Read on and discover how to grow autoflowering cannabis seeds outdoors in order to make the most of your auto yield. This first part of our outdoor cannabis grower's guide put the lights on how to plan ahead starting with choosing between autoflower and photoperiod seeds.
How to Grow Autoflowering Cannabis Seeds Outdoors
Growing autoflowering cannabis seeds outdoors is becoming more and more common thanks to its fast results and multiple harvests a year. Keep reading if you want to discover how to plant autoflowering seeds outdoors and get the best result possible.
Table of Contents
Autoflowering cannabis seeds or automatic seeds are obtained when light-dependent cannabis plants are crossed with Ruderalis strains. Growing auto seeds is a specific job, and you’ll need to understand where they come from and how to grow autoflowering cannabis seeds if you want to make the most out of them.
Ruderalis Cannabis is a subspecies of hemp that grows originally in colder areas such as Eastern Europe, Central Asia and other areas with climates that aren’t right for normal cannabis. It’s known for its small stature, and low RHC content, although its mainly known for flowering automatically, regardless of the amount of light they receive.
When crossing these plants with normal ones, autoflowering seeds are obtained, which generally start flowering towards the second/fourth growth week, regardless of the amount of light they receive. These plants have similar qualities to light-dependent plants, such as a larger amount of THC, yield and aroma and flavour (compared to Ruderalis).
This is why, among other reasons that we’ll delve into later (such as discretion), many seed banks, breeders and genetic experts have worked hard on creating autoflowering seeds.
Reasons to Grow Autoflowering Cannabis Strains
Autoflowering cannabis plants have taken the world by force, especially in outdoor grows due to how fast it grows.
Growing autoflowering cannabis seeds has become more than just a fad over the last few years, although before you get started you should know the pros and cons on autoflowering seeds in order to make the most of your plants. Autoflowering cannabis plant during the flowering stage.
Pros of Growing Autoflowering Cannabis Strains
- Autoflowering cannabis strains offer outdoor growers the ability to grow plants easily and rapidly. They also allow you to grow additional autoflowering strains while your normal plants grow and begin flowering. For example, if you’re planting autoflowering strains at the start of the season, you’ll be able to harvest 3 times during the Spring – Summer seasons before your feminized strains are ready to harvest.
- Thanks to their small size (max around a meter tall), they’re discreet and ideal for growing on balconies or terraces, as well as small indoor areas with not much room.
- If your climate allows (minimum temperatures above 10°C), you can grow all year round outdoors.
Thanks to their short, fast growth stage, they aren’t as exposed to insect infestations.
- They’re sturdier when it comes to the cold, although they prefer mild climates.
Cons of Growing Autoflowering Cannabis Strains
- In indoor grows, you can plant fast flowering light-dependent strains and end up with the same total growing time of autoflowering cannabis plants, with higher quality and larger yields than autoflowering plants.
- Autoflowering plants can’t be used to take cuttings or keep mother plants.
- Autoflowering plants contain less cannabinoids than their light-dependent versions; Budha Critical, for example, has more cannabinoids than its autoflowering version Budha Auto Critical.
Here at La Huerta Grow Shop we recommend growing autoflowering seeds outdoors or indoors when there’s not much space, keeping in mind when it’s best to grow each type of strain. In this post, we’ll explain how to grow autoflowering cannabis seeds outdoors so that you can get the best possible results.
How to Grow Autoflowering Seeds Outdoors
As we were saying earlier, autoflowering cannabis seeds always come from seeds and can’t be obtained from clones. Autoflowering plants can vary in size depending on their genetics and the conditions they’re grown in, especially during the growth stage.
Factors to keep in mind when planting autoflowering seeds
- They have quite a short growth period (2-4 weeks approx.) so by using fertilized substrates such as All Mix by Biobizz, you can cover their entire growth period and the start of the flowering stage. You only need to use rooting stimulants and/or mycorrhizae and Trichoderma during the growth stage. If you’re going to use light or inert substrates you’ll also need to use an NPK fertilizer.
- They don’t grow as much as light-dependent strains during their flowering stretch, so you shouldn’t need to train them.
