- Feb 12, 2020
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I loved every bit of that guide. I've grown outdoors, only photo-periods, for 5 years and this is my first Auto attempt. I hate transplanting so those hacks are great. I'll mention that GoToGrow was the first one to show that hack to me that involved slicing fabric pots. I'm going to try both of those techniques. My main question is: do you cut the bottom out of the inside continer? If not, does the tap root get out.... or does it matter?Hello ladies and gents!!
I wrote a guide on photoperiod plants, and now after a few years of growing Autoflowering outdoors(some very well, and some failures), I feel I have it down enough, that I can make a useful guide for those wanting to run some autos under the great 1billion watt hps in the sky.
This guide will be focused toward the home grower, which will certainly get the best results, but hopefully it'll also be fairly useful for Guerilla Growers.
Autos and your Climate
First thing is first...you own individual location and the weather. Will the weather be nice and warm throughout the whole cycle of the autos growth? More than 2-3 days of extended cold days and nights can stunt early growth in plants, and can severely limit yield. Some strains will take cold better than others, and at best, growth will slow to a halt if it gets too cold outside(under 10 degrees). In the wet or hot/humid parts of the world, autos will be a challenge due to dreaded mold. Being closer to the ground, the airflow will be reduced and the humidity will be high from ground evaporation, resulting in an even more challenging growing environment. If mold is a problem, search out mold resistant strains looking through journals and reviews and also try to pick tall open structured plants. You have to think ahead to mid flower, and determine whether it will be suitable for dense flowering plants. I ran into a problem with mold this year, despite drought like conditions. We finally got some rain, but it was hard driving rain, which pounded water into the bud of the daiquiri lime, and it got quite a bit of mold. Combine that with the fact that I didn't even think of, when I planned my harvest for July 15th, was the intense relative humidity we deal with in the midsummer when even on clear sunny days its often 70%RH or higher.
Mold - If you ask me strain selection is key, especially if the Relative Humidity will be over 60% throughout the flowering cycle. Those in the 70%RH+ average areas will have a hard time, especially if high humidity is compounded with lots of rain. Heavy driving rains pose more problems than light rain, but the humidity in the air, if too high, will be the biggest problem. Choosing the right strains is a necessity for success, but finding the right strains is not always an easy task! Often you will find very few outdoor grows on strains that interest you, so depending on climate you often just take a risk and see what happens. UK based websites are often a great source for helping find strains suitable for high humidity areas.
I have yet to try it out myself, but it has been suggested that mold can often be held back by a healthy nutritional diet with the addition of Silica Additives. This is something that really needs to be investigated further, and I'll test it out next season.
If you have a very secure grow spot, far away from prying eyes, putting up a rain/dew shield is a possibility to stop daily dew and unwanted rain the last few weeks of flower. I built this Dew Shield in an hour to shield the Autoultimate "Maximus" from a series of incoming storms two weeks before harvest. Simple build using 6 foot bamboo for the end frame, a 4 foot for the top brace and a piece of vapour barrier large enough to cover the buds. Several smaller pieces of bamboo were driven in the ground at angles and wire was used to tightly wrap until secure.
The Dew Shield
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Pot or not, that is the question!
Determine what style of grow you want to go. Do you want to use pots? If so, pot size needed will be determined by the strain you want to grow. If you choose a giant auto strain like the autoultimate and only use a 2 gallon/8liter pot, it will only get so big. But on the flipside, several smaller quicker auto strains would do fine in a limited sized 2 gallon/8liter pot. Myself I prefer to grow big auto strains outside. I only have a tiny indoor room to flower auto plants, so i pick big girls for the great outdoors. For this reason i do not use pots at all...I've been growing photoperiod plants for many years in the native soil and they grow very big, so i assumed that it would also work well for autos, and I wanted to add autos to the outer perimeter of the photoperiod plants, so by the time they get huge, the autos will be harvested. The only thing i added to my nicely balanced soil (PH 6.5) is 1/2 cup of lime, and 4 liters/1 gallon of well rotted horse manure per plant for some nice additional micronutrients. When the time comes for pre flower I use bloom nutrients at half strength.
