Best Materials and Tools for Growing Cannabis Outdoors

For both beginner and expert growers alike, everyone is looking for the best information to grow cannabis successfully.  When weather permits, nothing beats naturally grown outdoor cannabis.  There are literally endless ways to grow cannabis.  Some beginners do not know where to start and seasoned professionals while already set in their ways are always looking for something new to try if it makes sense.

This overview is mostly for beginners looking to grow cannabis successfully outdoors.  Every craft requires some materials, tools, and know-how.  Hopefully, we can get you setup with the right tools and information for a successful outdoor grow this season.

Growing outdoors produces great quality cannabis with minimal effort.  This overview will cover all the areas that require attention for a successful grow.  This overview will focus on organic growing and we will review the following:

  • Seeds
  • Growing Location
  • Soil
  • Containers
  • PH Meter
  • PPM Meter
  • Water filter
  • Water Sprayer
  • Nutrients
  • Watering
  • Sunlight
  • Pest Control
  • Plant Support


You need seed to grow.  Depending on where you live and the legality of cannabis, it may be easy or difficult to acquire seeds.  If you need to order seeds like I do since I live in New York City, I simply order online. 

I have never had an issue with ordering seeds online from reputable companies.  Just like everything else in life, you will read a number of bad reviews online about EVERY seed seller and start to second guess where to buy seeds.  You hear stories about buyers never receiving seeds or stories about bad germination rates.

Just like with every product ever sold, there will be a handful of unsatisfied customers.  You see this with Amazon review on every type of product ever sold.  Most reputable seed companies will help their customers with legitimate issues.  Sometimes seeds get lost in transit while getting delivered and sometime sometimes you receive the wrong seeds.  Most of the time everything goes smooth.

For simplicity’s sake I will recommend using Nirvana seeds.  I have never had an issue with delivery or germination.  So lets start with Nirvana.  When I order seeds from NYC it takes around 3 weeks for delivery.

There are 3 basic types of seeds you can purchase:

  • Regular (photoperiod)
  • Feminized (photoperiod)
  • Autoflower

The first 2 (Regular and Feminized) start to flower when the days begin to shorten at the end of the summer.  The plants will detect shorter days and starts to fruit\flower.  In New York City, outdoors, my plants begin to flower in August and finish in October.

Plants can be either male or female.  Female plants are desirable because they produce the fruit \ flower that you smoke.  Males do not produce the flower you smoke and most growers discard the males.  When you buy regular seeds you will get a random natural mix of male and female plants.  Since most growers discard the males this is a waste of time when space is limited because you never know which plants will me male or female until they start to flower.  Since flowering does not occur until after a few months of growing you will inevitably waste space , time and money growing plants you will destroy.

Feminized seeds are guaranteed to be female.  All the plants you grow will be female.  They cost a little more than regular seeds but the guarantee is worth the few extra dollars.  You still need to check your region and make sure your grow season is long enough to support the type of plant you are growing. 

Some plants take too long to flower and may not finish flowering in time for your area.  In areas like New York City I look for plants that finish flowering in 8 weeks.  If you need advice on a particular plant you are thinking of growing, contact he seed company and ask.

Autoflowering seeds will start to flower after 30 -45 days of growth.  They do not depend on the length of the days or amount of light they receive.  These are great for beginners, if you time out your growing season correctly, you can actually grow 2 rounds of autoflowers compared to 1 session of photoperiod plants per season.  Autoflowers also grow smaller than photoperiods so they are easier to conceal.

  • Autoflowers will grow 1 – 4 feet tall on average and yield 2-3 ounces of flower
  • Photoperiod plants will grow 5-10 feet tall on average and can yield 1-3 pounds of flower

Growing Location

There are 2 concerns regarding location:

  • Privacy
  • Amount of sun an area receives

Privacy is a big concern if you are growing in an area where cannabis is not yet legal.  You do not want your plants in public view and you also need to consider your neighbors.  Some neighbors will not care but it only takes 1 neighbor to ruin your grow.   Pick a location that is not obvious on your property.

If you are not willing to grow on your property then another option is “Guerilla farming” which is where you find a secluded area on public land and take your chances.  This may be covered in a future article but not now.

Even if cannabis is legal you still need to keep your grow private because people may help themselves to your grow.  Yes, theft is an issue too.  Pick a private area to grow!

Amount of sun is also a concern.  You want your plats to receive as much sunlight as possible.  Pick a location with the maximum amount of sunlight.  With that being said, a good minimum number of sunlight the location should receive is 6 hours direct sunlight daily. 

While 6 or more is optimal, I have had successful grows with only 4 hours of direct sunlight.


