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In this section of the guide, we will look at ways to get an early head start on the outdoor growing season, and also ways you can extend it well past its norm.
Getting a jump start on the growing season is a great way to ensure that your cannabis plants are as healthy as can be, as well as maximize their potential yields. It offers outdoor cultivators a way to practice an increased level of control over their grow, and have a bigger impact on the final outcome.
To achieve a successful head start, seedlings and clones must start their lives early on indoors. Not only does this allow you to keep a watchful eye over your little beauties, it means you can start growing when the outdoor elements would otherwise deny you. When you do eventually transplant your cannabis outdoors, your cannabis will already have a healthy base to build off of, and an entire season to continue its growth – resulting in larger plants, and larger yields.
There is no particular limit as to when your seedlings will be ready to go outdoors – the bigger they are, they better they will do. You simply need to draw a line as to where your indoor capabilities end.
Once temperatures begin to rise again in March and April (depending on where you are in the world), it is time to start transitioning your seedlings outdoors. It is important not to simply plant them outside straight away, as it will cause them to go into shock. Think about it, how would you like to be taken from your nice warm cosy house, and made to live outside in the cold? Cannabis doesn’t like it either. You need to transition your plants, this is called hardening-off.
The process of hardening off usually takes a couple of weeks. In this time your cannabis needs to be gradually acclimatized to the stressors of outdoor growth, such as wind, sunlight, temperature and rain. On the first day, start by placing your cannabis in a shaded area for an hour or so; each day slowly exposing your plants to more sunlight for longer periods of time, until they are outside practically all of the time. After a couple of weeks of this, your burgeoning green beauties should be ready to transplant into a suitable outdoor spot! Just bear in mind that throughout this process, seedlings and clones will need at least 14 hours of combined natural and artificial light per day.
Transplanting Your Cannabis Outdoors
So the time has come to transplant your cannabis. Your plants have been hardened off, and are raring to make the transition. Once again, it is important not to rush into things, and ensure you are aware of the upcoming weather. A common rookie error is to simply transplant your cannabis on the first warm day, to only find the next is freezing. Ideally, you want to transplant cannabis on a mild overcast day, with a slight drizzle of rain if possible, which will also be followed by a few more mild days. This will minimize the stress of making the transition to outdoor soil, and will dramatically improve the odds of long term survival. Of course, this ideal situation doesn’t always happen, and you need to be practical with the weather you have. Just make sure that the temperature is going to be mild, and fairly consistent for a few days.
To transplant your cannabis, dig a hole twice the size of your container. Take your cannabis out of its container and place it within the hole. You want to try and keep the base of the plant (where the stem meets soil) leveled with the outdoor soil as you fill in the hole.
If you are in an area where you feel that your plants may not get a lot of natural water, create a slight depression around the stem area, to help capture and hold any rain. If you are in an area where there is an abundance of water, then pile an ever so slight mound around the base of the plant to help excess water run away. Under normal condition, simply keep the soil level flat. This is called creating a microclimate, and can help you to care for each plant’ individual needs.
Should your cannabis not quite finish in time, or you face a sudden cold snap, there are a few methods you can utilise to keep your cannabis warm and protected. The easiest method is touched on above, and requires you to find a warm microclimate before you plant. This could be in the corner of an outdoor wall, where your plants are sheltered from wind and kept in a pocket of warmth by the day’s sun.
If you can’t find a natural microclimate within your growing area then you can create one yourself. The best way to do this is by using a greenhouse. A greenhouse will captures the heat of the sun throughout the day, as well as protect your cannabis from biting, cold winds. This creates a safe, warm pocket for your plants to thrive in – even when it is freezing outside. Just bear in mind, greenhouses draw the eye, so make sure your cannabis is well camouflaged within it.
It is worth noting that these methods can also be used for an early start to the season, but you run a much higher risk of failure than starting your cannabis indoors, as the first stages of the cannabis lifecycle are a very vulnerable time.
It is all about creating a microclimate, and if you can successfully pull it off, you can comfortably keep your cannabis outdoors much longer than normal – sometimes all the way down to temperatures as low as -5 degrees Celsius! It can take some trial and error, but once you have it down you will be well on your way to becoming a proficient, if not expert, outdoor grower!