Unpredictable and extreme weather, climate change, and other environmental factors can make life challenging for marijuana growers — especially outdoor marijuana growers.
Sudden storms, long drought periods, warm gusts of wind or night frosts are just some of the meteorological strikes that can mess up any marijuana crop during this season. You’ll have to be very attentive and take the necessary steps in order to avoid them. Therefore, you should know a series of techniques for outdoor cannabis growing and prepare them in time so these weather extremes can’t take you by surprise.
So, the most important thing before planting your marijuana outdoors is to know your zone’s climate and to choose a good spot for your crops: is it a cold climate? Rather a warm one? Which place offers greater protection from the wind? What night temperatures are to be expected? These questions help you to delimit potential problems of the ground you grow on in advance.
Indoor marijuana grow ops can’t be harmed or destroyed by environmental conditions, but outdoor marijuana plants are far more susceptible.
When we talk about outdoor marijuana plants, we mean plants rooted in the ground or in containers too large to be moved, and growing in remote grow sites often described as guerilla gardens.
When marijuana plants can’t be physically moved to an indoor grow room, outdoor growers unfortunately have few viable options for protecting their crops.
Before the Storm
First off, be prepared. When it comes to storms and cannabis, your number one line of defense is trellising. Wet buds are a lot heavier, which means you need to provide significantly more structural support than you might have anticipated.
Trellis and Stake Ahead of Time
To begin, make sure the primary stalks of your plants are supported. Cages can be placed around plants at a young age and will work wonders later in the season. But any point where a branch splits into two new stalks is a point of stress that can easily break. Identify these points and use bamboo stakes and garden ties to secure big branches.
After securing the inside of the plant, you need to trellis the outside and provide support to the buds. Use strong building materials like rebar, 2x4s, or T-posts, and drive them into the ground next to your plants—these will support the trellis (or scrog) material.
Attach trellising to these posts so it’s taught, and then take time to guide each bud or branch through the trellis or scrog. Spacing the buds will encourage air flow and help prevent mold.
Wind is a big threat to cannabis plants so when choosing a garden space, consider which way the wind typically blows and plant accordingly.
One of the most used techniques to keep them safe is tying the plants to posts or sticks stuck in the ground. If your zone is very windy, you can even build a fence with sticks and ropes so your plants get more support. It is further recommended to plant next to hedges or bushes or to set up plastic windbreakers in order to reduce or rather stop the wind. Even moving your pots so the plants are closer to the walls might help.
Another advice is to keep your plants as small as possible, which requires trimming. In this way, they won’t reach an excessive height and are forced to grow horizontally, which increases their production by 10 to 20 %. However, you should start pruning from the second week of the growth phase on.
From that moment until the second week of the flowering, you can use different techniques: from cutting about 10 cm off the upper part of the stem to bending techniques to make the plants grow thicker. The only thing you should bear in mind is to prune regularly and systematically during the whole crop cycle and not just during some days, so the plant can recover between each trimming and doesn’t suffer too much stress.
Storms are the great threat an outdoor marijuana grower must face. Especially in spring and summer, no one expects them though they can actually come out of nowhere and destroy your marijuana plant’s branches and leaves. The most dangerous moment for such sudden rain to appear, however, is during the flowering.
At that stage, the flowers bloom, starting to produce big buds some weeks later. An unexpected storm might not only break the branches by the water’s weight, but also cause even more serious moisture problems, which are usually difficult to solve without cutting off lots to cut your losses.
To prevent this, it’s best to cover the plants with a canvas or plastic cover whenever the weather forecast calls for a high probability of strong storms caused by big changes in atmospheric pressure. Your choice of material and building techniques will depend on whether you opt for a temporary or a permanent installation throughout the whole crop cycle.
If it’s just a temporary measure, you can use any plastic or canvas cover you have at hand and place it more than 30 cm away from your plants to ensure good ventilation and avoid humidity in your crops. If you want it to last, however, you’ll have to build a greenhouse.
If the plants have already been exposed to rainfall and are planted in pots, you’d better separate them a bit so the wind can blow between them and dry them fast. This measure, which also serves against night frosts, prevents mould formation.
When growing in pots, drainage shouldn’t be an issue. Just make sure water doesn’t pool and stay around the pots.
If your plants are in the ground, you want to be sure soil can properly drain after a storm. Some natural drainage barriers are invisible to the naked eye, such as bedrock under the surface, which can cause your plant roots to soak in water for days after a storm.
The best way to prevent this is to check before planting. During the season before planting, pay attention to your proposed garden site and see how it responds during and after a storm. If water doesn’t drain properly, install a perforated drainage pipe through your garden to help divert excess water, or consider a new location for your garden.
After the Storm
It’s important to check your garden after a big storm. Inspect every plant, looking for damaged branches and check the buds.
Check and Shake Off Plants
When inspecting, take the opportunity to help your plant shed some water weight by shaking the stalks. Do so lightly to avoid damaging the plant.
Check big colas for bud rot that comes from the inside. This is especially important if hot, sunny weather occurs right after a storm, which creates a high humidity environment. Look for brown spots, slimy flowers, and dead branches. If found, cut these away and discard the material away from your garden.
If you find broken branches, the quicker you can repair them the better. Zip ties or plumber’s tape can be your best friend in mending a branch. Note that it is no longer recommended to use tree tar seal, as it prevents a plant from using its own immune system.
To apply zip ties or plumber’s tape, bring the branch back as closely to its original position as possible, and use a few ties or strips of tape to distribute pressure and seal the gap. Also, consider using bamboo stakes to support the upper portion of the branch, to help take some stress off the plant.
Experts assure, that the climate change helps marijuana to grow stronger and to handle shortage of recourses better than other plants. Though it usually requires huge amounts of water to grow strong, cannabis doesn’t need much to survive. It’s actually one of the plants that adapt best to any climate, which explains why it’s survived for millions of years already.
Still, climate and its extreme atmospheric agents can cause huge damage to your outdoor marijuana crops. The keys to avoiding them are, apart from choosing the right location and seed, to always remain attentive to the weather forecast and to take the necessary steps before the bad weather arrives.