Howdy GC - Here's a little guide to growing outdoors down under. I've read quite a few of the beginners guides on here & they can be a little confusing to us aussies with all the different product names & terminologies etc. Might be worth help to a few. 1. SITE Probably the most important decision of the entire growing process, is where to grow. It's not exactly legal here, so first things first... Don't grow at your home (or if you do, be careful ). If you're growing in the wild, spend a few hours over different days getting to know the area. Know where people go, and where they don't go. All it takes is someone to stumble across it once, and all your hard work is wasted. Many a harvest have been lost just before picking because people knew where they were hiding their goodies! Should go unsaid, but be discreet. If you have a dog, take him/her for a walk with you. If there's rivers/creeks nearby, take a fishing rod. I won't bore you with all the different types of areas you can choose from, but somewhere that gets good sun each day & realistic access with a few garden materials/tools is important. Take into account how your plants will get access to water, as summers & even winters in Australia can be long and harsh. If there's no water supply nearby, you'll need to carry in water regularly... and water becomes very heavy when your carrying it long distances. *Cannabis plants are warm loving annual plants, meaning that they stay alive for one season before dying off. They will flower if there is not enough light, as the plant tries to reproduce for the next seasons crop. For ideal outdoor Australian grows, seeds should be germinated early spring - September to October. You can plant later than this, but planting at these times will give you maximum growing time which equals maximum yield. Your plants will need at least 5 hours of sunlight to grow a day, but more is better. Remember, Australian summers can be harsh so it might not be wise to put somewhere that gets 18hrs of direct sun each day come the time its 35 degrees +. Most important of all, don't tell anyone where your grow site is. No one! Loose lips sink ships. Capiche? 2. PREP Now that you've selected the best site in your area, and you've explored all possible ways in and out, its time to prepare your site for the season. There's A LOT of guides out there on what to put in your soil mix, so if you're interested spend a few minutes and check out all the different mixes people recommend. My personal opinion is that people make far too much fuss about whats in the soil, adding a hundred different things and probably confuse the new grower far more than the good it does. So, that said, what I recommend is a basic mix of garden soil (potting mix for pots), vermiculite & peat moss. If you want to use perlite instead of of the vermiculite you can, that's fine. All of these items are available from Bunnings in the gardening section. I recommend using just the cheapest, most basic soil. The expensive ones already have water-saving crystals in them, 3-12 months slow release fertiliser etc etc. Next up, a bag of chicken manure. Chicken manure is the highest in nitrogen (I'll explain what this means soon) so gives an excellence boost for growth. If you can't get chicken, cow is fine. If you're growing in pots, remember that the bigger the pot = the bigger the plant. Also, smaller pots need watering more often. Just turn over your mix in the pots with a shovel and let settle for at least 2 weeks. If you're putting straight into the ground, take a pick/hoe & a shovel and dig a nice big hole. The bigger the better. The plants love a well drained, airy soil, not rock hard clay/spongy wet dirt. If you can dig a hole 2ft x 2ft, great. If you can dig one even bigger, perfect. Clear out all the existing soil from your spots and replace it with the mix we just talked about. Let this settle in the ground for around 2 weeks at least, three weeks is more than enough. The reason for this is that manures such as chicken shit are high in ammonia, and they can burn young & sensitive plants. *Remember, you can always add fertiliser later, but if there's too much in the soil its basically impossible to lower it. **You may have read about PH levels before, my advice is not to worry about it at the moment because we can correct that later - but for guides sake marijuana likes 6 - 6.8. If you want to check it first you can. 3. GERMINATION Now that you've prepared your grow site, its time to germinate your seeds. Whether you got your seeds from weed that you've bought, or you've been online & bought some dank strains, you'll be busting at your bits to get them in the ground. A quick search online and you'll find numerous different ways of starting off your seeds, but I'll just recommend one (feel free to try alternative suggestions though). *There are all sorts of seeds available online, autoflower, indica/sativa, feminised... more on this later! Get some plastic cups, put some drainage holes in them or get some small plastic pots and saucers (200mm pots are great). Fill the cups/pots with a seed raising mix. To make this, get some peat moss, potting mix/soil & vermiculite/perlite. This works best with equal parts of each. Using a hose/watering can, water your cups/pots until water is flowing out the bottom. This is important - first off seeds like damp environments but not wet, so drainage is essential. If the mix isn't watered enough, your seedling will dry out and die. So, for the first time, give it a good drink and then let the water pour out the bottom. Next take a pencil or something similar and make a shallow hole in the middle of the pot, about 5mm deep. No more. 5mm! Pop your seed in, and gently cover it with a bit of the soil mix. If you then want to give it a light sprinkle with water you can, but you shouldn't need to if you watered it adequately the first time. Now keep the pots out of direct sun; otherwise they will dry out and kill your seedlings. Keep the seeds in a warm location, common sense here. If its in a tin shed that's 50 degrees inside then obviously that isn't going to be good, and you don't want it freezing cold either. Feel free to keep the pots indoors until you see the seeds have sprouted, its the easiest way to maintain optimum temperatures & easiest to keep an eye on too. Check the soil every 24hrs or so, make sure its damp, but not wet. If it needs a bit of water get an empty spray bottle and give it a light mist. After 2-10 days your seeds will break their shells and grow a taproot (the little root that uses gravity to grow down & start growing up through the soil with the part that we see! I found a cool little video on youtube of this. