when frost is a threat. Familiarize yourself with the first and last frost dates of the year in your region to protect your plants. 

Try Our Sun Grown Cannabis Today

Growing great cannabis takes hard work and dedication. At SunMed Growers, we offer high-quality cannabis grown in our state-of-the-art, Dutch-style greenhouse. We utilize the best of both outdoor and indoor growing methods to deliver premium quality products at a reasonable price. To explore our offerings, find a dispensary near you.