Tips For Growing Autoflowering Cannabis Outdoors
Growing autoflowering cannabis strains outdoors can be very rewarding. Here is everything you need to know about the process, so you can look forward to monster yields from compact plants!
Autoflowering cannabis strains are awesome. They grow fast and easy, and they fit pretty much everywhere because of their compact size. Although autoflowers are great for growing indoors, you can make the most of them with some love from Mother Nature outdoors.
Just a few years ago, many cultivators didn’t take autoflowers seriously. They saw them as something suited for beginners, as the first autoflowering varieties couldn’t really match the yield, aroma, and potency of photoperiod strains. But this has changed significantly in recent years. Modern autoflowers have great yields, and their buds are of a quality that rivals photoperiod strains. As such, it only makes sense that cultivators are growing these strains outdoors to make the most of their key features. Here are some benefits of outdoor-grown autos:
• Sunlight means better yields and fatter buds
• You can achieve several harvests in a single growing season
• You can grow them outdoors at any time of year (weather depending)
• They are less susceptible to pests due to faster growth
• They fit in tiny spaces on your balcony, terrace, or garden
• They are ideal for stealthy outdoor grows/guerrilla grows due to their small size
BEFORE YOU START — PLANNING YOUR OUTDOOR AUTO GROW
One of the advantages of autos is their fast growth. Some autoflowering strains can deliver their goods in an amazingly short 50–55 days from the moment you plant your seed. Although their very fast growth is normally an advantage, it also means that autos are less forgiving when it comes to certain mistakes, as you simply don’t have the time to correct things as you would with photoperiods. Likewise, if any major issues happen over their short lifetime, from diseases and overwatering to pests and whatnot, this will also greatly diminish your yield.
To avoid this, you want to carefully plan your autoflowering outdoor grow so your girls can reach their full potential in the short time they have. Before anything else, consider the viability of your location. What’s the climate like? Are you planning to plant your seeds directly in a garden bed or in containers? What type of nutrients will you use? Will your plants get enough sunlight? Will you be able to attend to your plants, or are you growing in a remote location where you can’t visit often?
For instance, if you happen to live in a colder, rainier climate, you may want to choose an autoflowering strain that doesn’t mind cooler temperatures and is also resistant to mould. Even these simple considerations can be enough to help you optimise your grow and avoid disaster.
WHEN TO PLANT YOUR AUTOFLOWERS OUTDOORS
Photoperiodic cannabis relies on natural daylight hours for its vegetative and flowering stages. You normally plant seeds in late spring where they will veg until late summer when the shorter daylight hours force them into flowering. By the end of summer/early fall, they will be ready for harvest.
The beauty of autoflowers is that they don’t rely on daylight cycles, which means you can plant and harvest autoflowers any time you want. If you live in a climate where there is no frost, such as in the Mediterranean, you can, in principle, grow autoflowers all year round.
Then again, cannabis, including autoflowers, grows best when it can get at least 10–12 hours of sufficient sunlight. As such, it is still best to plant seeds in spring, sometime from late April to early May in Europe, as the days are already longer, which will benefit your plants’ growth. You can then harvest in late July and start another crop in early August, which will be ready in October. If you happen to live in a warm climate with no frost, you can reap up to four harvests in one single year!
If you live further north, you may want to avoid the coldest and rainiest months of the year. In these climates, you can plant your autoflowers sometime in late spring when you know there is no danger of frost. The exact time depends on where you live, and could range from April to early June. The shorter summer in a colder climate is also a factor you need to think about. You shouldn’t sow too late either, as you want to avoid flowering your weed into the rainy season. If you live somewhere with a rainy fall, it can be good to plant in early June, so you can harvest late in August. This way, you can beat the bad weather and your buds won’t fall victim to mould.
Bottom line: The best time to plant will depend on the climate where you are growing. Ensure your plants can get plenty of sunlight, and make sure to avoid frost and extensive rain.
HOW TO GROW YOUR OUTDOOR AUTOFLOWERS
These days, you can find many great varieties of autoflowering cannabis seeds. Check out Royal AK Automatic, Amnesia Haze Automatic, Northern Light Automatic and the many other great autoflowers at Royal Queen Seeds. Once you find a strain you like—one that will grow well in your climate—you can get started with your outdoor grow.