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFnx7CEBIeo I might mention that its important that the soil you're planting the seeds in doesn't have fertiliser. Seeds have enough food to last them the first couple of weeks, and in their very young stages they're very fragile and fertiliser in the soil can kill them. The seedling stage will generally last around 1-2 weeks, As soon as the seeds have broken the surface of the soil its time to either put them under a grow light, or put them outdoors & into the sun. The more sun the merrier, just make sure to keep the pots watered at least every 2 days at this stage. The first set of leaves are called cotyledon leaves, they are round and smooth edged. Don't worry if the seed shell doesn't come off completely at first, just let it come off in due time (let nature do its thang' yo). You'll soon see the plants growing upwards towards the light and start growing its first true set of leaves, and then a second, and then a ... etc etc. This is a sensitive time for your plants, they need sun for energy and need to make sure they don't dry out. It's not rocket science though. Two weeks later and we're now into what people call the "vegetative" stage. Outdoors this can last a vast variation of time, dependent on the type of seed you have & the time of year you plant. Now its been three long weeks since you prepared that soil at your grow location, it feels like its been forever! By now your plants should have 3-4 true sets of leaves and about 6-9 inches in height. The first few weeks are slow because the plant is investing allot of energy into developing a sound root structure. Don't be upset or worried if it looks as if your plant hasn't grown in a day, or two, or three. Its growing, you just can't see it yet. Once your plant is around one foot tall you should start thinking about transplanting to their final grow sites. My advice would be to wait another week, let them grow a little bit taller and stronger and then plant. The reason behind this is bugs and other nasties can kill a seedling very easily. A bigger plant is also much stronger so if anything does go wrong, there's a much higher chance that it can recover. It won't grow any faster in the ground earlier, so the extra wait time won't be missed. *Transplanting is a stressful practice for a plant, so great care should be taken when moving the plant into a new growing medium. Be considerate of the plants roots in particular. I recommend making a hole 2-3 times as big as the cup/pot that you've grown in so far (no deeper though) and then gently tapping on the pot/cup so it falls away, but leaves all the soil in tact. Carefully, put the soil in the middle of the hole you've just made, and gently backfill the soil mix, pressing down firmly but not harshly. Give your plants a nice water, making sure that they're standing nice and proud and not limp. If you need to use a small stake at this stage to keep your plant upright that's fine. *I also recommend using a product called 'Seasol' at this stage- its seaweed concentrate that acts as a tonic for your plants. Its not a fertiliser, so its safe to use at this stage & it helps with stress as well as encourages healthy root development, and its organic. You'll find this in Bunnings too, around $10 a litre which will last you donkeys! I can't recommend this any more, seriously. This is also the most crucial time for pests and bugs on your plant. If you have deer in your area, it could be worth surrounding your plants with a plastic trellis or chicken wire mesh. 4. FERTILISERS Any trip down to your local bunnings/hardware store and you'll see just how many fertilisers there are, and it can be very confusing which is why so far we've kept it very simple in the soil mix. A quick guide to horticulture is plants require three main sources of food - Nitrogen (N) Phosphorus & Potassium (K). (As well as a whole range of other elements and trace minerals, but these are the most important to understand for now). On the fertiliser packet you will see something called an N-P-K ratio. That's the ratio of Nitrogen, Phosphorus & Potassium. Plants need nitrogen for growth, leaves etc (all things green). They need phosphorus for a healthy root system, and potassium for flowering and blooms. Different fertilisers do different jobs, some are better for the early vegetative stage, and some are better for the later flowering stages. So its important to understand the NPK ratio and which one is right for you at the time. There are all different types of fertilisers too, slow release (granulated), manures, and liquid fertilisers. Once the plant has been put in the ground, liquid fertilisers are my favourite. The reason for this is that plants absorb the nutrients much faster as a liquid instead of having to wait for it to break down so the plant can use it. A slow release fertiliser will generally take about 2-4 weeks to start noticing results but feed for around 3 months. Manures around 1-2 weeks and last about 2-3 months, and liquid fertilisers you can see results within a few days but last for around 2-4 weeks. *There's a liquid fertiliser called 'Powerfeed' - made by the same Australian company that makes Seasol and its fantastic. Made of fish emulsion, its not absolutely organic but its close to it. They have different varieties, each one a slightly different NPK ratio. I recommend the red bottle, as its higher in nitrogen and it will give a bigger boost to establishing your plants. If you want a 100% organic product, there are alternatives available such as 'Charlie Carp'. If you are going to add fertilisers while the plant is around a foot tall, start off at 1/2 strength. You can always use Seasol each time you fertilise too, the plants will definitely benefit from it. 5. VEGETATIVE GROWTH There are a number of techniques that you can do which will potentially increase your yield come harvest. Take caution though, because doing any of these techniques adds stress to your plant and can have an adverse effect if done incorrectly. It is best to research these in much greater depth before attempting! 