For most people September is a bit of a sad month which means back to school, back to work, end of Summer… However for the outdoor cannabis grower, September is the month of flowering! While nature will run its course over the next couple of months the grower needs to be prepared in the name of outdoor cannabis crop protection. Your vigilance at this stage will increase the opportunities for a bumper outdoor cannabis harvest!
1) Watch the Weather!
Autumn months can bring inconsistencies from the weather and for this reason you need to keep an eye on the longer term forecast. The nights begin to carry more coldness in the air – even bringing an early season frost – and there can be dramatic fluctuations in the temperature in general. Rain is also a problem, particularly in northern regions and especially when accompanied by a drop in the air temperature, which can promote mold on outdoor cannabis plants.
2) Protecting Cannabis Plants From Rain
Cannabis buds are pretty robust and the odd shower does not trouble them too much. However, sustained rain will certainly have a negative impact on those lovely crystal clusters and inhibit bud development. Outdoor cannabis crop protection from the rain should be a priority although this is easier said than done with big plants (which is why many outdoor cannabis growers opt for a SCROG set up to control growth/height).
Obviously hardcore protection can be achieved with timber trellis work and clear plastic sheeting, but more temporary structures can also help – we have seen leisure gazebos, tepee frames wrapped in plastic and even umbrellas position over garden canes! The trick is to be prepared for the rain and get your shelter up in good time. Unfortunately the air will still be thick with humidity content, but every little helps.
3) Protecting Outdoor Cannabis Plants From Sun and Frost
In more southern regions of the world, heat and sun can bring their own problems in the form of stress which manifests itself in the form of cupped leaves (with the edges curling) and can cause ‘foxtailing’ buds. The key to preventing this happening is a good watering regime, keeping roots cool and providing shade. In Autumn hot sunny days can often be followed by cold nights and this brings the danger of frost. Unlike the rain, this is more difficult to predict. If you know one is coming, cover your plants with garden fleece (plastic sheeting will also work) and make sure to remove early the next day to stop a build up of condensation on your plants.
4) Watch Those Buds!
Throughout the flowering process make daily checks on your plants and invest Invest in a magnifying glass or a jeweller’s loupe so you can really get up close and personal with those nuggets. Most pests and diseases will strike while the plant is in the veg stage and are a problem because they inhibit growth. By the time a plant gets to flowering outdoors all of its energy is going into flower production. At this stage a minor attack from a pest such as spider mite, for example, is not going to be fatal, however it may impact on your yield. Checking your buds regularly will alert you to any issues before they become critical and you can take action.
5) Be Vigilant for Mold!
More dangerous at this stage of an outdoor cannabis grow is an attack from bud mold (aka botrytis or ‘gray mold’). This gardener’s enemy is extremely stealthy and can easily go undetected unti, it is too late. Tell tale signs of mold are small leaves protruding from buds that suddenly turn a greyish color. At a quick glance they may seem to be just another dying leaf, but look closely and they will reveal a patch of gray mold infecting the bud. Consult our guide for preventing and identifying bud mold here.
6) Let the Air Flow!
Pruning your plant during the flowering stage can be very beneficial. It will open up bud sites and expose them to the Autumn sunshine and getting rid of some of that foliage will also help to give some airflow to your plants which is one of the best defences you can have against mold. However, this needs to be done carefully in order not to stress the plant too much. Check out our Skunkworks video from the Topshelf Grower which deals with de-foliation and lollipopping in the flowering stage.
7) Plan Ahead for an Outdoor Cannabis Harvest
The unpredictability of Autumn means that as your flowers mature you should be thinking ahead about your feeding and watering schedule. Autumn rains can cause extra issues as prolonged rainfall and high air humidity will create ideal conditions for mold and mildew, so adding more water into the mix is only going to increase the risk. Aim to reduce the amount of water you give to your plants if the long term weather forecast is showing rain. In these circumstances it is advised to let your soil thoroughly dry out following the final flush. It is advisable to make an advance plan with an estimated harvest date in the diary so that you have some flexibility with watering.
8) Be pragmatic!
Outdoor cannabis growing is different to an indoor set up. You do not have the luxury of a controlled environment. Sometimes circumstances demand action. If there is a week of rain coming then be prepared to cut down a little bit early or risk losing everything to mold. Listen to the plant, use your instincts, be pragmatic!