How to Grow Autoflowers Outdoors
In this guide to grow autoflowers outdoors, we explain how to do it successfully, along with the benefits and details. Finally, we discuss the pros and cons of opting for auto-flowering versus feminized seeds when growing outdoors.
With each new generation of seeds, auto-flowering cannabis becomes more powerful, higher-yielding and better-tasting without sacrificing its speed. Today, most of these auto hybrids are just as good as photoperiod strains. This is the reason for their huge popularity among indoor growers.
However, growing auto-flowering cannabis outdoors is just as doable. In this helpful guide, you’ll learn why, how, and when to grow autoflowers outdoors, and what advantages they offer over photoperiod seeds and clones.
WHY SHOULD YOU GROW AUTOFLOWERS OUTDOORS?
Growing auto-flowering cannabis indoors gives you complete control over the environmental conditions your plants are exposed to, including the total amount of light they receive on a daily basis. This is the key to consistent harvests and consistent potency. However, there are several reasons why some growers choose to grow autoflowers outdoors.
When growing indoors, one way to maximize yields is to cram as many plants as possible into the available space and increase the amount of artificial light in the grow tent or grow room. Alternatively, some growers employ high-stress training techniques to achieve larger yields.
When you grow autoflowers outdoors under the sun it will usually result in higher yields from each individual plant. If you’ve bought expensive auto seeds and want to get the most out of every seed, you might want to try an outdoor grow.
If you don’t have the space or money to invest in a fully equipped grow room, it’s always a good idea to grow cannabis outdoors. While you have to buy good soil and nutrients, you can save on expenses for lighting, aeration, or filtration.
Photoperiod strains can get quite massive outdoors. It is not uncommon for them to exceed 3m tall when the weather is warm and sunny for most of the summer. That’s fine if you don’t need to hide your plants, but poses a major problem when secrecy is needed.
Autoflowering cannabis, on the other hand, completes its life cycle so quickly that it rarely has time to grow over 1m before harvest. You can easily protect an auto-flowering plant from detection by placing it behind a fence or hedge. While the smell could still give away your secret garden, don’t worry too much about prying eyes.
GOOD PERFORMANCE IN COOLER CLIMATES
From the northernmost latitudes to tropical regions, growing auto-flowering cannabis plants outdoors offers certain benefits.
In cooler regions with short, wet summers, automatic strains mature quickly, allowing the mature buds to be harvested before an early frost or wet fall. This will keep you from losing your herb to rot, mildew, and mould.
In temperate regions, you can also easily harvest multiple harvests per growing season when growing auto-flowering cannabis outdoors. This practice allows you to enjoy cured weed before a photoperiod strain has even started flowering, while the second harvest in fall provides you with supplies for the winter.
If you live in an area where winters are particularly mild or don’t have that time of year at all, you may be able to grow auto-flowering plants outdoors year-round to ensure a constant supply.
REDUCED RISK OF LOSING PLANTS TO MOULD OR PESTS
Because auto-flowering plants have such a short lifespan, they are less exposed to conditions where mould, pests, and disease threaten. This is true whether you’re growing indoors or outdoors, although, of course, you have much less control outdoors. So if you’ve ever had problems with mites, aphids, mould, mildew, or bud rot growing traditional strains outdoors, you might want to try auto-flowering cannabis instead.
PERFECT FOR GUERRILLA GROWING
Autoflowering strains are extremely hardy and require little maintenance. They do not require training and mature on average two months after germination. This makes her perfect for guerrilla growing.
Find a secluded spot with little traffic and easy access to water, prepare the soil, and sow your autoflowering seeds. If native wildlife is fond of eating young cannabis sprouts, take appropriate precautions and protect them from harm with chicken wire or similar. After 8-9 weeks, your plants will be ready for harvest.
WHEN TO START AUTOFLOWERING WEED OUTDOORS?
When grown outdoors, auto-flowering cannabis plants, like their photoperiod relatives, prefer strong sunlight. They will flower even with 18-24 hours of daily light but need at least 10-12 hours of strong sunlight to produce good yields. While autoflowers can tolerate cold temperatures, they are not frost-hardy. This is why the best time to start your outdoor grow depends on the conditions where you live.
You can grow autoflowers outdoors anywhere south of the North Pole, but the further north you go, the shorter the growing season becomes. If you live in the far north, plant your seeds outdoors once the threat of frost has passed, which should be sometime between April and June.
If you plant your auto-flowering seeds in June, you should be able to harvest in August. This timing avoids the worst of the cold, wet weather that can develop as fall approaches. By keeping buds as dry as possible, you minimize the risk of failure due to mould, mildew, and rot.
However, in the far north, even with auto-flowering strains, you can only get one outdoor grow per season.
If you grow your weed outdoors further south, with proper planning, you can harvest twice per season with auto-flowering strains. For a late July harvest, start the first run between late April and early May. If you then sow again immediately, the second harvest should be possible before the end of October.
Watch out for heavy rains and early frosts. You may need to cover your second run with a tarp, buckets, or other protective material to protect the delicate buds from damage for the last week or two.
If you live in a tropical region between the equator and the Mediterranean Sea, you can safely forget the fear of frost. This means you can grow autoflowers outdoors all year round. Growing sequentially will result in four or more harvests per year.