We are focusing on outdoor organic growing so we need good quality soil.  Soil is an important factor with growing because it supports your plants roots and directly effects your plants ability to absorb nutrition and water.

If you have good quality soil then use it.  If this is the first time you are growing and need guidance, then simply choose a good quality soil.  I would recommend one of the following:

  • “FoxFarm Happy Frog Potting Soil  2-CubicFeet”
  • “Premier Horticulture 3.8-CubicFeet Pro Mix HP High Porosity with Mycorise”

If you are purchasing soil it makes sense to look for a product at your local nursery or grow store.  It cost a lot to ship these products and makes most sense to purchase locally.

Depending on how much soil you need it may make sense to mix your own.  A simple recipe for good soil would be:

  • 2 Part Potting Soil from your local nursery
  • 1 Part Compost from your local nursery
  • 1 Part Peat Moss
  • 2 Part Perlite

Depending on how many plants you are growing, soil can get expensive and it may be most cost effective to mix your own using the above guide line.

The good thing about quality soil is that you can reuse it every year.  After every season, save your soil! You may need to add few amendments to your soil every year but after your initial purchase the first year, every subsequent year you grow the cost is drastically less than the initial year!


Choosing the right sized container is important.  Container size and type can dictate both the maximum size of your plant and how often you need to water.  Pick a container size and type that is too small and your plant will grow smaller and dry out quickly requiring more watering.

The best hands-free low maintenance option is no container, just grow directly in the ground.  You will have less issue with watering and the plant can grow to its maximum size.  I have had 9-12 foot plants grown in the ground.  This is a great return for minimal effort but not so good for privacy.  I can water 1-2 times a week and the plants got very large.

I would also like to mention that my largest plants are grown in the ground but the location only gave 4 hours of direct sunlight.  This may not seem optimal but every year my plants in this location grow very large and produce a lot of great looking dense flower! 

I have also used 5 gallon buckets.  Since there is not a huge amount of space for the roots to grow, the plants stay relatively small.  Ranging from 3-4 feet tall. This is great for privacy since the plants stay small.  This also gives you the ability to move the plants in to the sunniest areas for maximum sunlight. 

The biggest downside is once the plants are fully developed in the 5 gallon container they dry out quickly!  During mid summer I must water EVERY day.  This requires a lot of effort and forget about going on vacation or a 3 day weekend out of town.  You can get great results and maximize yields if you take care of the plants daily. But this is a lot of work!

Lastly I would like to cover fabric grow pots.  You can get these sized from 1 gallon up to 2000 gallons.  Options for everyone!  I choose to use 15 / 30 / 150 gallon fabric pots.  I use them for the following reasons:

  • Moisture retention
  • Air pruning
  • Reusability
  • Cost
  • Winter storage

Moisture Retention – We just outlined the disadvantages of 5-gallon plastic buckets and keeping them hydrated is a major issue. 5-gallon fabric pots will dry out quickly too so I just buy larger containers.  A 15 or 30 gallon container for an autoflowering cannabis plant is a perfect size.  I can increase the time between watering by increasing the container size. 

A 30-gallon container will dry out more slowly than a 5-gallon container.  It is true that a larger container will grow a larger plant and the larger a plant is, the bigger the rooting system will be so you would think that eventually a large plant in a large container will dry out just as quickly as a smaller plant in a smaller container.  That is true!  But autoflowering cannabis plants will not grow indefinitely.  The plant will grow for 30 to 40 days before it starts to flower.  A few weeks after the plant begins to flower the plant will stop increasing in size and focus on flowering.

My point is that an autoflowering plant in 30-gallon fabric pot will not grow much larger than the same plant in a 5-gallon plastic container so you will have more moisture in the soil and will need to water less frequently.

Air Pruning – Another disadvantage of 5-gallon plastic containers is the roots become restricted and this is known as “root-bound”.  Once the roots become rootbound this slows growth because the roots stop growing.  Fabric pots will air prune a root when it reaches the fabric container.  When the root is air pruned the rooting system simply has another portion of the rooting system continue to grow.  Every time a root touches the fabric container a new root is signaled to grow.  This means that the entire soil area will be filled with roots.  The more roots you have, more water and nutrition can be delivered to the plant.

In contrast, a rootbound system in plastic containers simply means that there are a smaller amount of roots that grow.  Once these roots touch the plastic container they are NOT air pruned because they are not exposed to air.  They hit the edge of the plastic container and continue to grow around the edge, circling around and around the edge of the root ball.

