More people than ever grow a cannabis plant or two at home on their balcony, terrace or similar outdoor areas. Choose the most suitable cannabis seeds and you can expect a crop in as little as 3 months with heavy yields and the great taste that often comes from outdoor grown sun-bloomed cannabis. You will need to prepare well, choosing the right strains and planning the timing of your grow. We explain all you need to know below!
How to grow cannabis on a balcony or terrace
The pros and cons of growing cannabis on a balcony
Growing outdoors at (or near) home has some compelling advantages. But there are also some considerations to be aware of if you are aiming for maximum yields and minimum attention from your neighbours.
Pros of growing cannabis seeds on a balcony/terrace
- Your outdoor plants are never too far away, you can monitor them regularly for health, pests etc.
- Growing outdoor on a balcony/terrace uses the sun’s free energy to grow your weed. No need to worry about spending hundreds of €/$/£ on electricity like indoor growers.
- Buy the best cannabis seeds and you can expect serious quality levels and good yields.
Cons of growing cannabis seeds on a balcony/terrace
- You will have to deal with outdoor weather, which may produce conditions which are too hot/cold etc. Results may not be quite the same as you could get from an indoor grow with a perfectly controlled indoor climate.
- You may be limited to growing only at certain times of the year.
- Security concerns may be an issue for some. Your cannabis plants may need to be grown discreetly, meaning small compact varieties may be preferred by some growers. Others may prefer to train or top their cannabis plants to prevent them getting too tall.
Basic tips for growing cannabis on a balcony
Thousands of self-sufficient cannabis growers that have a sun-facing balcony/terrace make use of it to grow a plant or two. Buy the best cannabis seeds and allow them to bathe in lashings of direct sunlight and you are well placed for an easy, uncomplicated grow. But there are a number of issues that you will need to be aware of, and if possible, optimise.
Ideally, a south-facing balcony (for northern hemisphere growers) allowing uninterrupted sun is the ideal spot to grow your plants. Growers in the southern hemisphere would need a north-facing balcony.
Not everyone enjoys all-day sun, but the more direct sunlight your balcony receives, the bigger and better your plants will become. Ideally, your plants should receive at least a few hours of the strongest midday-sun. Without direct sunlight your plants won’t get anywhere near the full genetic potential offered by the cannabis genetics.
Note: Too much sunlight, especially during mid-summer months can cause light stress, bleaching etc. Especially for young plants, but in some cases also for adult cannabis plants. During summer, especially in fierce sunny/hot Mediterranean (or similar) climates, you should be cautious about placing your plants in direct sunlight during the hottest and driest days.
Photoperiod vs autoflower genetics
You can grow both autoflowering cannabis seeds as well as photoperiod feminised seeds on a balcony. Autoflowers tend to stay shorter and complete their growth cycle faster than photoperiod feminised strains.
This may be useful for those with concerns about privacy and final plant height/size. Those with shorter grow seasons may also lean more towards the speed and convenience of autoflower seeds.
A typical auto tends to grow from autoflower seed to harvest in around 11 weeks indoors, outdoors it may take a couple of weeks longer due to the sub-optimised (light/heat etc) conditions. But the total grow cycle of around 3 months for an auto is about half the time required for a photoperiod feminised outdoor cannabis strain.
Small plant containers encourage a smaller, more compact (and easier-to-hide) cannabis plant. For those wanting to encourage shorter plants that will stay out of sight on a balcony/terrace, smaller plant containers tend to be favoured. Of course, this will limit final yields. But for many balcony growers, keeping plants out of view of others may be more important.
However, for those with completely private growing areas, plant/container size may be less of a concern. For such growers it will be possible (and even desirable) to grow the largest possible plants, perhaps in 50-100 + litre containers. This also helps fight the climatological challenges and provides a larger reservoir of nutrients & moisture.
The experienced balcony grower may still wish to grow in large containers and manage the plant height using the SCROG method or training (e.g. tying down the tallest branches etc). Remember SCROG can be used both indoors and outdoors!
Plant height (privacy/safety measures)
Plant height is often one of the main concerns of the balcony grower. This in turn affects the choice of cannabis seeds as well as the size of the grow container. Long, stretchy sativa strains may be less preferred than short, stocky indica strains which have a natural tendency to grow in a squat, low structure. For the same reason many balcony growers prefer autoflower seeds, especially if they are trying to keep the tallest blooms below the typical 1-1.5m height of their balcony wall.
There are some useful tips which may help the balcony grower hide their cannabis plants. Some growers will position ornamental shrubs/flowers nearby to obscure the views of their cannabis plants. Others will use a screen e.g. a wooden screen, or one made of thick garden mesh netting. Some growers attach imitation coloured (e.g. silk/plastic) flowers onto their balcony cannabis plants to throw any nosey neighbours off-the-trail. From a distance, this can be surprisingly effective.
Plant smell (privacy safety measures)
There is little that can be done to mask scent when growing cannabis outdoors. However, for the balcony grower with a small number of plants, the cannabis aroma tends to be naturally dispersed by the wind. If you’re planning to pack your balcony with a serious number of plants natural wind dispersion of the smell may be difficult. In these circumstances, a busy balcony grow would only make sense on a more isolated balcony away from any immediate neighbours.
When to germinate cannabis seeds for a balcony grow
Most growers germinate their cannabis seeds indoors and plant them out when safe to do so. For those in cooler climates this means after the last frost, use Google for the last frost dates in your area.
As with any outdoor cannabis grower, the balcony grower needs to know the restrictions of their particular growing season. Autoflower seed growers tend to get one or two successive crops in the average grow season. But those with a Mediterranean climate may be able to grow 3 successive balcony auto crops each year.
