How to Grow Autoflowers Outside
Not everyone gets the luxury of growing autoflowers outside. If you live in a legal state, take advantage of this opportunity! With a little help, you can grow loads of buds .
If you want to learn about growing autoflowers outdoors, we’ve got everything you need in this article.
Considerations Before Planting Autoflowers
Growing autoflowers outdoors is relatively easy—they don’t need light to flower! For the most part, they can grow year-round as long as you provide them with the right nutrients and protect them from rain and pests.
Here’s what to consider before planting:
Indoor vs. outdoor
Growing autoflowers indoors and outdoors both have their pros and cons. The three major factors are cost, smell, and your environment.
Growing outdoors is the most cost-effective by far, but growing indoors offers more privacy and control of your crop—at a much greater cost. Therefore, many beginner growers opt for outdoors to save on startup costs.
Indoor pros & cons
- You get complete control over your growing environment.
- You can grow all year long.
- Growing indoors has high startup costs.
- Pests and diseases can spread to your plant quickly.
Outdoor pros & cons
- It’s an inexpensive way to grow autoflowers.
- Natural sunlight lets the plant grow to its full potential.
- You have little to no control over the environment.
- Your plants can get exposed to bad weather, pests, and bugs.
Growing outdoors means you don’t need to spend much money other than on pots and soil nutrients . However, since you can’t control the climate , severe conditions can affect your auto-flowering plant’s growth. Your plants will also be visible and produce a strong odor on your property.
Mold & Pests
Outdoor growing also comes with bugs and pests. Your plants will get exposed directly to the environment, so you need to watch for high humidity, extreme temperatures, and rainfall. These elements can attract mold and bugs to your plants with the right combination, which can be a challenge to handle.
You’ll need to protect your plants from predators and harsh weather . Outdoor plants can get attacked by pests or even larger animals like rodents, cats, and dogs. You might need to install a wire fence around your autoflowers to protect them.
Ideally, the fence would be both underground and above ground to protect your plants from animals like moles and gophers getting to its root system—they can eat your entire plant overnight!
You might also want to build a structure to protect your autoflowers from rain and snow, which can be as simple as using a plastic sheet and wooden stakes to add a layer of protection. This structure helps ensure that your plants won’t freeze or attract mold.
Growing Autoflowers Outside: Beginner Tips
If you have never grown autoflowers or cannabis before, you’ll need to know a few things. Depending on where you live, you’ll want your growing space to be discreet, meaning that your neighbors shouldn’t see or smell the plants. If you’re using any grow light fixtures, you’ll need to understand that they are extremely bright, and others can see them from afar—make sure that no light leaks! Masking the smell when growing outdoors can be tricky.
Many people “guerilla grow” on their balconies by camouflaging their autoflowers with other aromatic plants. While it doesn’t guarantee your neighbors won’t smell your cannabis plants , it usually works quite well. You can train your plants, but the best way to avoid having issues is by growing Indica-dominant strains—they typically grow shorter and compact, so you don’t have to worry about training if you don’t know how to (or don’t want to).
If you plan to grow a specific strain, you’ll want to either train them or grow them in small pots so people walking by can’t see them. Even in legal states, you don’t want your plants to be visible to the point where they might get stolen.
When you grow outdoor marijuana plants, y ou’ll want to grow them in a predictable, safe environment. Since the elements outside are not always predictable, starting your baby plants indoors is the best way to go. Young marijuana plants – whether they’re autoflowers or the more regular photosensitive plants – are alwa y s vulnerable in their first stages . This is especially true when going from a seed to a young seedling. Gardeners who coddle their baby plants a little bit are usually better off later in their plants’ lifetimes as well. G iving your grow season a healthy start is the best way to ensure you grow healthy plants that produce plenty of weed in the end.
It starts with germination . This is when the little plants pop out of their shells when given a bit of water. Germinating autoflower seeds is the same process as germinating other kinds of seeds. The differences come a little bit later. There are a few methods for germinating your seeds. You can put the seed directly in the soil, you can soak it in water until it cracks open, you can use a wet paper towel or cotton pad to do the job, or you can soak your seed in water then plant it in a peat moss jiffy pellet, which is the method we recommend.
The soil germination method
This low-maintenance method keeps the roots protected from the very start. Simply make a small hole in the soil with a pencil, put the seed in the hole, and cover it over. Get the soil moist by spraying it with water, and keep the temperature at 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep the soil moist, and in less than a week , you should see some green popping up out.
