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!
Best Pot Size for Autoflowering Seeds
Once you have purchased your Fast Buds seeds and have germinated them, full of excitement and anticipation, next you will need to decide on the pot size, medium and location. In this article we explain the best pot size for cultivating autoflowering Cannabis from seed until harvest, which pots are best, the importance of drainage, including our top tips.
1. What To Consider Before Planting
Before you just pick any pot and throw your seedling in there, it is a good idea to consider a few variables that may help sway your decision. Thanks to the diversity of autoflowering Cannabis and how well they adapt to all climates, the options to grow one large plant, use SCROG, grow several smaller plants packed closely together, or simply plant directly into the ground are available. Each has their own benefits and are better explained below.
1-4 Large-Sized Plants (10-15 liters)
If you are limited to plant count, or grow space then deciding to grow 1-4 large-sized plants will warrant the need for big pots such as 10-15L. The bigger the pots then taller the final plant should finish once harvest time comes around.
There is no need to grow an autoflowering seed in a pot bigger than 15L, and much of the medium will not be fully utilized, as if using a 10L pot for example.
6-10 Smaller Plants (6.5-8.5 liters)
Cultivating autoflowering Cannabis in a Sea of Green setup, using the right cultivar can reward a grower with great returns. An excellent way to use up all of the growing space and work with homogenous and uniform cultivars. Smaller pots of 6.5-8.5L will be fine.
You may have smaller sized plants resulting in lower yields, however, it will make up for that with the high number of plants.
Screen Of Green (10-15 liters)
For the more adventurous grower skilled in plant training, using a screen to grow your auto-flowering plants through has advantages when increasing yields. However, the screen may limit the mobility of your plants as they will be built into a net frame.
Using Custom Soil Beds
Another alternative if you prefer not to use mobile plant pots, is to plant directly into the ground. Preferably an organic soil bed that has been specially created for cultivating autoflowering Cannabis and is teaming with microbial life.
2. It’s All About The Roots
In the gardening world there is saying that the bigger the roots then the bigger the fruits, although when discussing autoflowering Cannabis, the root growth is somewhat limited. It is during the first 3-4 weeks where auto-flowering plants will use up Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium to aid the development of photosynthesis, chlorophyll production, and anchoring a well-established root zone into the medium.
It is the root zone that is responsible for the uptake and distribution of nutrients, minerals, and the distribution of growth hormone to the rest of the plant pathways. How deep and wide the root zone is will make a huge difference in what is occurring above the soil.
3. The Importance of Drainage When Growing Autos
There are a number of qualities your pots should have, and the most basic yet often overlooked is drainage. How well your plants can drain, promoting air exchange through the root zone, and allowing the medium to dry out, will play a big role in the growth and development of the cultivar.
Hydroton is small clay balls that are a bright orange color. Traditionally used in landscape gardening, and recirculating hydroponic systems, these nutrient-free and totally inert expanded clay balls work wonders to allow water to freely pass through.
Paired with coco coir at a 50/50 ratio or used to line the bottom 1-2 inches of your pots, hydroton will increase the number of air pockets present, encouraging roots to expand outwards in search of new oxygen-rich pockets.
Inadequate drainage will cause the growing medium to become waterlogged, over time reducing the oxygen around the roots. Not only will roots suffer when this occurs, but nutrient uptake and transpiration will also temporarily cease until the preferred conditions are met.
4. Which Pots Are Best?
Fabric pots are far more beneficial than traditional plastic pots with holes in the bottom. Not only are felt pots more environmentally friendly, but they can also be easily washed, re-used, and most importantly will promote root pruning.
In the same way, topping a Cannabis plant will cause the two crown shoots to grow in replacement of the one that was topped, root hairs will do the same. This, of course, occurs in the dark, warm environment that exists in the medium when root hairs travel to the side of the pots. As they come into contact with the outside air, they will form two root hairs and then turn back until the same process takes place repeatedly.
• Root pruning will produce a far superior plant in comparison to one grown in plastic pots.
• The concern for root-bound plants that will become stunted is eliminated with felt pots.
• They can be made at home to your custom size and easily washed and cleaned between use.
5. Top Tips On Choosing The Best Pot Size
1. Decide in advance based on your space what format of growing, works to your advantage. If 1-4 large-sized plants are more practical, or if a Sea of Green has more advantages.
2. No matter if you are choosing plastic or felt, make sure the pots have been totally cleaned and sterilized to the best of your ability. Especially if re-using the pot for a second or third run.
3. Lots of smaller-sized plants will yield the same amount as fewer large-sized plants, so do not be tricked into thinking a Sea of Green is not advantageous or worthwhile.
4. Do not use more than 15 liters of medium per auto-flowering plant. It is best to work with sizes 6.5-15 liter depending on the chosen style of growing, the cultivar, and the climate you are living in.
5. If you have a sewing machine, ordering a large roll of thick felt will allow you to customize your own pots, making them the exact size and shape you prefer.
6. Adding a bottom layer of hydroton clay balls at the base of your pots will improve drainage and the exchange of oxygen around the root zone.
6. In Conclusion
There is a balance between growing in a pot size that is too small and growing into something so large that the medium, nutrients, and vital grow space are not fully being taken advantage of. Fabric pots will increase root mass, prevent air pruning, and help save the planet at the same time. Learning which autoflowering cultivars adapt better to which scenario takes time and experience and will help give you the upper hand when it comes to efficiency and productivity. For smaller sized pots we advise Zkittles Auto , Gelato Auto , and Stardawg Aut o.
Once you have purchased your Fast Buds seeds and have germinated them, full of excitement and anticipation, next you will need to decide on the pot size, medium