Cultivation Corner with Olivia Sobelman: Get an early start on your outdoor season

Cultivation Corner with Olivia Sobelman: Get an early start on your outdoor season


Most growers will start their plants indoors a month or two before the outdoor season to get a head start on plant size.

There are incredible benefits to starting the season with a teenage plant with an established root zone. The advanced root zone is arguably the most important benefit. We’ve had plants that have broken in half during the transplant process and caught up in size to their neighboring plants later in the summer. If you want the biggest plants you can possibly have, you will need to start your plants early. Early May is a great time, especially for the beginner gardener, to have healthy pre-teen/teenage plants to put outside on June 1st.


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However, the opposite can be true if the plant is started too early, kept in the vegetative state for too long, or simply kept in the same size container for too long. Long-established indoor plants will have a much harder time hardening off to the sun when it comes time to transition them. They have lived in relatively low lighting their entire lives and they can struggle with the transition and also tend to suffer from transplant shock. If a plant has become root-bound by being kept in a smaller container than it needed, the plant is almost assuredly likely to suffer from shock once transplanted to its final container outside. Bad cases of transplant shock outdoors can stunt a plant’s growth for up to 2 weeks, which can cancel out the benefits of starting your plants early indoors. An easy remedy for transplant shock is a B1 Vitamin solution added to the water.

An easy way to prevent any root binding or to keep your plant in a small container healthily for long periods of time is to plant it in a fabric pot. Just keep in mind that they are, for various reasons, trickier to remove from the root zone when it comes to transplanting so try to keep pot sizes between one and three gallons. 

If you want bushier plants later on, then the early stage is a good time to begin topping or training your plant. 


Hardening Off Your Plant


Hardening off is the process by which you slowly introduce your indoor plant to the outdoors to acclimate it to the intensity of the sun. Putting a plant outside that is not acclimated for it can result in a similar effect to a person going to the beach without sunscreen. The plants that are affected will have burning on the leaves in varying levels of intensity, but even the most badly damaged plant will still recover and begin growing new, acclimated growth that will bounce back like nothing ever happened. Even if the hardening-off process is not done well, it still gets done one way or another. It can take one day and it can also take 1 week to harden off your plants, it really depends heavily on how healthy your plants are before they go outside. 

If you have small enough containers to carry and few enough plants, then the cheapest and easiest way to harden off your plant is to take your plants outside for a few hours each day and place them in the shade. Bring them back inside under a light to keep their light cycle long enough to prevent pre-flowering. 

Another way is to set up a greenhouse with shade cloth to acclimate your plants. Depending on whether or not you are growing young seeds you will need to add supplemental lighting to keep the dark cycle shorter than 12 hours. This is effective if you have a lot of plants, large plants, and to also keep your plants out of the weather.


Starting From Seed

Seeds don’t reach maturity until they are about six weeks old. Some strains will reach maturity sooner, and some later. This means that, while in their immature state, they will not start flowering even if the light cycle outside is naturally in the flowering phase and that you will not need to supplement additional light if you are starting them early. Seeds can acclimate to the sun easier and will normally have a heartier root zone because they have a taproot. The taproot will also allow them to effectively tap into the soil and can help the plant access water deeper down. There are pros and cons to using seeds and clones. Just know, for the sake of lighting, that Clones are the same age as the parent they are taken from, a clone is mature enough to flower at any time.


Olivia Sobelman has been a cannabis grower for 10 years and was part of a team that won the US Cannabis Cup Awards three times. Sobelman and her husband, Tyler, own and operate The Grow Depot Hydroponics Store in Mid-Missouri. Fast becoming “The Plant Doctors,” the Sobelmans’ mission to educate and destigmatize cannabis is at the root of their business. Grow depot offers access to free consultations for patients and growers, both in-person and by phone, to diagnose and mend many issues in the garden. Visit Grow Depot for grower tutorials, past articles, and to learn more about the services they offer and their contributions to the cannabis community.