growing weed outdoors in colorado

Growing Marijuana Outdoors; What You Need to Know

Tuesday April 7, 2015

I love spring time. Flowers are blooming, birds are chirping and my toes finally have a chance to thaw before the heat of the sun kicks in. But the one thing that I love the most about spring is the time I get to spend in my garden preparing soil, planning my layout and planting my favorite fruits, vegetables and herbs.

My favorite herb, cannabis, requires a bit more consideration than simply where to plant it, though. Regulations about how accessible the plants are, how many there are, where they can be grown and whom should come in contact with them all make planning a cannabis garden all the more time-consuming.

Whether you’re a Colorado resident or considering a transplant to our fine state, there are a few things you should keep in mind if you plan on growing your own cannabis garden outdoors. Aside from learning where to find the best marijuana seeds in Colorado, you’ll also need to make sure your grow space meets the regulations outlined by the Marijuana Enforcement Division.

Regulations for growing marijuana outdoors

Growing your own marijuana isn’t as simple as growing your own tomatoes. If you plan on adding cannabis to your veggie garden this year, then make sure you’re well within Colorado law by following these simple rules:

    Limit your plants: In Colorado, home growers are allowed to have up to six plants per person or 12 per household, but you can only have half flowering at a time. When you grow outdoors, expect all plants to flower at the same time (which is usually around September and October when the days start getting shorter).

Rather than pull half of your plants at this time, I suggest planting only three to six female plants. You can find out the gender early if you force-flower clones under artificial light.

Grow your plants in a secure, enclosed location: Planting your ganja in your garden — even if it’s locked — isn’t good enough to meet regulations in Colorado. In order to grow cannabis lawfully, it’ll need to be in a fully-enclosed location. This could be a basement, garage or greenhouse, but must remain closed off at all times (opening windows doesn’t count as enclosed any more).

Fortunately, you can build your own greenhouse for relatively cheap using old windows or clear, corrugated plastic sheets. Free greenhouse plans are available online to help you get started.

  • No kids allowed!: Finally (and perhaps most importantly), remember that only adults should have access to your marijuana grow. According to Colorado law, this includes anyone over 21, or 18 with a valid medical card.
  • Additional considerations for growing outdoors

    There are many other things to think about when growing marijuana outdoors aside from simple regulations. Before planting your babies in your garden greenhouse this year, consider the following:

    • The size: If your plants will remainin pots, their size will be limited, but if you plant marijuana plants directly in the soil, their roots could expand exponentially, allowing ample foliage growth. When planning your greenhouse, be sure to account for the potential size of your plants, which will almost double in size during the flower period.
    • The smell: Your greenhouse design might be sufficient for keeping out unwanted guests, but it won’t do much to keep the smell in. Especially during its last few months, marijuana plants emit a powerful odor which, pleasant as it might be for some, could have some neighbors thinking otherwise.
    • Pests and contaminants: Controlling for pests outdoors is significantly more difficult than it would be in a sterile indoor grow room. Though your enclosure will help keep birds, a rabbits and squirrels away, smaller pests like aphids or spider mites can still find their way in. Keep them under control with organic sprays and plant deterrents, and be diligent about checking them.

    Being a resident of Colorado certainly has its perks, one of which is our right to grow our own medicine (provided, of course, that we meet the regulations outlined by the state). If you’d like to grow your own cannabis without having to invest in a costly indoor grow set-up, then buy local marijuana seeds, build a greenhouse, and have at it.

    Have you ever grown your own marijuana outdoors? Would you like to? Tell us about it.

    Growing marijuana outdoors is legal in Colorado, but there are regulations to be aware of before adding cannabis to your garden.

    Cross-pollination between outdoor-grown marijuana and hemp is a budding conflict in Colorado, beyond

    In Pueblo, the area of the state with the largest amount of outdoor-grown marijuana, the county regulators have been working to allow both hemp and cannabis cultivators to coexist

    By Bart Schaneman, Marijuana Business Daily

    Outdoor marijuana growers are reporting an increase in cross-pollination from hemp farms, a development that could mean marijuana cultivators might lose upwards of tens of thousands of dollars if their plants become unmarketable as flower products.

    As the marijuana and hemp industries increasingly share the same cultivation territory, the number of conflicts is likely to increase, particularly in areas with thriving outdoor cannabis cultivation.

    Washington state is a case in point. In April, Gov. Jay Inslee signed Senate Bill 5276 into law, opening the state up to hemp production in response to the 2018 Farm Bill in part by removing the previous 4-mile buffer between outdoor marijuana grows and hemp farms.

    At least one marijuana farmer has experienced firsthand the consequences of this change in the law.

    “We took a big hit,” said Robert Morf, who owns and operates Cheshire Creek, an outdoor marijuana cultivation operation in Waterville, Washington.

    He estimated he will lose about $40,000 this year after his midsized, 600-plant farm was cross-pollinated by pollen from the male plants he said came from a neighboring hemp grower.

