Wednesday July 3, 2019View our Editorial Policy
There are many benefits to growing marijuana outdoors – natural lighting is cheaper and more efficient, pests are kept in check with beneficial plants and predators, and in-ground root systems allow for greater expansion and thus larger plants. But there are also some major headaches associated with outdoor grows. Specifically, when the weather acts up, you cannot always move them inside for protection.
Considering the crazy weather we’ve been experiencing lately nationwide, we decided it would be beneficial to share some tricks our readers can use to protect their outdoor cannabis plants from Mother Nature’s sometimes harsh hand. Whether it’s a spontaneous hailstorm or a surprisingly short season, there are a few things you can do to protect marijuana from the elements outdoors.
How to Protect Cannabis Plants from Outdoor Heat
Cannabis plants show signs of heat stress by folding their leaves into a sort of taco shape to conserve water. If caught early enough, the situation can usually be rectified to salvage the plant (though some leaves may get lost and some pruning may be necessary).
When plants first show signs of heat stress, water them immediately. Water not only ensures they have something to drink when it gets hot out, but also helps to keep plant leaves and roots cool. As long as they are not overwatered (which reduces the amount of oxygen the roots receive), your plants will do much better with a healthy dose of H2O, ideally in the morning time so the water can evaporate throughout the day to help keep them cool.
Mulch also helps retain moisture in the roots and helps deflect hot UV rays from penetrating the dark soil. Grass clippings and straw (not hay – that contains seeds) are great options; use caution when using bark-based mulches, though, because they can alter the soil’s pH as they decompose.
Another tip is to keep cannabis plants in shady areas during the hottest parts of the day. Use a shade net for in-ground plants or simply move them if they are potted. Planting in groups can also provide some shade, just be sure they are all getting *some* sun throughout the whole day (the sun’s light cycle naturally changes into a “flowering” photoperiod around August/September so the duration of light they receive is very important).
Potted plants need extra root protection because the container in which they live could conduct and collect heat. Keep the planter away from direct sun exposure by placing it into another larger pot (like nesting dolls) to provide a barrier between the plant pot and the sun and keep them off of concrete or tile surfaces. If this is not an option (or to add an additional barrier to the heat), place the planter on top of a tray filled with pebbles and water. The pot will sit atop the pebbles while the sun slowly evaporates the water cool the plant.
Protecting Cannabis Plants from Hail and Frost
A sudden storm or surprise frost can cause some major damage to cannabis plants. Though resilient to minor stress, a hard frost or hailstorm can be almost impossible to recover from (which is especially tragic when the buds are already forming). To protect cannabis plants from frost or hailstorms, cover them immediately with any household object that will fit. Buckets or large trash bins work well for cannabis plants, as do cardboard boxes of various sizes.
Be sure to weigh them down with bricks or other heavy objects, securing them to the soil when necessary (for example, by weighing a box’s flaps down to the ground instead of putting a brick on the top which might smash your plant). For very large grow areas, throw stakes in the ground so that they stand taller than the plants. Cover with a large tarp and secure with rope before the storm or heavy frost hits. Heavy rainfall can also wash away much of the soil so we recommend building up extra around the base of the plant to prevent root exposure. Always remember to remove any structure or objects placed atop your plants as soon as the danger has passed. You don’t want to leave them in the dark for too long or you might throw off their photoperiod causing stress and potentially hermaphroditic plants (a.k.a. seedy weed).
You can’t control the weather, but you can control the way your plants react to it. Protect your cannabis plants from the elements before the next storm, heatwave, or frost hits your area. That way, your garden with keep growing strong!
Do you have tips for protecting cannabis plants from outdoor elements? We’d love to hear about them.