Autoflowering cannabis strains are awesome. They grow fast and easy, and they fit pretty much everywhere because of their compact size. Although autoflowers are great for growing indoors, you can make the most of them with some love from Mother Nature outdoors.
ARE AUTOS A GOOD CHOICE FOR OUTDOOR GROWERS?
Essentially all you need is reasonably warm, sunny weather for 2–3 months, and you are good to grow. If you live in a cooler northern climate with short summers, autos are a sticky green lifeline. Where other strains will perish, a hardy auto can flourish. Blue Cheese Automatic is a proven performer outdoors across northern Europe.
For those based in warmer southern climates, autos can potentially produce multiple harvests during the spring-autumn growing season.
Just a few years ago, many cultivators didn’t take autoflowers seriously. They saw them as something suited for beginners, as the first autoflowering varieties couldn’t really match the yield, aroma, and potency of photoperiod strains. But this has changed significantly in recent years. Modern autoflowers have great yields, and their buds are of a quality that rivals photoperiod strains. As such, it only makes sense that cultivators are growing these strains outdoors to make the most of their key features. Here are some benefits of outdoor-grown autos:
• Sunlight means better yields and fatter buds
• You can achieve several harvests in a single growing season
• You can grow them outdoors at any time of year (weather depending)
• They are less susceptible to pests due to faster growth
• They fit in tiny spaces on your balcony, terrace, or garden
• They are ideal for stealthy outdoor grows/guerrilla grows due to their small size
BEFORE YOU START — PLANNING YOUR OUTDOOR AUTO GROW
Autoflowering strains require some preparation, as they will grow quickly and start to flower whether or not you’re ready for them. However, follow these steps and you should find success in your autoflowering garden.
One of the advantages of autos is their fast growth. Some autoflowering strains can deliver their goods in an amazingly short 50–55 days from the moment you plant your seed. Although their very fast growth is normally an advantage, it also means that autos are less forgiving when it comes to certain mistakes, as you simply don’t have the time to correct things as you would with photoperiods. Likewise, if any major issues happen over their short lifetime, from diseases and overwatering to pests and whatnot, this will also greatly diminish your yield.
To avoid this, you want to carefully plan your autoflowering outdoor grow so your girls can reach their full potential in the short time they have. Before anything else, consider the viability of your location. What’s the climate like? Are you planning to plant your seeds directly in a garden bed or in containers? What type of nutrients will you use? Will your plants get enough sunlight? Will you be able to attend to your plants, or are you growing in a remote location where you can’t visit often?
WHEN TO PLANT YOUR AUTOFLOWERS OUTDOORS
Photoperiodic cannabis relies on natural daylight hours for its vegetative and flowering stages. You normally plant seeds in late spring where they will veg until late summer when the shorter daylight hours force them into flowering. By the end of summer/early fall, they will be ready for harvest.
The beauty of autoflowers is that they don’t rely on daylight cycles, which means you can plant and harvest autoflowers any time you want. If you live in a climate where there is no frost, such as in the Mediterranean, you can, in principle, grow autoflowers all year round.
Then again, cannabis, including autoflowers, grows best when it can get at least 10–12 hours of sufficient sunlight. As such, it is still best to plant seeds in spring, sometime from late April to early May in Europe, as the days are already longer, which will benefit your plants’ growth. You can then harvest in late July and start another crop in early August, which will be ready in October. If you happen to live in a warm climate with no frost, you can reap up to four harvests in one single year!
If you live further north, you may want to avoid the coldest and rainiest months of the year. In these climates, you can plant your autoflowers sometime in late spring when you know there is no danger of frost. The exact time depends on where you live, and could range from April to early June. The shorter summer in a colder climate is also a factor you need to think about. You shouldn’t sow too late either, as you want to avoid flowering your weed into the rainy season. If you live somewhere with a rainy fall, it can be good to plant in early June, so you can harvest late in August. This way, you can beat the bad weather and your buds won’t fall victim to mould.
HOW TO GROW YOUR OUTDOOR AUTOFLOWERS
These days, you can find many great varieties of autoflowering cannabis seeds. Once you find a strain you like—one that will grow well in your climate—you can get started with your outdoor grow.
GERMINATE YOUR AUTOFLOWERING SEEDS
You can germinate your autoflowering cannabis seeds just like you would photoperiod seeds. Some cultivators like to germinate using the “paper towel method” or by putting seeds into a glass of water. But you can also plant your seeds right into their final container. Know that re-potting autoflowering cannabis is not recommended, as the transfer from a smaller to a larger pot can slow its growth. Since the growing time of autos is already limited, you want to avoid this as it can lead to a decreased yield.
For best results germinating your autoflowering seeds, we recommend the Starters Kit Autoflowering. This kit comes with everything you need to give your cannabis plants the best possible start in life.
PREPARE YOUR PLANTING CONTAINER OR GROWING SPOT
If you are growing your autoflower in a container, make sure that you choose a big-enough pot. Although autoflowers can normally do well with smaller pots compared to some of the larger photoperiod ladies, you still don’t want to restrict their growth. A pot that holds 7–15 litres will do. Again, keep in mind that your chosen pot will also be your final pot.
If you don’t use a container and want to plant directly in soil instead, know that the outdoor soil at your chosen location may not be optimal. The natural soil will likely not have sufficient nutrients, and it may drain poorly and/or contain harmful microorganisms that adversely affect the growth of your plant. For these reasons, outdoor growers often first dig holes for their outdoor plants, which they fill with a suitable substrate before planting their seed.
