First time growing cannabis outdoors? The GreenSeal team has you covered!
Update (February 12, 2020): Check out the Outdoor Cannabis Calendar here (from GreenSeal’s presentation at the Stratford Hoticultural Society’s 2020 AGM).
UPDATE (October 7, 2019): For harvesting tips (including when to harvest, how to properly dry, trim & cure, and tips for storage and processing), check out this newer post: “Our Team’s Top Outdoor Cannabis Harvesting Tips for Croptober!”
In Canada, the Victoria Day long weekend (aka “May Two-Four”) traditionally kicks off the season for camping, cottaging, fishing, and other forms of outdoor fun.
The recent 2019 May long weekend was particularly special since it also signified the beginning of the first outdoor growing season since Canada legalized adult-use recreational cannabis.
Although it’s not a 100% guarantee, in many places in Canada the risk of overnight frost is minimal once the end of May arrives (for those who live further north, it’s a good idea to wait until after June 1st).
Which means the first legal outdoor cannabis growing season is, for most Canadians, officially in full swing!
All Canadian households (note the distinction households, not individuals) have been given an allowance of 4 plants they can legally grow themselves, and many will be taking advantage of this opportunity to “grow their own” for the very first time.
For those who fancy their chances of turning four humble plants into a spectacular harvest, there’s another first-time opportunity they might want to consider: the inaugural 4 Plants Cup.
The first-ever 4 Plant Cups will be awarded to the Canadian entrants who produce the best four-plant harvest in the categories of Outdoor, Indoor, Medical, and Rosin.
Using the social media hashtag #4PlantsCup, this completely community-driven contest is a fantastic way to share experiences, photos, and techniques.
The motto of the contest puts the emphasis on growers and their passion: “For the love of the plant and the glory of the cultivator”.
If you’re a first-time grower intimidated by the idea of competing against seasoned producers, don’t worry – the competition is divided into Amateur and Professional categories (Pros are defined as growers with at least six full consecutive harvests under their belts).
Whether you’re entering the contest or not, the knowledgeable members of the GreenSeal production team have some invaluable tips to help first-time outdoor cannabis growers maximize the potential of their four plants.
Even if you’re a seasoned veteran of outdoor cannabis cultivation, we bet you’ll be able to apply a few of these golden nuggets to further hone your skill and craft.
You’ll also get a chance to meet some of our amazing team, who are all super-excited to share their extensive knowledge with Canadian home-growers “For the Greener Good!”
Let the growing begin: Starting your plants
Although it’s probably too late to start your plants for this outdoor season, here are some tips you might want to bookmark for next year.
Start seeds as early as possible. It’s best to start seed indoors in January or February at the latest. If growing from clones, I recommend getting them going indoors no later then April.
Ideally, you want to put out a plant ranging from 16 to 24 inches by June 1st, allowing the plant another 8 weeks of vertical growth before flowering. (Kurt Fisher, Production Supervisor)
Choose your strains wisely. We Canadians enjoy a beautiful summer, but once September and October arrive it’s usually wet and cold.
That means the growing season is often cut a little shorter compared to other growing hotspots like California.
If possible, you should find yourself a strain that has minimal mould and disease problems (since these problems flourish under wet, cold conditions).
You should also try to source a strain specified as “Outdoor” by the supplier, with instructions to harvest in “Late September” or “Early October.” (Cyndi Willems-Gibson, Quality Assurance Manager)
Harden-off your plants before they go into the ground. When introducing the plants you started inside to the outdoor environment, it’s important they are “hardened off” first.
To do this, move the plants outside in their pots and place them in a shaded area for a day or two, then slowly move them into the sun a few hours more each day. When the plants seem OK in full sun then it’s time to get them in the ground! (Chad Morphy, Master Grower)
Location, location, location: Picking and prepping your site
Look out for dandelions! When you’re scouting potential spots in the spring, keep away from areas where there are a lot of yellow dandelions.
By the fall, those yellow flowers will be white, airborne fluff-balls, and they’ll annoyingly stick to your buds! (Nate, Production Associate)
Check the lay of the land. Look around for areas where plants already grow well.
For example, if you are growing on a lawn and one patch always seems to grow higher than the rest, it probably means it will have more available groundwater for your plants (and less watering for you!) (Owen, Production Associate)
Plant in pots for portability. If you don’t have a secluded spot to put your plants, consider growing them in large pots or containers.
When necessary, you can move them out of sight for security or privacy (for example, when the in-laws are coming over for a backyard BBQ!). (Chris Murray, Facility Manager)
Nothing beats planting directly into the ground. Plants that aren’t limited by the boundaries of a pot grow much larger, need to be watered less and get all the benefits of growing in the earth (for example worms, soil microbes, etc.). Since you’re only allowed 4 plants, your goal is probably to grow them as big as possible! (Kurt Fisher, Production Supervisor)
Full sun is key. When looking for a good location for your plants, choose a spot with a southern-facing location that receives full (i.e. all-day) sun. The more sun, the better your crop will turn out. (Chad Morphy, Master Grower)
Pick an irrigation-friendly site. When you’re choosing where to grow, find a spot that is protected from the elements, is in an area that is easy to water, and has good drainage. (Cyndi Willems-Gibson, Quality Assurance Manager)
Think your hole is big enough? Keep digging! The bigger the hole, the more room your plants have to send out roots.
