Growing Autoflowers Outdoors
Autoflowers are great in their versatility, they are able to be grown under harsher conditions and are able to produce yield all year round, given that the conditions aren’t too harsh. They can be planted directly in the soil for larger yield or contained in smaller pots for easy maneuverability, allowing you to easier cater towards their needs. There are however a few important things to take into consideration when growing autos outdoors.
How They Differ to Photoperiods Outdoors
While photoperiod plants will only flower outdoors once a year, when the cycle of the sun lowers the daylight hours to around 12/12, autoflowers can run all year around, due to their flowering being triggered by time and not by light cycle. Given that autos tend to go from seed to harvest in less than 3 months, this means you could potentially achieve 4 autoflower harvests in a single year, compared with just the single photoperiod harvest.
Most outdoor growers of regular cannabis plants will plant directly into the earth, allow them more space for root development over the lengthy vegging cycle, during the summer months. While this is sometimes done with autos as well, the fact that they are so quick to flower, they usually don’t require that much soil space and in most cases a 25L pot will be more than enough, with many growers opting for a 10 or 15L even. Because of this, it’s not uncommon to see auto growers, growing outdoors while still keeping their plants potted. This will also allow one to move them under cover during harsh conditions or when raining, to prevent potential bud rot.
When Do You Start an Auto Outdoors?
Fact is, if you are growing autos outdoors and your temperatures aren’t too extreme, you could start whenever you want. Most autos handle the cold quite well and can usually be grown in 15’C weather without too much of an issue, so winter growing does become a reality for those who live in climates with mild winters.
It may also be the natural assumption that the best time to plant would be early spring when the photoperiods are generally planted, however because autos are so reliant on getting an optimum start with the most light possible, the best time to plant is generally around November or December. Waiting the extra couple months gets you as much as another hour of sunlight on your plant each day, something that can increase your final yields.
If you’re growing in the winter months, you will still be able to grow your plants, however depending where you are this could be difficult. Greenhouses offer the best option for winter growing of autos (outside of indoor setups), as it will protect the plant from some of the cold and the rain (if you’re in a winter rainfall area). Yields will be much lower in winter months due to the lower hours of light that the plant is getting. Autos are grown indoors often at 20/4, so in the winter months where you may only be getting about 10 hours of sunlight, you won’t see the same yields as in the summer months.
Potted or Direct Soil?
This is entirely up to each grower and can be done either way. Personally, I enjoy growing in pots, even outdoors. This allows me to move the auto under cover when it rains or when there is a storm around. Hail storms up north are a common cause of crop loss, and being able to move it into shelter could save you a lot of pain in the end.
Another reason for growing autos in pots, is because you are less prone to pests than growing directly in soil. Pests can still be a problem when potted, but usually not to the same degree as in the ground.
As touched upon earlier, autoflowers keep a relatively small rooting system in most cases and the benefits for growing directly in the ground may not outweigh the flexibility that a potted grow will give you.
Chase The Sun
Most cannabis growers, regardless of whether they are growing autos or photoperiods, will want to expose their plants to as much light as possible. However, there is less room for error with autos. A photoperiod plant that gets shaded for 2 hours a day is still probably going to grow into a large plant by the end of the cycle when autumn approaches. Autoflowers however, should be pressed to get as much light as possible, given the importance of their early vegetative stages.
Move your autoflowering strain into an area which gets the least amount of shade and the most amount of direct sunlight. This will ensure that it thrives and reaches its maximum potential.
Indoors to Outdoors
This is a topic we’ll cover more in depth at a later point, however a common situation for outdoor autoflower growers is the idea of vegging your plants indoors and then moving them outdoors for flowering. This allows the plant to get the optimum start with a controlled environment, and since autos only veg for 3-4 weeks, it is a very affordable method to use. You can even add them in to your vegging photoperiod tent that’s sitting at 18/6 and then move them out to flower, as your photos get larger.