1. GERMINATE YOUR AUTOFLOWERING SEEDS
You can germinate your autoflowering cannabis seeds just like you would photoperiod seeds. Some cultivators like to germinate using the “paper towel method” or by putting seeds into a glass of water. But you can also plant your seeds right into their final container. Know that re-potting autoflowering cannabis is not recommended, as the transfer from a smaller to a larger pot can slow its growth. Since the growing time of autos is already limited, you want to avoid this as it can lead to a decreased yield.
For best results germinating your autoflowering seeds, we recommend the Starter Kit Autoflowering. This kit comes with everything you need to give your cannabis plants the best possible start in life.
2. PREPARE YOUR PLANTING CONTAINER OR GROWING SPOT
If you are growing your autoflower in a container, make sure that you choose a big-enough pot. Although autoflowers can normally do well with smaller pots compared to some of the larger photoperiod ladies, you still don’t want to restrict their growth. A pot that holds 7–15 litres will do. Again, keep in mind that your chosen pot will also be your final pot.
If you don’t use a container and want to plant directly in soil instead, know that the outdoor soil at your chosen location may not be optimal. The natural soil will likely not have sufficient nutrients, and it may drain poorly and/or contain harmful microorganisms that adversely affect the growth of your plant. For these reasons, outdoor growers often first dig holes for their outdoor plants, which they fill with a suitable substrate before planting their seed.
3. WATERING AND NUTRIENTS FOR YOUR OUTDOOR AUTOFLOWERS
As autoflowers normally grow to a smaller size, they will not need as much water as a vigorous photoperiod sativa, but you still want to make sure that your outdoor auto has enough to drink. How much and how often you need to water will once again depend on your climate and the needs of your individual plant. Just like with any other type of cannabis grow, you want to avoid overwatering in particular, although underwatering isn’t ideal either.
As for nutrients, here too you will want to be careful with how much you administer. You can always start with ½ or ¾ doses of nutes to make sure you’re not overloading your plants. You can also consider slow-release nutrients. These can be ideal when you grow outdoors in a location that you can’t always visit. When you amend your substrate with slow-release nutrients, your plant will get everything it needs, and you won’t need to bother feeding it. All you need to do is water.
4. HARVESTING YOUR CROP
Some autoflowers can be ready in a short 50–60 days, but there are also those that take longer, up to 80 days. Just like with photoperiod strains, you’ll know that harvest time is close when the initially white pistils on the buds start turning brown. To really see when it’s time to harvest, you should examine the trichomes of your cannabis plant. Trichomes are tiny, mushroom-shaped outgrows on the buds and sugar leaves of your plant. During growth, trichomes are crystal-clear at first. Later in flowering, the trichomes turn a milky white colour, then around harvest time, they turn from white to amber. You can’t really see the trichomes with the unaided eye, so use a jeweller’s loupe to get a close look at them. Cultivators often harvest when a certain percentage of the tiny “bubble heads” of the trichomes turn amber. At this point, the leaves of your plant will normally have started to turn yellow.
When you’re ready to harvest, swiftly cut the branches with the buds off of your plant, and don’t waste a lot of time drawing unwanted attention. Once you’ve safely brought home your harvest, you can trim the buds further. Alternatively, you can hang the branches with buds still attached for drying.
COMMON PROBLEMS WHEN GROWING AUTOS OUTDOORS
Growing outdoors can come with its own potential problems. Unwanted discovery of your weed out in the wild is one of them, but there is also the risk of animals and insects taking a liking to your crops. Here’s what you can do about it.
Fortunately, autoflowering cannabis varieties are somewhat less prone to pests and insect infestations. In fact, some autoflowering varieties are bred to have a particularly strong resistance against mould and pests. Likewise, due to the short life cycle of autoflowers, insects often don’t have the time they need to become a serious problem. Otherwise, if you notice an insect infestation such as aphids or whiteflies, no need to go all synthetic about it: insecticidal soap and neem oil can deal with most common cannabis pests in a safe and natural way.
ANIMALS TAKING A LIKING TO YOUR CROP
If you grow outdoors, chances are your crops may also attract the attention of animals such as birds, cats, or deer. If you grow somewhere where cannabis-loving critters are roaming about, you may want to protect your plants with cages made from chicken wire or bamboo stakes.
