Its the dream of all cannabis lovers. Having as much great quality cannabis as you care to smoke and all for free. The good news is that this is easy to achieve with a small amount of planning. Lots of people find that growing their own cannabis outdoors is surprisingly easy. It requires no special skills, just a pair of walking boots and an appetite for a mini adventure.
Growing your cannabis plants outdoors has some great advantages over indoor growing. You don’t need to spend cash buying the tent, carbon filter, fans, pH meters, EC meters, lights etc. You don’t need to worry about the kids/guests discovering your little hobby. You don’t need to worry about the police taking a dislike to your indoor horticultural tendencies or nosy neighbours. You don’t have to worry about electricity costs, you don’t have to feel paranoid about having the loft full of ganja nor do you have to worry about your grow room bursting into flames 5 minutes after you leave the house. Whats more the sun is free and the best outdoor cannabis genetics really will grow themselves.
Growing outdoors is possible even in Northern European latitudes, and in places such as the Mediterranean and sunny American states outdoor growing has been the norm for years. Many outdoor growers feel that the natural light spectrum provided by the sun gives an extra ‘kick’ to the potency and flavour of their cannabis.
Growing outdoors is really very easy. The main challenge is to identify, prepare and maintain a private outdoor plot. Once the plot has been found it will often deliver years of faithful service. Some growers are lucky enough to have a secluded and sunny place in their garden, a greenhouse is ideal since it mitigates the worst of the early/late season weather. But many growers find their ideal grow space in the hills, forests, fields or riverbanks. There is no substitute for ‘boots on the ground’ to find a good growing location with direct sunlight, reasonable soil and a nearby water source. Google maps are a great ally of the outdoor guerrilla grower, they will show you more than you can see on foot. The best locations offer some protection from the worst of the weather/winds, the best plots are difficult to find accidentally so you will need to look hard. Many outdoor growers will look for a plot that is surrounded by brambles to deter grazing animals such as deer, or they will plant brambles deliberately to protect their grow location. Some growers will often create a ‘crawl hole’ as an entrance, this is a good way to prevent accidental discovery of your plot by e.g. a dog walker. Often outdoor growers have several plots in case one is discovered. Soil quality can be improved with nutrients, fertilisers and fresh compost. In very hot countries, or in times of summer drought, you may need to visit the plants to give some occasional water. This is one reason why it can be useful to have your secret outdoor garden near a small stream.
Cannabis plants are at their most vulnerable as seedlings. For that reason many growers will germinate their preferred outdoor cannabis genetics at home, and not plant the seedlings outdoors until they are 2-3 weeks old. Small plants are easy to transport to your outdoor grow location. They should be planted into good quality soil, perhaps supplemented with compost. Seedlings should be initially well watered in their new location and protected with slug pellets. Experienced outdoor growers will use a small copper-tape collar around the base of the seedling to deter slugs/snails, these can be bought from any garden centre, or you can easily make them yourself.
Unless you are lucky enough to be growing your plants in your own greenhouse/garden you may not be able to visit your plants as often as you would like. Having spent a long time finding and improving your prized secret countryside garden you do not want to compromise it with regular visits which will leave trails leading directly to your plants. Some growers will restrict themselves to perhaps 5 or 6 visits in total, and this will often include the initial planting and the harvest visit. This is where it is important to be able to rely on proven outdoor genetics bred to be tough enough to survive with minimal help. Feminized seeds are also a great ally of the outdoor grower, they allow the grower to use a smaller plot and grow fewer plants. You need to select genetics that will be able to finish blooming at your latitude. Established outdoor cannabis seed genetics such as Frisian Dew, Passion#1, Durban Poison or Purple#1 are all capable of being grown in Northern European latitudes or extreme southerly latitudes in the southern hemisphere.
There is no point growing outdoors if you have nowhere to dry the harvested crop. Drying them in the spare bedroom will not cut it; the smell could land you in trouble without odour control. An indoor drying space should be equipped with a carbon filter and fan to remove odours and moisture. Small specialist tents designed for drying your buds can be bought cheaply, or built easily. The buds will take a few days to dry, and then just need to be put in jars to cure. With any luck your outdoor crop will keep you supplied in top quality cannabis all year, and you will have become a self-sufficient outdoor grower. Outdoor medical growers often make concentrates such as cannabis oil or edibles from their outdoor crop.
Some outdoor growers have personal circumstances which prevent them from bringing their outdoor crop home. Perhaps they live in shared accommodation and there is simply nowhere to dry/store their crop. For these growers there is still one option, which is to make a ‘field extraction’ using e.g. IPA (Iso Propyl Alcohol). IPA is flammable and has to be handled with extreme care, away from sources of ignition. Normally buds are supposed to be dry before they can be treated with IPA to remove the oil. But freshly harvested buds will also work. The IPA extraction may not be quite as efficient with wet buds compared to dry buds. But when a field-extraction is the only option there is no choice. Buds are simply harvested, the fan leaves removed, and the buds are put in a bucket, covered in IPA and left a minute or two for the IPA to dissolve the resin and cannabinoids. The IPA is poured from the steel bucker into a container. The green-coloured IPA is then stored in a solvent-safe container until a safe and suitable opportunity is available to evaporate the IPA, which will leave pure cannabis oil. To minimise the risk of contaminating the cannabis oil, metal containers are preferred over plastic/rubber.
Frisian Duck is a new Dutch Passion variety developed outdoors over several years in Holland. This variety has deliberately been bred to grow with webbed leaves to disguise the plant and prevent it being immediately recognisable as cannabis. The variety is ready to harvest outdoors around the end of September in the Northern Hemisphere, it was created after hundreds of requests over many years from outdoor growers for a variety which does not carry the distinctive cannabis shaped leaf. The Frisian Duck is a cross of the proven Frisian Dew with an unusual ‘Ducksfoot’ cannabis cultivar which has webbed leaves similar to a Ducks foot. Frisian Duck is an ideal stealth variety, even experienced cannabis growers may fail to be able to identify it as cannabis.
Indoor growing is not always possible, but with the right preparation and the right genetics most people can harvest an outdoor crop. The arrival of automatic varieties allows a mid summer harvest, with traditional photoperiods ready a month or two later.
Originally published in Weed World Magazine 114