Shopping For Legal Cannabis

Ask a Bud: Getting Ready to Grow Outdoors

From selecting the right seeds to planting seedlings outside, there’s lots to consider when it comes to growing cannabis outdoors in Ontario. To help you get started, we asked budtenders at Cannabis Xpress, Garden City Cannabis Co. and Rustic Cannabis for some growing basics.

Cannabis is a rather hardy plant and can grow in a wide variety of conditions successfully

Headshot of Jake Rigby, Garden City Cannabis Co.

Jake Rigby
Budtender at Garden City Cannabis Co.

Outdoor growing season doesn’t officially kick off until after the May long weekend, but there’s still plenty to do before planting day — from selecting seeds and germinating to stocking up on the right equipment. We asked budtenders at Cannabis Xpress, Garden City Cannabis Co., and Rustic Cannabis how home growers can get started in advance of the season.

Ontarians aged 19 and over can legally grow up to four cannabis plants per home (not per person) for personal use.

What are feminized seeds, and what is
the benefit of buying them?

When shopping for cannabis seeds in Ontario, you might notice that Authorized Cannabis Stores typically sell feminized cannabis seeds. These seeds “are genetically engineered to only become female plants, and they almost always (99.9%) do,” says Tyler Davidson from Cannabis Xpress. Feminized seeds “eliminate the game of chance, making growing cannabis much easier, as well as more economical.”

“Regular seeds have around a fifty percent chance to produce either male [pollen-producing plants] or female [flowering plants],” says Evan Davies of Rustic Cannabis. “The benefit of buying feminized seeds is that you don’t have to worry about any pollen-bearing [male] plants in your crop, which will cause the flowering [female] plants to start producing seeds instead of bud.”

What happens if your outdoor plants grow seeds?

“Male plants produce seed pods,” explains Davidson, “and, if they stick around long enough, they can pollinate [nearby] female plants and dramatically reduce their yields.” For the good of all the outdoor growers in your vicinity, Garden City Cannabis Co. budtender Jake Rigby advises that if your plants go to seed, “you will have to remove them as soon as possible or risk ruining your own crop […] and others in your neighbourhood.”

Headshot of Evan Davies, Rustic Cannabis

Evan Davies
Budtender at Rustic Cannabis

The benefit of buying feminized seeds is that you don’t have to worry about any pollen-bearing (male) plants in your crop

How do I know when to plant outdoors?

You’ll want “to germinate a plant (start the seed and allow it to grow into a small plant), before placing it outside,” according to Rigby, but when to plant outside depends on several factors. “Ontario is a large province with plant hardiness zones ranging from USDA Zone 0b to 7a and, depending on your latitude, the length of your summer days will differ,” Rigby explains. “In Southern Ontario, mid-April is generally a good starting time to begin the germination, allowing a six-to-seven-week-old plant to be ready shortly after Victoria Day. But as you go north, or if there’s a late frost, you may have to adapt to the growing season in your area.”

What sort of equipment do I need
to get started growing outdoors?

Unlike indoor growing, specialized equipment isn’t needed for outdoor growing. According to Davidson, “you only need a few bare minimum requirements: seeds, access to water, soil, pots, a growing medium, nutrients, a PH tester. And, aside from the seeds, most of it can be sourced from the local hardware store or garden supply centre.”

Rigby also recommends investing in graduated pots, including “a seedling starter tray, some small (such as P9) pots for the seedlings and larger (5-litre or more) pots for the adult plants,” so that you can repot your plants as they grow bigger. And he adds “some scissors for trimming and harvesting” to the list.

Growing cannabis outdoors isn’t just for home growers. See how Licensed Producers have mastered the art of outdoor cannabis cultivation here.

Can I grow cannabis in regular garden soil?

If you ask Rigby, “The best growing medium is the one you have access to or are willing to pay for and schedule your plants’ care around. But cannabis is a rather hardy plant and can grow in a wide variety of conditions successfully.”

Of course, “the easiest and simplest way for a successful outdoor crop is regular soil,” says Davies, who adds that “nutrients can be added to boost plant growth and to prevent dry soil.” Though Rigby notes that while soil “can be found anywhere outside, its composition and properties will vary depending on location. And it may contain pathogens (fungal, viral, bacterial, etc.) that can harm or kill your plants.”

Rigby and Davidson both agree that some sort of “living soil” is ideal. Davidson looks to enrich his with compost and manure, while Rigby prefers a “high-quality soil with a complex microbial, fungal and biochemical balance created by the various organisms that live within it.”

Other alternate growing mediums available to home growers include potting soils, though Rigby warns that “your plant will consume all the nutrients available fairly quickly and will require feeding for the best result,” and coco coir, which is “made by grinding coconut husks,” and is, according to Davidson, a “soilless medium that provides roots with better access to nutrients and air for faster growth.”

Headshot of Tyler Davidson, Cannabis Xpress

Tyler Davidson
Budtender at Cannabis Xpress

Watch out for pests such as insects, rabbits and squirrels; they can make a mess of your plants rather quickly

What are some common concerns for
home growers to be aware of?

“Watch out for pests such as insects, rabbits and squirrels; they can make a mess of your plants rather quickly. And be aware of powdery mildew; it seems to be another common issue with outdoor growth,” says Davidson. He also recommends that you pick an easy strain that does not require too much sunlight to start.

Meanwhile, Rigby shares some warning signs of nutrient deficiencies: “A lack of nitrogen can be the cause of leaves to turn pale and yellow, while slow growth can mean a deficiency in phosphorus. If your newly matured leaves start to yellow or show necrotic edges, it could mean a shortage of potassium, while curled lower leaves that start showing brown or purple spots on their edges could mean a calcium deficiency. And if your plant lacks magnesium, you’ll see the older leaves will turn yellow between the veins, and they may develop brown or purple spots and eventually fall off.”

From drying to consumption, these beginner tips can help you get growing. Learn how to harvest cannabis at home here.

Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
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