- Due to their short growing process, you’ll need to feed them carefully, making sure not to overfertilize your plants and avoid ending up with excess nutrients in your plants.
- If your plants’ roots end up facing obstacles, they’ll stoping growth and your plant will also stop growing. You’ll need to give them and airedsubstrate, or a coco coir substrate so that their roots can grow plenty.
There are many different methods when it comes to growing autoflowering cannabis; let’s have a look at some recommendations that you can use.
Germinating autoflowering seeds
We highly recommend germinating your seeds before planting them; you can find more information regarding germination in our post on how to germinate cannabis seeds.
Choosing the right substrate for autoflowering plants
As we were saying earlier, choosing the right substrate is incredibly important when it comes to growing autoflowering seeds. Autoflowering strains have a very short growth period; you’ll need to give them the right type of care to make sure that they grow fast and produce decent yields. The first thing you’ll need to give your plants is a decent, airy, and high-quality substrate.
Soil usually contains coco coir fiber, although you can add more (around 30-50%), in order to add more air to the substrate. You can use, for example, a fertilized medium such as Kilomix by Atami and add in some coco coir bricks.
You can also use coco coir as a medium to grow in but you’ll need to keep in mind that it’s inert, which means that you’ll need to water from the start of the growing period onwards. Autoflowering cannabis plant grown in coco coir.
Planting autoflowering seeds
Once your autoflowering seeds are germinated, the best option is to plant them straight into their final flowerpot. Transplants can stress your plants out and slow down their growth, which is the last thing you want to do with plants as fast as autoflowering plants – they don’t have that kind of time.
Autoflowering plants have such a short growth period that you’ll need to avoid any type of extra stress. This allows the plant to grow much faster and manage to grow much larger before it start flowering.
We recommend using root stimulants such as the highly concentrated Rootfast or the famous Rhizotonic from the moment that you plant your autoflowering seeds and all through the growth stage, as it’ll contribute to the growth and stability of the plant. You can also use mycorrhizae and Trichoderma to protect the plants’ roots and improve nutrient absorption.
Autoflowering Growth Stage
Autoflowering plants’ growth stage will depend on their genetics; it’s very rarely over 6 weeks, and it’s usually somewhere between 2 and 4 weeks. Keep in mind that roots grow during this stage, and they’re necessary for the plant to be able to absorb nutrients and for them to be able to grow correctly and quickly.
Essential Care for Growing Cannabis Outdoors
Discover the essential care needed to grow cannabis outdoors, from the first growth stages; do you know the dangers?
When growing in soil you should be able to start fertilizing once the soil has used up all of its nutrients; until then you should only be using products such as root stimulants in order to increase root growth, growth stimulants such as Green Explosion by Top Crop, and even metabolism stimulants such as Liquid Karma by Botanicare, which contains humic and fulvic acids, as well as carbohydrates etc.
You can use growth fertilizers such as NPK fertilizers, like Bio Vega by Canna, which is specifically designed for the growth period, or NPK fertilizers designed for the entire growth period such as Autoflowering Supermix by Bio Nova.
If you grow in coco coir substrates you’ll need to fertilize in low amounts (1/3rd of the recommended amount) during the first few weeks, or use specific coco coir fertilizers until the plant is a bit more mature. After the first 2-3 weeks you can use start using the manufacturer’s recommended dose without damaging your plants.
Just like light-dependent plants, autoflowering plants grow faster with small cycles of moisture and drought – if their substrate is constantly moist the roots won’t grow out in search of water, which means the plant won’t be able to grow quite as much. This is why it’s better to water depending on the substrate, keeping it airy and allowing the roots to grow more.
Autoflowering Flowering Stage
Autoflowering cannabis plants usually begin to flower after around 2-4 weeks of growth. Once they begin to show the first signs of flowering (groups of little pistils around the plant), you can start using flowering NPK fertilizers such as Bio Flores by Canna, or the mineral Terra Bloom by Plagron, alongside a booster or flowering stimulant such as Delta 9 by Cannabiogen. Autoflowering cannabis plant during the first flowering weeks.
