Cannabis leaves against blue sky.

Growing Cannabis Outdoors in Ontario: 9 Easy Steps

Since the legalization of Cannabis in Canada back in 2018, Canadians are now able to legally grow up to four cannabis plants per household; but is weed as easy to grow as one might think? From choosing the right cannabis seeds, how to germinate cannabis seeds, using super soil, topping, and training your cannabis plant, and even harvesting, there is a lot to learn when it comes to growing your own cannabis plants outdoors! Though there is no one size fits all when it comes to growing cannabis, as a first-time cannabis grower or even experienced grower looking to grow outdoors, by following these 9 steps, you’ll be on track to growing your own cannabis plants outdoors! It’s important to note that currently in Ontario, each household can legally grow no more than 4 cannabis plants; no matter how many people live in the household.  

Selecting the Right Genetics for Growing Cannabis Outdoors

Whether you start your plant from a clone, or a seed will depend on personal preference and of course availability of clones or seeds; but to have a successful cannabis grow, it’s important you purchase genetics from a reliable source.

A cannabis clone is a cutting taken from a living cannabis plant (mother plant), and placed into a rooting medium such as rockwool, peat, or foam to allow the roots to grow. Once the clone has situated itself and established strong roots, it can be transplanted into a pot of soil and kept indoors until the risk of frost has passed; if the risk has passed, the clone can be planted directly in the ground, or the pot can be moved outside at this point. Skip to step 3 if you’re growing from a clone.

When choosing cannabis seeds, it’s best to look for feminized seeds because only female cannabis plants produce consumable flowers. However, it’s important to note that even if you buy feminized seeds, a plant can become a hermaphrodite and not produce flowers if put under too much stress; stress includes extreme temperatures, light changes, humidity, and even over pruning.

Our recommendation is if you live in a cooler climate, you’ll want to choose genetics for a hardier strain; Indica strains or indica dominant hybrids tend to be hardier and have a shorter flowering cycle like Pink Lemonade, Bubba Kush, or even Headband. These are perfect for more cooler regions.

Germinating your Seeds for Growing Cannabis Outdoors

So, you’ve found the perfect genetics and now you’re probably asking yourself, what do I do next with my cannabis seeds? Germination is the process of the seed beginning to sprout; it’s known as “popping”. It’s easier to germinate your cannabis seeds before placing them into the soil; the best way to germinate your cannabis seeds is to place them onto a damp paper towel (the paper towel shouldn’t be dripping). Then place the paper towel with the seeds inside a Ziplock or container and store it in a dark warm space for a couple days. Depending on your seeds, it can take 3 – 10 days for them to pop, so make sure you’re checking the moisture of the paper towel regularly. Once your little seeds have “popped” you’ll see a little tail growing out of the seed; when you’re ready to move it into the soil, you’ll want to place this little root facing downwards.

Choosing the Right Space when Growing Cannabis Outdoors

Choosing a spot to grow is probably one of the most important steps! Some choose to start their plants indoors, to give them a head start if it’s still cool outside. No matter if you choose to start your cannabis plants inside or outside when the risk of frost has past, we recommend placing the germinated seeds into pots with your soil mixture and placing them in a sunny area. You’ll want to make sure the cannabis plants receive as much sunlight as possible especially during the middle of the day! When choosing a spot outside for your plant, it’s good to keep in mind that having a constant breeze is good for the cannabis plants, but if you live in a windier area consider planting near some sort of windbreak like a shrub, wall, or fence.

Super Soil or Nutrients for your Cannabis Plant

Soil for growing cannabis outdoors in Ontario

There really is no one size fits all growing method for cannabis, so choose what works for you and your lifestyle! Choosing to grow in super soil is great for organic growing; if you have your own compost and some extra time, you can even make your own super soil! Don’t have the time? You can find super soil at your local hydroponics store. Always make sure to mix your super soil with potting soil when the plants are young, as it could burn the young plant. You can also just plant in regular potting soil and by adding some nutrients from your local hydroponic store it will help your plants grow faster and stronger! Your seedling won’t need any nutrients until it has about 2 – 3 leaves, after this stage different nutrients are needed depending on which stage the plant is in! Speak with your local hydroponics store for recommendations! Be careful when using nutrients and super soil as you run the risk of burning your plants if you use too much! Make sure the soil is well draining soil and you water often especially on hot days!

The Vegetative Stage of the Cannabis Plant (3 – 16 weeks)

In this stage the plant will require at least 6 hours of direct sunlight (plus more indirect sunlight) as this is the time when plant growth really begins. You’ll want to transplant the plants into larger pots or into the ground making sure there’s no risk of frost and that you water often and further away from the stock. This helps the roots stretch out and absorb water further out. At this stage you’ll also want to begin topping and training your plants. It’s important to keep an eye out for the sex of your plant in this stage as feminized seeds can still flip into a hermaphrodite if the plant experiences any environmental stressors; if any plants flip, you run the risk of ruining all your other plants if they get pollenated, as the plant will put energy into making seeds rather than growing the consumable flower.

