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Starting Your Outdoor Grow, Indoors! (Part 1)

Are you thinking about growing cannabis outdoors this year? It seems early to be considering it, especially for those in the Northern Hemisphere, but starting your grow early, can massively increase the size of your plants come harvest time.

By Macky,

Now, as it is so cold outside, any cannabis plant that is planted outdoors will not last very long. So, to get an early start on your grow this season, you will need to start your plants off indoors. Doing this, will ensure the plants start their lives in the right conditions. They can grow, and build up their strength before being placed outdoors to face the elements. Starting your outdoor grow indoors, will not only give you bigger plants, but it will also improve the chances of your plants surviving. It is much easier for an established plant to deal with a harsh environment than it is for a seedling, and the beauty of it is, you can start growing indoors with very little equipment, budget and space. In this guide, we will not only be explaining how to start your grow indoors, but also explaining the benefits of doing so.

When is the Best Time to Start Growing Outdoors?

A cannabis plant growing outdoors will need a good stable environment to flourish. If temperatures reach below 15°c, your plants can stop growing, and shut down completely. If this goes on for prolonged periods, your plant could die. Most growers will plant outdoors, after the last frost has passed. This is some time at the end of March, into the beginning of April. But even at these times of year, in some places, it can still be too cold to plant young plants and seedlings outdoors. To do so puts them as risk, and they may die because it’s too cold. The earlier you can plant outdoors, the better, but not at the risk of killing the plants. If you begin growing indoors first, your plant will be much stronger, and able to handle the outdoor environment. This will help the plant develop a good root structure, and make it more resilient to harsher environments. Planting an already established plant outdoors, gives you a much higher chance of survival than planting a seed or clone. Seedlings are not strong. They can be killed easily and they need a steady environment for the best chance of survival. This can be hard to achieve outdoors. Because of this, many growers will not plant seeds directly outdoors, but sow them indoors, in small pots first. After a certain amount of time, the plant is planted outdoors. You can grow young cannabis plant indoors, easily, with a small space, and normal household light bulbs (CFL).

Start Your Grow Indoors

If you plan to grow cannabis outside, it may be down to a few reasons. One, you don’t have the space to grow indoors. Two, you don’t have the budget for the equipment you need. Three, you do not want to take the risk of growing plants indoors, especially if you are growing illegally. These are legitimate concerns, but many growers don’t realise how easy it is to just grow a few small plants indoors. You only need a small amount of space, and you will not need high intensity lighting. Because the plants will only be indoors for part of their life cycle, there is no need to go all out on the equipment. You can grow some young plants, for a few weeks in a small cupboard, chest of drawers, or wardrobe. There is no need to buy a grow tent, or HID lighting.

How Much Space You Need?

Depending on how long you intend to keep your plants indoors before moving them outside, you will need a certain size grow space. Now, this can be a grow tent, or a grow room. Or you can make a small grow room out of a closest, cupboard, or even an old PC tower! You will have to take into account, how many plants you’re going to grow, and how long you intend to veg them indoors for. Let’s say you will be growing 4 plants this year. This will be a huge harvest, but growing outdoors can be risky. You don’t have the same control over the environment as you do growing indoors. You have to account for this and expect to lose half your crop to bugs, mould, thieves, animals, or bad weather. To give these plants the best start in life, four weeks indoors would be recommended. But there is no reason why you cannot veg for longer! Some professional outdoor growers, will start vegging their plants indoors, all over winter. You can do this too, but you will need more space, as the plants will grow very big after a few months indoors. Make sure you have the room for this if it’s something you are considering. All you need, to grow four small plants indoors, is a 60cm x 60cm (2 ft x 2ft) grow space. You will not need a lot of height unless you plan to veg for a long time. If you intend to veg for longer than a few weeks, then you should consider getting a 1.2 x 1.2 m (4ft x 4ft) grow tent with at least a 400W Metal Halide HID light. Be warned, the longer you veg indoors before going outside, the bigger your plants will be come harvest time. A single cannabis plant can grow 20 ft tall in the right conditions, and can yield many pounds of dry buds. Starting your grow indoors will create huge plants, that are going to be hard to hide from neighbors and any passersby. If you are not in a secluded location, then consider keeping the plants small, so you can be more discreet.