1. LST (Low Stress Training) is where you direct your plant to grow horizontally by tying down the plant. The idea behind this is to maximise the light the plant receives. A plant grown normally will receive most of the light on the top part and the buds will develop greatest here. However once you've tied down the main stem, each branch will then act like a main cola and grow upwards, resulting in a shorter plant with a higher yield. 2. HST (High Stress Training) is the also known as supercropping, where you apply pressure to your branches until you hear a slight crack. On appearance, the branch would look as if its almost broken off, though still attached. Believers in this method suggests the plants will not only recover, but because of the plants own growth mechanism will cause the plant to become bushier, thereby creating an environment for increased bud production that will even result in higher levels of THC. 3.TOPPING & FIMMING is a grow technique that involves cutting your plants to encourage new stems/colas. By cutting new growth on stems, it sends energy to producing new stems. Fimming is cutting only the top of the new growth, so it places the plant under less stress, and Topping is cutting much closer to the node. Both of these techniques cause the plant to stop focusing on one central cola (like a Christmas tree) to instead grow multiple colas. This technique is especially useful if you wish to take large amounts of clones from the plants later on. *I should mention again that all of these techniques cause stress for the plant and opinions vary greatly on the benefits/results. 6. FLOWERING Its the end of summer now and you can feel a reprieve from all the stinking hot days and afternoon storms. The plants now recognise the shift in sunlight, notice the days becoming shorter and start showing signs of sex - preflowers. If you bought feminised seeds you can relax and not worry about pollinating any of your crop, but if not you need to check the sex of the plants. You can identify female plants by little white pistons; tiny white hairs coming out of the nodes. Male plants will have small sacks of pollen instead, little balls. Male plants will pollinate female plants and if this happen you'll have much smaller harvests plus seeds all throughout your bud, which isn't good (unless you want seeds of course). Remove any males from your crop as early as you notice them. Even if you bought feminised seeds you should check for sex as plants can turn hermaphrodites (2 sexes) from stress. All it takes is one hermy to ruin a complete grow. At the start of the flowering stage the plant is now using less nitrogen, and more potassium (remember our science lesson earlier!) so its time to change fertilisers. I recommend using Sulphate of Potash - its a soluble form of potassium which is super easy to apply ( http://www.richgro.com.au/usage-list/how-to-use-sulphate-of-potash/ ). An organic alternative is to use ash from your fireplace. Do this at the beginning of the flowering stage and then sit back and wait for the buds to grow. Flowering periods vary greatly on the strain of cannabis you have, anything from roughly 8 weeks with indica varieties through to 12-14 weeks with some sativas. THC (the part that gets you high) develops on trichomes on the flowers and leaves of the plant which look like little golf tees under magnification. They start off clear and eventually turn clear/amber and then completely amber or brown. Most people recommend harvesting when the trichomes start changing colour. A mixture of 50/50 clear to amber coloured trichomes gives maximum potency. It is worth buying a jeweller's magnifying glass off ebay so you can tell exactly when to harvest. 7. ADDITIONAL NOTES & CHECKLIST As mentioned earlier, there are different varieties of seeds and plants available at your disposal. The most common type of cannabis plants are indica & sativa varieties. Indica plants typically grow short and wide, compared to sativa plants which grow tall and thin. Indica plants are better suited for indoor growing because of their short growth and sativa plants are better suited for outdoor. Some sativa strains can reach over 20 ft. in height. The highs also vary between the strains. You can also get cannabis seeds which are a mixture of both, which allot of growers prefer as you get the benefits of both in the one plant. There are two main types of differences in flowering cycles to choose from when choosing seeds; autoflowering & "normal". Normal seeds will begin to flower when there is a change in light cycle, where as autoflowering varieties have a predetermined life span of usually between 70 and 100 days. As a result the plant is much smaller and will yield far less, though they can be especially favorable for winter grows or guerrilla grows where height might be a concern. Finally, you can choose to buy feminised seeds, which means the seeds come from a plant which was stressed into producing female seeds. If not, the ratio of male/female seeds is pretty much 50/50, so if you were looking at having 5 female plants for the summer, you would probably need 10 seeds. Feminised seeds are much more expensive to purchase as a result obviously. Remember to think about your watering situation and the best way of doing it. Whether you can just carry it in each visit, setting up a reservoir with a drip feed or solar pump, your plants will need to be fed! If it gets too hot during the summer, shade cloth can be a quick and inexpensive way to give your plants some much needed protection. I recommend using the 50% grade, as it still lets in maximum light but reflects enough of the heat. It can also be a great way to hide your plants! Dedicate one of your plants to be a "mother" plant to take cuttings for the next seasons grow. By doing this you won't need seeds so you can save allot of $$ and you will get an identical plant to the one you have taken clones from. For more information on this search "clones" or "cuttings". *A quick checklist for all of the things you'll need!*Garden soil Vermiculite/Perlite Peat moss Fertiliser (chicken manure, liquid fertiliser, sulphate of potash, seasol) Pickaxe / Shovel Seeds REMEMBER: DON'T SHOW ANYONE YOUR GROW SITE! Happy planting Australia!