Choosing The Right Spot For An Outdoor Grow

Choosing The Right Spot For An Outdoor Grow

Written for Seedsman

Creating a thriving garden begins with selecting the perfect location. This choice is pivotal for the health and yield of your plants and for maximizing the efficiency and enjoyment of your gardening experience. Whether cultivating flowers, vegetables, fruits, or specialized crops like cannabis, understanding the interplay between sun exposure, soil quality, water access, and electrical needs for enhancements like compost or nutrient teas, privacy, and animal protection is crucial. This comprehensive guide will navigate you through these factors to ensure your outdoor grow flourishes.

Understanding The Sun Path

Sunlight is the lifeblood of all gardens. Plants use sunlight to photosynthesize, converting light, water, and carbon dioxide into sugar for growth and oxygen as a byproduct. The path of the sun across your garden significantly impacts plant health. There are various considerations, including duration, path, and seasonal changes. There are several apps you can download on your smartphone and use to show you the sun's path during various times of the year, and understanding the direction your garden faces is critical.

Sunlight Duration

Most fruiting and flowering plants require a substantial amount of sunlight, typically between six and eight hours of direct exposure each day, to thrive. This duration of sunlight is vital for their growth as it drives photosynthesis. While many claim that morning sunlight is particularly beneficial because it is gentler compared to the intense heat of the afternoon sun, this isn't always true.

Gentle morning light can efficiently stimulate photosynthesis without the stress and potential damage that hotter sunlight can cause later in the day. Morning sunlight has a bluer spectrum, while afternoon sunlight has a redder spectrum. This afternoon light, while more intense, is ideal for rapid development, fruit ripening, and maximizing sugar production.

Keeping this knowledge in mind, don't be wary if your potential garden space is a west-facing hillside and it gets more afternoon sun than morning. North-facing hillsides are the only ones you really need to be concerned about due to the cast of shadow during the late summer. Using a compass and one of the many sun-tracking apps is a great way to plan your garden for optimal sunlight.

Sun Path & Seasonal Changes

When planning your garden, it's essential to consider the sun's path across your garden area throughout the day and across different seasons. The angle and intensity of sunlight change as the seasons progress, affecting how well your plants grow. Be mindful of any objects that could cast shadows and reduce sunlight exposure. Some plant strains, like the 'Girl Scout Cookies' cannabis variety, thrive in mottled light conditions. This adaptability makes it crucial to match plant choices with their specific light preferences to optimize growth and yield.

Assessing Soil Quality

Planting directly in the ground offers numerous benefits for gardeners and their plants. When plants are sown in the ground, they have more room to spread their roots, access natural nutrients, and interact with the surrounding ecosystem, leading to healthier and more robust plant growth. This method is more sustainable and cost-effective, reducing artificial support and input needs.

Soil Depth

Adequate soil depth is critical to successfully planting in the ground, particularly for demanding crops like cannabis. Typically, a depth of 18 inches or more is recommended for cannabis, as it allows sufficient space for the roots to expand. This depth can be measured by digging a hole and using a tape measure. A deeper root system enables the plant to access more nutrients and water, leading to less frequent feeding and easier water management.

Water Holding Capacity

To assess water holding capacity, perform a field test by digging a hole 12 inches wide and deep, filling it with water, letting it drain, then filling it again and time how long it takes to drain. This rate indicates how long your soil can hold a gallon of water, which is valuable information for setting up your irrigation schedules.

Soil Tilth

Soil quality, or tilth, is another crucial factor in establishing a successful garden. Soil tilth considers the soil's texture, which includes the balance of sand, silt, and clay. These elements affect everything from the soil's cation exchange capacity (CEC) — its ability to hold onto essential nutrients — to its drainage and susceptibility to compaction.

Good soil structure and aggregate formation are vital for maintaining porosity and water retention, which can be enhanced by adding compost and organic matter. These additions help support a thriving soil food web, which improves the soil's overall health. Soil colour indicates its health and composition; darker soils often contain more organic material. Conducting a soil test can provide detailed insights into nutrient levels and pH, guiding amendments to optimize plant health.

For those facing challenges with native soil conditions, using containers such as raised beds or living soil fabric pots is a viable alternative.

