When growing cannabis outdoors, you have the benefit of using the greatest source of light in our solar system, the sun. Unfortunately, this also means you have to work on its timeline and adjust your grow to fit the sun’s schedule. For us in Ontario, this means starting the germination phase in late February. In our climate, we’ll also have more success with an autoflower strain or a strain with a shorter flowering period.
Even if you plan to eventually grow cannabis outdoors, the germination stage can always be done inside because little to no light is required. Once you have picked out your strain and acquired your seeds, you’re ready to begin! Take as many seeds as you plan on eventually planting and soak them in a jar of plain water for 24 hours.
After 24 hours have passed, take the seeds and place them in a damp paper towel in a dark area of your home. Keep the paper towel damp and keep an eye on the seeds, you should see tiny sprouts popping out within a week - this is what’s called germination. You're now ready to move onto the seedling stage!
Once your seed has germinated, it's ready to be transplanted into its new home. Plant the freshly germinated seed into a pot (preferably cloth or plastic) using light, fluffy organic potting soil. The soil should be able to hold water while still allowing adequate drainage. You can afford to water the plant fairly infrequently at this point, as seedlings are vulnerable to overwatering at a young age. When it doubt, stick your finger about an inch into the soil. If it feels at all damp, you can hold off on watering.
At this point the plant is ready to be transplanted into a larger home. If you think you'd still like to move the plant around, a larger pot will do.
When temperatures warm up and you're starting to plant your garden, the cannabis plant can also go directly into the ground. The vegetative stage is when you will see the most explosive growth. At this point, the plant is branching out and reaching up to the sun. It will need more water and nutrients than before to support its new size and the many bud sites that will be forming.
Mid-summer, as the days get shorter, the plant will begin the flowering stage. During this stage, all of the bud sites of the plant will swell up and grow larger until they resemble the buds most cannabis users are familiar with. The vegetative growth will mostly come to a halt as the plant shifts its energy from growing in size, to growing at the bud sites.
During this time, pruning away some of the excess fan leaves can help ensure more sunlight gets to the bud sites, resulting in a larger harvest.
Finally, the end stage of the outdoor cannabis plant's life. At this point the buds are ready to be chopped down and hung up to dry. As is the case with many large outdoor cannabis plants, the plant may be too large to harvest in one go and may need to be done in sections. This allows the inner parts of the plant to catch some extra sunlight for a few days before being harvested as well. For many large outdoor grows the process of harvesting a single plant can take place over the course of 1 or 2 weeks.
While this is a simplified version of the grow process, following these basic steps can net you some homegrown cannabis buds to share with your friends. Growing outdoors can be a very satisfying and joyful experience.
Good luck to all new growers out there! And, as always, make sure to abide by provincial cannabis laws before taking on an outdoor cannabis grow.