The water method
Drop your seeds into water and leave them there. Let them remain for 24-48 hours , lo ng enough for the roots to start showing . This should take less than a week for the whole process overall. The water should be 65 degrees Fahrenheit and kept relatively fresh by changing it every other day or so . You can plant the seeds whenever you like after they’ve cracked open , just make sure to continue to keep the soil moist (but not wet), especially if you plant them on the earlier side. Be sure not to touch any exposed root tips with bare hands. Use a clean spoon to relocate and plant the seed. This method is riskier because fragile root tips can get damaged, and seeds can become water logged and drown if left in water too long.
The paper towel or cotton pad germination method
G rab either two cotton pads or a paper towel and place some of your seeds (if you have more than one) into it (or between the two cotton pads) . S pray the towel or cotton pads with water so that they are moist. Make sure the temperature is always at about 72 degrees Fahrenheit and stick the seeds and their wrappings under a n upside-down bow l. You could also place them between two plates, or inside a Ziploc bag. The seeds will crack open in a few days, and you can then plant them in the soil. Be careful not to tear or damage root tips that may extend, as they can sometimes entangle in the paper or cotton fibers.
Soaking and planting in peat moss jiffy pellet
This is the method we recommend for customers at a Pot for Pot. Soak your seed in a glass of neutral pH (or bottled) water for 12-24 hours, but do not exceed 24 hours. If a root tip pops out, do not touch it with bare hands. Instead, use a clean spoon to move your seed. After soaking your seed, expand your jiffy pellet by soaking it in neutral pH (or bottled) water for about 10-15 minutes or until fully expanded. Drain excess water, then plant your soaked seed about one knuckle (1 cm) down into the pellet, being sure to cover it with pellet soil so the seed is in darkness. Keep your pellet moist but not wet, give it 2-7 days, and you should see green sprouting above the surface.
Since you’re planning to grow your autoflower plant(s) outside, it’s a good idea to get the plant gradually used to the outdoor conditions without shocking it. This is best done if the temperature outside is consistently warm enough (always above 40 degrees Fahrenheit), and it can take just a few days. Start by keeping your plant outside for just 3 hours, and make sure that outside spot isn’t too exposed. Gradually increase the amount of time, day by day, until you have reached 24 hours. At that point , your plant will be ready for constant exposure to the elements without getting a shock that could affect its health and yield.
When to plant autoflowers ? Any time!
The beauty of autoflowers is the fact that they don’t depend on specific amounts of light to grow properly. Unlike other types of marijuana, autoflowers have a sort of internal clock that means they will enter the flowering phase no matter what. Photosensitive plants, on the other hand, need a certain number of hours of light and darkness per day to “know” that the seasons are changing and it’s time to start flowering. This is why autoflowers can be grown just about any time of year – they don’t need that natural cue to flower.
Growing Autoflowering Cannabis Outdoors
In this guide to growing autoflowering cannabis outdoors, we’ll cover the benefits and particulars, as well as how to do it successfully. Finally, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of choosing autoflowering seeds vs feminized seeds for outdoor grows.
With each new generation of seeds, autoflowering cannabis becomes more potent, higher-yielding and better-tasting, without compromising speed. Today, most of these hybrids are just as good as photoperiod strains. This makes them extremely popular among indoor growers, and most people—including us—recommend cultivating them indoors.
However, growing autoflowering cannabis outdoors is totally doable. Use this helpful guide to learn why, how, and when to use automatic genetics outside, as well as what advantages they have over photoperiod seeds and clones.
WHY SHOULD YOU GROW AUTOFLOWERING CANNABIS OUTDOORS?
Growing autoflowering cannabis indoors gives you total control over the environmental conditions your plants are exposed to, including the total amount of light they receive each day. This is the key to consistent harvests and potency. However, there are several reasons some growers choose to cultivate automatic strains outside.
Indoor growers maximise yields by packing as many plants as they can fit into their available space, as well as by increasing the amount of artificial light in their tent or grow room. Alternatively, some growers use high-stress training techniques to coax out greater harvests.
However, growing autoflowering cannabis under the sun will usually give you higher yields per individual plant. If you’ve purchased expensive automatic seeds and want to get the most out of each one, you may want to try an outdoor grow.
If you don’t have the space or the money to invest in a fully equipped grow room, growing autoflowering cannabis outside is a good idea. You’ll still have to buy good soil and nutrients, but you won’t have to factor in the cost of lighting, ventilation, or filtration.
Photoperiod strains can get massive outdoors. It’s not unusual for them to exceed 3m in height if the weather is warm and sunny for most of the summer. That’s fine if you don’t have to hide your grow, but it’s a major concern if you do.
Autoflowering cannabis, on the other hand, finishes so fast that it rarely has time to get taller than 1m before harvest. You can easily shield an autoflowering plant from view by placing it behind a fence or hedge. The smell might still reveal your secret garden, but you won’t have to worry as much about prying eyes.
