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How to Grow Autoflowers Outside

Last Updated: September 13, 2022By Jason Levin

Not everyone gets the luxury of growing autoflowers outside. If you live in a legal state, take advantage of this opportunity! With a little help, you can grow loads of buds.

If you want to learn about growing autoflowers outdoors, we’ve got everything you need in this article.

Related: Growing Marijuana: Step-by-Step Guide

Considerations Before Planting Autoflowers

Growing autoflowers outdoors is relatively easy—they don’t need light to flower! For the most part, they can grow year-round as long as you provide them with the right nutrients and protect them from rain and pests.

Here’s what to consider before planting:

Indoor vs. outdoor

Growing autoflowers indoors and outdoors both have their pros and cons. The three major factors are cost, smell, and your environment.

Growing outdoors is the most cost-effective by far, but growing indoors offers more privacy and control of your crop—at a much greater cost. Therefore, many beginner growers opt for outdoors to save on startup costs.

Indoor pros & cons

Pros:

  • You get complete control over your growing environment.
  • You can grow all year long.

Cons:

  • Growing indoors has high startup costs.
  • Pests and diseases can spread to your plant quickly.

Outdoor pros & cons

Pros:

  • It’s an inexpensive way to grow autoflowers.
  • Natural sunlight lets the plant grow to its full potential.

Cons:

  • You have little to no control over the environment.
  • Your plants can get exposed to bad weather, pests, and bugs.

Growing outdoors means you don’t need to spend much money other than on pots and soil nutrients. However, since you can’t control the climate, severe conditions can affect your auto-flowering plant’s growth. Your plants will also be visible and produce a strong odor on your property.

Mold & Pests

Outdoor growing also comes with bugs and pests. Your plants will get exposed directly to the environment, so you need to watch for high humidity, extreme temperatures, and rainfall. These elements can attract mold and bugs to your plants with the right combination, which can be a challenge to handle.

Plant Protection

You’ll need to protect your plants from predators and harsh weather. Outdoor plants can get attacked by pests or even larger animals like rodents, cats, and dogs. You might need to install a wire fence around your autoflowers to protect them.

Ideally, the fence would be both underground and above ground to protect your plants from animals like moles and gophers getting to its root system—they can eat your entire plant overnight! 

You might also want to build a structure to protect your autoflowers from rain and snow, which can be as simple as using a plastic sheet and wooden stakes to add a layer of protection. This structure helps ensure that your plants won’t freeze or attract mold.

Growing Autoflowers Outside: Beginner Tips

If you have never grown autoflowers or cannabis before, you’ll need to know a few things. Depending on where you live, you’ll want your growing space to be discreet, meaning that your neighbors shouldn’t see or smell the plants. If you’re using any grow light fixtures, you’ll need to understand that they are extremely bright, and others can see them from afar—make sure that no light leaks! Masking the smell when growing outdoors can be tricky.

Many people “guerilla grow” on their balconies by camouflaging their autoflowers with other aromatic plants. While it doesn’t guarantee your neighbors won’t smell your cannabis plants, it usually works quite well. You can train your plants, but the best way to avoid having issues is by growing Indica-dominant strains—they typically grow shorter and compact, so you don’t have to worry about training if you don’t know how to (or don’t want to).

If you plan to grow a specific strain, you’ll want to either train them or grow them in small pots so people walking by can’t see them. Even in legal states, you don’t want your plants to be visible to the point where they might get stolen.

Starting indoors 

When you grow outdoor marijuana plants, you’ll want to grow them in a predictable, safe environment. Since the elements outside are not always predictable, starting your baby plants indoors is the best way to go. Young marijuana plants – whether they’re autoflowers or the more regular photosensitive plants – are always vulnerable in their first stages. This is especially true when going from a seed to a young seedling. Gardeners who coddle their baby plants a little bit are usually better off later in their plants’ lifetimes as well. Giving your grow season a healthy start is the best way to ensure you grow healthy plants that produce plenty of weed in the end. 

