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Leafly’s outdoor cannabis grower’s calendar

January 15, 2019
(grivina/iStock, Elysse Feigenblatt/Leafly)
Growing cannabis outdoors is easy. All you need is a nice open space that gets lots of light, a water supply, good soil, and a way to cover the plants when the weather turns.

One of the most important things to know is that cannabis is dependent on a photoperiod, meaning that it changes from the vegetative to flowering stage when days start to shorten and nights get longer. You want to time things right so your plants can maximize their exposure to light during the summer before fall sets in.


How to grow marijuana outdoors: a beginner’s guide

Growing and harvest times here reflect ranges of time in the Northern Hemisphere. For more growing tips on specific regions, check out this guide on different climates.

Click to enlarge. (Elysse Feigenblatt/Leafly)

On the West Coast of North America alone, cannabis farmers in Northern California have a long season: They can put plants outside early and harvest later into the season because of the region’s relatively warm weather.

Washington state, on the other hand, will have a shorter time frame, as plants can’t be put outside until later in the season because there’s not enough sunlight yet. Harvest needs to be completed earlier, before cold weather descends on buds and makes them wet and moldy.


How to Prep Your Home Cannabis Garden for the Outdoor Season

Important dates

The Spring Equinox is a good reminder that it’s time to kick off the outdoor growing process and start popping your seeds.

As the sun reaches up high in the sky, your cannabis will want to as well. Make sure all of your plants are outside around the Summer Solstice.

The weather will start to turn and the sun will begin descending as your plants fatten up with sweet, sticky buds. It might be tempting, but wait until around the Fall Equinox to start harvesting.

Everything should be cleaned up, dried, and curing well before the Winter Solstice. Now’s a good 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!


What to do with cannabis stalks, leaves, & stems from harvest

Notes on phases

We can’t stress enough that the time frames on this graphic are ranges of time in the Northern Hemisphere. You’ll need to adjust to 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.

Take meticulous notes on when and how you perform each step, as well as what the weather is like. Other notes can include how much water you give plants, at what intervals, and how much nutrients you give them. Pictures will also give you a better sense of how your plants look along the way.


Diagnosing Cannabis Nutrient Deficiencies in Sick Plants

Germinate & grow indoors

It takes about 3-7 days to germinate a seed. A lot of growers will do this indoors because seeds are delicate and it’s easier to control the temperature and climate inside. But if you live in a warmer climate, by all means, start growing them from seed outside.

When you start growing your seeds depends partly on how big you want your plants to be for harvest. If you’re going for high yields, the earlier you grow your plants, the bigger they’ll be. But keep in mind that smaller plants are more manageable and easier to top and prune.


How to germinate cannabis seeds

Sow & move outdoor

If you live in a warmer climate, you can go straight to planting outdoors. But if you grow your plants vegetatively indoors first, this is the time frame that you’d move your plants outside so they can get some serious sunlight.

Top plants

You’ll want to top your plants a few times throughout the season to encourage outward development and make your plants bush out. It’s a good idea to give them an initial top after the plant develops five nodes.

Additional topping can happen as needed, but you shouldn’t have to do any more into August, when plants will be well on their way to flowering.


How to top cannabis plants for bigger yields

Prune & clean up

This is something that needs to be done as-needed. You want to get rid of dead leaves and lower branches that won’t get light so the plant can use that energy for producing buds elsewhere.

Growers can clean up their plants anywhere from 1-4 times during the season, depending on how big the crop is and how much labor is needed.


How to prune cannabis plants for maximum yields


What kind of strain you have and what climate you live in will determine when to harvest your strains. Indicas typically grow stouter and bushier and there is more of a concern that their dense buds will get moldy, so they’re usually harvested on the early side of the season. Sativas are generally taller and less dense, so they usually get harvested second.

Growers in colder climates will need to finish their harvests earlier, for fear of cold weather setting in and molding out buds. Warmer climates can sometimes harvest well into November.


When is the right time to harvest cannabis plants?

