When To Plant Weed Seeds Outdoors

With the summer growing season in full swing, many of you have reached out asking what's the optimal time to start an outdoor cannabis grow. Check out some recommendations based on different regions where marijuana cultivation is popular. Buy Cannabis Seeds – Trying to find out the best time to plant Marijuana seeds outdoors? Here's more information – Amsterdam Seed Supply Knowing where your cannabis plants are in their life cycle will dictate when to prune, train, and trellis your plants, and when to harvest. Learn more about marijuana growth stages today.

What’s the Best Time to Start an Outdoor Cannabis Grow?

I t’s amazing how quickly the world can change, isn’t it? In the past 25 years, cannabis has moved from an illicit substance relegated to the shadowy corners of the illicit market to an “essential” industry amid COVID-19. In many states, local cannabis laws allow you to grow your own, and why not? When you grow your own, you can do your own quality control, know the purity of your product, and manage your own supply.

Luckily, you can start your own grow in a container as small as a flower pot. If you’ve got some space in your yard to grow weed outdoors, even better. So this may leave you wondering, when should I plant my cannabis outdoors? Luckily, there are some general date ranges to help guide your growing plans.

Regardless of which climate you’re starting in, when Spring Equinox comes around, start germinating your seeds. Make sure those plants get outside by Summer Solstice in June, then harvested around Fall Equinox.

For more specifics about how to protect your outdoor cannabis grows from the elements or whether you should grow indoors, outdoors, or in a greenhouse, check out the linked articles. Better yet, look into a book by celebrated cannabis growers like Ed Rosenthal’s Marijuana Grower’s Handbook, and of course, every green thumb’s favorite, The Farmer’s Almanac.

For a (shallow-ish) deeper dive into what to expect when growing cannabis outside, here’s a look at optimal grow times for regions across the U.S.

When to Grow Weed Outdoors by Region

Northwest (Northern CA, OR, WA)

When you grow outdoors in this loamy region you’ll never have to worry about getting enough rain. However, mold development and lack of sunshine can make growing outside a more difficult proposition.

Hybrids that flower earlier are suggested as the most successful grows, especially in Washington and Oregon. California plants can be put in the ground earlier due to the region’s warmer weather. Your best clue indicating that it’s time to start your outside grow is when daylight hours increase and the temperature starts to warm.

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  • The Flowering Stage Of Cannabis Week By Week

Midwest (IL, MI, Eastern CO)

This region is tricky because the weather is highly variable; rainy and muggy, and/or hot and dry. Winter may come early to this region, so choosing an indica-dominant hybrid strain might be your best bet, since their flowering times are shorter. Try to shoot for germination after the final frost of spring has passed in these regions.

Northeast (NY, MA, ME, VT)

With its rich soils and abundance of water, the northeast region can be a great place to grow cannabis outdoors, especially if you choose an early harvest strain that can finish up before fall kicks in. The best time to move your plants outside in this region is the middle of April, when days are longer.

Southwest (Southern CA, NV, AZ, NM, CO)

If you choose to grow outdoors in this scorching climate, be prepared to pay attention to the temperature, where highs that regularly exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit will slow your plant’s growth. Sativas and sativa-dominant hybrids do well in this environment because of their lineage tracing back to the equator, where the weather is uniformly hot.

However, the dryness of the region means you’ll also have to carefully monitor your watering routines. Before moving your plants outside, make sure the last frost has passed. This last note is especially important in this region, as sudden, sporadic snowfall is common, so keep an eye on the weather.

Southeast (FL)

Though home cultivation is not yet allowed in the Sunshine State, many new medical producers getting into the industry are starting to grow outdoors, and there are a few things to be aware of if you’re licensed in the industry. The temperatures in Florida might be good for cannabis growing, but the humidity definitely is not.

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In fact, because of all that moisture in the air, it’s best to avoid indica strains and grow sativas instead to avoid the mold that inevitably comes along with humidity. In this region, you could start the germination process as early as February. Just make sure that the last frost has passed before moving plants outside.

Conclusion

Of course, there are many different factors that go into the timing of an outdoor grow, and the weather will shift year-to-year. Use these estimates as rough guidelines and adjust as needed. Happy growing!

What’s the best time to plant outside in your area? Share in the comments!

Author

Erin Hiatt is a New York City-based writer who has been covering the cannabis industry for more than six years. Her work – which has appeared in Hemp Connoisseur Magazine, PotGuide, Civilized, Vice, Freedom Leaf, MERRY JANE, Alternet, and CannaInvestor – covers a broad range of topics, including cannabis policy and law, CBD, hemp law and applications, science and technology, beauty, and psychedelics.

Erin’s work and industry insights have been featured on the podcasts The Let’s Go Eat Show, In the Know 420, and she has appeared as a featured panelist on the topic of hemp media. Erin has interviewed top industry experts such as Dr. Carl Hart, Ethan Nadelmann, Amanda Feilding, Mark A.R. Kleiman, Dr. James Fadiman, and culture icons Governor Jesse Ventura, and author Tom Robbins. You can follow her work on LinkedIn, WordPress, @erinhiatt on Twitter, and @erinisred on Instagram.