After the 3rd – 4th flowering week you can start using bud fatteners with high PK contents, such as Bio Bloombastic by Atami or PK 13 14 by Canna, allowing you to increase the size and weight of your cannabis flowers, as well as other additives such as Top Candy, which increases aroma and bud density.
We also highly recommend using enzymes during this period, especially if you’re using tap water or an intense feeding schedule.
Just like with light-dependent cannabis plants, you’ll need to wash your plants’ roots out around 10 days before harvesting. This allows your plants to remove all of the leftover salts in their substrate and metabolize any leftover nutrients in the plant itself.
Make sure to pay attention to the flowering or growth stages that the seed bank has indicated and the state of your buds.
Root flushing is done in the exact same way as it is with other plants; water without nutrients in order to drain out as many nutrients as possible. You can also use flushing and cleaning products to decompose and dissolve any leftover minerals and salts so that you don’t have to use as much water.
Check your water’s EC levels after it has drained out of the bottom. This way you can get a general idea of the kind of flush your plants need; if it’s over 2 you’ll need a cleaning product such as Canna Flush.
If you need more information regarding flushing your plants roots you can visit our post on how to fertilize your cannabis plants.
Harvesting Autoflowering Plants
Autoflowering cannabis plants tend to have much less cannabinoids than light-dependent strains. You can still enjoy some intense effects from auto plants, and average effects from most strains – this isn’t the same as the softer effects produced by CBD-rich strains, for example.
In order to make the most and get the most intense effects from your plants, you’ll need to harvest at just the right time. Autoflowering cannabis plant maturing.
- Plant autoflowering plants if you have a small growingarea such as a small balcony, guaranteeing that they won’t get too big.
- Make sure to give them the right conditions during the growth stage. If they don’t make the most of their growth stage they’ll end up stunted and with little yield.
- If you grow indoors and you have enough space, we recommend doing so with light-dependent fast floweringfeminized seeds such as Jamaican Dream, Critical King or Gorilla Candy, which provide higher yield and quality in the same time (two and a half months.)
- Plant autoflowering strains at the start of the season (Spring), at the start of summer, and halfway through summer while your light-dependent strains grow and then flower; ths way you’ll get a couple of harvests in before the big one.
Let us know below how your autoflowering plants are doing or if you have any questions – our team of professionals are here to help!
Autoflower vs Feminised outdoor cannabis growing
As the new year starts, outdoor cannabis growers start looking at their calendar and planning the year ahead. The winter is a good time to prepare existing grow locations, dig over and improve the soil and perhaps look out for some new grow locations.
For most outdoor weed growers, planning will focus on a blend of autoflowering cannabis seeds complemented by some feminised outdoor cannabis seeds. Autoflower seeds grow from seed to harvest in around half the time of the feminised outdoor seeds, but may not have quite the same yields.
Exactly how your planning, timing and grow preparation is organised will depend on your latitude and outdoor conditions. Many outdoor cannabis growers will harvest an entire years worth of cannabis from just a few well grown outdoor weed seeds. If you select your cannabis seeds wisely and plan your grow carefully you too can plan to successfully harvest a years worth of cannabis from just a few plants.
Your plans will need to be adjusted according to the climate you are growing in and the length of your growing season. Growing cannabis outdoors isn’t difficult. Even if you are growing at harsh northern European latitudes, it’s still easy to grow cannabis outdoors with a little bit of upfront planning. Read on this first part of our outdoor grower’s guide to learn how to pick the right seeds and plan your grow accordingly.
Choosing the best outdoor cannabis seeds
The two main seed choices are autoflowering seeds and feminised outdoor cannabis seeds. In general, you can expect photoperiod feminised strains to grow outdoors over a 5-6 month time period.
With such a long growth cycle you can expect heavy harvests. Grow proven outdoor cannabis cup winning strains such as Frisian Dew and you can expect harvests of over a Kg per plant in good conditions. Dutch Passion have several cup winning outdoor strains in their collection. The full Dutch Outdoor seed collection is shown below. All the seeds will grow well outdoors in climates similar to that of The Netherlands.
