Seven Tips to Get Started on your Outdoor Home Grow
You just got home from the dispensary with your new clone. Now what? How much should you water it? How much light should it get? When should you transplant it? What about the seeds that you have? What the heck do you do with those?! Our Senior Cultivation Manager, Seth Gillim, has 20 years of agriculture experience under his belt and has spent two years with CVD, perfecting our successful cultivars’ growing method. Let’s start things off easy: here are seven tips from Seth to help you get started on your outdoor home grow.
1. Choose your genetics wisely.
If you’re going to be growing outside in Vermont, a Sativa that takes 10 or 11 weeks to finish isn’t the right choice. Consider fast-finishing cultivars or autoflowers.
2. Start your seeds yesterday.
I am a huge believer in starting seeds early. It’s rarely a good idea to put your plants outside before they are ready, so the earlier you can get them going, the better. There are a million different seed germinating techniques, but I like to keep it simple. A few rules of thumb:
- Pre-germinate. This means gently enclosing your seed in a damp (not sopping), lightweight cloth and putting aside in a dark, covered container until the radicle (baby root) begins to emerge. Some folks use paper towels, but this can be challenging as they are porous, and the radicle will grow into the paper towel – you’ll break it when you go to transplant. Pre-germination is a great way to ensure your seeds are viable. Once the radicle emerges, gently plant and cover with less than 1/8” of growing media.
- Be mindful of temperature and humidity. The basics:
- Keep seeds under domes until after the first true leaves have started to emerge (they’ll look like cannabis leaves). Temps around 80 with 99% RH are optimal (you can buy a small, cheap hygrometer from online retailers for $5).
- After the first true leaves have appeared, open the vents on your dome to lower rH to 80%. Keep this relative humidity constant until the plant is well-rooted in its container. After that, it should be fine at regular room humidity. But keep it warm – around 75-80 degrees is ideal. A standard fluorescent bulb will provide enough light and warmth for seedlings.
- Avoid windowsills! It’s counterintuitive, but windowsills can have wide swings in temperature and humidity, which will stress your plant. Remember, seedlings are babies. They thrive in warm, stable environments. You never want to stress a young plant.
3. Lighting cycles.
18 hours a day/6 hours off is best. Some folks light their young plants 24 hours a day, which is fine, but I like to give them a few hours a day where they aren’t photosynthesizing. It’s really about paying attention to your seedling/clone and seeing how it responds. The main thing about lighting is to keep your lights relatively cool (i.e., with a higher Kelvin). A 6500 Kelvin T5 bulb is inexpensive and puts out a lot of light on the blue spectrum, which will help your plant develop dense, compact nodes and bud structures.
4. Watering, overwatering and the root zone.
This is just about the hardest thing for many growers to get right. Your plants want moist media that will allow them to maintain steady rates of transpiration, but they also need good amounts of water at the root zone. Oversaturated growing media is low in dissolved O2, which causes root dieback. What’s challenging is that the signs of over and under-watering are very similar (drooping leaves, slow growth, yellowing leaves). How much is the right amount? Try the fingertip test – stick your finger in the growing media up to the knuckle. If it’s moist, you’re good. If it’s dry, water it. If it feels completely saturated, back off watering and let it dry down.
5. When to transplant?
Consider transplanting a couple of times before you set your final plant outdoors. Let your plant fill out the pot before transplanting. It’s even good to have the plant be slightly root-bound before transplanting. Score – gently cut the roots – on your transplants 4-5 times. This does not “hurt” the plant – quite the opposite. Roots don’t have nodes, so they will branch out anywhere they are cut. Scoring the plant at transplant helps to develop a nice, dense root zone. Many growers put a small plant in a big pot with the mistaken notion that it will grow to fill out the pot completely. It often won’t – but what will happen is that it will send its roots to the bottom of the container, such that you’ll have a root zone that extends deep but isn’t well-developed. You want a nice, big root zone because, as they say, “the bigger the roots, the bigger the fruits.”
6. Don’t be in too much of a hurry to put your plant outside.
Remember, you never want to stress a young plant. Putting your plant outside in mid-May when it’s still cool at night is not going to give it the healthy jump-start it needs. The best practice for transitioning to outdoors is to gently “harden off” your plants. Bring it outside a couple of hours at a time (start on an overcast day) to gently get it used to the extreme sunlight it’s going to experience outdoors.
7. Plan your outdoor grow.
If it’s your first time, identify a good spot for the plant in your garden. Is there enough sun? Cannabis loves the sun, so that area of your yard that’s in the shade by one in the afternoon isn’t going to work. Do you have a water source readily available? If you plan on growing in a pot, make sure it’s going to be somewhere that can be easily brought inside or covered in the event of an early frost.
Do you feel prepared to get started with your cannabis? Seth has even more to share. Join him next Wednesday, March 17th, at 3 pm, for our Virtual MYMM 101: Cultivation Edition – Getting Started with Your Outdoor Home Grow. Every attendee will be entered in a raffle for a Goldleaf Grow Planner, a journal designed specifically for cannabis cultivation to track your home grow. All attending CVD/SVW patients will receive 30 BlackBird Rewards Points. Register here!
Seth Gillim, Senior Cultivation Manager
Seth was born and raised in Underhill, Vermont and has called Winooski home for the past 10 years. He received a Masters in Business Administration from UVM’s Sustainable Innovation MBA program in 2018, the same year that he joined the team at CVD. He has 10 years of experience working in agriculture, conservation and operations management, most recently serving as the Production and Community Engagement Coordinator at the Intervale Conservation Nursery. In his role as Senior Cultivation Manager, Seth looks to incorporate sustainability, social responsibility and teamwork into every function of the department.