DISCOVERY OF YOUR CROP BY OTHER PEOPLE
Your precious plantation may also be at risk if someone discovers it. Someone may snatch your plants or you may get in trouble for growing. The smaller size of autoflowers already helps reduce the risk of accidental discovery. To further reduce the risk, choose a remote growing spot some distance away from paths and other public places, where it’s unlikely that someone would come around. With autoflowering varieties that are low in odour, you can further mitigate the risk for discovery. When you plant your weed together with companion plants such as herbs, flowers, or vegetables, you not only camouflage your grow and keep it hidden, but also prevent pests from taking hold while improving the surrounding soil.
With these tips, you can look forward to a bountiful harvest from your autoflowering cannabis outdoors.
Growing autoflowering cannabis outdoors has many advantages. Click here to check out this guide, which tells you everything you need to know about the process!
Can I grow Autoflowering Cannabis Outdoors?
Growing autoflowering cannabis anywhere is pretty easy. Whether it’s indoors or outdoors, it doesn’t take a lot to achieve a decent harvest. But, who wants a “decent” harvest? Experienced growers usually expect humongous harvests that last a long time.
Don’t fret if you’re a beginner, though. It will take time, but a few harvests later, you’ll remember your ‘silly’ beginner days when you were just a noob! While it takes some knowledge, patience, and experience to grow outstanding buds that can make your tongue sweep the floor, it is indeed possible to get good yields from autoflowering cannabis even if you’re a beginner.
And your chances of getting good yields go up a notch as soon as you decide to grow them outdoors. The autoflowers released a decade ago were no match to photoperiod plants. But, things have changed, and it’s more advantageous to grow autoflowers compared to photoperiod plants now.
Autoflowers grown indoors produce great yields, but they are unbelievably stupendous when grown outdoors. You’ll seriously not know what to do with all the yields! So, if you want to know how to grow autoflowers outside like a pro, follow along, and you’ll soon have your friends asking you to spill some secrets.
Plan everything from the beginning
Autoflowers are very quick. So quick that you won’t have time to plan things at the last minute. Do you want to grow in soil or containers? Are the plants going to be in a balcony or terrace? How many hours of good sunlight do plants receive in your location? What nutrients are you going to use? Is it hydroponic or organic?
As you can see, there are several things to consider. Therefore, it’s important to have a plan at the very start. And this starts right from selecting good seeds because not every seed might suit your climate.
Autoflowers don’t need a lot of light and grow alright even if they receive just five hours, but if you want your plants to thrive, a good amount of sunlight for at least 12 hours is mandatory. So, if you reside in a location prone to very cold temperatures, it becomes especially important to select seeds meant for colder climates like the California Snow Auto, for example.
Autoflowers are typically resistant to a lot of diseases, but they aren’t completely immune. And, selecting a strong variety with good genetics will help you in this area. Depending on where you reside, it helps to do a bit of research and buy seeds that are more likely to grow in your area.
What season is best to plant autoflowers outdoors?
Again, the answer to this question depends on where you live. Growers planting photoperiod strains need to pay special attention to this. For example, if you live in the northern hemisphere, seeds can be planted in March and harvested in September. But for autoflowers, it’s not necessary to plan a lot unless you experience extreme temperatures.
Even if you’re growing autoflowers that are easy to grow, it’s important to not plant the seeds when the ground is about to freeze. If you grow in containers, though, you can get the plants inside your home every day to protect it from the bitter cold.
Similarly, if you live in a location where days are exceptionally hot exceeding 40°C or 104°F, it’s best to protect the plant from drought or heat by providing a lot of water. If everything fails, a greenhouse is your best option.
Typically, autoflowers grow best when they have sufficient sunlight for at least 10-12 hours. It’s even better if you get more than 16 hours. Therefore, growers usually choose to plant seeds in spring and harvest it when the plant matures. Basically, just plan ahead and avoid planting seeds if extreme changes in weather are expected and you can still harvest at least 4-5 times a year.
If you reside in locations close to the Equator, you’re in luck because you can grow autoflowers throughout the year. In simple terms, just remember to skip either summer or winter when it’s extreme and you’ll be able to grow and harvest buds in the remaining seasons.
How to grow autoflowers outdoors?