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Eventually, your plants will be living outside, and they will have the best light source nature can provide, the Sun. But for now, whilst they are living inside, they will need a good source of light to get them started. This doesn’t have to be something massively expensive, with amazing PAR and light penetration (unless you plan to veg for more than 4 weeks). Cannabis plants will live happily under T5 Fluorescent lighting all the way through their vegetating period. It is a cheap light to run, cheap to buy, and very good for growing young plants. Also, a T5 will not push out a huge amount of heat, so you can get the bulbs within an inch of the canopy, which will help keep a plant short, and reduce stretch. If you are going to start your grow indoors, and plan to veg for around 4 weeks, then a T5 would be perfect for you. If you are on a budget, and do not have the spare resources to get new lighting, then you may be able to use household CFL lighting for the first few weeks of your plant’s life. These are much like T5, but not designed for growing. Though they will work for young plants, you have to use a lot of them to give an established plant enough light. For longer veg periods that will be more than 4 weeks, you will need more powerful lighting. After about four weeks, your plant will be pretty big, and their need for light will have increased. At this stage you should be using a 400W Metal Halide Light, or LED lighting with an output equivalent to a 400w MH. There is no reason why you cannot veg your plant all over winter. But it will take up a lot of space. The more space you have to cover, the more light you will need, and this costs money! Not only with buying the lights, but running them too. For best results, in my opinion, it is good to go for a four week veg, under low intensity lights, just to give the plants a good start in life and make them strong enough for outdoors. Once planted, they will veg for 4 -5 months before they begin to flower! Even after four weeks, you will be shocked at how fast your plants will grow. You can imagine how big it will grow after four months veg.

Pots and Soils

To start off any indoor grow, you should start in small pots. Half a litre is a great size to start in, and transplanting later on as the plants get bigger is good practice. To begin though you should not use normal soil. This can have a lot of nutrients stored up in it that can shock a new seedling and kill it. To prevent this from happening, it is a good idea to start your seeds of in a “potting mix”. This will have less nutrients in it and will be more suitable for small plants. After a couple of weeks, the nutrients will start to run out in this soil, and it is a good time to transplant into bigger pots, around 3L in size. The plants will have a good root structure and will be able to take the stronger soil now they are more established. After transplanting, keep them in these pots for a few more weeks, and when they are ready to be transplanted again, they should go outdoors and be planted into the ground. If you intend on vegging indoors for longer than 4 weeks, you should transplant again, instead of going outdoors. This time, choose at least 15L pots, depending on how long you intend to veg for. Remember, the more you veg them indoors for, the bigger they will be after growing outdoors for months. Once the plant is planted outdoors, you will not be moving it again. The roots will dig deep into the ground, and the plant will live the rest of its life where it is. You can continue to grow your plants outdoors in pots, you don’t have to plant them into the ground. But bear in mind, these plants will grow very big, and will need a lot of root space. If you intend to grow plants outdoors, for the whole grow season, you should use at least 30L pots! Big plants have big roots, they will need a lot of space.

Preparing to Plant Outdoors

After the veg period indoors, the plants will be strong, and nearly ready for life outside. It will be cold outside in early spring, a little too cold for a cannabis plant to be comfortable, especially when coming from a nice indoor warm environment. A sudden change in environment can shock the plant, and slow down growth. For best results, you should try and climatise your plants to their new environment. You can do this by placing the plant outdoors for a couple of hours every day for a week before you plant them outside. This should be done during the day time, when the sun is high, and the temperature is at its warmest. The cold will still shock the plants, but not as much. Extra care needs to be taken here. It is easy for your plants to pick up some bugs whilst outside, and you may bring them into the grow room when you bring the plants back indoors. Be vigilant, and if you suspect there may be bugs coming into the grow room from the plants, you should treat the grow room with a pesticide of your choosing to prevent any further infestation. Prevention is better than cure. Also, before planting outdoors, it is highly recommended that you dig a hole, and fill it with some good soil. The ground you grow in, may not have all of the nutrients a plant needs in it. To ensure your plant has what it needs to get a good start, plant it in soil. All you have to do is dig a hole, get a bag of your preferred soil, and empty it into the hole. Once it is full, take the plants out of the pots and plant them into this new soil.

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When is a Good Time to Plant Outdoors

As you can see from the calendar, you can sow seeds outdoors around mid-April. This is when temperatures start to warm up again and the days begin to get long enough for vegetating plants. Because you have already started your plants indoors, they will be much stronger, and much more prepared for the outdoor environment. Once the last frost has passed, you are safe to move outdoors. Frost can kill a plant overnight, and at the very least, cause serious long-lasting damage to the plant tissues. To be sure that there will be no more frost, you should wait until mid-April before taking your plants outdoors, but you may be safe to do this a couple of weeks earlier, if the weather where you are is warm enough. If you are in the Southern Hemisphere, you will be fine planting outdoors from mid-October. Depending on what strain you are growing, the flowering period will begin from August, up until mid-September, and finish sometime between late September and early November. This means, that if you plant outdoors in early spring, your plant will veg for around 16 weeks before it even begins to flower. If you have started indoors, the amount of time you have been vegging for is even longer. Whether it is for a week, a month, or for the whole season, this extra time indoors will pay off with the overall size, and health of the plant.

Start Preparing Now!

There is no need to plant seeds today! Take some time to look over some strains, and find what will be best for you. Prepare an indoor grow space, find some decent lighting and soil, and get a small fan. If you start your grow indoors at the end of February, you will be ready to plant some healthy cannabis plants outside in early April. It will not only give you a good head start into the season, but also give a head start to your plants too. Just by starting off a few weeks earlier in doors, you can double the size of your plant come harvest time, compared to planting a seedling outdoors. Not only that, but you give your plant a much better chance of surviving, as it will have a good root structure, and will be big enough to deal with the stress of the colder climate of April. As the grow progresses, we will continue to guide you. If you are going to grow outdoors this year, but you can’t start indoors, don’t worry. Our next guide will give you all the details on what you need to do to plant your seed outdoors, as well as finding a good spot for your plants to grow. So even if you have never grown before, 2020 is the year you can start, you just have to get the next few issues of Soft Secrets and follow these guides.

