Outdoor Marijuana Grow

Planning Your Outdoor Marijuana Cultivation Facility

Choosing A Location and Searching For Real Estate
Updated: March 16, 2021

There are many factors to consider when planning to cultivate cannabis, one of these being whether to grow indoors, outdoors, or both. Each option has pros and cons, so it is important to educate yourself before deciding which option is best for you. Let’s explore the pros and cons of growing marijuana outdoors.

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Cost

Starting a marijuana business is never a low-cost endeavor. You have to consider your equipment costs, facility, and land costs (either owned or leased), renovations, electricity, and other utilities. When you are cultivating outside, less equipment is needed. You do not need a fully built-out facility, and you have the benefit of natural light and rainfall.

Things to consider: making sure your crop is watered (by means other than rain, when needed), and the effects the hours of daylight, or lack thereof, could have on the plants. You may also need to clear farmland.

Outdoor grows do not require a building with a complicated set-up, an artificial light source, or a cooling and ventilation system. Cannabis is grown with sunlight instead of indoor equipment, and little to no electricity. Because of this, utility bills are much lower for outdoor facilities. This also leads to leaving a smaller carbon footprint.

There are multiple ways of growing outdoors. These include directly in the ground, or potted, with or without a watering system installed. Potted plants may not grow as large due to a confined root system, but are much easier to relocate if needed. Potted growth also allows for greater control of soil content, and may be the best option if the soil on your property is not ideal for plant growth.

Availability Of Utilities

In many areas, the heavy power required to operate an indoor grow facility is not readily available. Some areas in Michigan will be waiting up to two years to have heavy power available.  Installing a sub-station can cost well over a million dollars. In areas like this, outdoor and greenhouse growing are the only feasible options, if you want to be operating within the next 12 – 24 months.

Municipal Regulations

More Michigan municipalities are embracing outdoor marijuana cultivation. A lot of these municipalities have an abundant amount of vacant land. This means you may be able to get good, farmable land, at a lower cost than you’d typically see a cannabis property. These municipalities also tend to be very favorable toward marijuana businesses.

We monitor cities and townships coming online to outdoor cultivation and we’re listing land for outdoor grow in municipalities like Wise Township, Bangor, and more.

Security:

Many cannabis entrepreneurs prefer indoor grow operations due to the privacy and security of working within a building. But it is possible to have a secure, safe location outdoors.

Plant cannabis in a discreet location, and consider installing security features, such as a tall fence and cameras. A barrier will deter both thieves and vandals, as well as keep animals from eating and destroying plants.

Many states, including Michigan, require the plants to be fully enclosed by fences or barriers that block outside visibility from the public view. No marijuana plants can grow above the fence or barrier. Fences must be secured and comply with all applicable security measures.

Environment

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Local weather and plant placement play a crucial part in the growth of marijuana, with most plant strains requiring a minimum of 8 hours of direct sunlight. If there is a dry season where the cultivation area is located, more effort will be required for watering. It is most convenient if there is a water supply near the crop. Hardy varieties of marijuana are available for outdoor growth, and it is recommended that naturally robust strains are selected.

Rogue pollen from male plants or hemp can pollinate your female flowers. This can be difficult to avoid, but there are measures you can take. June and July are when pollen levels are at their highest, so plant with the intention of flowering in August. Keep a close eye on the wind direction, know what is being grown at properties near your cultivation facility, and read pollen reports.

A single natural disaster can wipe out an entire year’s crop. In August, 2020, wildfires claimed several of California’s cannabis farms. Still more farms are in the wildfire’s path. These fires are often caused by lightning, and driven by the area’s strong winds.

While wildfires are not a common occurrence in all states, there are other natural disasters that can damage crops. These range from flooding, to drought, tornadoes, and pest infestation. It is always a good idea to be prepared: insure your company and all assets.

Climate

In Michigan, we have the “luxury” of getting to experience all four seasons. However, this can make outdoor cannabis cultivation tricky. If you are planning to grow outdoors, you need to consider that you won’t be getting a harvest in mid-January. You can probably count on getting 1-2 harvests from your outdoor farming, depending on the year, and what part of Michigan you’re in. This isn’t necessarily a problem. The revenue from only 1-2 harvests can be totally sustainable for your business model. You will also have the ability to grow outdoors for additional cash flow, while waiting for your indoor buildout to be completed. Outdoor cannabis cultivation can also provide the ability to have a large scale grow during the summer season at a much lower cost than your indoor harvests.

