The sun is shining and the days are finally getting longer, all signs that the outdoor growing season has arrived. It’s right around this time of year that outdoor growers become giddy with anticipation as summer creeps into view. In this month-by-month guide, we at Marijuana.com will walk you through the preparations needed to cultivate stellar outdoor plants.
Train your plants – Your plants have begun to feel their way around their new homes, and they’re most likely booming with new growth. Now, it’s time to tame all this wild growth into the highest yield possible. If you don’t train and manicure your plants, they will focus their energy on growing one primary cola (bud). Which isn’t a bad thing, but there are ways to train your plants so that one plant can have 10, 50, even 200 primary colas!
Topping is one of the best manicuring methods that will set you on the path to high-yielding trees. To top a plant, use pruning scissors to snip off the top growth of each branch, cutting right in-between growth nodes. It may seem counterintuitive, but removing the top causes the plant to split and develop two tops where there once was one. Topping can be done multiple times throughout the earlier stages of the growing season. Topping will give your plant a shrub-like structure with more consistently sized colas rather than a Christmas tree structure with fewer colas.
As the plants progress, you’ll want to supercrop some of the primary branches to balance out the canopy. This process is quite simple, you gently bend over primary branches at least 6-12 inches down (see image below). Supercropping causes the plant to grow more primary colas out of nodes that previously would not have had ample light to grow into large buds. As you supercrop, weave the branches throughout the trellis (see next step) to support the colas as they grow and control the growth of your canopy.
Add support – Now that you’ve manicured your plant to produce, you need to support that extra yield! There are a couple of different methods to supporting your plants, but the two most popular are metal cages or plastic trellis netting. Cages require less labor for the initial installation, but they are also less flexible than trellis netting and heat up drastically in the sun. One option for making cages is purchasing rolls of high gauge metal deer fencing at 6’ or 8’ tall depending on the desired height of your plants. Measure the circumference around your pot or designated plant canopy and then cut the fencing so that a cage forms snugly around your plant; connect with zip-ties for increased stability. The other popular method to support your plants utilizes T-posts and plastic trellis netting. Usually, it’s best to use 6’ or 6.5’ plastic netting because the plants tend to grow vigorously outdoors; plastic netting come in rolls with lengths varying from 30’ to 3,000’. If you go with 6’ plastic netting, set your four T-posts at 6’ apart. After setting your T-posts, slip the nets over the T-posts and use zip ties to firmly secure the net in place. Weaving your plants through multiple layers of netting provides great support to maximize your plant’s yield. Whichever method you choose, even if it’s just bamboo stakes and ties, it is crucial to give your soon-to-be heavy buds proper support.
Nitrogen – June is right around the time your plants will be craving a good nitrogen boost. Nitrogen is one of the fundamental building blocks of plants and readily available nitrogen is essential to a plant’s health. Keep your eyes out for yellow drooping leaves as they are usually a symptom of nitrogen deficiency.
Alfalfa is one of the best plant-based sources of nitrogen because you can guarantee it’s organic, especially if you cultivate it yourself. It’s also rich in potassium and minerals such as folic acid, iron, and magnesium. To use, gently scratch alfalfa powder into the first layer of your soil being careful to avoid fresh roots as alfalfa decomposes quickly and emits heat when doing so.
Composted Manure is animal manure that has been aged or composted for at least six months. You can use either cow or poultry manure but try and know your source to guarantee it originated from an organic and sustainable farm. The nitrogen levels in manure vary, so it’s best to use composted manure in conjunction with one of these other amendments.
Fish emulsion is a nitrogen-rich amendment that’s as effective as it is stinky. This fishy boost can be applied to the soil or sprayed directly on the leaves. Bonus: Using fish emulsion as a light foliar spray can help prevent pests and disease.
Bat Guano is a fast-acting and easily accessible source of nitrogen. It can be lightly applied onto the top of your soil (also known as top-dressing). It’s important not to use too much guano and to water it in thoroughly as it can attract fungus gnats if left on the surface of the soil. It is also a great addition to compost teas, providing nitrogen, calcium and beneficial fungi and bacteria.
Pro-tip: A more permanent way to supply nitrogen to your plants is through legume cover crops that fix nitrogen in the soil and make it available to your heavy feeders. Read on about cover crops in our Biodynamic Grow Guide.
Begin Preventive Pest Practices – In this step, we’re going to get ahead of any possible pest problems. The most obvious pest prevention strategy is to keep your plants and soil healthy — sick plants and infertile soil are much more susceptible to pests and disease.
The best defense you can provide your plants is a consistent foliar feeding of compost-tea or vermi-tea. If you missed the compost tea Grow Guide check it out now for further instruction on how to create these teas. Spraying your plants with teas adds beneficial microorganisms and hormones that ward off harmful pests, fungi, and diseases. Be sure to spray both the tops and undersides of the leaves to successfully deter pests.
Equisetum 508, a biodynamic prep that is essentially an herbal tea, is great for preventing pests and disease, you can find the recipe at the end the Biodynamic Grow Guide.
Introducing beneficial insects such as ladybugs, praying mantis, and lacewings will help maintain balance in your garden ecosystem and prevent harmful pests from overpopulating. Be sure to give them a place to live by planting various flowers and vegetation below or next to your cannabis.
There you have it! If you’re planning to grow outside this season, these 4 steps should be at the top of your to-do list. Stay tuned for the Outdoor Grow Guide preparations for July, coming soon!