One downside of growing feminised photoperiod outdoor strains is that you could lose the entire crop if the plants don’t finish before the bad winter weather arrives. That’s why many outdoor growers like to grow a few autoflower seeds as well. It’s extra insurance in case you get unlucky with bad end-of-season weather which can reduce photoperiod harvest quantities.
Autoflower seeds tend to grow from seed to harvest outdoors in around 100-110 days. That’s much faster than feminised photoperiod seeds. Many people that grow in the shortest of summers, e.g. Scandinavia strongly prefer the fast-growth characteristics of autoflower seeds. For some growers with tough climates, autoflower seeds are simply the only realistic way of getting an outdoor cannabis crop to finish in time. For many growers, autoflower seeds are a great way to complement feminised seeds.
Autoflower vs feminised seeds outdoor pros and cons
Autoflower seeds will often produce somewhat smaller harvests, yields of around 50-75 grams per plant are not unusual for the auto grower. In good conditions, harvesting a couple of hundred grams of dried bud from an auto is quite possible. Whereas a large feminised photoperiod outdoor strain could easily yield a Kg or more of dry bud in optimised conditions.
Autoflower plants will often remain around a metre in height and are convenient/easy to grow and hide outdoors. Strong growing outdoor strains such as Passion #1 can reach several metres tall. This may be perfect for a large private back garden but not suitable for those in more urban locations. There are times when the outdoor cannabis grower will want to grow an auto and other times when they have the time and space for a large photoperiod feminised plant.
The experienced outdoor grower will understand the occasionally contrasting benefits/features of autoflower seeds vs feminised seeds and will often use both cannabis seed types to maximise their chances of success. Remember quality levels from the best autoflower seeds are now definitely on the same level as those from the best feminised strains. This review about the THC levels of 25.9% seen on Dutch Passion, Auto Cinderella Jack may inspire you to try growing autoflower seeds!
The skilled outdoor grower has a good understanding of the challenges faced at that particular latitude. For some growers at mediterranean latitudes, many feminised strains are likely to finish before the winter weather arrives.
However, for growers at non-tropical, temperate latitudes, only selected fast feminised strains such as Frisian Dew or Think Fast will finish in time. For those growers at extreme latitudes, only autoflower seeds are likely to finish before the end of season bad weather arrives. Having a realistic expectation of what can be achieved at your particular grow location/latitude is one of the most important skills for any outdoor cannabis grower.
First time outdoor growing with autoflower seeds
If you have never grown cannabis outdoors before it can seem like a challenge. However, growing cannabis outdoors really is easy. It has been happening in nature for thousands of years without human intervention.
If it is your first outdoor cannabis grow then it may make sense to keep things as simple as possible and start with a few autoflower seeds. Not only will the plants be ready faster than with photoperiod feminised seeds, the plants will remain smaller. This makes them easier to hide, simplifying your first outdoor grow.
How to plan your outdoor cannabis grow the right way
Preparing your ground / soil carefully
Many serious outdoor growers start their planning well in advance. Often, the grow locations will have been used for several years and the grower has fully grasped the importance of preparing the ground/soil professionally.
A few months before the grow begins the grower may well choose to dig over the ground. This may be hard work, but it breaks up the soil and allows it to be oxygenated. This makes it easier for the plants to establish healthy root networks. If the soil quality is poor, manure/fertiliser can be added well in advance of the seedlings being planted.
Any unwanted bushes/wild plants can be removed from the area. So can any plants which would obstruct light to your grow location. Some pro-growers will plant brambles and other plants which will act as deep perimeter protection for the cannabis plants. Often, large outdoor rural cannabis grows are surrounded on all 4 sides by deliberately planted/managed ‘protection’ plants which keep away unwanted wild animals, dog walkers and people.
Some people grow on waste urban land. Other prefer the rural seclusion of the countryside, forests, river banks or field corners for their guerrilla growing activities. Dutch Passion also have a High Altitude seed collection. These strains were selectively bred at high altitudes in the Swiss Alps and are perfect for anyone facing the combined challenge of outdoor growing in high altitude mountainous regions.