Pat Goggins's Bio Image

Pat Goggins

Pat Goggins is an editor at Leafly, specializing in cannabis cultivation after working for a commercial grower in Oregon for two years. When not fixing typos, you’ll probably find him on a boat or in the mountains.

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  • dogger1

    Topping after 5 mate be great for a closet grow, outside I would double that and discard the lower stuff that won’t produce. No trimming after week 3 of flower unless an emergency, and the cut is super clean to prevent bacteria contamination.
    I use an additional light along side the t5, or MH. has the story on how to safely kill bacteria and mildew.
    Strong plants are a result of no stress fighting pathogens.

  • HoKim MuthaFucka

    What is the best time of day to transplant? Day/Night?

    • Demar Willis

      Day morning best so it get tht sunlight to help recover from any shock

  • Seth Tyrssen

    I’d be glad to try this — if there weren’t always police helicopters flying overhead, looking for such things here in Georgia.

    • Michael Patrick

      plant shit next to it have other shit and weed in the middle fuck grow some corn on thr cob and cannabis on the stem in the middle

  • MV 1967

    I would not top plants past July 1st. August is when they start to flower and is too late for topping.

  • sokratis

    I wana ask my growing weed is almost rdy in 1 month i will harvest it but i cut 1 bud and i dry it in toster i smoke it and nothink…wtf but it looks great its not rdy yet ? Or i dry it wrong ? I grow it in outside condi.. i know tha the properly drying is to hang up from the root for 1 week.. i but its not suspose to get me high?

    • Big Slipp

      Very wrong don’t use a toaster hang dry for about 7-10 days. Once the stems make a snap noise but don’t break off they’re ready to be trimmed off the stems and put into mason jars. Open the jars a few times a day for the first 2 weeks then once a day for 2 more weeks. It needs to be cured this way.

  • Kevin Dowdy

    What happens if I don’t top my plants and just let them grow

    • Indy Q

      You get one hell of a strong plant that looks like a christmas tree with a great big massive kola growing at the top & a cascade of smaller kolas on the side branches. If you have the extra time & diligence, you can do the low stress training thing. Yes you get more kolas, but you don’t get that great big massive kola as you do with weed that grows natural. I live in a region that is subject to periods of intense wind and occasional downpours. Christmas Tree weed branches don’t break. Hell, I remember watching a freak hail storm raining marbles on the weed plot; no branches lost. Christmas Tree weed is tough, less prone to infestations and great if you want to *set and forget* & spend your free time doing something else.

  • Marty

    Hey everybody, I’m living on Vancouver Island and my plant is an amnesia haze strain( I know it was not the best choice for outside;)) but the plant is really big and healthy for now. I built a clear greenhouse to protect the plant of the rain and let some openings for a nice airflow. Some of you can have some other tricks to maximize my chances? And can you tell me what is the best time to harvest here?

    • Indy Q

      Spraying the plants with a solution of Neem oil & a few drops of original dawn every 1 to 2 weeks works really well in keeping powdery mildew, rust, fungus from spreading. It kills most pests too. If you do this, I strongly suggest spraying by hand. You want to get the underside of the fan leaves (where bugs like to hide from you) as well as the top. You want to saturate the leaves to run off. For the buds, a light mist is sufficient. THC naturally repels most pests so buds are least likely to suffer pest problems & mold issues will hit leaves first, buds last. If you are less than 2 weeks to harvest, I wouldn’t suggest doing anything but monitor closely & remove leaves that show signs of infection. Last two weeks you want to flush with pH balanced water to remove fertilizer salts & other toxins that make your weed taste like shit.

      If you can, put a fan in your tent & leave it on low, enough for a gentle breeze. Next to Neem, constant adequate air flow goes a long way in preventing problems from developing in the first place.

      good luck & remember it is always better to err on the side of harvesting a little late than a little early for optimal THC production.

  • Cali bear

    You want to get a good magnifying glass and make sure that the trichomes are 75% Amber you don’t want to take them off too early that’s when it’s powdery White and looks a little milky