Gardening for the best results you can achieve is something we all strive for and this outdoor season, which is coming up quickly do yourself a favor and plan to stay ahead of the game and keep learning new ways to be prepared for when it’s go time. Planning will give you an edge when competing with all of the forces trying to take away your valuable time.
The first decision for your garden is whether you are going to grow from seed or clones, and thus begins the decision making process. Seeds are great but require more lead time in the beginning of the year to determine the sex so you make use of the space and numbers you have. Purchasing a clone of a favorite strain and propagating further clones is likely easier than you might think, smoother than sexing seeds, and the results will speak for themselves.
One question I hear often is “When can I plant?” The latitude where you are gardening is a big factor given that Cannabis has been bred over the years to thrive in many different locations of the world. The hours of available light will need to be around 14 hours per day and increasing to not initiate flowering when you put your plants in their full season home. As soon as your cuttings show roots put them on a 18/6 light cycle and then as your prospective planting date gets closer, begin to shorten the day length by 15-20 mins every couple of days and plan to be at 16/8 when it’s time to move outside.
This is the time of year to have that checklist in mind, by mid-April here in Northern California at 41 degrees, having your favorite dirt all mixed and ready to start cooking is right on schedule. Your plants roots don’t want to be burned by soil that is too “hot” so if you are going the organic route and putting together your own special blend, it should rest after being thoroughly mixed and well-watered for at least three weeks. Deciding on your soil is the foundation for your plants to build giant, healthy root systems for supporting fast growth.
If you have the location decided, cuts rooted, and your soil mix in place by 4/20 congrats! You are on track! Plant health is a big factor in outdoor growing and for the largest possible plants, one cannot let them become root bound in too small of a container. By 5/1, you should be looking at your nice line up of quickly growing plants that are starting to take off in 1 gallon pots and almost ready to bump them up to 3 gallons if you are planting soon, 5 gallons if you are waiting until June 1st. This will keep the root mass growing strong without getting crowded so they will flourish when given the room to explore their new bigger digs outside.
Now let’s move on to the next vital component of success for your efforts which is the watering method you plan to use. This one is fairly garden specific but having a way to “fertigate” which is adding fertilizers or whatever you like to use to the irrigation lines will be a big time saver this season. Calculate your water needs wisely and think about how many gallons those monsters will need when it’s really cooking in July. The nice folks at Dripworks.com are a great resource and if you are not familiar with the site, be prepared to spend a few minutes checking it out. Ideally, framework is in place when you put your ladies outside, but early season is forgiving and hand watering the first two weeks of June is relatively effortless.
Since we have been moving steadily closer to the all- important date (which if you are not using supplemental lighting is May 10th if you are in the middle of Oregon and warm enough, slightly later if you happen to be further South) watching the weather and getting anxious to see our efforts pay off. Let’s keep it going and talk about the steps to help your plants make the transition outside stress free. Exposing them to the sun for the first time should be done with care for only a short time, maybe two or three hours to avoid leaf burning and partial shade is recommended. This will get them used to the strong rays of the sun and drying effects of the wind.
Well, here is the big day and you have been busy! Plugging in your plants in the early morning or evening is best to lessen the stress. Keep the root mass together as best you can and I like to use a myco product like Roots Organics Oregonism for early inoculation. Foliar sprays of very dilute strength can be applied to the plants nice and early or in the evening to keep them in good health while they are adjusting.
The time is here when you have another little break to catch your breath and take a step back and admire all of the hard work that has been put in so far. You have put a lot of effort into these plants and staking them in the beginning with some loose fitting hemp twine or Velcro plant ties while still allowing them to move around and strengthen up is essential. Now that its mid to late June and the garden is looking great, clean them up by picking off leaves and flowering sites that are the low on the bottom third of the plant and so close to the main stalk that they won’t produce. Cut off any crowded branches at the base.
July is turning up the heat and it shows with daily growth and bushy, beautiful plants that are drinking a lot of water and enjoying a full diet of organic goodness. Maintenance over the next few weeks will be on cruise control but don’t start slowing down in the middle of the race. Keep up with the foliar sprays to ward off pests and keep cleaning up under the canopy to promote airflow later on. Trellising to support your heavy branches will be necessary come the end of July, just in time before they stretch. Putting up four tall bamboo stakes or metal t-posts will give you a nice solid anchor to secure your netting to.
August is when you see the flowers begin to stack and start to fill in, hairs reach out in all directions and the garden will now appreciate a little change in the diet. Your watering system is coming in handy now. Slowly introducing some bloom nutrients and cutting back on the nitrogen a little is helpful. Keeping up with the cleaning of the plants underneath is essential. Remove overcrowding and underproducing vegetation at will. Water is still flowing at this point, but less so as we near the end of the month.
September’s shortening days are now pushing the flowers’ growth to speed up and fill out nicely. Use this time to keep cleaning up useless undergrowth to force the energy into what you really want, which is large full buds. Adding molasses or a carb-based product will help keep the microherd stay active as the nights get cooler and give the plants the ability to metabolize the last bit of fuel they will need to carry them through. This has been a good season and we are nearing the end of the line. Secure any big branches that are not sturdy enough and keep airflow going in order to mitigate losses due to mold or mildew.
October is here and you can see the fall colors of your garden really start to change with dark purple, yellows and shades of light green as all of your plants efforts are going into the flowers. Shimmering colas extend upwards and it won’t be long now until they are chopped and drying. Harvest and process large fan leaves and keep a keen eye on the weather. Since the work is about to ramp up again take care of yourself too and have a great end of the season party!