PERFORMS WELL IN ANY CLIMATE
From the northernmost latitudes to tropical regions, growing autoflowering cannabis plants outdoors has certain advantages.
In cooler regions with short, damp summers, automatic strains ripen quickly, meaning mature buds can be harvested before an early freeze or a wet autumn. This protects your herb from loss due to rot, mildew, and mould.
In more temperate regions, you can easily reap multiple harvests per growing season when cultivating autoflowering cannabis outdoors. This practice allows you to enjoy cured herb well before any photoperiod plants begin to flower, and autumn harvests let you stock up for winter.
Of course, if you live in an area where the winters are particularly mild, or non-existent, you may be able to grow autoflowering plants outside all year long for a steady supply.
LESS RISK OF DAMAGE DUE TO MOULD OR PESTS
Because autoflowering plants have such a short lifespan, they’re less exposed to the conditions that support mould, pests, diseases, etc. This is true whether you grow inside or outside, but you have much less control in the great outdoors. If you’ve had a problem with mites, aphids, mould, powdery mildew, or bud rot when growing more traditional strains outside, give autoflowering cannabis a try.
PERFECT FOR GUERRILLA GROWS
Autoflowering strains are extremely hardy and require very little care. They don’t need to be trained, and they mature in just two months after germination, on average. That makes them perfect for guerrilla grows.
Find a remote spot that sees little traffic with good access to water, prepare the soil, and plant your autoflowering seeds. If the local wildlife likes to munch on young cannabis shoots, take precautions to shield them from damage using chicken wire or the like. After 8–9 weeks, your plants will be ready for the chop.
WHEN TO START AN OUTDOOR AUTOFLOWERING GROW
Autoflowering cannabis plants, like their photoperiod cousins, prefer strong sunlight when grown outside. They will flower even when exposed to 18–24 hours of light per day, but they need at least 10–12 hours of strong sunlight to produce good yields. Autoflowers can tolerate cold temperatures, but they’re not freeze-proof. That’s why the best time to start your outdoor autoflowering grow depends on where you live.
You can grow cannabis anywhere south of the North Pole, but the further north you go, the shorter the growing season will be. If you live in the far north, plant your seeds outdoors as soon as all danger of frost is over, somewhere between April and June.
If you plant your autoflowering seeds in June, you should be able to harvest in August. This timing avoids the worst of the cold, damp weather that develops as autumn approaches. By keeping the flowers as dry as possible, you minimise the risk of failure due to mould, mildew, and rot.
In the extreme north, you’ll only be able to fit one outdoor grow per season, even with autoflowering strains.
If you grow weed a little further south, you can fit in two outdoor autoflowering grows per summer with proper planning. Start the first between late April and early May for a late July harvest. Immediately reseed, and the second crop should be ready before the end of October.
Keep an eye out for heavy fall rains and early frosts. It may be necessary to cover your second run with a tarp, buckets, or other protective material to protect the fragile flowers from harm in the last week or two.
If you live in a tropical region between the equator and the Mediterranean, you shouldn’t have any frost to worry about. That means you can grow autoflowering cannabis outdoors all year long. If you grow back-to-back, that translates to four or more harvests annually.
Of course, as you get closer to the equator, the total hours of sunlight each day will also get closer to 12 year-round. Although they will produce flowers with as few as 10 hours of strong sunlight per day, autoflowering strains prefer at least 16 hours for the best yield and potency. Grow sites very close to the equator may not be optimal for all breeds of automatic cannabis.
HOW TO GROW AUTOFLOWERING CANNABIS OUTSIDE
Growing autoflowering cannabis outdoors is very similar to growing from photoperiod seeds, but there are some slight differences. In short: growing autos is usually easier, and eliminates some of the more stressful factors associated with cultivation.
GATHER THE NECESSARY SUPPLIES
This list details the basic supplies you’ll need for an outdoor autoflowering cannabis grow:
– Autoflowering seeds
– Pots or grow bags, unless you’re planting in the ground
– pH test kit
– Bucket or watering can
CHOOSE A SITE
Pick a spot for your garden. If you’re planting in the ground, make sure your autoflowering cannabis will get as much sunlight as possible. View the site from all sides to ensure your plants aren’t easy to see. Even if discretion isn’t a concern due to legal reasons, you should take the possibility of theft into consideration. Plant close to a water source so you don’t have to tote heavy buckets of fluid frequently.
If you’re planting in containers, the site isn’t as much of a concern because you can move your plants as needed. Invest in a wheeled plant dolly to make it easier to move the pots as the plants get larger.
PREPARE THE SOIL
Purchase a high-quality organic soil mix, unless you prefer to make your own. This can be used to either fill containers or refill holes if you grow in the ground. In either case, good soil is key to growing any type of cannabis successfully.