If you look at a rootbound root mass there seems to be an extensive rooting system but if you were to shake the soil out of the root ball after the plant is harvested you would see a few roots that continued to circle around the edge of the rootball.  If you compared this to the rootball of an air pruned fabric pot, the fabric pot would have many more roots as you shook the soil out of the rootball.

In summary, just know that smart pots will create a healthier rooting system and larger sized fabric containers will hold more moisture.  This makes your job easier and provides better growing conditions for the plant.

Reusability – These are made of sturdy cloth and can be reused for many seasons.  I simply hose them off at the end of the season, let them dry and fold away for storage when finished.

Cost – They cost less than plastic buckets and come in multiple sizes

Winter Storage – I mentioned that I do NOT throw away soil.  I reuse the same soil every year.  I have a 150-gallon fabric container that I store my soil in every winter.  When the season is finished, I consolidate all my soil in one large 150-gallon container.

I grow with 4 fabric pots and the rest of my plants are grown in the ground.  For my fabric ports, I take 45-gallons of soil out of my 150-gallon fabric pot and fill (3) 15-gallon fabric pots, this leaves 105 gallons of soil in my original 150-gallon fabric pot. 

When I am finished with the season, I put all the soil back in to the 150-gallon fabric pot and leave it untouched over winter.

PH Meter

A PH meter is an essential measuring tool.  This measures the hydrogen-ion activity of a liquid or material.  Basically, measures the acidity or alkalinity.  You need to make sure your PH is in an acceptable range.  The acceptable PH range changes depending on the stage of the cannabis plants life (vegetative stage and flowering stage).  You need to check the PH of the feeding solution or water and also need to check the PH of your soil.

 There are 3 types of PH test kits:

  • PH test strips (Very cheap)
  • PH test solution (Very cheap)
  • PH test pen with digital display (Expensive)

I recommend a PH test pen with a digital display.  It is the most accurate method of testing.  It is not very complicated to grow cannabis but you must make sure your PH is accurate or your grow will either fail or not work as well as you expected.

I know there are a handful of experienced growers that argue this point when growing organically.  But without this tool you are going to guess a lot at the first sign of growing problems.  If you are not an experienced grower that has success year after year without measuring PH that is great, but for EVERYONE else you MUST measure PH!

You need to monitor PH on the following:

  • Water
  • Feeding solution (If you are feeding organically with liquid based fertilizers)
  • Soil

PH pens also need to be calibrated.  They are measuring devices that need to be calibrated weekly!  Every time I neglect calibrating my PH pen I ALWAYS run into issues.  ALWAYS!

You must calibrate your PH pen at least every 2 weeks.

There are cheap PH pens and expensive PH pens.  Cheap PH pens may not last as long or may provide inaccurate readings.  Do not skimp here.  Buy quality.  I would recommend either of the following:

  • Bluelab (On Amazon here)
  • Apera Instruments AI209 Value Series PH20 (On Amazon here)

I own and use the Apera unit and it works great.  Both of these devices monitor “solutions” only which means you can measure both “Water” and “Feeding solution” directly BUT for soil you need to mix soil sample with water (We will discuss this at some point in the future)

The Apera version comes with a small amount of calibration liquid but you will eventually need more.  I used the following calibration fluid from Biopharm:

Biopharm PH Buffer Calibration (On Amazon here)

PH as discussed earlier is critical.   PH needs to be in an acceptable range for the plant to absorb nutrition.  If your PH is not in an acceptable range, your plant will not be able to absorb the required nutrition to grow.  For organically grown cannabis aim for this range:


Stage of GrowthWhat Are You Measuring? PH Range
Vegetative Stage Water or feeding solution6.1 to 6.8
Flowering StageWater or feeding solution6.3 to 6.8
Vegetative StageSoil6.0 to 6.6
Flowering StageSoil6.0 to 6.6


PPM is Parts Per Million and TDS is Total Dissolved Solids.  This basically measures how much dissolved material is in your solution.  You use a PPM\TDS meter to measure your water, feeding solution and soil.  The “Dissolved materials” are basically nutrition and other materials that add to the conductivity of your solution. 

Measuring PPM\TDS is essential in hydroponic systems but is still necessary in organic soil growing too.  When mixing nutrient solutions this meter will tell you how much “Stuff” is in your solution.  If PPM\TDS are too high, then this might mean you are feeding a solution that is too strong.  If you measure PPM’s in soil, this identifies how much nutrition is in your soil.

When I feed water and nutrient solution to my plants I very rarely measure the PPM’s.  I feed “average” dosages of organic solutions and since I am familiar with my nutrient solutions PPM’s  I do not usually measure.  I do however use the PPM meter to measure the PPM of my soil every couple of weeks.