When To Plant Marijuana Seeds Outdoors?

You’re not the only one wondering when to plant Marijuana seeds outdoors. Although it is a question that doesn’t have only one answer. Depending on what part of the world you live, the ideal conditions to plant marijuana seeds outdoors would be in the spring, between March and May (in the northern hemisphere). Ideally, during this time, your marijuana seeds should already be germinated and you can even plant marijuana seedlings that are a few weeks old outdoors. As we have mentioned in our other guides, to plant marijuana seeds outdoors is a numbers game. The more marijuana seeds you plant outdoors (if you don’t have the experience) the better your germination rates and eventual harvest will be. For Northern hemisphere climate conditions we don’t recommend to plant marijuana seeds outdoors, rather germinate and start growing the marijuana plant indoors until the weather conditions are ideal to take the marijuana plant outdoors.

When to plant marijuana seeds outdoors depends on the weather where you live

If you live in a place that has a constant good weather then the season isn’t very important to take into consideration for you to plant marijuana seeds outdoors. In places with less abundant sunshine, the season would last roughly from March to August or September depending if it’s an Indica or a Sativa marijuana plant. In other regions such as equatorial or coastal regions, the issue of when to plant marijuana seeds outdoors is non-existent since the constant warmth and humidity will germinate the marijuana seeds outdoors without any worries of the conditions being too harsh for the seedlings, or not enough humidity and warmth for the marijuana seed.

You could also find our FAQ Submission How Germinate Cannabis Seeds? useful.

4 stages of marijuana plant growth

Cannabis plants go through a series of stages as they grow and mature, and those different growth stages call for different amounts of light, nutrients, and water.

It’s important to know these stages and how long each lasts to know what the plant needs and when. Knowing where your cannabis plants are in their life cycles will dictate when to prune, train, and trellis your plants, and when to harvest.

How long does it take to grow a marijuana plant?

Generally speaking, it takes anywhere from 10-32 weeks, or about 3-8 months, to grow a weed plant from seed to harvest. It’ll be quicker if you start with a clone or an autoflower seed.

The biggest variability in how long a marijuana plant takes to grow will happen in the vegetative stage—after the seedling phase and before flowering.

If you’re growing indoors, you can force a weed plant to flower after only a few weeks when it’s small or after several weeks when it’s big.

When growing outdoors, you’re at the whim of the seasons and will have to wait until the sun starts to go down in the fall for plants to flower, and then to harvest.

However, one way outdoor growers can control the flowering cycle is by using light deprivation techniques.

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How long can a marijuana plant live?

Weed plants are annuals, meaning they grow and live for one season and then die. Wild cannabis plants grow seeds and drop them when they die, which will grow into new plants the following year.

When harvesting, plants are cut down and die in order to get their buds. New seeds need to be planted in order to grow more plants.

If left unharvested, weed plants will eventually wither and rot within a few months after the peak flowering phase.

When should you grow marijuana?

If you’re growing outdoors in the Northern Hemisphere, growers usually get their seeds between February and April and start germinating seeds by the end of April.

Many start growing seedlings inside in a more controlled environment because seedlings are more delicate, and then put the seedlings in the ground outside once they’re a little bigger and the weather is warmer.

If you’re growing clones or autoflowers, you have a grace period of another month or so. Plants usually need to be outside, in the ground, by the end of June.

Harvesting happens sometime between September and November. This depends on your local climate, as well as the weather that particular year—one year it could be the end of September, the next, end of October; growers in the Pacific Northwest will have to pull down their crops earlier than those in Northern California because of cold weather.

If you’re growing weed indoors, you can grow whenever you like. Keep in mind that the outside environment will affect your grow space—you may need to add heaters in the winter or fans and ACs in the summer.

Other than that, you can start seeds whenever you like and flip them into flower whenever you like, depending on how big you want the plants.

Important dates for growing marijuana outdoors

Many growers begin germinating seeds as early as February and March in order to have big plants come harvest time, but the Spring Equinox is a good reminder that it’s time to kick off the outdoor growing process and start germinating your seeds if you haven’t already.

Many farmers wait until after Mother’s Day in May to put their plants outside. Just make sure all of your plants are outside by the Summer Solstice at the latest.

The weather will start to turn and the sun will begin descending in the sky as your plants fatten up with sweet, sticky buds. It might be tempting, but the Fall Equinox is about when to start harvesting. It’ll depends on your climate and the year—it could happen a little before or after.

Everything should be cleaned up, dried, and curing by Thanksgiving, and in some places, even by Halloween.

As winter approaches, it’s prime time to make your own cannabutter, topicals, or tinctures with all that trim from the harvest. Kick your feet up, relax, and hunker down for the cold, it’s been a long growing season!

Notes on marijuana growth phases

We can’t stress enough that the timeframes in the above graphic are ranges of time for the Northern Hemisphere. You’ll need to adjust them based on your specific region and local weather and climate.

Be sure to keep a grow journal to track the progress of your plants. Looking back on your notes will help you learn from mistakes and maximize the quality and quantity of your buds next year.

