How To Grow Great Weed On A Balcony Or Terrace
If you are planning on growing some cannabis plants on your terrace or balcony, here are some important considerations to ponder in order to achieve excellent results.
There are many reasons why you would want to use your balcony (or terrace) to grow some fine cannabis. First and foremost, the sun doesn’t send you bills at the end of each month. If it rains, you get the best quality water for free too. No need to invest in ventilation systems either, as the moving air will continuously replenish CO₂ levels.
Growing on a terrace is a great way for the novice grower to dip their feet into this highly rewarding hobby. You can even use a balcony to increase grow-op real-estate. Depending on the time of year, a terrace/balcony can be used as a veg room while your indoor room is in flowering mode. Advanced growers might also enjoy the longer seed-to-harvest cycle of a terrace, in favour of a more outdoorish grow.
No matter the case, there are some golden rules you should be aware of before you start a balcony grow. Some may seem evident to the more knowledgeable grower, while others might even surprise experienced green-thumbed guerrilla warriors.
THE BALCONY BASICS
Does your balcony receive enough direct sunlight? Terraces are usually large enough that they will have more than enough sun throughout the day, but some balconies may be on the opposite side of a building, receiving only morning light.
For that, there is a perfect solution. Autoflowers. Using photoperiod varieties in this low light situation will render you puny little plants that will not produce any significant smokable bud.
Autoflowers will perform significantly better in this situation, given that their flowering phase is not contingent on a change in photoperiod. It is also highly recommended that the novice grower use autoflowers as their level of complexity is much lower, yet achieve comparable yields to some photoperiod cultivars.
SAFETY FIRST PART 1: HIDE YOUR PLANTS
Regardless of whether you live in a cannabis-friendly or unfriendly zone, you should always treat your crop like the world’s most valuable treasure. Do you really want prying eyes overlooking your plantation?
Do your best to conceal your pants from a direct line of sight. Instead of letting your weed grow up to its full glory, perhaps it would be wise to employ some training techniques to your grow. There are many to choose from, but any of them done correctly will tame plant growth, promote side growth, and when done proficiently, potentially increase your yields considerably. So the question is, why not train your plant?
Here are some potential options:
- FIM – which stands for “Fuck, I Missed”, basically involves pinching the apically dominant shoots to promote the formation of several new dominant colas.
- Supercropping – involves pinching the stem and bending it 90º, causing a lesion to occur. If done early on before flowering, this stressful lesion will turn into a big and strong knuckle, providing extra support.
- ScrOG (Screen of Green) – employs the use of a horizontal net to bend and weave shoots through, forcing the plant to grow sideways. This maximises light penetration and controls growth.
- SOG (Sea of Green) – is a more advanced technique that isn’t very suitable for balcony/terrace cultivation. This involves growing numerous small plants together in close proximity.
- Mainlining – is a similar approach to ScrOG, but without the net. Only possible to do with seeds and not clones, as the latter grow asymmetrically. Pinch the apically dominant shoot to multiply the main cola into 2. Then, those 2 into 4, and so on, until you are satisfied. It will create a manifold of stems you can tie to the side of the container to promote an even canopy.
- Topping – is similar to fimming, but instead of pinching the top growth, it involves cutting it off entirely. This stimulates the production of two new dominant colas.
- LST (Low Stress Training) – is where you gently bend and tie branches to promote lateral growth and support optimal light exposure.
SAFETY FIRST PART 2: COVER THE SMELL OF WEED
Cannabis is renowned for its pungent smell that can travel a considerable distance. While this may only be a significant concern once flowering is in full throttle, it is nonetheless a high-risk factor. While you cannot use carbon filters or ozone generators to cover the smell, you can do the exact opposite—increase the smell coming out of your garden.