The closer you get to the equator, the more the daily solar radiation gets closer to 12 hours all year round. Although autoflowers will produce buds with as little as 10 hours of strong sunlight per day, they achieve the best yields and potency with at least 16 hours of sun exposure. Being so close to the equator, however, not all growing environments may be optimal for all strains of auto cannabis.
HOW TO GROW AUTOFLOWERS OUTDOORS
Growing autoflowers outdoors is similar to growing photoperiod seeds, but there are slight differences. In short, growing autos is usually easier and bypasses some of the more stressful factors otherwise associated with growing.
GATHER THE GEAR YOU NEED
In this list we outline the basic equipment you will need to grow auto-flowering cannabis outdoors:
- Autoflowering seeds
- Pots or grow bags unless you are growing directly in Soil
- pH test kit
- Bucket or watering can
CHOOSE AN APPROPRIATE LOCATION
Find a spot for your plants. If you’re growing directly in the soil, you want to make sure your auto-flowering cannabis gets as much sunlight as possible. Look carefully at the site in question from all sides to ensure that your plants cannot be spotted. Even if discretion is not a problem for you for legal reasons, you should always consider the possibility of theft. Plant near a water source so you don’t have to lug heavy buckets around all the time.
If you’re growing in pots, you don’t have to worry about the location as much because you can easily rearrange your plants as needed. Invest in a plant trolley to make moving the pots easier as the plants grow.
PREPARE THE SOIL
Buy a good-quality organic soil mix unless you want to make your own mix. This can be used to fill pots or fill in holes if you are growing directly in the soil. Either way, good soil is key to successfully growing any type of cannabis. Mixing in 15 – 25% perlite will help with aeration and root expansion.
GERMINATE YOUR AUTOFLOWERING SEEDS
You can germinate your auto-flowering seeds the same way you use
photoperiod seeds: the paper towel method, root cubes, or direct seeding into the soil. When fresh, most auto-flowering seeds will germinate within a few days. Even older seeds rarely take more than a week.
After germination, carefully place your seeds in the soil or their final pot. Unlike photoperiod plants, autoflowers don’t like being constantly transplanted into larger pots.
WATER AND FEED AS REQUIRED
As the young auto-flowering plants grow, water and feed them as needed. Since this type of cannabis develops much faster than photoperiod strains, autoflowers can get thirsty or hungry faster than photoperiod strains. On the other hand, you definitely must not overfeed or overwater her. Autoflowers can often be fed half-strength nutrients and still produce impressive yields in good conditions.
Unless you plan on guerrilla growing, check your young plants daily to see if they need liquid or nutrition. As a rule of thumb, clear water should be used at least once between each application of fertilizer. As auto-flowering plants get taller, they may need daily watering, especially when planted in pots or when the weather is particularly dry.
Always check the pH of the solution when fertilizing or watering. Adjust the value as needed so that the pH is always between 6.0 and 6.5
WATCH FOR MOULD AND PESTS
Autoflowering strains mature so quickly that they minimize the risk of mould and pest infestations to a large extent – however, these problems cannot be completely ruled out.
When you’re checking to see if your plants need watering or feeding, you should briefly examine them for other issues. At the first sign of mould, remove the affected buds or leaves and move the plants to a third location.
You can remove visible pests such as mites and worms by hand as long as the infestation is only minor. If it is serious, you should use a safe pesticide like neem oil or insecticidal soap. You can also use these sprays weekly to prevent an infestation. Just be careful not to spray directly on the buds.
WHEN TO HARVEST AUTOFLOWER CANNABIS
Every breeder indicates when you can expect harvest time after germination for their auto-flowering seeds. This time can be the same whether the seed is grown indoors or outdoors, or slightly longer if grown outdoors.
Do not blindly rely on the given time. Instead, notice when the trichomes become cloudy, the pistils change colour and sink into the buds, and when the leaves change colour from green to yellow or purple.
When all signs point to full maturity, it’s time to prune, dry, and cure like you would any other cannabis strain.
AUTOFLOWERING SEEDS VS. FEMINIZED SEEDS IN OUTDOOR GROWING
When it comes to growing, auto-flowering seeds and feminized (photoperiod) seeds each have their pros and cons.
On the plus side, auto-flowering plants grow fast and require minimal maintenance. They can be ready to chop in half the time it takes a photoperiod strain.
Autoflowering seeds also have their drawbacks. You can clone them, but you won’t have much success doing so. The clones are at the same stage of maturity as their mother, so when they recover and continue growing, they’re almost at their pre-programmed end of life, producing only a few small, fluffy buds.
Speaking of recovery time, auto-flowering cannabis plants don’t have much time to recover when they encounter a problem. So never let them dry out too much, don’t over-fertilize them and prevent them from being attacked by pests, otherwise, they will remain in place for weeks. This does not, however, delay their maturity. This can have a significant impact on potency and yield. With autoflowers it’s far more important than with feminized seeds that you get it right the first time.
When it comes to yields and potency, the gulf between autoflowers and traditional strains isn’t as deep as it used to be. Breeders figured out how to minimize the Ruderalis percentage required to preserve the final weight and THC levels of the other parents while retaining the auto-flowering trait.
Growing auto-flowering cannabis outdoors can be a rewarding project if done right. Plan ahead by choosing the best time to start your seeds and a good location with optimal light and water access. Monitor the growth progress of your plants so you can always give them the right amount of water and nutrients and fix any problems that arise.
For your work and attention, you’ll be rewarded with a bounty of aromatic buds that are just as potent and flavorful as weed derived from a comparable photoperiod strain.
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