The Top 11 Mistakes When Growing Cannabis Outdoors

As easy as outdoor cannabis gardening can be, things can go wrong.  What about the common mistakes when growing cannabis outdoors that many new marijuana gardeners typically make?  Let's discuss.

Marijuana growing outdoors is not complicated or difficult. In fact it is the easiest way for a new cannabis gardener to give cultivation a try.  All you need is a little space and good sunlight.  You can even grow marijuana in a container on a sunny balcony.

If you pay attention to these eleven common mistakes when growing cannabis outdoors you can help insure you have a robust healthy harvest at the end of your labors.

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Common mistakes when growing cannabis outdoors

1. Growing marijuana in too small a container

Yes you can plant cannabis directly into the ground, but many people prefer to keep their marijuana plants in a container for various reasons.  If the container you are growing in is too small, the plant's roots will get root bound and it will never have a chance to reach its potential.  If you’re not planting in the ground, for the average outdoor plant you will want at least a 5 gallon container.  In this case the bigger the better.

2. Not enough sunlight

Mother nature can easily provide all the light your outdoor plant needs.  But this can only happen if the plant is in a place where enough sunlight can reach it.  When choosing a spot for your outdoor cannabis garden, look for spaces that get about 6 hours of direct, or slightly filtered sunlight per day.

3. Too much sunlight/heat

While your cannabis plants need plenty of sunlight, too much of a good thing can be detrimental.  Especially at higher elevations or in extreme heat.  If your location is too hot or too intense, (look for wilting or burned leaves) it’s best to cover with shade cloth.

4. Not enough water

If your plants do not get enough water it will be impossible for them to thrive. If your leaves look wilted and the soil just below the surface is dry, water them.

5. Too much water

Conversely over watering your plants will slow their growth and cause the leaves to yellow. Test your soil by pinching a bit between your fingers, if it sticks together, or to your fingers, you have enough water.  If it’s dry or dusty, especially below the surface, water them.  You want to give your plants enough water, but avoid the common newbie mistake of over watering.

6. Not monitoring for pests

Some outdoor pests like squirrels and deer are easy to detect and avoid, but you still have to be aware of other outdoor pests that are more difficult to detect.  Frequently inspect your plants and leaves with a magnifying glass.  Look for small holes in your leaves, tiny spots on the underside of leaves, and small webs between stems and branches.  Your eyes are your best way of finding pests.

7. Not feeding your plants

Outdoor cannabis gardening does not require a lot of fancy nutrients, but your plants will benefit from general feeding.  Besides water, growing plants need Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium.  If you’re new to growing, any good vegetable fertilizer will work.  Keep in mind if you want to keep it organic or not.  That choice is up to you.  We like Fox Farm Happy Frog Fruit and Flower.

Happy frog fruit and flower

8. Not paying enough attention to the plant

Sure you can plant some cannabis seeds, keep them watered, and grow some OK weed.  But pay a little more attention and you will get a much higher quality yield come harvest time.  If you’re new to growing, it’s a good idea to monitor your plants for pests, remove yellow bottom leaves and prune out some of the lower, smaller branches.  This alone will increase your yield.

9. Paying too much attention to your plants

Yes it is possible to “love your plants to death.”  Avoid being an over-protective pot parent and don’t over water, over prune and over train them.  Love your plants and take care of them, just don’t smother them.

10. Not paying attention to security

The biggest predator your outdoor cannabis plants face are people who want to rip them off.  Besides the obvious law enforcement concerns, you will want to keep your cannabis garden as stealth as possible and on a “need to know” basis in order to avoid it being stolen.  If you can, one idea is to mix your marijuana plants in among your tomatoes or other plants.  Be aware of nosy neighbors, meter readers, and local teenagers, all who might find your garden of interest.  

11. Harvesting Too Early

Have patience, good things come to those who wait.  It’s not the end of the world if you harvest too early, you’ll still yield some decent smokable weed.  But you will get a much higher quality product if you wait until the right moment.  

cannabis trichomes

Exactly when that moment is varies for different growers, but it’s nearly impossible to determine with the naked eye.  Invest in a jeweler’s loupe or other high magnification device.  Electronic or digital ones are good and cheap these days.

Carefully examine your plant’s trichomes – the resinous glands on the surface of the leaves and buds – at various points in the growing process.  Notice that in young plants the trichomes are clear.  As harvest time approaches, the trichomes will turn opaque and milky colored.  In most people’s opinions, the time to harvest is when most of the trichomes are at this stage.  However, some people like to wait longer, until they start to turn amber in color.  

Conventional wisdom holds that the more amber the trichomes, the more likely the cannabis is to induce couch-lock – a heavy, sleepy, full body stoned effect.  Harvest according to your preferences, but always check out the trichomes under magnification before harvesting.

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About the author 

Mitch Mandell

Mitch Mandell is the publisher of Senior Stoner, a partner in Z-Dog Media, and a long time cannabis enthusiast and cultivator. Prior to entering the world of publishing, he had a long career in advertising, working for some of the country's top agencies.

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