It’s the beginning of September and while most people wouldn’t worry about it, some are gearing up for growing season. Take for example the founder of Food Forest Permaculture; Howie is an extremely talented gardener, especially when it comes to growing cannabis outdoors. To him, it’s a year-round process… there is no off-season. When nothing is planting, he’s prepping the soil and surroundings. While this may seem strange, Howie is doing something right; you can see the proof in the plants. Whether you’re looking to start growing or already have a crop, here are some excellent year-round outdoor cannabis growing tips from Food Forest Permaculture.
September to November
Set up success by setting up your soil
It’s pretty simple: you can’t grow good buds without good soil, but what exactly does that mean? For Howie, the best soil and system is organic, no-till, and cost-effective; he calls it a ‘pathway soil bank’. It’s basically a nutrient-rich plant nursery that doesn’t require much maintenance. By layering organic material such as compost, wood chips, and kitchen scraps, he creates and plants cannabis on mounds of black gold. As soon as the last years plants are harvested, he starts prepping the soil.
November to January
Seeds and Sprouts
Rather than use clones, Howie starts from seeds. Keep in mind, he’s very particular and breeds the seeds that he plants. If using clones works for you, keep doing what you’re doing.
Howie sprouts the seeds and lets them grow to a few inches high. As soon as they are big enough, he plants them in the soil outdoors, usually in December or January. For the sprouts to survive and then thrive outdoors, there has to be the perfect amount of airflow; too little grows mold and too much will damage the plant sprouts. On top of that, the temperature changes add their own set of challenges. Howie manages by doing a few things:
- Put cedar wood chips on top of the soil before planting the sprouts. This helps support the first inch of the sprout while insulating the soil. Block wind and control airflow by planting complementary flora nearby.
- In BC, frost is an issue above the ground but it doesn’t penetrate below it (sorry Ontario). When the weather is turning nasty, Howie creates a mini greenhouse or humidity dome, with a mason jar or water glass. He lists the glass to one side by resting the lid on a rock or stick; this way, the jar sits slightly tipped over the sprout, allowing for air circulation.
This image was taken from Reddit and is meant to show you one way to make a humidity dome. This plant was not grown by Howie.
Protect your plants with other plants
When you are growing outdoors, one of the toughest challenges is protecting the plants from outside pollen and mold. Discretion can be another issue, especially when it comes to theft prevention. To deal with these challenges, Howie grows other types of plants that complement his cannabis crop. Surrounding your garden with taller plants and shrubs. Organic food such as berry bushes and fruit trees are great choices to compliment your cannabis garden. These plants grow to sizes and shapes that can block the wind and prying eyes while still allowing airflow.
Howie from Food Forest Permaculture gestures to the height of the cannabis plants and explains how his plants protect each other. Note the surrounding fig trees, raspberry, and rose bushes.
Chickens and Ducks
Of all the tips he had to share, this one was my absolute favorite: use chickens and ducks to deal with insects.
- Muscovy ducks love to eat slugs and will dig through your garden to find them.
- A win-win situation for you and the chickens – Insects and slugs are a big part of a chicken’s natural diet thus, your poultry is living its best life. Plus, you get the organic, chemical-free pest control and a great deal on free-range eggs.
To many, growing good cannabis seems too difficult to be worth doing, especially outdoors. If we can reframe our outlook and start having fun with it, the results can be incredible. Remember, they call it weed for a reason…