Deep root systems translate into bigger, healthier, happier plants, so dig a hole as big as possible for each plant! (Steve Stacey, Business & Production Coordinator)
Got clay? Add perlite! If the soil you’re starting with is heavy in clay, then try adding some perlite to the mix to help with aeration, absorbency, and drainage.
Loosely fill your hole with your growing mix without over-packing the soil so the roots can easily penetrate through and there are ample air spaces. (Chad Morphy, Master Grower)
TLC: Care & maintenance
Good cannabis gardeners are just good gardeners. They often start by restoring the life in the soil and protecting the plant from disease with good compost; they understand that they need to feed the soil, not the plant.
They make sure the plants have a wide bed with good air and water circulation and use a mulch to create a temperature and humidity buffer and discourage weeds.
Finally, good gardeners tend to act like good scientists: They monitor their plants regularly, keep notes, and get better every harvest. (Dr. James Eaves, Head of Innovation)
Don’t cheap-out on nutrients. Quality fertilizer is expensive but well worth the extra cost.
A good fertilizer will produce a healthy plant with big flowers and enhance the flowers’ flavour profile.
Blue powders available at big box stores are not designed for marijuana and will not provide your plants with a balanced diet. Visit the local indoor grow shop and buy a medium- to high-end nutrients product. (Kurt Fisher, Production Supervisor)
Dry pots wait for no one. If you’re growing on a patio using containers, be vigilant and don’t let them dry out.
If the pots are starting to feel light, give your plants a good drink.
Don’t wait for them to show signs of dehydration (e.g. wilting) before you water, and don’t fool yourself into thinking they can last a weekend without watering if you’re going away for a couple of days. (Ryan Quinney, Production Associate)
Less is more. Don’t mess around too much with the plants. Constant babying doesn’t make the plants produce better flowers – in fact, my personal observation has been the opposite.
Only water when they need it. In soil they should only need water once a week. And plants in patio pots should only be watered when the pots become dry or light in weight. (Kurt Fisher, Production Supervisor)
Make scents! Friends of mine who used to grow deep in the forest once told me their biggest problem was deer munching on their plants.
They managed to successfully deter the deer by spraying coyote pee around their site (which you can buy at Canadian Tire), but I’m sure human urine would also do the trick! (Jordan Gray, Equipment Preparation and Set-Up)
Trim the bottoms. Get rid of the plants’ undergrowth by cutting away the bottom 3rd of the plant at the end of the first week of August.
The small bottom branches use more energy than they can produce in dry flower.
Cut them away and force the energy up to the top of the plant. This will help produce big flowers. It will also help increase airflow in the plants’ canopy. (Kurt Fisher, Production Supervisor)
Reap what you’ve sown: Harvest
REMINDER (October 7, 2019): For harvesting tips (including when to harvest, how to properly dry, trim & cure, and tips for storage and processing), check out this newer post: “Our Team’s Top Outdoor Cannabis Harvesting Tips for Croptober!”
Don’t chop your plants down too soon. Plants develop most of their weight in the final stages of life. If you cut down too early, you could be missing out on an extra third in weight (and the same cannabinoid levels).
Research your strain. If the producer says harvest early to mid-October, then you know September is too early.
Look for hairs changing to red. If you see 40% of your hairs are still white, let the plant go until its closer to 15% white before considering cutting your plants down. Ideally you should allow the plant’s hairs to change completely. (Kurt Fisher, Production Supervisor)
Frosty mornings = frosty nugs. Allowing your plants to experience a light frost can enhance the final look of the flower and increase cannabinoid levels and yields.
Frost can bring out colours like purples and reds and causes the plant to increase cannabinoid production by making it think it’s dying.
The plant will drive energy into protecting its non-existent seed and by default produce more cannabinoid content in the plant. (Kurt Fisher, Production Supervisor)
Hang-dry with the leaf on. Cut the plant down, remove the fan leaves (the large, hand-sized leaves that don’t surround the flowers), and hang the plant on a line.
The remaining leaves curl over the flowers like a shroud and protect the crystals from light and air movement, and also help the plant dry a little more evenly.
Dry in the dark for a week or until the stalk snaps but doesn’t break in two.
Remove all the dry leaf then remove the flower and cure in glass jars by opening the lids once a day for 30 minutes for 10 days. Your flower will be smelling beautiful and looking pristine. (Kurt Fisher, Production Supervisor)
Grow like the pros!
Whether you plan to enter the first-ever 4 Plant Cup, or you’re just interested in trying to grow cannabis outdoors for the very first time, these tips represent a treasure trove of knowledge and information from some of the best in the business.
Four plants don’t seem like a lot, but if you grow them properly your next challenge might be figuring out what to do with your abundant harvest!
If you have a top tip to share, we’d love to hear it! Please leave it in the comments below.
Or if you have a specific question you think our grow team can help you with, leave it in the comments and we will do our best to help you solve your problem!
Happy growing everyone!