Know your climate and frost risks well
Knowing when the last Spring frost is likely is an important date for any outdoor cannabis grower. Likewise, knowing when the first frost of fall/autumn is expected at your grow location is another important date for the outdoor grower. Many outdoor cannabis growers will germinate their seeds indoors.
This allows them to grow their seeds under optimised indoor conditions before the outdoor weather is good enough to use. By initially germinating and growing their ‘outdoor seeds’ indoors, the plants are protected from the worst of the early-season weather. Plants can be gradually acclimatised to outdoor conditions for a few hours each day until the plants are strong enough to be permanently placed outdoors. By starting your seeds/plants early indoors you increase the chances of producing a larger plant with subsequently heavier harvests.
The challenges of growing cannabis in borderline climates
Anyone that has grown cannabis at northern European Latitudes will understand the difficulties involved in trying to grow cannabis outdoors in marginal conditions.
Often, growers will germinate their cannabis seeds around mid-May and keep their cannabis seeds indoors until the weather has warmed up sufficiently. Seedlings are often planted outdoors in June. Autos are often ready to harvest in August. Photoperiod outdoor feminised strains will often be ready to harvest around October.
If the growing season is just a little bit too short/unpredictable to grow feminised strains then autoflower seeds are the best option.
Germinate seeds indoors in plenty of time
Many successful outdoor weed growers plan the grow season well in advance. Often, they are fully prepared with their preferred autoflower seeds and feminised outdoor seeds that were bought ahead of time. Some of the best prepared outdoor growers will have several years worth of seeds safely stored in their fridge/freezer so they are always prepared. Very often, the best prepared outdoor growers will spread their favourite seeds across several grow locations. This maximises the chances of a successful harvest if one of the grow locations is compromised/discovered.
Autoflower seeds may not have quite the same yield potential as a feminised outdoor strain – which may have twice the amount of time to grow in. But auto seeds do offer a rapid life cycle which is ideally suited to growers with short growing seasons. For some outdoor cannabis growers with short seasons, autoflowering cannabis seeds are simply the only realistic option when it comes to outdoor growing.
By the time the last Spring frost has gone, the well prepared outdoor cannabis growers already have their seedlings growing strongly indoors, ready to be eventually planted out. This gives them a good head start and maximises the chances of an optimised grow season.
When pre-growing autoflowers indoors it is important to know that is not recommended to keep them longer than 2-2.5 weeks in small containers, between 0.25-1L of soil. With photoperiod plants this can be closer to 4 weeks, but bear in mind that these plants can get root-bound too. Autoflowers need to be transplanted to their eventual pot or the outdoor soil before they get root-bound. Staying too long in a small container will cause autoflowers to stay small and yield much less.
Growing autoflower seeds outdoors, several crops per season
With their fast growth cycle, many outdoor growers enjoy growing two or even three successive outdoor auto crops per year. Growers in sunny mediterranean climates should find it is possible to grow 3 successive outdoor autoflower seed crops. But even growers in northern Europe may be able to produce two successive outdoor auto crops each year. This Scandinavian outdoor grower from Denmark managed to get two outdoor auto crops in one season. Maybe you could do the same?
If you do decide to grow autoflower seeds outdoors then you are spoilt for choice. There have never been as many high quality auto strains available to choose from. If you are having difficulty deciding then check out this review may give you some inspiration.
Planting your outdoor cannabis plants in containers or the ground?
If you grow your cannabis seeds in containers you benefit from the fact that your plants can be moved if required. This could be useful for e.g. security purposes or if bad weather forces you to change plans. But growing your cannabis plants in containers means that they will need regular watering/feeding.
This could become inconvenient, for that reason many outdoor weed growers like to root their plants directly into the ground. If the ground contains good quality, moist and nutritious soil then you won’t need to worry too much about plant maintenance – mother nature will take care of much of the work. All you will need to do is water in the event of a drought and perhaps add some general purpose bloom nutrients as bloom progresses.
One other possibility is to use a completely organic nutrient line like Biotabs. These are slow release organic nutrients which contain all the helpful nutrients. These can be placed in the soil before the grow starts. This way your outdoor plants are sure to have the right nutritional value and minerals during their entire growth cycle.