Root bases that can travel freely will become immense, and have an excellent nutrient uptake, giving the ability to fuel lots of flower. Growing directly in the ground has advantages. Going on vacation? Give the plants a good heavy drink before you go and they will be fine in a week when you get home. That will not likely happen in pots. Of course the disadvantage is that once in the ground, they are there for life. A potted plant can be moved to an outbuilding to shelter from rain or nightly dew, or even in the house at night if the humidity is high, and you run air conditioning, chances are its much less humid in the house. Its all a gamble if you live in mold country, so you have to make the call whether or not in the ground or in pots is the best choice for you. In the less sunny parts of the world using large pots could be overkill if there is not enough sun to fuel intense growth. Like any type of pot plant it all comes down to the "weak link in the chain" aka the limiting factor. Nutrients, water, limiting root expansion, and finally genetics are all factors in how large and bountiful any plant will get.
Due to the amount of time this years autos were going to live in pots(up to 30 days depending on weather), I decided I had to run them in fair sized pots as I didn't want the roots to become constricted, and growth to be slowed at all, but I also wanted to do some experimentation on transplanting autos, as many people think that transplanting autos is a big time no-no. And though I believe a proper well timed transplant causes no, or at least very minimal stress, an ill timed or poorly executed transplant can destroy your hopes of pulling a monster auto in the tip of a pot. So this season I tried a number of different methods transplanting including a couple of transplant experiments, that I hoped would completely eliminate any chance of transplant shock.
The "No Transplant Transplant"
This is a technique that worked very well for another guy here(sorry whoever you are!! I'd give credit if I could remember!) that I had read. I'd heard about great success from guys planting fabric smartpots directly in the ground. I have Botanicare airpots and I figured with the directed channeled slots they would be absolutely perfect to bury then right in the ground, so one plant I used that method. This worked very well, and I managed to pull 112 grams from the plant.
Brooklyn Sunrise in Botanicare Herculese channelled airpot, after being pulled out of the ground at harvest.
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The "Instatransplant DIY pot"
This is something I just came up with, and decided to give it a try. The idea is have two pots of the same size that fit together. The outer pot is basically an outer sleeve for the inner pot, which has many slots cut out with an Xacto blade, and the outer pot is removed when its time to plant in the ground(or in a larger pot). I used this technique on an auto ultimate and it worked really, really well. So well in fact, that this is the method I will use with all autos from now on. This could also be a great technique using large beer cups for those that are space challenged with microgrow setups indoors. UPDATE- I have experimented with the 16oz beer cup and have found that root restrictions can start happening even before day 14. I pulled a cup out on day 6 on an auto white widow and saw many roots at the bottom of the slots. I also pulled and Auto Euphoria cup apart at day 6 and far less roots were showing, so some strains put the roots out much later than others. My advice is use 16oz beer ups for no longer than 10 days, with 7 days being ideal.
Instatransplant DIY Pot
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End Result of Instatransplant Pot
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Regular "Old School Transplant"
Well these all went smooth as well on the 3 autos I executed a standard transplant. The plants were removed from their 8" diameter containers at day 25-30 with no problems. Roots in the 3 gallon airpots were plenty well developed enough to have a smooth transplant. The problem with regular transplants is this...if you do a transplant too early, and you take the risk of soil breaking apart and damaging fragile roots. Wait too long and your roots will become constricted, which will slow growth. From now though, old school transplants are a thing of the past for me, due to the success of the above techniques, why take the even slight risk right?
For those wanting to do standard transplants our AFN friend pop22 has described the exact method I have used successfully for transplants for many years, Thanks for the addition pop22! I decided just to cut and paste pop22's discussion we had, as its so perfectly worded.
"Transplanting autos is no big deal at all! As you said, its a matter of timing. I spent a long time studying and testing transplanting canna auto or photo it works the same. I've been using this method now for around 200 plants with 2 failures on transplant. Those were my fault for failing to water a little before transplanting, as dry root balls don't hold soil together well. Other than that, I've not had a plant stall or fail after transplant. Not one. In fact, I've seen growth within hours of transplant on a regular basis.
The secret is timing and pots that are easy to remove the plants from. I use cottage cheese/yogurt containers. The standard black plastic commercial pots work well also. They work because they have smooth side that release soil and roots clinging to the easily.