There is also the greenhouse, a hybrid option to that of building out a large facility. A greenhouse during the winter months is a great choice if you don’t want a full indoor facility. It will increase your electric and utility costs from that of a strictly outdoor grow, but may be more cost-effective than building a large industrial building on your land. You also still keep the ability to utilize natural light.

Harvest

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Be aware that only one grow can be harvested yearly, unless the outdoor cultivation location is near the equator, or an auto-flowering strain variety is used. Also, crops must be planted at a specific time of the year, and outdoor plants have a longer growing period than indoor plants. Indoor grow operations can harvest multiple times per year since they are not dependent on the seasons.

Outdoor growth leads to a more organically grown, naturally smelling and tasting product.  Plants are also known to grow fuller, as they typically have more space to spread and grow. They often produce higher yields, which leads to an increased profit margin.

There are many benefits to outdoor marijuana growing, but as you can see, they do not come without risks. Crop yield from an outdoor harvest can be affected by many things, including thieves, vandals, bug infestations, animals, and weather events.  Outdoor cultivation of marijuana can be a great option, especially for those who would like to start a cannabis growing business with low start-up costs. If you feel that outdoor growing may be right for you, check out our approved grow locations.

There are many factors to consider when making a decision about your business plan, and marijuana cultivation facility. Choosing whether or not to grow outside is a big one. Factoring in cost, grow style, and municipal regulations are just the tip of the iceberg when deciding if outdoor cultivation is right for your business.

Grow Styles

Hydro, soil, natural vs. artificial light.. there are many grow styles to consider. How you want your marijuana grown will have a huge impact on where you want to grow it. Outdoor cultivation is most likely going to utilize soil and natural light. As discussed above, this will save money on electrical costs because you will not be spending on cooling/heating your facility, or lights. You should still consider whether or not the daylight and night-time hours will affect your crop.

Potential Yield

Michigan’s cultivation licenses allow 500-2000 plants depending on the license class (A, B, or C). Some cities allow unlimited license stacking.  An indoor cultivator is limited by the space of their building. For example, if you have a 10,000 sf building on 3 acres in a city that doesn’t allow outdoor cultivation, you are limited to the 10,000 sf, unless you expand the building. Whereas 3 acres of farmland in a city allowing outdoor grows gives you well over 130,000 sf to work with. For more information about selecting the perfect cultivation location, we suggest you read our article about what to consider before buying!

Selecting A Property For Outdoor Marijuana Cultivation

Climate & Sunlight:

Many people believe a hot, subtropical climate is required to grow marijuana outdoors. This is not the case. Cannabis originally comes from the high areas of Central Asia, where the climate can be harsh and often cold at altitude. There are cannabis strains bred specifically for outdoors in colder climates. Strain selection is a crucial part of a successful outdoor cultivation, since you do not have full control of the growing environment outside.

As long as you have a sunny location, in an area that has at least eight to ten weeks of relatively sunny weather, and temperatures between 60 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, you can grow cannabis outdoors. If the local growing season is short, you can get a jump on things by starting your plants indoors, then transplanting your seedlings after a brief hardening period. If you live in a warmer climate, you can simply plant your seeds outside after the threat of frost passes.

Marijuana loves plenty of sunlight. Your chosen land should have at least three hours of direct sunlight each day, preferably more. Plants will grow faster, and yield more product, with approximately five hours of natural sunlight per day. Cannabis prefers morning sunlight to afternoon sunlight, so keep this in mind when choosing a location for outdoor growing. Also, don’t plant a photoperiod strain under or near a bright street lamp; otherwise, it may not flower properly.

Consider surrounding objects such as buildings and trees, and how the angle of the sun changes over the course of the growing season. As a result, an area that gets full sun all day long during one part of the growing season may be shaded part or all of the day during another part of the growing season. Ideally, your grow site will get sun all day long throughout the growing season.

If you are planting cannabis in pots, the containers can easily be moved around if the sunny locations in your space change over the course of the growing season.

