Many self-sufficient growers prefer to grow their stash of recreational or medical pot indoors. It allows a controlled environment, a wide choice of varieties and a reasonably predictable way of producing your pot. But an increasing number of indoor growers are finding that growing a few outdoor plants can be just as much fun and, with the right planning it can be a great way to get a top quality autumn harvest. But for those that have never grown outdoors before there are a few things to consider.
Outdoor growing can be done in a quiet sunny spot of your garden if it is concealed and safe. If you are lucky enough to have a secure private greenhouse then you can really have some fun. But most outdoor growers often spend time to find a secluded, sunny and private plot in the countryside. Finding the right spot is often the hardest part of successful outdoor growing. Google Earth is an ideal tool but it has to be supplemented by hard work, which means walking and trekking to see the spot with your own eyes. And then the hard work often begins, many successful outdoor growers spend time improving their plot and the soil. But outdoor growing has some real advantages and for many growers it is their preferred way of growing. The costs are low – the sun does the hard work, you just need to prepare the plot and provide the seedlings. The risks are low – the only real risks are bringing seedlings to the site and bringing your stash home with you. The rewards are high – even in a poor UK summer it is quite possible to regularly harvest 4-5 ounces++ from individual plants, and if you grow a real monster even higher yields are possible.
There are two main reasons that people are reticent to try outdoor growing. For those that have never done it before there is the challenge of finding and developing a good plot. This can be tricky, but once an outdoor grower (or ‘guerrilla grower’) finds a good plot it will often provide years of service. The other reason growers are reluctant to venture outdoors is simply a lack of experience doing so. After the summer of 2012 it is easy to understand the sceptical view that growing outdoors is a mugs game. But with a good grow plot, and a little bit of legwork it is really easy to be self sufficient with just a few outdoor plants.
Indoor growers often germinate a few feminized seeds and expect more-or-less every one of them to bloom into mature females. Outdoor growers often allow for the fact that some plants will succumb to the weather, and some plots will be compromised and lost. For that reason the outdoor growers often has several locations to grow in, and will have few plants in each. Having all your eggs in one basket is not an ideal position for the outdoor grower, it only takes one problem and you could lose the lot. Far better to spread the risk and have several grow locations with a couple of plants in each. Many guerrilla growers spend years accumulating a selection of grow locations, and many hours of hard work optimising conditions in each. But perhaps the most important plot you will ever find is your first one, that is the one that can show you just how easy and satisfying it is to grow your own pot under mother natures very own grow light in the sky.
This will sound like a silly question to those that have been growing outdoors for years. But to the virgin outdoor grower it seems like a straight-forward question. Some people have only ever smoked indoor-grown pot so the idea of growing good quality weed outdoors will have a question mark over it. Many outdoor (and greenhouse) growers will tell you that pot grown under the sun has an extra ‘kick’ to it, they will say that growing naturally with sunlight allows a more complete spectrum of cannabinoids because cannabis evolved over millions of years to respond to natural sunlight. So yes, outdoor grown cannabis can be every bit as good as indoor grown pot and some growers would argue it is better, or at least more natural.
Many seedbanks have specialised in producing indoor varieties which combine quality with good yields. But outdoor varieties often take many years of careful selective breeding with specially chosen genetics to produce varieties that are hardy enough to grow under borderline outdoor conditions. The further away from the equator the more demanding the conditions and the tougher the genetics need to be. It is far from easy to produce a solid, reliable outdoor variety that can cope with the worst of the North European climate. Some seedbanks have been successful in their quest to produce tough and resilient outdoor genetics, but in reality the choice of dependable varieties is far smaller than the indoor grower has. In Mediterranean climates many ‘indoor’ varieties can be grown successfully outdoors, but take these varieties into a cold and cloudy climate and most of them will be unable to ripen before winter arrives. So the outdoor grower can’t successfully grow any variety, they are restricted to a relatively small number of varieties which have undergone years of work.