Water Availability

Consistent water availability is essential for maintaining a healthy garden. Plants rely on water not just for their growth but also for cooling themselves and facilitating nutrient uptake. When planning your garden, it's essential to consider the proximity to a water source. Choosing a location within easy reach of your water supply can make watering less burdensome and more efficient.

In addition to traditional watering methods, consider implementing water collection systems like rain barrels or a rain garden. These systems capture natural rainfall and provide an eco-friendly and cost-effective irrigation option. They reduce your dependence on municipal water systems and help manage stormwater runoff in your area.

Understanding the specific climate conditions of your area is crucial for effective water management. Techniques like dry farming can be employed in regions where water is scarce. Dry farming involves cultivating drought-tolerant crops in a way that relies on the moisture present in the soil rather than external irrigation. Incorporating hugelkultur—creating raised garden beds layered with decomposing wood and organic materials—can enhance this method. Hugelkultur beds retain moisture efficiently and gradually release it back to the plants, reducing the need for frequent watering and leveraging natural processes to sustain plant growth.

Electricity For Garden Enhancements

For gardeners looking to enhance their cultivation practices through methods like brewing compost teas or using lights to adjust photoperiod times, having access to electricity can significantly broaden your gardening capabilities. When selecting a garden location, it's crucial to consider the proximity to power sources. Ensure that your chosen site is near an outdoor electrical outlet, or assess the possibility of using an extension cord to bridge the distance if you want to brew teas and utilize lights or fans in a greenhouse.

Safety is a paramount concern when integrating electricity into your garden setup. Always use extension cords rated for outdoor use and ensure all electrical connections are well-protected from water to prevent potential hazards. This careful planning will expand your gardening options and keep your garden environment safe and efficient.

Fencing For Privacy & Protection

Having fencing installed in your garden can be highly beneficial for several reasons. Privacy is a primary concern for many gardeners, especially those cultivating high-value or sensitive plants. A well-positioned fence or natural barriers such as trees and bushes can shield your garden from prying eyes and create a more secluded and peaceful retreat. Fences can also serve as effective windbreaks, protecting plants from harsh conditions.

Protection from animals is another critical reason to consider fencing. Gardens often attract wildlife and neighborhood pets, which can damage plants and result in lost crops. A sturdy fence can be an effective barrier to keep out most animals. When planning your fence, it's important to consider the types of wildlife common in your area and select the appropriate height and material to ensure its effectiveness.

Choosing a garden location where you can install fencing or where there is existing infrastructure can save you time and the headache of dealing with prying eyes and pesky animals. Natural privacy shields like fast-growing plants and bushes also contribute to pest prevention by creating a habitat for beneficial insects and a barrier for pests such as spider mites that can float in on dust.

Final Thoughts

Selecting the right location for your outdoor grow involves carefully balancing these factors. By taking the time to assess each aspect, you can ensure that your garden survives and thrives. Remember, the ideal garden spot meets your plants' needs while fitting into your lifestyle and gardening goals. With the proper preparation and understanding, your garden will become a bountiful and enjoyable extension of your home.

Creating an outdoor garden that meets these criteria sets the stage for a rewarding and fruitful gardening experience. Beyond the joy of gardening, the right location can lead to healthier plants, higher yields, and a deeper connection to the natural world around you. So, take your time, plan carefully, and watch your garden grow into a vibrant testament to your efforts.

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About the Author

Alexandria Irons Headshot

Alexandria Doner-Irons, the brains behind Queen of the Sun Grown, is a seasoned guru in organic gardening and cannabis cultivation. With over seven years of commercial cannabis production under her belt, she's a go-to source for knowledge.

Based in Spokane, Washington, Alexandria blends her natural science background with a love for gardening, teaching, and writing. Certified by UC Davis as a Master Gardener and Composter, she's a pro in sustainable agriculture. Alexandria's expertise spans from cannabis to various food and medicinal crops, and she's passionate about sharing her wisdom through engaging classes.

Her knack for simplifying complex topics makes her teachings accessible to all levels of learners. Through her writing, she inspires others to embrace sustainable cultivation methods. Alexandria is dedicated to providing readers with valuable insights and practical advice rooted in scientific knowledge and hands-on experience.