A trick for removing the plant from these pots is flip them upside down supporting the plant with one hand and pressing in the center of the pot bottom, like push a syringe plunger. Stop as soon as you feel the soil/medium move slightly, its now loose. Lift the pot off the plant, don't move the plant till the pot is removed.
when using commercial pots I like the one quart round pots, they hold slightly more soil than the containers I use. Either works well, its the diameter I care about more. Why? Because the key to transplant is this. When the canopy is the width of the pot or just slightly larger, its time to transplant! the width of the canopy tells you the root mass has reached the sides and bottom of the pot. root circling has not or just barely begun. This is usually 7-10 days from spout. Transplant at this time, and you'll see your plant have grown in as little as 8 hours! Average is 12 hours. Consistently. Damage done in transplant is from having too much root mass. The root literally put pressure against the sides of the pot and can cling to even smooth plastic, making it impossible to not damage some roots. With my technique, this doesn't have a chance to happen.
Transplanting direct to the size plant, or outdoor directly from the starter pot works fine too. The first goal of every plant transplanted to to establish a larger root mass. I seedling that has developed an active, unrestricted root mass will start growing immediately."
The First Season - Failure
Here is my experience with autos so far, but first you need to hear about my climate. May in these parts is a total no planting timeframe if i want to yield anything from autos, some days can be nice but frost is a usual thing, and cold fronts are often 2-3 degrees especially in early May. Most years in late May or early June you will still see patches of snow in the cedar woods! Even in June we often see stretches of under 10 degrees Celcius, which will slow growth to a halt, and can stress out the plant(droopy leaves from cold shock). Some strains take cold much better than others and strain experimentation is essential in your climate. Depending on the year we have relative high humidity in July(70%RH average), so mold resistance in a strain is a huge benefit. Alright so that's what I have to deal with in regards to my climate.
So now lets dial it back 3 years when i started growing outdoor autos. I grabbed a pack of World of Seeds Afghani Kush for $70(approximately) and started them under 24 hours of T5 fluorescent light on May the 15th, and put them in the ground on June the 1st. The plants were in perfect health when they went outside at 15 days old. I put 4 of the 5 plants in a spot that had grown successful photoperiods before that receives about 10 hours of direct light. One week of nice warm weather happened, and then the dreaded June cold snap(always seems to happen sometime in June) so at day 21 the AKR's hit a week of cold weather and it hurt them bad. I ran into an issue with whiteflies and then mold...arghhh. Yields were pitiful, between 10-18 grams per plant. I was beginning to wonder if the naysayers regarding autos were right! The 5th plant was grown in much less light(7 hours), but she did better than the others yielding 21 grams. In a much more sheltered location, I think the lack of wind made her perform better, and close proximity of overhead trees sheltered her from frost.
The Second Season - Touch of success
So last year, a good local buddy of mine buys too many auto seeds and asks me if I want some. I thought okay I have a spot for an early plant....why not lets try it again. I didn't know anything about the various strains he had to choose from, so I just selected 2 that from companies I knew of, but hadn't tried yet(Sweet + Barneys), and a third strain from a company that just sounded interesting Biohazard....hahaha. I ended up with Biohazard Auto Power, Barneys Farm Auto Blue Mammoth, and Sweet Seeds Dark Devil(I'd heard of sweet just never really check out their seed too much). So I went at the autos again, but we had a more favourable June(still some cold stuff but not long extended chill). I started them under T-5 fluorescent lights on the same May 15th. The Dark Devil was in the open in a different location with better morning light(around 11 hours of sun total), but cool weather again on the younger plant slowed her growth. She got to a pretty decent size, but I still only managed to pull around 20 grams. The other 2 plants I planted in the alternate location with only 7 hours of light. I wanted to do some lean back training and like a jackass I broke the main stalk in half on the auto power(hate hollow stalks!). And then the stress caused her to hermy...argghhh...ahahahahaha. So....wow...not going great again last season...but wait!! The auto blue mammoth just kept growing and growing and growing. 100 days from seed I was harvesting 100 grams of some fine smoking pot!! Wow! I said to myself. "What would that sucker have done in the full sun garden? I am sure I have room to house a plant like that for sure, especially if I am cutting it mid summer!!" I was invigorated by the thought of interesting auto strains, especially Sativa heavy plants I could not possibly grow in photoperiod form, and pondered how I could make this work for me. I figured with sound planning I could make this work, but I had to figure a way to get them bigger quicker, and get them through the seedling phase before they see any cold weather at all. I figured planning on having them in the ground at day 30, instead of day 15, would be a good move, but that would mean another 15 days in the cabinet with X8 photoperiod plant that started on April the 1st...tight quarters indeed(only 54" long X18' deep X34" high to lights surface)! Once mid may rolls around though I had planned on leaving the photoperiod plans in an outbuilding, so I would only be cramped for 15 days. I'd make it work!