Soil Quality:

While choosing a site for outdoor, in-ground growing, it is also important to consider the soil quality. Make sure the soil has a good drainage system. Cannabis can grow in a wide variety of soil types, as long as the soil has sufficient drainage. If it doesn’t, you can amend the soil, or plant in containers. In a container, you can easily customize your soil mix to create the perfect grow medium for your plants.

Planting in-ground is generally easier and more forgiving. With quality soil, you don’t have to worry much about plants becoming root-bound or developing root rot, and you may not have to water as frequently.

The soil should compact when squeezed, but easily break when poked. Fertile, healthy soil contains organic matter, such as decomposing wood and other plant matter. Good soil is also home to many organisms, including earthworms, grubs, beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms. If you don’t see anything crawling around in your soil, it is probably lacking in organic matter. You can mix mulch and other amendments into the soil to increase its fertility, if necessary. If the soil has poor drainage, add sand, perlite, or vermiculite. (1)

The soil’s pH level should also be tested. An ideal pH level for growing marijuana is between 6 and 7. Soil of extreme pH levels discourages absorption of plant nutrients. Low pH levels also tend to produce more male cannabis plants. An application of hydrated lime can help increase the pH level, while adding sodium bicarbonate into the soil can decrease the pH level. (2)

Wetlands & Water Access:

Water levels should also be considered in the property selection process. Does the property contain wetlands? If the water table is too high, the soil will stay waterlogged, causing the roots to receive an inadequate amount of oxygen. This will cause plants to die.

On the other hand, if the water table is too low, frequent watering will be required since the soil will dry out too quickly.

Plants can be grown in containers if the soil is too wet. The larger the pots, the better. The pot should have an inch of gravel at the bottom to promote drainage.

Access to water on the property is important. Unless it rains every few days, you’ll need to water your plants regularly, so pick a site that has easy access to water.

Power Availability:

Power availability may be a priority if you are planning for a hydroponic system. In addition, If a security system is desired (or required within the municipality) electricity will likely be needed to power it.

It is also important to have access to electricity if you plan to have a management building or facility processing on-site. If not, a power source may not be needed, but it is still a good idea to check for power availability to the selected property.

Acreage:

The amount of space you will need depends on the number and types of plants you want to cultivate, and are legally permitted to grow.

Your plants will need to be separated by at least five feet, so they all get plenty of sun and breeze. Crowded plants will shadow one another, leading to less sunlight exposure and lower product yield.

Root systems also need space to grow. Container-grown marijuana tends to be smaller because root growth is restricted. Generally speaking, the size of the container will determine the size of the plant.

Compliance:

Your grow site must comply with all local rules and regulations. In most locations, your cultivation area must be secured with a locked privacy fence, and plants can be no taller than the fence.

Any gates must be locked to prevent unauthorized personnel from reaching the plants, and to discourage theft.

Outdoor cultivation facilities must be placed within a certain zone in the city, township, or village. There are also buffer zones to check, along with other rules and regulations.

Check with the municipality of the proposed property regarding their local ordinances, as these can vary greatly.

Visibility:

While looking for marijuana cultivation land, you should also consider whether or not the plants can be hidden from the road with a fence. Is the property sloped upward in a way that the public could see marijuana plants over the barrier?

According to the State of Michigan, the cultivation area must be fully enclosed by fences or barriers. These must completely block outside visibility of the marihuana plants from the public view, with no marihuana plants growing above the fence or barrier that is visible to the public eye.

Also keep in mind that growing plants in a pot will add height to each plant. Take this into consideration when installing a fence.

Accessibility:

Location and ease of access are important. Plants will need to be tended to regularly, especially if they are being watered manually. If watering is inconvenient, you may be able to use a grow medium that can hold moisture for an extended period of time. Water-absorbing additives will allow a larger gap between crop waterings. (3)

Accessibility will also make transportation of products much easier, as vehicles will be able to reach your grow. This being said, select a property that can be reached conveniently and often.

Knowledge is power, so make sure to keep all of these factors in mind while looking for land to start your outdoor cannabis grow. With the right property, outdoor growing can be highly profitable while costing less to maintain.

1. “How to Grow Weed Outside – A Comprehensive Guide”, Grow Marijuana

2. “The Perfect Ph Value for a Cannabis Plant”, Royal Queen Seeds

3. “Outdoor Marijuana Growing For Beginners”, High Times