I’ve started my cannabis plants indoors for the first time because the growing season is pretty short where I live, but I’m not sure when the best time to move them outside is. Can I just take them outside when it’s warm enough or should I do it gradually? – Leora L.
Although cannabis is pretty resilient, it is still very important to slowly transition plants to an outdoor environment after being started indoors. Even the most efficient and effective horticultural lighting source is a drop in the bucket compared with the sun. Plants that are not transitioned properly to direct sunlight can experience significant damage. The wind, weather, and temperature fluctuations from daytime to nighttime should also be considered when transitioning your cannabis plants outdoors. The process of transitioning cannabis plants started indoors to an outdoor environment is known as hardening off.
Hardening off is defined as the process of gradually exposing tender plants to sunlight, wind, and temperature fluctuations.
Determining your growing zone is the first step when bringing your cannabis plants outdoors. A quick internet search should disclose this information. Once you know your growing zone, you can find out your area’s last average frost date. Unless protected by a greenhouse, cold frame, or other climate control tool, cannabis plants should not be brought outdoors until after the last average frost date. In other words, the hardening off process begins after your geographical location’s last average frost date.
When hardening off cannabis plants (or any plant started indoors) gradual exposure is key. If possible, start by bringing the plants outdoors for just a few hours a day. Initially, the plants being transitioned should not be placed in direct sunlight. Instead, for their first three to four outdoor days, place them in the shade. After a few days, plants can be gradually exposed to direct sunlight. Each day, both the length of time outdoors and the amount of exposure to direct sunlight can be increased. After a week or two of gradual increments, the plants should be able to handle direct sunlight for multiple hours a day.
Wind and weather should also be introduced gradually as part of the hardening off process. In some cases, a wind shield or canopy may be useful to protect tender cannabis plants from damage during transitioning. As long as the plants are exposed gradually, the wind and weather will actually help strengthen the overall structural integrity of the plants.
Once hardened off, cannabis plants will thrive in direct sunlight, wind, and weather. They will become tolerant of temperature fluctuations, as well as pathogens and pests. Patience is required, but cannabis cultivators who implement the simple process of hardening off will reap the benefits of a smooth transition from indoors to outdoors.
Keep on Growing,
Lee G. Lyzit
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