WATERING AND NUTRIENTS FOR YOUR OUTDOOR AUTOFLOWERS
As autoflowers normally grow to a smaller size, they will not need as much water as a vigorous photoperiod sativa, but you still want to make sure that your outdoor auto has enough to drink. How much and how often you need to water will once again depend on your climate and the needs of your individual plant. Just like with any other type of cannabis grow, you want to avoid overwatering in particular, although underwatering isn’t ideal either.
As for nutrients, here too you will want to be careful with how much you administer. You can always start with ½ or ¾ doses of nutes to make sure you’re not overloading your plants. You can also consider slow-release nutrients. These can be ideal when you grow outdoors in a location that you can’t always visit. When you amend your substrate with slow-release nutrients, your plant will get everything it needs, and you won’t need to bother feeding it. All you need to do is water.
HARVESTING YOUR CROP
Some autoflowers can be ready in a short 50–60 days, but there are also those that take longer, up to 80 days. Just like with photoperiod strains, you’ll know that harvest time is close when the initially white pistils on the buds start turning brown. To really see when it’s time to harvest, you should examine the trichomes of your cannabis plant. Trichomes are tiny, mushroom-shaped outgrows on the buds and sugar leaves of your plant. During growth, trichomes are crystal-clear at first. Later in flowering, the trichomes turn a milky white colour, then around harvest time, they turn from white to amber. You can’t really see the trichomes with the unaided eye, so use a jeweller’s loupe to get a close look at them. Cultivators often harvest when a certain percentage of the tiny “bubble heads” of the trichomes turn amber. At this point, the leaves of your plant will normally have started to turn yellow.
When you’re ready to harvest, swiftly cut the branches with the buds off of your plant, and don’t waste a lot of time drawing unwanted attention. Once you’ve safely brought home your harvest, you can trim the buds further. Alternatively, you can hang the branches with buds still attached for drying.
COMMON PROBLEMS WHEN GROWING AUTOS OUTDOORS
Growing outdoors can come with its own potential problems. Unwanted discovery of your weed out in the wild is one of them, but there is also the risk of animals and insects taking a liking to your crops. Here’s what you can do about it.
Fortunately, autoflowering cannabis varieties are somewhat less prone to pests and insect infestations. In fact, some autoflowering varieties are bred to have a particularly strong resistance against mould and pests. Likewise, due to the short life cycle of autoflowers, insects often don’t have the time they need to become a serious problem. Otherwise, if you notice an insect infestation such as aphids or whiteflies, no need to go all synthetic about it: insecticidal soap and neem oil can deal with most common cannabis pests in a safe and natural way.
ANIMALS TAKING A LIKING TO YOUR CROP
If you grow outdoors, chances are your crops may also attract the attention of animals such as birds, cats, or deer. If you grow somewhere where cannabis-loving critters are roaming about, you may want to protect your plants with cages made from chicken wire or bamboo stakes.
DISCOVERY OF YOUR CROP BY OTHER PEOPLE
Your precious plantation may also be at risk if someone discovers it. Someone may snatch your plants or you may get in trouble for growing. The smaller size of autoflowers already helps reduce the risk of accidental discovery. To further reduce the risk, choose a remote growing spot some distance away from paths and other public places, where it’s unlikely that someone would come around. With autoflowering varieties that are low in odour, you can further mitigate the risk for discovery. When you plant your weed together with companion plants such as herbs, flowers, or vegetables, you not only camouflage your grow and keep it hidden, but also prevent pests from taking hold while improving the surrounding soil.
Top Autoflowering Outdoor Strains
Autoflowering cannabis has a lot to offer, and we have put together a list of our top autos.
NORTHERN LIGHTS AUTO
Northern Lights is an absolute classic, and the automatic variety we have created here encapsulates absolutely everything that is loved and cherished about the strain – creating an enthralling body stone whilst mildly uplifting the mind.
WHITE RUSSIAN AUTO
The award-winning mix of AK-47 x White Widow x Ruderalis, White Russian is a top-shelf all-star that has a lot going for it. It induces that same skyrocketing high and comfortable body buzz of the original, but all in a fast growing, easy to manage package.
WHITE WIDOW AUTO
Another great choice for beginning growers in colder climates, Auto White Widow will produce highly resinous buds with a sparkling white frosting. This strain is relatively true to its non-auto flowering White Widow parents, but gets its autoflowering characteristics from the introduction of some ruderalis genetics. Though this strain does not typically grow too high outdoors, plan on providing some structural support for its heavy buds and long branches. Expect this strain to produce up to 10 ounces of harvestable buds (275 gram) per plant over its 10 to 12 week life cycle.
A cousin to Bubba Kush, Auto Critical is a cross between the original Kush and Critical Mass. Like other members of the Kush family, it boasts healthy THC levels of about 20% while delivering moderate levels of CBD as well and the familiar Kush-type aroma. It is a fast-growing, tall strain that the outdoor grower can expect to harvest in early fall. This highly floriferous selection will deliver a relaxing high with its crystal-covered buds.
JACK HERER AUTO
Named in honor of a folk hero to many in the American cannabis movement, Jack Herer’s origins are not entirely accounted for (just like any good folk hero) but are thought to derive at least partially from a Haze type of cannabis. This highly potent and highly resinous strain is an autoflowering type and suitable for outdoor growers.
Just like the name suggest, the buds of the Blueberry strain taste and smell like blueberries; it even bears red, purple and blue hues, maturing to a nice lavender-blue color. This autoflowering strain is noted for its fast maturity and high yields.
The choices do not end there. Fortunately, there are several other strains that are available in both the photoperiod version (which requires switching light periods to induce flowering) and in an autoflowering version.