This means that the strain you choose, propagation practices, site selection, and management techniques are all going to play a huge role in your chances of successfully harvesting a bountiful outdoor crop this season.
When it comes to strain selection, factors such as fast finishing, quick growth rates, and disease resistance are critical things to look for. You might be looking for the best-quality product around; however, if the complete growing cycle doesn’t finish before frost or cold wet weather begins, you may wind up never reaping any of the benefits from all of your hard work throughout the growing season.
In areas where it can get cold and damp in the later part of the season, selecting plants that possess a naturally strong level of disease resistance through genetics is great crop insurance. And while yields from different strains can vary when outdoors, keep in mind that if you can plant an unlimited number of plants, you don’t always have to look for the highest-yielding strain. The main thing to consider, no matter what you choose to grow, is that you select a plant with the genetics necessary to produce a strong harvest in your geographic growing zone.
For example, in northern latitudes, like Holland, you should try to grow strains that are ready for harvest before mid-September. Some strains can tough it out until mid-October in this type of growing climate, but it can be dicey. If you live on the California coast, going to mid-October should not pose a problem at all, while in British Columbia, heavy rains begin to arrive in September, with colder conditions and less light, which can cause what were once beautiful plants to rot to ruin in a matter of days.
It is critical for you to anticipate the first date of frost, or when heavy rains and cold conditions may start. A farmers’ almanac is a good source of information, and you can also check online for the seasonal weather patterns for your region. Once you know when conditions will begin to deteriorate, you will know what kind of finishing time you will need to select for in your strain.
To help avoid late-season disasters, you might want to consider autoflowering strains. They are called autoflowering because these plant do not need to experience the shorter days of the late growing season to begin their flowering cycle. Instead, they can mature under any photoperiod, which means you can have flowering plants even during the long days of midsummer. While these plants produce a lower yield, they finish very fast—going from seed to maturity in about 60 days. This means that if you start them indoors, you can potentially harvest two crops per outdoor season.
So now you have your new genetics in hand. You will want to have this done about four months before planting if you wish to have time to select mother plant(s) to take clones from. However, if you are going to start your crop directly from seed, raise them as transplants, and then plant them outdoors, you need only about a month or so to get the plants to a healthy size to survive outdoors. Keep in mind that the bigger and healthier your transplants are before moving outside, the better the chance they have of getting established quickly and yielding well later in the season.
Ideally, transplants for outdoors should be at least 9 inches tall, with several sets of leaves and a large and healthy root system to support growth and anchor the plant.
While you’ve spent all this time readying your plants, you should have put just as much effort into finding the perfect place for them to grow. Site selection is a huge consideration for outdoor growing, especially in remote locations. Serious outdoor growers may spend the off-season hiking around, scouting the best possible location for their next garden. Once you find the right spot, you can get to work.
Here are some things you will need to consider in finding a good spot for your outdoor grow:
Is there ample access to fresh water?
An outdoor garden can use copious amounts of water. If it does not receive enough, your plants will be stressed or even killed during hot weather. Note that sometimes creek beds can dry up when you need them most, so you must ensure that you can find a reliable source of water during the hottest part of summer, or come up with ways to store water that you collect while it is available.
Does the site receive enough light?
Remember that the sun will change position as the season goes on, meaning that what was a sunny spot in spring or midsummer could become shaded by surrounding trees and vegetation during autumn months. Most types of light-loving plants will need to receive at least five hours of direct, intense sunlight daily to produce well. Morning sun is preferred by some gardeners because it helps to reduce watering requirements and reduces the stress factor on plants since they are not baking in the heat of the midday sun.
Does the spot provide some shelter?
While we want our plants to receive lots of light, we also want to protect them from strong winds, predators, and other problems. Clearings in vegetation, especially those surrounded by thorns, can be a good choice provided that enough light will cascade into the clearing through the entire growing season, right up to harvest time.
OK, so now you have your spot all picked out. Maybe you needed to do a little clearing of brush for better light penetration and protection. It’s a good idea to take care of any native “weeds” that might outgrow your crop, competing for light, water, and nutrients. Also, if you have a lot of deer or other animals that might like to eat your plants, consider putting up some mesh netting or fencing. When working with netting, make sure it is very secure, and that it will not become loose and pose a danger to wildlife that might get caught in it. Be diligent to dispose of all materials after the growing season in a safe manner that is conscientious to the other inhabitants in the area.
Once the site is ready, it’s time to prepare it for plants. As a note of caution, it’s a good idea to have everything completely ready before you bring your plants out to the remote garden. This way, it will only take you five minutes or so per plant to complete transplant. Otherwise, you will have to carry around plants and risk damaging them, while spending hours (or even days) preparing the site for planting.
Growbags are great for remote gardening. They are easy to carry into the site, and easy to dispose of afterward. For outdoor planting, a 15-gallon growbag is considered the minimum, unless you are growing extremely compact and fast-finishing plants. Growbags also help to keep the plants up off the ground, farther out of harm’s way from any crawling, scurrying, or hopping predators that might make a path to your favorite plants. In the spring, they can help warm up the root zone more quickly than if you just plant in the cold ground. If you are using plastic growbags and they are unsightly to you, dip some burlap in surrounding mud and wrap it around the outside; just don’t forget where you left your plants or they might be too hard to spot!
If you are a planner, long before it’s time to fill the growbags, you can get a compost pile going near your grow site. Using forest litter and other organic debris, you can build a good soil or soil amendment this way, saving on how many materials you are going to need to lug to your garden. Compressed coco coir blocks are a good choice because they are relatively lightweight and compact, making them easier to carry as opposed to other purchased growing mediums. The blocks are hydrated at the growing site, which can be as easy as leaving them out unwrapped and waiting for a good rainfall.
Sunshine Mix #4 and Pro-Mix peat-based soilless mixes work great if you can carry them. Just note that some outdoor growers find the perlite unsightly, as it tends to really glow under bright sunlight against the surrounding native backdrop.
With either coco coir or peat mixes, you will need to fertilize, because these materials supply little, if any, fertilizer charge for your plants.
An easy way to fertilize your outdoor plants, including those being grown directly in the ground, is to apply to the surface of the growing medium a granular fertilizer with an intermediate rate of release. The granules break down with moisture and light, steadily releasing a supply of nutrients to your fast-growing outdoor crop.
When choosing this type of product, make sure that it is complete; that is, it includes a full range of chelated trace elements. The best formulas are available in separate spring, summer, and fall formulations to better address the changing nutritional needs of your crop. Follow label directions carefully.
Organic nutrients and amendments are also good options for growers with more experience in organic cultivation methods. Just throwing down a bunch of manure in random amounts with no lime or precomposting is a recipe for disaster, so make sure you plan and measure your organic feeding components carefully.
With either conventional or organic feeding methods, make sure that fertilizer runoff is not going to leech into local streams, creeks, or water tables. Leave nothing behind but footprints. Take care of the environment that you are counting on to help you harvest your plants, and there is a much better chance that the environment will take care of you and deliver on your field of dreams.
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Wednesday, 03 April 2013