The ABCs of Cannabis Cultivation: Gardening Tips for Growing Medical Marijuana

It's time for medical cannabis users to start planting their outdoor gardens. Here's a quick guide to getting started.

For those of us fortunate enough to be living here in Santa Cruz, where medical cannabis is enthusiastically supported by the community, now is the time to start your outdoor cannabis gardens. Growing lushly-flowered cannabis, rich with flavorful cannabinoids, is both a learned skill and a cherished art.

Like sophisticated wine makers, connoisseur cannabis growers have developed personal gardening techniques that make their herbal product unique, and because more people are growing cannabis now than ever before our botanical knowledge about this popular plant is simply exploding. Many volumes have been written on this subject, so I’ll only be able to provide the basics here, along with a few special tips from a master grower.

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Mike Corral, the Agricultural Director for the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) told me,”I think that the most important thing to know about growing cannabis is that its not as difficult as most people think, but it does require attention.”

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For outdoor gardens, cannabis seeds should optimally be planted in late March, but now is not too late. The most important criteria for creating a bountiful garden are quality seeds, fertile soil, available water, adequate sunlight, and good camouflage.

Start with the best quality seeds, from those plants that you’ve personally found to be the most beneficial. Germinating the seeds prior to planting them in the ground generally gives a much higher success rate than placing the seeds directly into the soil. Some people soak the seeds in a wet paper towel, which can dry out, so Corral suggests, “floating the seeds in a bowl of water until they germinate.”

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The soil needs to have good drainage, and the plants need a minimum of five hours of direct sunlight a day. Corral recommends Fox Farm Ocean Forest soil, which is available at most garden centers for around $15 a bag. Too much water or fertilizer, or too little water or fertilizer, can hurt your plants, so finding the proper balance is essential.

“Generally, I water them twice a week and fertilize them once a week,” said Corral.

In most places camouflage is important, because the plant is easily spotted, and it can attract unwanted attention and theft.

Corral said, “Look at your surroundings. If your next store neighbor has two teenage boys, then you might want make sure that your camouflage is better than average (although I know that not all teenage boys steal pot). You can plant it among other shrubs in a regular vegetable garden, and you can hide it amongst tomatoes pretty well. It’s a soft plant, so you can twist, bend, or turn it in any direction that you want. The only thing you’re not going to be able to easily hide is the fragrance coming from the plant. A lot of people will smell that and they’ll make a beeline to it. The best method for hiding your marijuana is simply not to tell anybody about it.”

According to Corral, dealing with insect pests isn’t usually a problem when you organically grow outdoors here, but larger pests can sometimes be. “The biggest problem that we have growing outdoors is mammals. If you’re planting in the ground, then rats, rabbits, chipmunks, and gophers can damage your crop. You can put wire fencing around your plants to keep them out. We also make a gopher exclusion basket out of wire, put that in the ground, and then plant the root ball in that.”

Because of our elevation, and how close we are to the ocean, fungus can be a problem. Corral said, “At 500 feet elevations or lower–you’re in the fog belt. There’s always ocean moisture here, so molds and fungus can be a big problem. This can be controlled by the amount of water that you put on the plant. I never put moisture on the leaves.”

Learning how to sex your plants is vital, Corral said, because the pollen-starved female flowers produce the most abundant psychoactive and medicinal cannabinoids.

“If you’re starting from seed, learn how to sex your plants early. Then you can kill your males and put more energy into the females. This way you won’t have to waste your time or fertilizer growing a male. That will also save space and a lot of labor,” he said.

Corral also stressed how important choosing the proper time to harvest a mature plant is.

“You don’t want to harvest too early or too late. If you wait too long, you’ll have leaf growing in your buds, and the plants will start to revert to vegetative growth. Also, the THC begins to break down once the plant hits peak maturity. Conversely, you don’t want harvest too early. The plants have been known to double their weight and potency in just the last two to three weeks of growth, as the THC and other cannabinoids become mature in them, and they do their final push for full maturity,” he said.

To learn how to properly identify male and female plants, as well as mature plants, and to learn more about growing cannabis in general, Corral recommend Jorge Cervantes’s books and DVDs as the best. To find out more about Cervantes’s work see:

One final tip from Corral: “About two weeks prior to harvest, only use pure water. If there’s any residual flavors left over from the fertilizers, the pure water will help to flush away any odors or tastes, and leave only the plant tastes.”

If you’re suffering from a medical illness that is helped by marijuana, and want to learn more about cannabis cultivation, consider joining WAMM, where members work together in a community garden to grow and produce their own medicine.