All too often, home growers new to cannabis will simply buy a clone from a dispensary in the Spring and immediately plant it outside. Unfortunately, that will stress the plant and initiate a flower cycle prematurely. This is because novice growers don’t know about photoperiodism. You will either end up with a very small flowering plant or a light-stressed plant that pre-flowers, reverts back to a vegetative state and doesn’t grow well during the season.
Something to remember is that a clone (a cutting from an older “mother” plant) is the same genetic age as the mother. Therefore, a clone will initiate her flowering phase if it’s not given enough light. Since clones are started with artificial light, typically under 18 to 24 hours a day, putting your clones outside before May 15th in the PNW may cause the plant to initiate flowering.
Therefore, keep you plant inside under lights -at least 16 hours a day – to closely match the sun’s natural photoperiod of your planting date (around May 15th). You may experience some bug issues which are common when buying clones from a dispensary. Fungus Gnats are the most typical issue, but you can potentially introduce more difficult pests like spider mites or worse, russet mites. I recommend dunking clones in a pyrethrum based pesticide and then start using compost tea foliar sprays soon after.
A week before you are ready to plant your clone outside, you should “harden it off.” Do this by bringing the plant outside during the day (typically in some dappled light or use a shade cloth) and back in at night. If you can do this slowly (a few hours the first day, a few more the next and so on), this will be the most effective process. This way your plant slowly gets use to the change from an indoor environment to an outdoor one. Don’t put them in direct sun or a in a windy location as they are just babies.
Another thing to remember as a beginner cannabis grower is to use really good soil. The difference between a poorly growing plant and an exceptional plant starts and ends with the soil. Either buy good potting soil or use some quality fertilizer. Dry fertilizer will be less expensive but you still may need to supplement with some liquid fertilizer. Be careful not to use too much as that’s often a rookie mistake. If you add too much fertilizer, you will see the tips of the leaves dying back and look like it’s been “burned.” If that happens, stop fertilizing and flush with large amounts of water until the plant looks healthy again.
On planting day, choose a nice sunny spot. Simply put your plant into a large hole or large pot with the pre-mixed potting soil or amended soil and water it in. If you have wind, add some trellising right away. If it’s going to get cold at night, add a cloche. Don’t let to dry out too much and if using liquid fertilizer, feed once to twice a week according to your fertilizer’s suggested schedule.