    All to extract

    According to Morf, his flower is full of seeds, reducing the usable volume and overall quality and value of the crop.

    He won’t be able to sell it on the wholesale or retail flower market and will take a financial hit by selling it all for extraction.

    Morf has grown marijuana for three years “out in the middle of nowhere” with no other cannabis cultivators for 30 miles.

    He didn’t have any trouble with his neighbors until the buffer was removed under the new hemp law.

    The hemp grower who leased the land from the farmers across the road assured Morf the plants would be grown from clones.

    Since Morf was there first with his marijuana operation, it was up to him to give the OK, and he took it on faith the hemp growers would remove the male plants.

    He thought “cross-pollination would have been worse for them than it would have been for me.”

    Morf contacted his local and state political representatives as well as his contact at the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB), but he found no recourse.

    To prove it wasn’t his own plants that pollinated his field, Morf pointed out that the LCB’s tracking system will show that he planted from female clones.

    “We’ve gone through three years of growing, and the most I’ve seen is a female plant with one bud herming off a stem last year,” he added.

    “Herming” refers to a cannabis plant developing both male and female flowers.

    Morf has considered suing, but he figures it’s not worth the cost.

    “At this point, it’s ‘screw it’ and move on,” he added.

    The hemp growers have left the plants cut down in the field and won’t be returning next year to farm that land, Morf told Marijuana Business Daily.

    Silvia Sianez sweeps the last of the hemp into a bin to be dried on Saturday morning at Fern Farms outside of Greeley. (Joshua Polson, Special to The Colorado Sun)

    Carefully source your seed

    A similar problem is shaping up in the bordering state to the south, Oregon.

    Pete Gendron, a grower in Sunny Valley and president of the Oregon SunGrowers Guild, estimated the cross-pollination issue is impacting about 8% of the state’s marijuana production.

    In terms of total acreage affected by cross-pollination, it’s an increase from last year, he added.

    That’s largely because the number of hemp acres has increased by about 500%.

    According to Hemp Industry Daily, Oregon had 11,754 acres in 2018 and increased to 51,313 acres in 2019.

    His advice to growers looking to avoid male plants showing up in their fields: Buy your seed from a reputable provider and try to make sure your hemp-growing neighbors are using feminized seeds.

    Tell them, “if you pollinate me, you’re going to be pollinating yourself, too,” Gendron said.

    “That being said, it won’t save you from field walking,” he added, meaning growers still need to check to ensure their plants haven’t hermed or that no male plants have grown from seed.

    “It really only takes one (male plant) to ruin your day,” he said.

    Colorado concerns

    In Pueblo, Colorado, the area of the state with the largest amount of outdoor-grown marijuana, the county regulators have been working to allow both hemp and cannabis cultivators to coexist.

    Steven Turetsky, managing director of Pueblo-based hemp grower Shi Farms, said hemp farmers have been asked to put their “best effort forward to not grow male plants.”

    That’s in part because outdoor-grown marijuana has been a shot in the arm to the local economy.

    The general sentiment is that hemp growers should all use clones to ensure the plants are females.

    “Obviously, with cannabis, even if you plant from clones, there can be mutation,” Turetsky said. “But it significantly decreases the risk.”

    He said he came to the realization that it’s beneficial for his company to act in good faith toward marijuana growers.

    By also only using clones, his company has avoided dealing with vendors who might be selling nonfeminized seeds.

    “We don’t want seeds, either,” he said.

    According to Wendy Mosher, president and chief executive officer of Fort Collins, Colorado-based seed company New West Genetics, a grower will lose about 1% of total cannabinoid content if a field is cross-pollinated.

    While Colorado is considered generally favorable to hemp compared to other states with marijuana programs, cross-pollination also is happening to hemp-based CBD farms in Colorado, she added.

    When a hemp farm is cross-pollinated, the farmer can thresh the crop to try to salvage some of it.

    Mosher said one male in a field a mile away can pollinate a crop, and it can be very difficult to determine the source.

    “It’s just impossible to tell where it’s coming from,” she added.

    USDA trying to help

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) acknowledges the cross-pollination issue and has set aside money to address it.

    In October, the agency awarded $500,000 to a Virginia Tech research team to get better data on pollen drift.

    The goal is to predict how and where pollen grains travel.

    Researchers will use drones to track pollen, hoping results can inform regulations on how far growers should keep hemp and marijuana apart to prevent damaging cross-pollination.

    “Having a validated and reliable long-distance transport prediction model for wind-dispersed pollen is critical to establishing appropriate isolation distances,” plant sciences professor David Schmale said in a Virginia Tech statement announcing the grant.

    Outdoor marijuana growers are reporting an increase in cross-pollination from hemp farms, a development that could mean marijuana cultivators might lose upwards of tens of thousands of dollars if their plants become unmarketable as flower products.