After 7 years working for the renowned seedbank Sweet Seeds®, I came to realize which are the most usual questions that growers ask me when they want to know more about outdoor growing and the most adequate strains and techniques for growing outdoors in places like the United Kingdom, where the climate is usually not the best friend for growers. Here are some important questions regarding this subject and my best possible answers.
- What was your first outdoor crop?
My first outdoor crop happened about 10 years ago, in the summer of 2007. By then I had no relation whatsoever with Sweet Seeds® but, curiously, S.A.D. Sweet Afgani Delicious S1® (Sweet Seeds® variety SWS02) was the first strain that I grew and harvested outdoor. I grew 3 plants in 50 liter pots and each of the plants yielded around 400 gr. of dried resinous flowers.
- What is the best way to prepare soil for an outdoor season? Some life hacks?
If you are growing outdoors but with pots, then I advise a good quality soil bought from a grow shop. In other words, a soil mix that is adequate and developed for cannabis growing. If you are growing outdoors directly in the ground, with no pots, then I also advise the same quality soil (at least 50 liters per plant) but then you can also improve the soil around it. This means that you should dig a hole in the ground with capacity for 50 liters so that you can drop the bag of 50 liters of soil in that hole, but if you want to dig a bigger hole (100-200 liters) you could use a homemade soil mix.
For a homemade soil mix I recommend the use of peat moss, worm humus and previously used soil. The previously used soil must rest for at least 4 months. It should dry out and then be rehydrated. Then it can be mixed with the peat moss plus around 10% to 15% of worm humus. I would also mix around 10% of perlite. Mixing a bit of bat guano (500 gr. for each 100 liters of soil) is also a very good option.
- To be honest, what do you prefer – outdoor or indoor growing and why?
Personally, I prefer indoor, but I recognize almost the same amount of advantages to both options. Indoors you can have almost everything under control. The plants can have the right photoperiod at all the moments, the light never gets “behind the shadows” and it will never rain on your plants. This helps to get the most resinous buds, leaving the terpenes intact. While outdoors, adverse conditions can compromise yields and the quality of the final product.
On the other hand, the main advantages of outdoor growing are financial economy (the light is for free), unlimited (or less limited) space, allowing the use of much bigger containers or growing directly in the ground and, the most appealing advantage in my opinion: the chance to experience a natural grow with all the interaction between man and nature that it implies.
Outdoors you can get bigger yields with less expense and fewer efforts. Indoors you can get better quality on the final product and keep your grow almost totally under control.
- What is the most important thing to consider about the climate? How to deal with cool weather conditions?
Extreme heat is not good news, so avoiding temperatures above 32ºC should always be mandatory. The ideal temperature stands between 18ºC and 26ºC. Temperatures lower than 14ºC should also be avoided at all costs in every stage of growth and flowering. Wind is welcome, unless it is so strong that it can knock down our plants or break their branches. Rain is always unwelcome. If it is just a few drops and the plants are in the vegetative stage, it is not a problem, but besides that it must be avoided at all costs.
So, taking all this in consideration, throughout the years I came to realize that the best way to deal with adverse climate conditions when growing outdoors is choosing the right strains that allow us to minimize the exposure of the plants to these adverse conditions. In places like the United Kingdom, where the summer ends early and September brings rain and very cold nights, it is very important to choose the right strains.
If I were to grow cannabis in such countries, I would choose between 2 options. One is autoflowering strains, because they flower regardless of the photoperiod and according to age (time since germination), so it is possible to germinate them in early June and harvest them by mid-August, avoiding the adverse climate conditions and taking advantage of the best 80 days of the year regarding solar exposure and temperature. My personal favorites, which I would use for outdoor growing, are: Green Poison Auto® (SWS30), Crystal Candy Auto® (SWS61), Killer Kush Auto® (SWS56) and Sweet Cheese Auto® (SWS33).