Take meticulous notes on when and how you perform each step, noting:

  • Weather
  • How much water you give plants, and at what intervals
  • Nutrient amounts
  • When you top and prune

Pictures will also give you a better sense of how your plants look along the way.

What are a weed plant’s growth stages?

The growth stages of marijuana can be broken down into four primary stages from seed to harvest:

  • Germination (3-10 days)
  • Seedling (2-3 weeks)
  • Vegetative (3-16 weeks)
  • Flowering (8-11 weeks)

Cannabis seed germination

Seed germination length: 3-10 days

Marijuana light cycle: 18 hours a day indoors; full, direct sun 6 hours a day outdoors

The first marijuana plant stage begins with the seed. A cannabis seed should feel hard and dry, and be light- to dark-brown in color. An undeveloped seed is generally squishy and green or white in color and likely won’t germinate.

Once your seed has germinated, or sprouted, it’s ready to be placed in a growing medium, like soil. The tap root will drive down while the stem of the seedling will grow upward.

Two rounded cotyledon leaves will grow out from the stem as the plant unfolds from the protective casing of the seed. These initial leaves are responsible for taking in sunlight so the plant can grow healthy and stable.

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As roots develop, the stalk will rise and you’ll begin to see the first iconic fan leaves grow, at which point your cannabis plant can be considered a seedling.

Seedling stage in cannabis plants

Seedling stage length: 2-3 weeks

Marijuana light cycle: 18 hours a day indoors; full, direct sun 6 hours a day outdoors

When your marijuana plant becomes a seedling, you’ll notice it developing the traditional cannabis fan leaves. As a sprout, the seed will initially produce leaves with only one ridged blade.

Once new growth develops, the leaves will develop more blades, or “fingers” (3, 5, 7, etc.). A mature cannabis plant will have between 5 or 7 blades per leaf, but some plants may have more.

Cannabis plants are considered seedlings until they begin to develop leaves with the full number of blades on new fan leaves. A healthy seedling should be a vibrant green color.

Be careful to not overwater the plant in its seedling stage—its roots are so small, it doesn’t need much water to thrive.

At this stage, the plant is vulnerable to disease and mold. Keep its environment clean and monitor excess moisture. Be sure to give it plenty of light.

Even if growing outdoors, a lot of growers will start their seeds inside under an artificial light to help them through this delicate stage of marijuana growth.

If you buy a clone from a grower or breeder it will be a seedling, so you can skip the seed germination phase.

Vegetative stage in cannabis plants

Vegetative stage length: 3-16 weeks

Marijuana light cycle: 18 hours a day indoors; full, direct sun 6 hours a day outdoors

The vegetative stage of cannabis is where the plant’s growth truly takes off, and it typically lasts 3-16 weeks. At this point, you’ve transplanted your plant into a larger pot and the roots and foliage are developing rapidly. This is also the time to begin topping or training your plants.

Be mindful to increase your watering as the plant develops. When it’s young, your plant will need water close to the stalk, but as it grows the roots will also grow outward, so start watering further away from the stalk in the soil so roots can stretch out and absorb water more efficiently.

Vegetative plants appreciate healthy soil with nutrients. Feed them with a high level of nitrogen at this stage.

If you need to determine the sex of your plants (to discard the males), they will start showing sex organs a few weeks into the veg stage. It’s imperative to separate males so they don’t pollinate the females.

Cannabis plant flowering stage

Flowering stage length: 8-11 weeks

Marijuana light cycle: 12 hours a day indoors; full, direct sun 6 hours a day outdoors

The flowering stage is the final stage of growth for a cannabis plant. This is when plants start to develop resinous buds and your hard work will be realized. Most strains flower in 8-9 weeks, but some can take even longer, especially some sativas.

Outdoors, flowering occurs naturally when the plant receives less light each day as summer turns into fall.

Indoor growers can trigger the flowering cycle by reducing the amount of light marijuana plants receive from 18 to 12 hours a day.

There are three subphases of the flowering stage:

  • Flower initiation (week 1-3): The plant will continue to grow and females will develop pre-flowers—pistils, or white hairs, will grow out, which are the beginnings of buds.
  • Mid-flowering (week 4-5): The plant itself will stop growing and buds will start fattening up.
  • Late flowering/ripening (week 6 and on): Trichome density will increase and plants will get very sticky; keep an eye on the color of the pistils to tell when to harvest.

There are a number of changes to consider once plants go from the vegetative stage to the flowering stage:

  • Don’t prune when plants are flowering, as it can upset their hormones
  • Plants should be trellised or scrogged so buds will be supported as they develop and air can flow through plants
  • Consider giving plants bloom or phosphorus nutrients

When do buds grow the most?

Buds typically grow the most toward the end of the flowering life cycle. You probably won’t notice much budding out at the beginning of the flowering stage, and it will slow down toward the end of the cycle, when buds become fully formed.

Once buds have reached full maturation, it’s time to harvest your marijuana. How long it takes to harvest buds depends on many factors, including harvesting methods and how many plants you harvest.