GERMINATE YOUR AUTOFLOWERING SEEDS
You can germinate your autoflowering seeds in the same way you germinate photoperiod seeds: the paper towel method, root cubes, or sowing seeds directly in soil. As long as they’re fresh, most autoflowering seeds will germinate within a few days. Even older seeds rarely take more than a week.
Once germinated, carefully place your seeds in the ground or in their final pot. Unlike photoperiod plants, autoflowers prefer not to be up-potted (transplanted into progressively bigger pots).
WATER AND FEED AS NEEDED
As the young autoflowering plants grow, water and feed as necessary. Because this type of cannabis develops much faster than photoperiod strains, they may become thirsty or hungry faster than more light-sensitive breeds. On the other hand, you definitely don’t want to overwater or overfeed. Oftentimes, autos can be fed half-strength nutrients and will still produce impressive harvests in good conditions.
Unless you’re trying a guerrilla grow, check your young plants daily for signs that they require fluids or nourishment. As a rule of thumb, use plain water at least once between feedings. As autoflowering plants get larger, they may need to be watered daily, especially if they’re planted in pots or the weather has been particularly dry.
When feeding or watering, always check the pH level of the solution. Adjust as necessary to keep the value between 6.0 and 7.0 pH.
WATCH FOR MOULD & PESTS
Autoflowering strains mature so quickly that they largely mitigate the threat of mould and pests—but you can’t eliminate these problems entirely.
When you check to see if your autoflowering plants need to be watered or fed, give them a quick once-over for other problems. At the first sign of mould, remove the infected bud or foliage and relocate your plants to a drier area.
Visible pests like mites and worms can be plucked off by hand if the problem is minimal. Otherwise, try a safe pesticide like neem oil or insecticidal soap. These sprays can also be used weekly to prevent infestations. Just make sure not to spray directly on the buds.
HARVEST WHEN RIPE
Each breeder will provide an expected harvest time from germination for their autoflowering seeds. This time may be the same whether the seed is grown indoors or out, or it may be slightly longer for outdoor grows.
Don’t go strictly by the suggested time. Instead, watch for the trichomes to turn cloudy, for the pistils to change colour and shrink into the buds, and for the leaves to fade from green to yellow or purple.
When all the signs point to full maturity, it’s time to cut, dry, and cure as you would for any other type of cannabis.
AUTOFLOWERING SEEDS VS FEMINIZED SEEDS FOR OUTDOOR CANNABIS GROWS
Autoflowering seeds and feminized (photoperiod) seeds each have their pros and cons when grown outside.
On the positive side, autoflowering seeds grow quickly and need minimal care. On average, they reach full maturity in half the time it takes a photoperiod strain.
Autoflowering seeds have their drawbacks too. You can clone them, but there’s really no point. They will be at the same point of maturity as their mother, so by the time they recover and start to grow again, they’ll be at or close to their pre-programmed end of life, producing only a few small, fluffy flowers.
Speaking of recovery time, autoflowering cannabis plants don’t have much time to bounce back if they do encounter a problem. Let them dry out too much, overfeed them, or allow them to become infested with pests, and they’ll stall for weeks. However, their maturity point won’t be extended. This can greatly impact both their potency and yield. With autoflowering seeds, much more than with feminized seeds, you need to get it right the first time.
When it comes to yield and potency, there’s less of a gap between autos and traditional strains than there used to be. Breeders have discovered how to minimise the amount of ruderalis required, allowing them to preserve the final weight and THC of the other parent(s), while still keeping the autoflowering trait.
Growing autoflowering cannabis outdoors can be a rewarding project when done right. Plan well in advance by choosing the best time to start your seeds and a good site with optimal light and water access. Monitor their progress so you can give them the right amount of water and nutrients, and so you can correct any problems immediately.
For your work and attention, you’ll be rewarded with a generous amount of aromatic herb that’s just as potent and tasty as weed grown from a similar photoperiod strain.
A Complete Guide to Growing Autoflowers Outdoors (When to Plant, How Often to Water, & How Much They Yield)
This article was co-authored by wikiHow staff writer, Hannah Madden. Hannah Madden is a writer, editor, and artist currently living in Portland, Oregon. In 2018, she graduated from Portland State University with a B.S. in Environmental Studies. Hannah enjoys writing articles about conservation, sustainability, and eco-friendly products. When she isn’t writing, you can find Hannah working on hand embroidery projects and listening to music.
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If you’re new to marijuana growing, autoflower seeds are a great choice. These cannabis seeds don’t require a rigorous light schedule, and they’re more forgiving when it comes to temperature fluctuations and fungus control. They also grow much faster than typical cannabis seeds, so you can get a full yield in just 8 to 12 weeks! We’ve answered your questions about autoflowering seeds so you can pick the right strain for you.