My soil is usually 200-400 PPM’s.  Numbers in this range typically mean my plant is eating what I feed it and nutrients are not building up to toxic levels.  If your numbers stays between 400 and 600, you may be feeding too much and the plants are not eating everything you feed it.  With PPM numbers in this range it may indicate that you need to cut back on feedings or start to feed less nutrition less often.

I use the following PPM\TDS meter:

Vivosun TDS Meter (On Amazon here)

This is an entry level unit and I have never had issues with it (unlike cheaper PH meters).  I continue to use it because it still works.  These units do not need to be calibrated.

Water Filter – My tap water is OK but I do filter with a charcoal filter anyway.  This helps remove contaminants that are detrimental to organic material like chlorine. I use a basic model on my garden hose.  I use the following model:

Garden Pure Carbon Water Hose Filter (On Amazon here)

Good quality water helps promote and preserve the microbes in your garden.  I recommend you use a filter to clean you water. This unit can filter a few thousand gallons of water but as the filter begins to clog the flowrate will decrease indicating it needs to be replaced.  There is no way of knowing how long the filter will last because everyone’s water is different, and the filter will become less effective at different rates depending on your water quality.

For this type of filter to be effective you must slow down the rate of water flow.  This gives time for the water to pass through the filter more slowly giving the filter a chance to scrub the water.

I use this to control the water flow:

Twinkle Star Heavy Duty Brass Shut Off Valve Garden Hose Connector (On Amazon here)

Water Sprayer – This tool is simply a 1 gallon spray bottle used to deliver a foliar feeding or for applying a pest control solution to your cannabis leaves.  You fill the bottle with an applicable solution, use the pump handle to build up pressure in the bottle then use the wand to direct the solution on the leaves of the plant.  When finished using the bottle to apply food, water or pest control, rinse the container thoroughly. After the interior is cleaned, fill with plain water, use the pump handle to pressurize the solution and spray plain water out of the wand.  This will clean the hose \ wand and spray nozzle.

I use this 1-gallon sprayer:

CHAPIN 20000 Garden Sprayer (on Amazon here)

Nutrients – Some seasoned professionals can prepare their soil with enough nutrition to last the entire season, but most growers need to supplement nutrition to keep their plants healthy.  Most chemical fertilizers focus on the 3 main categories of fertilizer which are N P and K:

N= Nitrogen



Most all fertilizers will have these values identified on their label.  Growers buy these products based on the numbers most important to the stage of growth their plants are in.

In the vegetative stage of growth, growers are interested in nitrogen and will buy fertilizer with a higher N number.

In the flowering\fruiting stage of growth, growers are interested in phosphorus and will buy fertilizer with a higher P number.

If you are growing with salt or chemical based fertilizers your goal is to feed the plant’s roots directly.  With organic based environments you are trying to feed the plant’s roots but are ALSO trying to feed the microbes in the soil.  Soil is a living environment and feeding the microbes \ bacteria \ fungus also benefit the plant because when these living organisms eat and poop, their poop becomes usable food for the plants.

For primary organic plant food I would recommend either of the following product lines:

PRODUCT LINE 1 – “Dr. Earth”

When to FeedProductApplication
Vegetative Food “Dr. Earth Organic Tomato, Vegetable & Herb Fertilizer” Dry amendment top dressed into soil
Flowering Food“Dr. Earth Flower Girl Bud & Bloom Fertilizer” Dry amendment top dressed into soil

PRODUCT LINE 2 – “Nectar for the Gods”

When to FeedProductApplication
Vegetative Food“One Shot Granules”Dry amendment top dressed into soil
Vegetative Food“Gaia Mania”Liquid fertilizer
Vegetative Food“Olympus Up”Liquid fertilizer and PH Adjuster
Flowering Food*Same-As-Vegetative-Food*

The Dr Earth product line is less expensive, and the products listed are dry amendments which means you work them into the top few inches of the soil every few weeks.  Applying water over the amendments will start to release food in to the soil.

The Nectar for the Gods product line is more expensive and includes both dry amendments and liquid based fertilizers.  These liquid fertilizers are mixed into water and then the PH is adjusted using Olympus UP.  You use the liquid fertilizer every time you feed.

The Olympus Up lets you adjust the PH to the perfect level each time you feed.  If you notice any fluctuations in the soil PH you can adjust the PH of your feeding solution to help address any PH issues very quickly. You do not have this type of flexibility with Dr Earth but both are great product lines!

You need to use your PH meter ever time you feed with Nectar for the Gods.  It’s not as difficult as it sounds.  If I can do it, so can you 😊

Nectar for the Gods makes a very comprehensive product line. There are a dozen or so additional products you can use from NFTG.  Beginners should just stick to the basics.