Fill your terrace or balcony with high-fragrance herbs, plants, and flowers known as “companion plants”. Gardenias, stargazer lilies, jasmine, honeysuckle, freesia, roses—these are but a few of the pungent flower options at your disposal. Even the tomato plant emits a strong odour, and you have the benefit of eating the fruits of your labour once they’re ripe. This will increase the garden’s fun factor for sure.
USE THE RIGHT GENETICS
This is geared more toward the inexperienced grower. Some genetics (think sativa-dominant) are prone to massive vertical growth, while others (indica-dominant) become small, fat bushes. And then, there’s everything in between.
Avoid sativa landraces at all costs. You will most likely not be able to tame them. Royal Moby, Mother Gorilla, Royal AK, and other super-performing plants will be too much. Some Haze strains grow massively too. They will also take much longer to mature.
Select strong indica-dominant varieties, especially with Kush genetics in them. Bubble Kush, Pineapple Kush, OG Kush, and BubbleGum XL are a great starting point.
USE THE RIGHT POT SIZE
There is a direct correlation between pot size and plant growth potential. So a great trick is to scale down your container size slightly to restrict vertical growth. This may involve opting for a few small plants instead of a couple large plants.
The only thing to take into consideration is that some jurisdictions do not care how much weed you are growing, but instead count the number of plants. While this is profoundly illogical, be safe and consult your local laws.
PROTECT YOUR PLANTS
If a storm approaches, beware of strong winds, especially if you live on the higher floors of a building. Gale force winds can easily break stems or topple over a vase. Long periods of rain can stunt plant growth as the soil becomes supersaturated with water. Furthermore, very high humidity for too long can cause bud rot and destroy your flowers.
The same goes for peak-of-the-summer heat. Plants can drink water very fast, and cannabis is a very thirsty lady. If you go out for the weekend and forget to water your plants before, you could very well return to a bone-dry plant. They are very resilient, but not immortal.
Always be on the lookout for pests. Growing outdoors involves regular plant inspection. The best method is prevention, and there are dozens of bug-repellent companion plants you can add to your garden that will help tremendously in keeping your crop clean from infestation:
- Basil – repels thrips, beetles, aphids, and flies in general
- Garlic – pest-repellent, but also a strong fungicide
- Marigolds – preferred over weed by bugs, so planting them around your cannabis will distract them
- Petunias – great against squash bugs, beetles, and aphids.
Do not use chemical pesticides. They are harmful to the environment and a potential risk to your health if smoked. Regular use (every other week or once a month) of neem oil and pyrethrum-based insecticide mixed with propolis will do a great job against spider mites, whiteflies, aphids, and even fungal disease.
Growing weed on your balcony can be a great idea, but it does have its challenges. Here are our top tips for a successful adventure.
Stealth Ideas for Growing Weed Outdoors
Always consider stealth when growing cannabis outdoors! Not only is law enforcement a consideration, it’s common for thieves to steal plants right before harvest time!
Outdoor growing has some incredible benefits, including the availability of free light. Light is like food for cannabis plants and in the flowering stage, the amount of bud produced is directly proportional to the amount of light received by the plant (especially at the bud sites). The plant is converting light energy into buds.
Sunlight provides free energy for growing cannabis plants. No need to spend money on electricity to power your grow lights!
Indoor growers have to provide all their own light, typically by using specialized grow lights. However, grow lights produce heat and use a lot of electricity (how much electricity does it take to grow weed indoors?), and indoor grow rooms need a space that’s easily hidden to visitors yet has easy access to water.
When it comes to outdoor growing, instead of setting up a grow room, your job is to pick the perfect place to grow weed. This is one of the most important things you can do not only for plant health, but also for stealth and security!
Not only is this extremely not stealthy, light from the window will likely prevent the plant from flowering (making buds). Light pollution is a common problem when growing outdoors on your own property. Plants need complete darkness at night to start making buds!
Outdoor Stealth – Growing on Your Property
Growing on your own property is much more convenient than hiking to a remote grow spot, but the stakes are much higher because if the plants are spotted it’s easy to determine that you are the owner. Make sure to take every precaution!