The other option would be the F1 Fast Version® strains developed by Sweet Seeds®. These strains feature a very fast flowering stage. They start flowering in early or mid-July and they are ready to harvest between the last week of August or mid-September. Being photoperiod-dependent plants, they can be germinated in the spring, grow for 3 months and then flower in the summer, which means that they can grow to a very big size and yield as much as any other photoperiod-dependent strain in the market. The grower avoids the first cold nights and rainy days, while harvesting high quality flowers. My personal F1 Fast Version® favorite strains, which I would use for outdoor growing are: Green Poison F1 Fast Version® (SWS41), Black Jack F1 Fast Version® (SWS49), Cream Mandarine F1 Fast Version® (SWS50) and Sweet Skunk F1 Fast Version® (SWS54).
- Is it possible to say that growing in a greenhouse is one of the ways of outdoor gardening?
In my opinion, yes. But I divide outdoor growing in 2 “methods”. One is the “open air” method and the other would then be the “greenhouse” method. This second method allows the grower to keep the plants more protected from adverse climate conditions while taking advantage of the beneficial outdoor features, such as free (sun)light. The disadvantages would be the fact that (in totally closed greenhouses) the plants don’t get the benefit from direct wind and I also think that the greenhouse structure blocks a lot of lumens from the sun light. Discretion is another very important advantage of outdoor growing in greenhouses, especially in countries with strict laws regarding cannabis growing.
- How to choose strains for outdoor.
First of all, if you have doubts, contact the seedbank of your choice and they might be able to advise their best strains for outdoor growing in your country. But, other than that, I would look into fast-flowering strains, strains developed from ancestors that are landraces from countries with extreme weather conditions (like countries with extreme hot summers and other countries with cold summers), strains listed as “easy-to-grow”, autoflowering strains and F1 Fast Version strains® from the Sweet Seeds®’ genetic collection.
- Seeds or clones?
First seeds, then clones. With clones, we can’t speak of autoflowering strains because these can only be grown from seeds. But in the case of photoperiod-dependent strains, my best advice is to germinate something between 5 and 20 seeds from one strain and then keep at least 1 clone of each phenotype until you are able to harvest and sample all of the phenotypes. Like this you can choose your favorite(s) and keep mother(s).
This goes for the United Kingdom and countries with similar climates:
– Between early April and late May, sprout 10 seeds of, let’s say, Green Poison F1 Fast Version® (SWS41). When possible, take 2 clones from each of the 10 plants. When they all root, keep 1 clone from each of the plants vegging indoors under CFL lights in small pots. The plants (from seeds) will be ready to harvest between the 24th of August and the 12th of September. Some plants (according to the phenotype) are faster and will be ready in that last week of August. From these phenotypes, select the ones that produce better, more resinous and feature the most pleasant aromas.
Then, let’s imagine you get 3 plants that are ready in the last week of August, filled with resin, aromatic and productive. When the plants are harvested and the buds are dried, try them with your favorite method (smoking, vaporizing or eating). From these 3 plants, the one that better fits your preferences regarding taste and effect in the best possible way should be the keeper. Go back to the clone from that plant that you took 3 months ago and make a mother plant from that clone. Like this, in the following year, you can grow from clone. This means you don’t need to spend money on seeds again and, most importantly, you know for sure that all the plants will be ready in the last week of August, aroma and effect are within your preferences and the plants will be very productive.
In the United Kingdom I would be doing this as it really is the best way to deal with adverse conditions and lower the chances of problems originating from cold temperatures.
- What are the peculiarities of outdoor harvest?
Growing outdoors is a very peculiar hobby. Your plants can be stolen, take away by authorities, eaten by animals, infested by plagues, devastated by adverse climate conditions, etc. But growing outdoors is free (or almost) and the results may be outstanding when everything goes well, so it is very appealing.
- What is the most important thing about outdoor growing?
The historical and meaningful relationship between man and nature in all its splendor, with the big plus of dealing with a species that will positively interfere with your mood and happiness in the months to come while leaving a very sweet aroma on your taste buds.
Words and pics by Tommy L. Gomez
Originally published in Weed World Magazine issue 130