There are some places that only have a few short, glorious months where it’s possible to grow marijuana outside. Canada, the true north strong and free, is one of those places. Cannabis is a plant that came out of warm, dry climates, so even strains that do best in cooler areas only grow in the summer months.
In the truncated timeframe where it’s possible to grow cannabis outdoors, you want your crop to come out as strong and healthy as possible. Outdoor growing is a bit simpler than growing indoors is, but there are still a couple of things that can trip up new and even experienced growers.
Choosing Soil & Fertilizer for Your Outdoor Cannabis Plants
Cannabis is a strong, resilient plant species, but it’s not as simple as throwing a seed in some dirt and leaving it alone for a few weeks. The best way to grow cannabis is in a pot with soil you purchase yourself.
Planting cannabis in the earth’s raw ground may be what some growers are looking for, but most Canadian soil just won’t be able to give cannabis the nutrients it needs. That’s why it’s best to keep the plant in a pot.
Nutrients for outdoor growing aren’t that different from that of indoor growing. A number of supplement companies help walk people through how to keep their soil healthy—and healthy soil results in a healthy plant. To fertilize your outdoor plant, almost any store-bought fertilizer will work.
In addition, it may be wise for new growers to opt for cloth pots, rather than the heavy clay ones you may remember from grandma’s garden. While this won’t directly affect the health of your soil, cloth pots do let more air in at the roots of the plant. They’ll also help excess water drain from the soil.
Grow the Right Marijuana Strain for Your Climate
Talented botanists have tinkered with cannabis for centuries, ultimately resulting in the vast array of cannabis plant types and products that exist today. But one downside to the amazing genetic diversity are seeds that don’t hold up in some climates as well as others do.
Anywhere in Canada, it’d be hard to grow a strain like Blueberry as well as it grows in California or Mexico. However, there are plenty of popular strains that are friendly to Canada’s cooler climate. For example:
- White Widow
- Afghan Kush
- Lemon Haze
- Master Kush
This doesn’t mean that other marijuana strains won’t grow at all in Canada, but strains more suited for cooler climates will result in better grows. This will hold especially true for new growers who aren’t regularly testing soil pH levels and the conductivity of their water.
Where Should I Plant My Cannabis?
Despite the fact that under Health Canada’s Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) you can legally grow cannabis without concealing them from the authorities, it doesn’t mean any old place is a good spot for your marijuana plants. Your backyard will work great if you want to try growing in the ground rather than in pots. Just make sure you pick a spot where the plants are protected from the wind and rain, but also where they’re going to get plenty of light.
As well, if you have space for it, planting other species near your marijuana plant—called companion planting—is a good way to help improve the soil’s composition and nutrient levels. Beans or alfalfa plants are a great way to naturally fertilize the soil for your cannabis plants, as they inject the soil with nitrogen.
Meanwhile, chamomile can absorb sulphur, calcium and potassium, all of which go into the soil as the chamomile plant breaks down. And finally, garlic or basil plants act as natural pest repellents.
How to Protect Your Cannabis Plants
Pests have been the bane of cannabis growers since cannabis cultivation started. Small critters can cause huge damage. Spider mites, aphids and others are common concerns for growing cannabis anywhere. But when the plant is outside, we’re playing on their turf.
If you notice tell-tale signs of damage on your plant, little white or red spots on the leaves, for example, it’s a good idea to get an herbal, organic pesticide. Since you want to consume the cannabis, it’s in your own best interest to get the mildest pesticide possible.
What’s better than solving a pest problem is preventing it. If planting garlic or basil near your marijuana plants isn’t an option, then one thing that may help is a grow tent, which will also act as a greenhouse.
Another tip that gardeners have used for decades to keep their gardens safe is sprinkling the area you’re growing with dog hair. Smaller pests will get caught in the hair before they make it to your marijuana plants. And larger animals like deer and squirrels will smell the hair and make a U-turn thinking there’s an actual dog around.
If you’re up for it, you can get a lifetime supply of dog hair from your local pet groomer, if you’re not embarrassed to walk inside and ask them to put a bunch of dog hair in a bag. Or just ask one of your dog-owning friends if you can have Rover’s hair when he’s finished shedding.
The true secret to growing the best marijuana possible is to grow marijuana again and again until you find what works best for you. Growing cannabis may seem simple, however, there’s more complexity to the process once you get down to the nitty gritty.
Make sure you record everything about your first grow: the strains you grew, what fertilizer you used and your watering and pruning schedule. That way, if you want to make adjustments next year, it’s easy to know what and how much to change. Let us know in the comments if you’ve ever done an outdoor cannabis grow and what tips you’ve got for first-timers.
Photo credit: Brian Shamblen