Hide Plants from View
Think about looking into your yard from outside the grow space. You want to go outside and make sure that plants are not visible from someone’s window, from the street, a neighbor’s yard, etc.
Camouflage your plants!
In addition to making sure no one can see your plants, it’s still a good idea to try to camouflage them so that if someone is on your property for some reason, the plants don’t obviously stick out.
This grower actually cuts the tips off all the leaves of their plant in order to make them look less like typical leaves. This is pretty effort-intensive, but there’s no doubt they look less like cannabis plants!
There are some interesting “stealth” strains that naturally don’t look like typical cannabis plants, which can also help increase the illusion.
This is a Frisian Duck plant in the vegetative stage. “Duck” or “Duckfoot” strains have 3-finger leaves which makes them look less like cannabis leaves. As a result, these strains can look like other types of plants at first glance.
Plant bright flowers nearby, so it looks like the cannabis plant is producing the flowers.
Consider planting your cannabis in a decorative planter or container that causes it to grow in non-typical growth patterns. Adding flowers to some of the empty pots would complete the illusion.
This marijuana plant has been placed in the middle of an area that naturally has lots of trees and other types of vegetation.
Even having a few plants nearby will make a big difference compared to growing the cannabis plant all by itself.
Some growers put plants in a greenhouse or other outdoor structure that lets light in but obscures the inside from view.
A greenhouse can not only help keep plants warm in cool climates, they help obscure the plants. Some greenhouses are built opposite this one, with opaque sides and a clear top so sunlight comes from above yet plants can’t be seen from the sides.
However, consider that a greenhouse might look suspicious if it’s all by itself in the middle of the yard, especially if you don’t typically do a lot of yard work or gardening
Keep plants shorter than your fence!
Change Natural Growth Patterns with Bending
Consider bending or otherwise altering the overall shape of the plant so it has less of a “Christmas Tree” shape, which is the most typical shape for cannabis plants grown naturally. This change of shape can cause the plant to look less like cannabis overall. You can also use bending to prevent plants from getting too tall.
Low stress training can be used to grow marijuana plants in any size or shape. This grower trained his outdoor cannabis plants to grow flat like hedges by training stems to grow along a ScrOG net.
Watch Out for Anyone Taking Interest of Your Plants
Be aware of anyone looking over the fence or otherwise spending time hanging around your property.
Even if it’s not someone who will report you to law enforcement, they may still be a problem. They might tell a friend who reports you. Or even worse they may be a thief. Nothing is more heartbreaking than growing plants all summer and then losing them to thievery…except jail.
Remember, even if a person doesn’t take your plants right away, many experienced thieves who understand the life cycle of cannabis plants will wait until just before harvest before they steal your plants.
This plant does not have any buds to steal now, but thieves may take note of your plant and come back in the fall when they know it’s getting close to harvest time. Stay vigilant!
Consider that people might be able to smell your plants. Some plants smell a little “weedy” in the vegetative stage, but by the time your plant is flowering and getting close to harvest, the smell can be overwhelming, especially with certain “high-smell” strains.
- Choose a low odor strain for outdoors that stays small if you’re looking for something very stealthy. Auto-flowering strains can be a good choice because they’re easy to grow, won’t get very big, have a quick time-to-harvest and there are several stealthy looking and low-smell varieties that are suitable for growing outdoors. Auto Duck is an example of an auto-flowering strain that is great for outdoor stealth growing due to its smell (or lack thereof), growth patterns and quick time-to-harvest. Some examples of photoperiod strains that stay small and low-odor include Northern Lights, Papaya (smells tropical), Jock Horror, Ice (smells like jet fuel), and Blue Mystic. Smells are usually more intense when things get hot and humid.
- Plant lots of other types of plants nearby, especially ones with bright and fragrant flowers. This will detract attention away from both the appearance and smell of a typical cannabis plant.