Greenhouses, poly tunnels and black-out blinds
Using a polytunnel or greenhouse allows the outdoor cannabis grower to protect their plants from the worst of the early season and late season weather. For those lucky enough to have the chance to grow in greenhouses or poly tunnels that can mean larger harvests. Sharp frosts won’t damage your plants, especially if you have a greenhouse heater. Your plants will also be protected from heavy wind and rain storms.
Some greenhouses can be equipped with specialist blacks-out blinds. These allow the greenhouse grower to artificially introduce 12/12 light conditions earlier than would be possible with the natural sun cycle. This in turn can offer advantages, for example the chance to harvest the greenhouse cannabis crop much earlier than normal.
Think about protecting your outdoor cannabis plants
Protecting your precious cannabis plants is always a priority for the outdoor cannabis grower. Often, the outdoor grower may deliberately plant thorny brambles around their outdoor plot. This protects your cannabis plants from grazing predators e.g. deer, goats, rabbits. But it may also deter and prevent accidental human discovery of your plants by dog walkers, hikers etc.
Outdoor growers will often use generous quantities of slug/snail pellets to protect their plants. Some will also use ‘chicken wire’ metal fencing around their plants to provide added protection.
Many experienced outdoor cannabis growers have realised the importance of continually looking for new grow locations, just in case one of their grow locations is accidentally compromised.
Have a plan to dry and cure your outdoor cannabis harvest
Even though you are planning to grow outdoor cannabis, you may be forced to create a safe indoor drying area. This is something you need to consider as part of your plans. In it’s simplest form, you can buy a small ‘drying’ tent. You would need an extraction fan and a carbon filter in order to dry your crop safely. The process would take around 7-10 days, after which you can think about transferring the dried buds to glass jars for curing.
Many outdoor growers forget about plans to dry/cure their harvested buds until it’s too late. When you plan your outdoor cannabis grow, think carefully about the process from start to finish. This means carefully planning everything from buying your cannabis seeds to planning the harvest/drying.
Outdoor cannabis grow checklist
For many experienced outdoor cannabis growers, planning and preparing for a successful grow comes naturally. For the rest of us, it helps to have a checklist of the most important aspects of the grow. Timings will vary from one grower to another. An outdoor grower in Spain will be busier early in the season than an outdoor grower in Scandinavia.
Choose the right mix of autoflowering seeds and feminised seeds for your needs and climate.
Enjoy outdoor cannabis growing!
Once you have mastered the art of planning a successful outdoor grow you will truly enjoy it!
Be patient, it can take a year or two to fully understand the type of climate you have and how best to exploit it with autoflower seeds and feminised outdoor seeds. But once you have established yourself with a few good outdoor grow locations you will love the process of growing your own outdoor weed.
You will have very few costs to worry about and will enjoy the chance to get outdoors and enjoy growing your plants. Many outdoor growers feel that outdoor grown weed has an extra ‘kick’ and flavour which is hard to match from indoor grown cannabis. One thing which is indisputable are the low costs required to grow outdoor cannabis. Your main expense will be the cost of a couple of packs of good quality outdoor cannabis seeds.
Remember there are no special secrets to growing cannabis successfully outdoors. You just need to know about your growing season and which cannabis types will be able to grow successfully outdoors.
Choosing the right cannabis seeds is the most important first decision. Most climates allow a sunny/warm 3-month period which would allow autoflower seeds to be grown.
If you are lucky you will also be able to grow some feminised outdoor cannabis seeds which have a slightly longer life cycle. Choose your cannabis seeds wisely from a proven supplier and enjoy outdoor cannabis cultivation!
5 Comments . Leave new
Very informative articles and easy to relate to well done Dutch Passion I was impressed
Do you recommend auftoflow plants in SE Asia? Here is all the time 12/12
You could grow autoflowers but you don’t have a lot of light for the plants so they will not grow optimally. Best would be to go for a feminised sativa in your areau!
What about a grow outdoors in Michigan….Auto or photo or maybe a little of both?
They should both do fine in the climate of Michigan With autoflowers you can assure yourself of a quick round with less chance of bad weather.