Germination 

It starts with germination. This is when the little plants pop out of their shells when given a bit of water. Germinating autoflower seeds is the same process as germinating other kinds of seeds. The differences come a little bit later. There are a few methods for germinating your seeds. You can put the seed directly in the soil, you can soak it in water until it cracks open, you can use a wet paper towel or cotton pad to do the job, or you can soak your seed in water then plant it in a peat moss jiffy pellet, which is the method we recommend.

The soil germination method 

This low-maintenance method keeps the roots protected from the very start. Simply make a small hole in the soil with a pencil, put the seed in the hole, and cover it over. Get the soil moist by spraying it with water, and keep the temperature at 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep the soil moist, and in less than a week, you should see some green popping up out. 

The water method 

Drop your seeds into water and leave them there. Let them remain for 24-48 hours, long enough for the roots to start showing. This should take less than a week for the whole process overall. The water should be 65 degrees Fahrenheit and kept relatively fresh by changing it every other day or so. You can plant the seeds whenever you like after they’ve cracked openjust make sure to continue to keep the soil moist (but not wet), especially if you plant them on the earlier side.  Be sure not to touch any exposed root tips with bare hands.  Use a clean spoon to relocate and plant the seed. This method is riskier because fragile root tips can get damaged, and seeds can become water logged and drown if left in water too long.

The paper towel or cotton pad germination method 

Grab either two cotton pads or a paper towel and place some of your seeds (if you have more than one) into it (or between the two cotton pads). Spray the towel or cotton pads with water so that they are moist. Make sure the temperature is always at about 72 degrees Fahrenheit and stick the seeds and their wrappings under aupside-down bowl. You could also place them between two plates, or inside a Ziploc bag. The seeds will crack open in a few days, and you can then plant them in the soil. Be careful not to tear or damage root tips that may extend, as they can sometimes entangle in the paper or cotton fibers.

Related: Best Strains for Beginners to Grow

Soaking and planting in peat moss jiffy pellet  

This is the method we recommend for customers at a Pot for Pot.  Soak your seed in a glass of neutral pH (or bottled) water for 12-24 hours, but do not exceed 24 hours.  If a root tip pops out, do not touch it with bare hands.  Instead, use a clean spoon to move your seed.  After soaking your seed, expand your jiffy pellet by soaking it in neutral pH (or bottled) water for about 10-15 minutes or until fully expanded.  Drain excess water, then plant your soaked seed about one knuckle (1 cm) down into the pellet, being sure to cover it with pellet soil so the seed is in darkness.  Keep your pellet moist but not wet, give it 2-7 days, and you should see green sprouting above the surface.

Hardening off 

Since you’re planning to grow your autoflower plant(s) outside, it’s a good idea to get the plant gradually used to the outdoor conditions without shocking it. This is best done if the temperature outside is consistently warm enough (always above 40 degrees Fahrenheit), and it can take just a few days. Start by keeping your plant outside for just 3 hours, and make sure that outside spot isn’t too exposed. Gradually increase the amount of time, day by day, until you have reached 24 hours. At that point, your plant will be ready for constant exposure to the elements without getting a shock that could affect its health and yield. 

When to plant autoflowers? Any time! 

The beauty of autoflowers is the fact that they don’t depend on specific amounts of light to grow properly. Unlike other types of marijuana, autoflowers have a sort of internal clock that means they will enter the flowering phase no matter what. Photosensitive plants, on the other hand, need a certain number of hours of light and darkness per day to “know” that the seasons are changing and it’s time to start flowering. This is why autoflowers can be grown just about any time of year – they don’t need that natural cue to flower. 