You want to keep your soil moist but not overly wet.  When your plants are small, they will not drink a lot and at the beginning of the grow season.  The weather is typically cooler so the soil will dry out less quickly.

As the plant size increases and the air temperatures increase, water will transpire through the plant more quickly and the soil will lose more water through evaporation. 

You just need to keep your soil moist. Dry soil is not good for the plant’s roots or the life in the soil.

Water enough to keep your soil moist!

Plants growing directly in the ground will need to be watered less often.  Soil in fabric pots or containers will dry out more quickly.  I usually water fabric pots and containers when the top 2-3 inches of soil feel dry.  You can use your finger for this 😊

I also have a basic moisture meter.  Unlike a PH or PPM meter, you do not need a complicated meter to measure moisture. 

I use this budget moisture meter (On Amazon here)


The sun is required to grow cannabis.  You want as much sunlight as possible for optimal growth.  A perfect location for your plants would be a wide-open field that receives unobstructed sunlight from early morning to late afternoon.

Most of us do not have wide open fields to grow in.  We have trees, buildings and other obstacles blocking sun.  Do not worry too much about a “perfect” location.  Grow where you are able:

  • More than 8 hours of direct sunlight per day is fantastic
  • Up to 6 hours of direct sunlight per day is great
  • At least 4 hours of direct sunlight is required
  • Less then 4 hours (Choose another location)

I have read a few articles saying only 4 hours of direct sunlight is not enough.  This may not be optimal, but I have grown 9 foot huge plants with acceptable buds, yielding 1.5 pounds for many years in the same “4 hour” spot for a few years now.  If I never tried growing in this spot because of what I “read”, I would never have known that the spot was acceptable.

 Pest Control

When I used to grow with salt\chemical-based fertilizers I always had pest issues and plants that struggled.  There is some research that shows plants fed heavily with salt\chemical-based fertilizers are more attractive to pests.  I am not a scientist, but I can tell you that I removed 90% of my difficulties when I switched to organic nutrients and started paying more attention to soil life.

There are always some issues you have to deal with.  I use 3 products every season to help with issues I see most:

  • Cabbage moths
  • Powdery mildew

Cabbage moths lay eggs on your plants and the larvae eat your plants.  The larvae also poop on your plants and cause fungus issues.  One way to deal with this is killing the larvae after they hatch.  I spray weekly with BT (Bacillus Thuringiensis) starting when plants are 4 weeks old. If larvae eat a leaf sprayed with BT they will die.

You can find BT (On Amazon here)

*This is a concentrated formula – you will need a spray bottle to apply this item

Powdery Mildew is also common in my area.  It is not easy to eradicate but it is somewhat easy to control.  The best way to control this is to use a product that either raises or lowers the PH on the leaves of the plant.  Since I use Nectar for the Gods plant food, I already own “Olympus UP” so I just use this product (5ML per quart of water) and foliar spray.  This product is liquid limestone with a very high PH.  This is natural and safe and does an excellent job of raising the PH on the leaf surface.

You can find Olympus Up (On Amazon here)

The last product I use is Neem oil.  This creates a protective coating on the leaves that does not clog the stomata which means the plants leaves will still be able to breath.  This will help prevent, protect, and treat various pests and ailments. I spray once a week with this.

You can find Neem oil (On Amazon here)

Oil does not mix well in plain water so you should mix Neem oil with a few drops of natural soap for effective application.  I use Dr. Bronner’s – Sal Suds Biodegradable Cleaner.

You can find Dr. Bronner’s – Sal Suds Biodegradable Cleaner (On Amazon here)

Plant Support

Depending on what type of cannabis plant you are growing (photoperiod or autoflower), most plants need to be supported.  As we reviewed earlier, your plants will grow 3-10 feet tall.  When these plants are flowering their branches will need to support a lot of weight.

Issues arise wind and rain:

  • Wet flowers stress the branches BIG TIME because everything gets heavier when wet
  • Wind can cause the heavy branches to bounce and twist
  • Wet heavy flowers bouncing in the wind can be catastrophic

You need to support your plants because no matter how good your weather is, there are always a few wet windy days.  Your plants can snap very easily. So once you start growing you need to think about simple support systems.

  • For smaller autoflowering plants I use standard wood stakes.  Place the stake in the soil parallel the plants main stalk.  Use garden wire to loosely secure the plant in a few areas to the stake.
  • For larger photoperiod plants I build a BASIC support system using 1-inch pvc from home depot

I hope you have found useful information here.  Please use the suggestion from below to let me know what you liked and disliked.  Feel free to ask me questions too.

Thanks for your time!

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