What if you can’t grow on your own property, and need to grow in a more remote spot? A good outdoor grow spot has a few important factors….
Outdoor Stealth – Choosing a Safe Place to Grow Outside Your Property
Scope Out the Spot
Check out any possible grow spot at least 3 different times, and on both weekdays/weekends to make sure you never see hikers or other people in the area.
Far from a Visible Path
Stay far away from any path, and make sure not to leave tracks or marks when visiting plants – if you make a visible path, other people might follow it to see where it goes.
Test the Spot for Potential Visitors
I‘ve heard a grower say to securely leave a twenty-dollar bill in a few places around the chosen area, where they can be easily seen by a human but won’t blow away. If they are still there when you get back after a week or two, it’s unlikely there are many people passing by because they would have picked up the money.
Even if you’re certain no one will be around except yourself, you should still try to camouflage your plants as best you can by using the tips given above.
Bonus: Outdoor Plant Health
These factors are important to making sure your outdoor plants grow as fast and healthy as possible. They don’t necessarily contribute to stealth, but you must make sure to consider these factors if you want your outdoor marijuana grow to be successful! Since this article is all about picking the right spot for your cannabis plants, I thought it was important to also touch on this.
Easy to Visit
You should be able to visit the spot at least once a week to tend to your plants.
Access to Water
Plants need to drink, but water is way too heavy to carry long distances. Therefore, you’re looking for a spot with easy access to fresh, clean water. If there’s no hose, you’re looking for a brook or stream with moving water. Some growers collect rainwater near the grow site. Don’t use water that looks or smells bad to you.
Lots of Sunlight
The spot gets 8+ hours of direct sunlight each day (the less direct the light, and the fewer hours a day, the smaller the plants and buds will be).
A gentle breeze provides airflow and cooling, which helps prevent heat stress, mildew, bud rot and bugs compared to the plant living in stagnant air. You’re looking for leaves that are rustling. There shouldn’t be enough wind that plants are waving around.
Consider the Heat
If it gets very extremely hot where you live, you want to consider making sure there’s a way to at least partially shade your plants on the hottest days. Learn how to care for heat-stressed outdoor marijuana plants.
Consider the Cold
Will your plants be ready to harvest before it starts getting cold and/or rainy where you live? High humidity, rain and temperatures under 60°F (15°C) are the leading causes of bud rot, which can take out an entire harvest in just a day or two! Frost and freezing temperatures will actually kill some plants (though some strains are more resistant than others). Make sure that you can protect your plants from cold or rainy conditions, or even better, make sure you get a strain that will be ready to harvest before your local bad weather begins!
Auto-flowering strains can be a good choice for growers with short summers because they are typically ready to harvest just 3 months from germination. However, there are also many ‘standard” (non-auto-flowering) strains with short flowering periods that only need 3-4 months before they’re ready to harvest.
Provide Your Own Soil
Even if the ground soil appears to be a good quality, you’ll often get the best results by providing your own soil which has been formulated for a plant like cannabis. This will contain the right ratio of nutrients so plants grow fast and buds get as big as possible. Many growers put their plants in containers with soil, which makes it so plants can be easily moved around. Some growers will dig a hole in the ground and fill it with good soil, though raised beds often perform better because the plant will use the “good” soil for longer, and it can be easier to water the plants.
Don’t Forget Nutrients
Cannabis plants should have an adequate amount of nutrients. Although high-quality soil will typically provide everything your cannabis plant needs for nutrients during the vegetative stage, it’s typically a good idea to provide the plants with extra plant food during the nutrient-intensive flowering/budding stage! Plants need a surprisingly high amount of nutrients to produce the biggest buds!
Stealth Ideas for Growing Weed Outdoors Always consider stealth when growing cannabis outdoors! Not only is law enforcement a consideration, it’s common for thieves to steal plants right before