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Summer vs. winter 

If you live in a place that’s warm enough to grow outdoors during the winter, you might be wondering what the pros and cons of growing in the summer versus the winter are. Generally speaking, in the summer, your plants are going to have bigger yields because they are receiving more sunlight, and that means more energy for growing their buds. In the winter, however, marijuana plants tend to produce more resin. That means some shiny, sparkly plants that will be just dripping in delicious resin by harvesting time.

Optimal Conditions for Autoflowers

Understanding the life cycle of auto-flowering plants is crucial. Due to their Ruderalis heritage, these strains will flower automatically regardless of the light cycle. 

Eighteen hours of light and six hours of darkness allows plants time to rest and develop the best buds, but it’s not sustainable year-round.

Twelve hours of light and twelve hours of darkness is easier to plan for and available most times of the year; however, you might get aery and underdeveloped buds.

Temperature

Autoflowers are resilient, and it’s possible to get buds during the coldest, shortest days and the hottest, longest days.

Although there are optimal temperatures, auto-flowering cannabis plants can withstand harsher climates than many other varieties. The ideal temperature is 18-25 °C with 18 hours of light and 60% humidity.

Humidity

When humidity levels get too far off in either direction, your plant has a hard time “breathing.” It’s crucial to know which humidity levels to expect during each stage of growth. 

In the seedling stage, maintaining a humidity level of 60% is essential to its growth—they need extra moisture to properly develop.

In the vegetative stage, you’ll gradually decrease it down to around 50%. Finally, during the pre-flowering stage, you’ll lower the humidity levels again to 40-45% to help keep the buds from molding, which results in a better harvest and overall healthier plant.

Spacing

As cannabis plants grow, they develop tons of branches, and it’s necessary to leave adequate space between them. In a 1m2 area, you can fit approximately ten small plants, six medium plants, or three large plants. Generally, for small plants you want them spaced 30-45cm apart, 50-60cm apart for medium plants, and 65-100cm apart for large plants.

However, autoflowers don’t typically grow too large, and around 40cm in between each one is typically fine. Providing enough spacing helps prevent problems from occurring later into the growth cycle, like lack of airflow and light.

Move your plant with the weather 

Just because marijuana plants are hardy and growing outdoors is easy, it doesn’t mean you’re off the hook no matter what. It’s still a good idea to keep a close eye on the weather and the forecasts every day and night because a drastic change in weather could harm your plants. This is especially the case if a storm is brewing, for example, but also if there is just a cold snap coming in. Marijuana plants like mild, sunny, warm conditions. If things get to cool and wet, for example, mold could end up developing – and that would ruin your plant (and your weed) altogether. Avoid this by bringing your plants in during a rainstorm, during a frost, and even sometimes during other extreme conditions such as a heat wave or an excessively windy day. 

Time to flower 

Autoflowers have a flowering time that lasts a little bit longer than other types of marijuana plants, for the most part. However, the strain is the name of the game here; there are so many different strains with different flowering and growing times that you always need to check out the specifics before you buy. Luckily, you can get plenty of that information from a Pot for Pot when you order your first kit and seeds, but you can also check online for different strain reviews and sources of information. Often people will leave their own personal reviews so you can get a sense of what to expect with a particular strain of marijuana. It never hurts to do a little bit of homework! 

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Frequently Asked Questions about growing weed

How do you maximize autoflower yield?

Make sure you avoid three things.

  • Avoid Over Watering
  • Avoid Re-Potting
  • Avoid Topping & Fiming

What are the top 5 strains to grow in cold climate?

Top 5 strains to grow in cold climate are: Sweet Skunk Automatic, Royal Cookies Automatic, Royal Critical Automatic, Purple Queen Automatic and Northern Light Automatic

What are the top 5 strains to grow in warm climate?

Top 5 strains to grow in warm climate are: Diesel Automatic, White Widow Automatic, Stress Killer Automatic, Royal Critical Automatic and Royal Jack Automatic

Ready to grow your first autoflower outside? Check out our store at A Pot for Pot, and pick up everything you’ll need!

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