How to Top and Train your Cannabis Plant

Topping your plants is important if you want to keep your cannabis plants growing bushy rather than just straight up! This helps to keep your plants strong and helps to increase the yield of each individual plant; by increasing the number of “main stocks” through topping, you increase the number of colas which increases your final yield! Before you start topping make sure you wait until the plant has grown past 5 nodes before doing the first top; at this point you will cut the main stock above the 5th node, and you’ll begin to see two stocks growing instead. You can top your plant as many times as you’d like but be mindful that it will take the plant 1 – 2 weeks to recover, so if you’re growing outdoors, you only have so many weeks for growth.

There are a few different ways to do plant training, and it will depend on your plant type and your growing style. Bending parts of the plant and securing parts of your plant is usually referred to as “Low Stress Training” (LST). You basically want to gently bend away stems from the middle so that your plant grows wider rather than just upwards. Using twist ties helps to keep stems down and opening it up to more light resulting in bigger yields! Keep an eye out for things such as leaves curling down, which could mean several different things including over fertilization, over watering, or even temperature extremes. Cannabis leaves that curl up or droop could mean temperatures that are too hot, and not enough water. 

Your Cannabis Plant 9 – 12 Weeks Later

When you harvest your cannabis plants is almost as important as how you grow your plants! If you harvest too early you end up losing potency, too late you might lose quality. When your cannabis plants begin to flower, it’s best to use a magnifying glass or jewelers loupe to check the colour of the trichomes on the plants. Clear trichomes mean the plants are not ready to be harvested; ideally you would like to see half of your trichomes a milk white colour and the other half should have an amber colour to them! You’ll also notice the plants aroma will become much stronger during the flowering stage.

Once your cannabis plants begin to near the end of their life cycles, there are a few other things to keep an eye out for including cannabis leaves that curl down, cannabis leaves that have turned yellow, and of course bud firmness! At this point, the nights begin to get cooler, and you might notice that some of your leaves and buds begin turning purple; though purple hues can be associated with genetics, the cool night temperatures can also cause the cannabis leaves to take on a purple hue.

It’s important to harvest before any frost; though potency and terpene profiles won’t be affected, if the temperatures drop too low, you run the risk of damaging the cannabis flowers, leaving them brown and rough in appearance.

How to Dry your Cannabis Plant

Once your buds are firm, with a 50/50 trichome colour of white and amber, your plant is ready to be harvested! Hang drying your cannabis plant at room temperature (about 21 degrees Celsius) is the next step. Setting up a fan to keep the air circulating and a dehumidifier at 50% will help ensure your plants continue to dry correctly; the dehumidifier should be checked daily!

When hanging your plants be careful to avoid damaging the delicate trichomes on the buds! It will take about 4-10 days for your plants to dry depending on the size and bud density. You don’t want to dry your plants too quickly because the outsides will appear dry, but the insides will still damp; if you dry too long you run the risk of developing mold inside of the buds.

Warning: At this stage the plant will have a very potent cannabis aroma, so choose your space wisely! It’s important to properly hang dry your buds or you run the risk of losing flavour and bud quality; keep an eye out for different types of molds such as powdery mildew, black mold, and bud rot. During the drying stage you’ll noticed that the cannabis buds will also get smaller as they lose water; so, do not panic, this is normal!

Curing Cannabis Buds

Near the end of the drying stage if you take a small stem and try to bend it, the plant is dried and ready to be cured if it snaps. However, if it bends you should give it a little bit more time to dry. At this point we like to begin trimming; by trimming off the leaves you reduce the chance of mold growing in your bud, but you also remove the parts of the plant that you don’t really need or want. You can start trimming as your plants are drying. Using trimming scissors and rubber gloves, you’ll want to take your time to trim off any remaining sugar leaves and large stem pieces. This will help to get your buds into small pieces which will be easier for curing.

You’ll want to place the smaller pieces of bud into clean and sanitized jars or totes to start the curing process. Don’t worry, you don’t need to trim everything in one sitting, if your bud is dry, you can cut it into smaller pieces and place those pieces into jars for storage until you are ready to trim them.  Turn and rotate the bud daily and make sure you “burp” the containers; burping refers to removing the lids and opening the jars or totes to allow fresh air to enter and filter out the humid air inside; the curing process should last a few weeks and you’ll notice it brings out the flavours in your cannabis!

Summary

Growing your own cannabis can be a rewarding summer project, and even eye opening just to see how much work goes into growing the top-quality flower strains we all know and love. Unfortunately for those hoping the plant will just come back to its magical self, year after year, think again; cannabis plants are not perennials, meaning they don’t grow back after they have been cut down. You will have to get new seeds or a new clone and start the whole process all over again the following summer if you’re planning on growing cannabis outdoors.

Stop by any Sparq Retail locations in Peterborough if you have any additional questions and thank you for choosing Peterborough’s locally owned cannabis dispensary!

Please consume responsibly as frequent and prolonged use of cannabis containing THC can contribute to mental health problems over time and an increased risk of dependance.

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