There is no substitute for getting your feet on the ground and walking the areas you are considering growing in. Google Earth and other online mapping software will allow you to narrow down your choice of plots. They may allow you to see how much sun your plot will receive, they will show you the nearest footpaths and parking. They will give you an idea of potential concerns and hazards. But you need to visit the plot yourself to see the lie of the land. The best plots are often off the beaten track and in a spot where a normal walker, or dog-walker, would not find them. Perhaps they are protected by brambles, ditches, a fallen tree, an earth bank. Perhaps the only way to access them is by crawling or even wading. Favourite locations include the inside of a large gorse or bramble patch, alongside disused railway lines, amongst the weeds that line rural rivers. Some growers venture up hills and into woodland, others will look closely at sparsely occupied coastal regions. Some will be prepared to drive an hour or more to find the remoteness they want, other growers will make the best of the grow opportunities in their immediate location. Above all else, get your boots on and start looking for a sunny, sheltered and private spot.
The best growers will often do their best to improve soil quality and fertility at the plots. Compost can be carried in a rucksack, as can fertilisers such as manure, worm castings, bat guano etc. The ground can be dug over to improve soil structure and aeration. Many guerrilla growers buy themselves a cheap garden fork and shovel which they can fit in a rucksack. If the spade has a long handle the end can be sawn off with a hacksaw so that the spade can fit neatly in. Some growers get army-surplus spades that can be folded down, or separated into different sections. This allows them to navigate their way around the countryside without curious hikers asking why they have a shovel sticking out of their rucksack. Some growers will plant groups of 1 or 2 seedlings, whereas others may feel more inclined to get 5 or more plants established at a given location. The 2 most important criteria to outdoor growers are the sunnyness of the location and the privacy of it. Soil quality is an important factor, but soil can be improved. The main consideration is a plot which gets lots of direct sunlight and is unlikely to be noticed by anyone else.
Many growers will start the plants indoors at home and establish the seedlings for 2-3 weeks before planting outdoors. Plants are at their most vulnerable when young, so give them a good start. When planted outdoors growers will very often make a protective tube from chicken wire or plastic equivalent. This can be pinned to the ground with a few tent pegs and it will protect the young plant from rabbits. Slug pellets are often scattered around the plant to deter slugs and snails. Deer are harder to deter, some growers tie fishing line around the perimeter of their plot, this won’t hurt deer but it will encourage them to graze elsewhere. Growers often prefer feminized seed for outdoor growing since it allows them to avoid the hassle of revisiting the site to remove male plants. For many outdoor growers the security of their plot is paramount, and many will only visit the plot once to plant and once to harvest. This ensures that the plot is not compromised by paths through the undergrowth. Varieties such as Dutch Passion’s Frisian Dew, Passion #1 and Durban Poison are ones which have become outdoor favourites, with Frisian Dew having perhaps the best reputation as the toughest of the tough. Seedlings are often planted outdoors after the last frost in May or June, and harvested around October.
Autoflowering varieties are becoming a popular choice with outdoor and greenhouse growers. These varieties will probably not yield quite as much as traditional varieties, but they have the advantage of requiring just 11 weeks from germination to harvest. Again, seedlings are often started indoors under 24 hour light and planted outdoors once they are 2-3 weeks old after the last frost, typically mid-May or June in the UK/Northern Europe. Auto’s allows the outdoor grower the chance to harvest their first weed as early as August, well grown auto’s will often produce 50-100g of dry buds per plant. Mediterranean growers often start their first outdoor auto’s in March and will get 3 successive crops. Auto’s are often feminized (‘Autofem’s) and this allows growers to plant their 2-week old seedlings and return only once to harvest them a couple of months later. AutoFrisian Dew is Dutch Passion’s ‘specialist’ outdoor auto. These days a good quality modern auto from a decent seedbank will produce great quality pot, just as good as traditional varieties.
The best part, and the most nervous, part of an outdoor grow in going to the plants to chop them down. Hopefully all the plants are there and mature! Most growers chop the plants down, remove the buds and seal them inside a couple of layers of plastic to transport home for drying. There are few feelings as satisfying as enjoying the long evenings of winter with an excess of quality pot which was produced more-or-less for free.
Once winter arrives the foliage that may have acted as a privacy screen for your plot will die back. For that reason the responsible guerrilla will tidy their plot before he leaves, removing any litter, tools etc so that the plot will remain intact for the next years grow.
And that is it! In its simplest form outdoor growing is a great way to supplement your pot requirements. The most difficult part is selecting your plot for your first successful grow. After that you will have found a great new hobby which may even allow you to find a wider love of the great outdoors. Choose proven outdoor genetics from a seedbank you trust and good luck in 2013!
Originally published in Weed World Magazine 105