High power beginnings
I've always been a maximizing type of guy when I can, so I figured what would maximize the autos further than good strong light? Even better stronger light! During the day I would remove the plants from the LED lit cabinet, and put them into the sun(I did this on nice warm days and even in cooler days but not during below 12 degree Celcius days). The first few days I introduce them to the sun, giving them 2 hours of direct sun, and then moving them just barely into shade for 15 minutes and then back into the sun for 2 hours. I started this process around day 5 or 6.
PLEASE NOTE -This technique should not be done if you have plants in your indoor grow room that you are planning on leaving in there. Indoor to outdoor, to indoor can bring in unwanted insects, and can jeopardize your indoor flowering plants. All of the plants I was growing were destined to live outside, so I didn't have to worry about it. In the fall when I fire the indoor cabinet back up, I will give it a good cleaning, just to be safe.
Season 3 - Success!
The plants had a great start this season, thanks to a lighting upgrade after trading in the old T5 fluorescent lights in for some shiny new LED's. I had run the new cheaper LEDs(100X3w Mars and Galaxy) in the stealth cab in the winter, so I knew they worked well for both vegetative growth and flowering plants. I decided to start the autos earlier in the season, to hopefully be well past the seedling stage to minimize any cold front slowing once they were put outside, so I fired up the seeds on May the 1st. About a week before the 1st of June, the weather was calling for nothing but warm and nice weather, so I put the autos outside a week early, and these were put in the ground in the best growing spot I could put them in(side by side in the Full Sun Garden where photos grow huge). The next 2 weeks it was nice out, and then 3 days of really cold weather stepped in. 1 of the autos took the cold weather just fine( Daiquiri Lime), 1 took the cold with a little stress visible( Autoultimate), 1 showed some stress( Brooklyn Sunrise), and one plant didn't like the cold much at all( Colorado Cookies), and she slouched for 2 days after it warmed up. So I planted a single seed for each of the above plants, as well as one more Autoultimate. I was worried the cold snap was going to smash me once again. The daiquiri lime, Autoultimate, and the Brooklyn Sunrise got over the shock quick though. The Colorado Cookies took a few days away in the prime of the stretch(in addition out the 3 days of pretty much no growing due to temps). Still though she turned into a fine, but small plant(26" main stalk) in the end which put out 70 grams dried, but it was much less than the other autos that didn't take the cold as bad!
Training, not as intense as you may think!
If you have read the photoperiod training guide I wrote, you probably think I will be harsh training the outdoor autos, but I assure you its not intense training at all, nor is it difficult. All I do is give the main tip a nice gentle lean to the north, and then I pull and spread lower secondary branches toward the south, tying in a way to minimize overhead shadowing and limiting competition for light. I use small bamboo stakes and plastic coated wire for this.
I tie the main stalk to the north...why you may ask? The sun passes on a southern axis here, so I find by leaning the main stalk to the north and spreading the branches to the South it maximizes exposure and limits shading. I tie the main stalk over, but I leave the main stalk a little taller than side branches to keep apical dominance, so in the end the main tip will be the tallest, but just barely over some o the biggest secondary branches. This gets competition happening, tricking other branches into thinking they can be the main tip.
One thing I do when tying plants back, is stabilize their main stalk to reduce any pull on the roots. This is important for me, as winds in my location can be very high at times, with every season producing 40-60kph+(some years over 100kph) wind gusts. Its too hard to get a solid pic of this technique on a real plant, so here is a drawing illustrating the technique instead.