The length of your grow season will determine whether you can grow photoperiod feminised strains or whether you should stick to autoflower seeds. But most balcony growers germinate their cannabis seeds at the earliest possibility to make the most of the outdoor grow season.
Note: Growers in (sub)tropical regions near the equator will have around 12-13 hours of light per day all year around. This means photoperiod plants will flower automatically from germination. Therefore, it is recommended to use stretchy Sativa dominant varieties for the best results.
Seedling management: starting indoors for a week or two has benefits.
One useful tip for those growing cannabis on a balcony/terrace is to germinate the seeds indoors and allow them a couple of weeks of indoor growth under a low power indoor grow light. This allows your cannabis seedlings the best possible start and protects them from the weather/predators while they are at their most vulnerable.
A low-cost indoor LED/fluorescent seedling light is a great investment for outdoor/balcony growers and allows them the chance to put more developed plants outdoors once the weather is suitable.
Best cannabis strains for a balcony grow
Consider stealth cannabis strains such as Frisian Duck which don’t look like traditional cannabis
For those balcony growers that need a little extra stealth protection it may make sense to consider cannabis strains with a non-traditional leaf shape. Frisian Duck (photoperiod feminised seeds) and Auto Duck (autoflower seeds) have a stabilised natural leaf deformity.
This creates a leaf shape where the individual leaf fingers ‘melt’ together to create a cannabis leaf shape which looks more like the shape of a ducks footprint. Even experienced cannabis growers can walk straight past Frisian Duck/Auto Duck and never even notice that it’s cannabis, especially when the plant hasn’t yet formed the blooms.
Cannabis balcony grow stage-by-stage guide
Once you have chosen your preferred strains to grow outdoors on your balcony your plants will face several stages of growth. With the correct cannabis genetics, you should have resilient, fast growing strains that should grow without issues and deliver heavy yields of top-quality buds. Get things right and you can shoot for 20% THC levels and quality levels on a par with indoor grown cannabis.
Cannabis seed germination
Germinating your cannabis seeds between two moist (nut never soaked) cotton pads is the most reliable seed germination method yet found by Dutch Passion. If you’re buying quality cannabis seeds, it makes sense to aim for maximum germination rates!
Balcony grow seedling stage
The first couple of weeks or so after cannabis seed germination is often referred to as the seedling stage. Your plants will have the first cotyledon (baby) leaf pair and perhaps an additional pair or two of serrated leaves. Your seedlings are young and vulnerable, give them maximum care as they grow gradually larger and stronger. Many balcony growers keep their seedlings indoors for a couple of weeks, giving them the benefit of ~18-24 hours of daily light under ideal conditions until they are large and strong enough to place outdoors on your balcony.
Balcony grow vegetative stage
In the vegetative stage your cannabis plant will grow leaves, roots and branches but no buds. For autoflower strains, the veg phase usually lasts for the first 5 weeks or so (bloom begins automatically without any change to the cannabis light cycle).
For photoperiod feminised cannabis strains, the outdoor veg period ends during summer as daylight hours start to shorten. Shorter day-lengths are sensed by feminised strains which respond with the onset of bloom.
During veg growth, many balcony growers may choose to make any adjustments to their plants. this could involve low stress training (tying down taller branches etc), or even a high-stress training technique e.g. removing the growth tip of the plant (‘topping’).
For many balcony growers cultivating compact autoflower strains, there is little to do during veg growth other than monitor plant health. If any particularly cold or stormy weather is forecast, many balcony growers will protect their plants (e.g. with a transparent plastic cover) or even bring them indoors for the night.
Balcony grow flowering stage
During the cannabis flowering stage, the cannabis buds form. For autos this is often around 5 weeks after autoflower seed germination. For photoperiod strains, bloom starts as daylight hours shorten over summer.
For the balcony grower this may be the point where plant height concerns become more apparent. Cannabis plants stretch and grow vertically during bloom. If they exceed your desired height levels, you will need to be aware and take action. Resin production will also increase and you will notice the trademark cannabis aroma. Hopefully this scent won’t be detected by anyone on a neighbouring balcony.
But, if you have selected your cannabis seeds wisely, the growth characteristics of your chosen strains will be manageable and your main role will be to enjoy watching the growth and apply necessary nutrients to maintain your plants in the nutrient sweet spot (without over or under feeding).
Note that during bloom, and indeed during veg growth, the attentive balcony grower may wish to rotate their plants to ensure that all sides of the plants get their share of sun light.
Balcony grow drying and curing tips
As growers gain experience and knowledge, they generally pay increasing amount of attention to the process of drying and curing. A slow, gradual drying preserves maximised terpene levels.
This gives cannabis the rich connoisseur taste which all growers want to savour. But rush your drying/curing and you face the very real possibility of over-drying your buds significantly reducing the jar-appeal and subsequent enjoyment.
Whether you grow cannabis indoors or outdoors our pro-guide to drying and curing is essential reading for the serious grower. One important topic for the balcony grower is where to dry their buds. Drying them on the balcony may be tricky in damp weather. Drying your plants indoors will create an inevitable stink unless you have a small drying area equipped with ventilation.
Final thoughts and recommendations
Although growing cannabis outdoors is straightforward there are lots of tips and techniques to maximise your chances of success. One of the tougher places in Europe to grow cannabis outdoors (…or on a balcony/terrace) is in the borderline climate of the UK. The following UK outdoor grow guide is full of expert tips and tricks to increase your chances of success if your weather can’t be fully relied on.
Dutch Passion see huge numbers of successful cannabis grows on balconies and terraces. Even small balconies high up in city-centre apartment blocks can be great places to grow a few plants. Many prefer the speed, simplicity and compact plants that come from autoflower seeds. But with the right plant training, container size and genetics it is eminently possible to grow photoperiod genetics too.
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