Assuming that you’ve selected seeds that are meant for your climate, here’s what you can do to grow autoflowers outdoors.
There’s no difference in germinating any cannabis seed. Whether it’s autoflowering or photoperiod or regular or feminized seeds, it’s all the same. Many growers with years of experience growing several types of plants are comfortable to just throw the seeds in the soil and wait patiently. But, not all of us are like that, are we?
Beginners need something easy and fast. And that’s why it’s recommended that you sow the seeds in water for at least 24 hours to moisten the seed coat. The seeds can then be shifted to moist paper towels for at least a day or two to allow the taproot to emerge. You can also use Jiffy pellets that expand when soaked in water to sow seeds.
Whatever method you choose, the seeds can be planted in containers or soil once the tap root breaks out of the seed.
Here’s a video of autoflowers growing outdoors:
Prepare a good potting mix
You need a good potting mix no matter where you grow autoflowers. Whether the plants grow in a balcony or terrace or in a garden, good soil is a must. Autoflowers, like other cannabis strains, love aerated soil mixed with a lot of nutrients, especially if you’re not growing hydroponically.
Hydroponics allows you to provide an exact mix of nutrients, but there’s a bit of work involved if you’re growing in soil. A good potting mix usually consists of peat moss, coco peat or coconut fiber, perlite, compost, and regular gardening soil. Soil generally provides all micro and macronutrients required for the plant to grow. However, you need to grow like a pro, remember? Thus, mixing in some kelp meal, blood meal, bone meal, seaweed extracts, and humic acid will definitely help.
Remember that you need to prepare a potting mix only if you’re growing in containers. For those growing in the garden or open space, you can till the soil and mix in some fresh compost and aged manure to do the job for you. Nothing beats natural sunlight and good ol’ soil, and you’ll notice that your plants agree too!
Another important factor when growing in containers is to select the right size. If the container is too small, the growth will slow down because there’s no space for roots. Conversely, if the container is too big for a small plant, it will take quite a while to grow.
A good rule of thumb is to select pots with the ability to hold at least 5-6 gallons. For bigger plants like the Zkittlez Auto or Gorilla Glue, however, a good range would be anything between 10-15 gallons.
Most growers will tell you that it’s a horrible idea to transplant autoflowers. While a part of that is true, it’s not impossible. Growers with a lot of experience transplant autoflowers pretty easily without any hassles. But it’s a different ball game for beginners since autos are very fast and there’s little room to screw up.
If you’re a beginner, keep it simple and use only one container for the entire cycle from seed to harvest. However, if you absolutely have to transplant, make sure that you know the basics of transplanting well. For starters, the soil must be moist, and the roots must have grown adequately to prevent transplant shock. In other words, the plant shouldn’t be too young or too mature because the timing matters a great deal.
Beginners tend to love their plants. So much that they can kill them! Whether you’re overwatering or under-watering the plants, it’s easy to kill them. This is especially true if you’re growing in containers. Overwatering kills the plants quicker than you can imagine.
You water the plants as usual and within a few hours, the leaves begin to droop. You supply more water assuming they need more and the plants simply die. To prevent this mistake, you avoid watering the plants only to find them dead due to under-watering!
It’s tricky, and I get it, but it’s not that complex either. Simply lift the pots to check if the soil is dry or wet. If the pot is too heavy, stop watering, and if it’s too light, then it’s time to supply a little water. It’s best to start with just a liter of water to understand how your plant reacts. You can adjust the amount later once you gain experience.
If you’re growing autoflowers in containers, it’s important to flush out all the nutrients you used to help the plant thrive. Whether it’s inorganic or organic, a good flush with clean plain water about a week before the harvest will certainly help. Flushing improves the taste and removes the harshness of the buds dramatically.
No matter where you grow autoflowers, the rules are pretty much the same. As long as you buy strains that are meant for your climate, you don’t need to worry. Unlike photoperiod plants, autoflowers don’t have extra hassles such as light leaks and uninterrupted darkness, so they adjust well anywhere.
More growers are shifting to autoflowers since they are easy to grow and yield good buds with high THC levels. If it’s your first time, take a look at our seed catalog to check what suits you the best and get growing today!
Growing autoflowering cannabis anywhere is pretty easy. Whether it’s indoors or outdoors, it doesn’t take a lot to achieve a decent harvest. But, wh