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Other than that, I do a bit of selective defoliation(taking key leaves blocking lots of under bud). Eventually more will be added to this section, including more experimenting on supercropping.
So flower. I used Advance Nutrients this season and they worked very well using TanG's AN schedule as a rough guide. Some additives I didn't have from tangs schedule, and I had some AN nirvana which I added in. The last couple of feeds I was also giving them Foxfarm Chaching to increase the oily/greasy factor. From day 25-35 I give the autos around 1 gallon of nutrient water every 2-3 days per plant, and day 35-65 I would give them 1 gallon, and 2 gallons every other watering. I would flush for the last 15 days giving each plant 8gallons/32liters every other day, and finish with the last 3 water with AN Flawless finish.
Speaking of security
Autos are the ultimate in plant stealth. Much, much better at stealth than photoperiod plants. Photoperiod can easily be 20 feet circumference and 5 feet tall or higher. Autos can be lightly LST trained and be under the 3 foot tall height making them much easier to conceal. Autos could easily be worked into an ornamental garden to conceal their true nature. Some guys use small plastic flowers to further conceal the identity. The biggest advantage autos have is the offset harvest times that thieves have no clue about. Say in June they come across a bunch of your autos, and the shits think "We'll come back in fall and take those!" Hah they are down long before then. Autos with their short profiles can easily be well concealed where large photos might give the plot position away to "problem causers". The complete off season of harvest with autos is one of the things that makes them a guerilla growers dream. Very few thieves are looking for buds nearly finished in July!
But Security...quoting from World War 2 posters "Loose Lips Sink Ships" couldn't be more true and straight to the point. If you tell all of your buddies about your growing adventures, or worse show them, eventually you will get robbed or busted. I know its hard not to be proud of such beautiful majestic plants, but keep it for your forum friends! Only buddies directly involved in your grow should know about it. Your buddy might be trustworthy...but may also inadvertently give up your grow to someone not trustworthy. How does this happen? Your buddy tells another buddy that he saw some awesome plants on Tuesday. Later that night while hanging out he says "Oh yeah I was over at SoandSo's house on Tuesday". It really can be that simple. Be swift, be smart and definitely be silent.
Here is the final Pics of the plants discussed above.
Colorado Cookies 26" Main Stalk
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CC 70 grams dryView attachment 662038
Brooklyn Sunrise 31" main stalk
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BS 112 grams dry
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Daiquiri Lime 34" Main Stalk
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DL 165 grams dry
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Autoultimate 41" Main Stalk
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AU 256 grams dry
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I hope this guide helps everyone grow giant autos under the sun! Always look forward to hearing constructive critisism, comments and suggestions. This guide will be edited in the future as I evolve further as an outdoor auto grower.
Some last thoughts about auto growing in the great outdoors. At first I thought of autos as just a way to pull a little extra bud from some different varieties, you know a half ounce or whatever of some different smoke. As time and technique progressed, I have quickly realized that they are not just a way to meet production, but to exceed production compared to photoperiod strains in a much short timeframe(like harvesting in July and august). I have done the math, and using the same space as my average last season planting a ton of autos instead of few photos, the yield would greatly exceed in favour to the autos. Pulling 5oz on the average per auto in a 2.5' X 2.5' sized space is major yield compared to the size/yield ratio of the outdoor giants. I am not planning on ditching photoperiod plants, as the number of autos I would need to match the weight of 4 quality photos far exceeds the plant numbers I am willing to grow, but there is indeed strength in numbers!! I scoured my full sun garden this season, and I realized that even with 4 photoperiod plants(they get BIG if you have never read one of my journals or my monster training guide), I can fit as many as 9 autoflower plants that will be harvested before the photos get too big and need the space. Really its a perfect symbiotic relationship! Photos and autos are meant to grow together!
"Not for a free weed country or continent, but for a free weed world, unite and grow, for a better, kinder planet." 912greenskell
I live in Colorado and luckily I live in about 40% humidity most of the time so the moisture problems aren't as likely. My other question for you is what type of soil are you growing in? About what % aeration would you say you use? The ground doesn't appear to be ammended but I see Perlite in the smaller pots.
Again, Thank you very much for the great guide!