It comes as no surprise, that cannabis cultivators the world over are seeking approaches to bolster a successful crop, without investing a small fortune in setting up hydroponic grow operations. “Guerrilla growing”, as it is affectionately known, is the process of covertly growing cannabis in the wild, without the comforts of home or indoor cultivation.
Though not an exact science, guerrilla growing can culminate in a successful yield of aromatic, cannabinoid-rich flowers. It pays to research the ins and outs of what makes an operation successful – where to set up shop and what protocol should be followed if you want to see your crop through to harvest. Below, we’ve compiled 9 tips for how and where to guerrilla grow, regardless of where in the world you live.
Before delving into the nitty gritty of preparing your cannabis plants for remote growth, it’s primarily important to conceive detailed plans on how and where to set up your guerrilla grow op. First off, when choosing a location, there are a number of factors to consider. Remember, the title “guerrilla” implies stealth and organization on behalf of the grower, making it important to choose areas off the beaten path, that minimize the threat of others stumbling upon your operation.
Stick with locations, that don’t experience foot traffic. In fact, a great way to assess a location’s potential is to observe if it is well tread by animals like deer and rabbits. This is a telltale sign that human encounters are infrequent, limiting the potential of being busted or poached by “rippers”.
With that said, make sure your location is accessible and doesn’t require repelling in by helicopter just to feed and water your plants. Ultimately, you want to be as unassuming as possible, while still being able to check in on your crop at least once a week.
CHOOSE YOUR STRAIN CAREFULLY
By deciding to guerrilla grow, you inherently agree to give up most of your creative control, accepting that your crop’s success is largely at the whim of mother nature. Still, there are ways to optimize your yield for your specific climate by choosing strains, that flourish in variable outdoor environments.
Consider using autoflowering plants, as they are smaller, demand less water and help to keep your enterprise as stealth as possible. Autoflowering plants produce flowers based on age, rather than on environmental conditions. This process gives cultivators peace of mind, that uncontrolled variables of the location won’t destroy the efficacy of an entire crop. While THC concentration and yield of autoflowering cannabis plants aren’t as staggering as photoperiod plants, they are less noticeable by aerial view and can be more easily maintained by one person.
CONSIDER THE CLIMATE
Wait until winter frost has (really) passed before planting. If you set up a guerrilla grow and lose it to a nasty late-in-the-year freeze – that’s a mistake, that will cost you what could have been easily avoided with better planning and a bit more patience.
Keep your local climate in mind, as some strains grow better under certain weather patterns. Throughout the Northern United States and Europe, the month of May usually provides ideal conditions for planting, while September and October are the primary months for harvesting mature, resin-covered buds.
DON’T “HIDE IN PLAIN SITE”
This may seem like somewhat of an obvious tip, but it has alluded guerrilla growers since the beginning of time, putting them in danger of being busted by cops or having their crop stolen by lucky passersby.
Aside from avoiding locations on public property and others’ land, consider the threat of being found by eagle eye view. In some parts of the world, law enforcement patrol large swaths of land from above, actively looking for illegal grow operations. This is why it’s important to grow smaller plants under the partial canopy of trees or the seclusion of a mountainside.
DEVELOP MORE THAN ONE LOCATION
Recognizing the natural and human threat to your guerrilla grow, it’s wise to cultivate multiple locations, just in case one or more of your crops fails to grow properly, is ravaged by pests or is cut down. As such, you don’t want to grow your plants in straight lines or obvious patterns, so the crop has a better chance of blending into the surrounding scenery.
DON’T PLANT FROM SEED
While cannabis is a plant, that wants to grow vigorously, it is especially susceptible to unkind conditions in the first few weeks of growing. If you plan to start your plants from seed, it’s advised to grow them inside first under controlled light exposure, until they are around 30cm high. At this point, the plants can then be transferred to your guerrilla grow environment. Also, be sure to use feminized seeds to avoid the risk of mating. A good way to bypass any of these potential issues is to acquire clones and plant them directly into the soil.
Once you are ready to plant, be sure to dig a hole big enough to give each plant adequate room to grow. Cannabis plants have large root systems and need expansive room to be successful. As a rule, it’s better to overdig than it is to underdig.
KNOW WHAT YOUR PLANT NEEDS TO THRIVE
Part and parcel with selecting the right grow location is understanding how the surrounding environment will affect the growth and maintenance of your cannabis plants. Just like growing in your home garden, cannabis plants need water, consistent sunlight and nutrition to grow strong.
Concerning watering, it’s important to set up your operation somewhere where there’s free flowing water like a river or stream. Even in these conditions though, you will still have to water the plants directly to help them achieve ideal yield.
Instead of lugging gallons of water into remote fields and forests, (talk about suspicious!) construct rainfall collection buckets nearby, if you can do so without drawing attention to the area. Not only will this make your frequent check-ups less conspicuous, it will take less of a toll on your body! Be sure to cultivate in areas, that have a naturally sloping decline, so water drainage and flushing can occur naturally.
Brambles and stinging nettles are evidence of moisture-rich soil and are a good sign, that “here” is the right place to pick up your tools and start digging holes. Actually, the benefits of stinging nettles are threefold: In addition to moisture, they are a sign of arable soil and they discourage wandering hikers and birdwatchers from going any further. Water retention can also be increased by mulching your plants with leaves, which limits ground level evaporation.
Even in the presence of brambles and nettles, it’s unlikely, that the naturally occurring soil of your guerrilla grow will be enough to support your crop’s growth. Instead, invest in potting soil containing peat moss, perlite and vermiculite if possible. Additionally, natural fertilizers containing essential nutrients nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, or NPK, are essential for vigorous plant growth. If you want to leave a small carbon footprint, use organic substances like blood and bone meal and chicken manure to cut back on harmful additives present in other fertilizers.
INVEST IN PEST PROTECTION
One of the notable differences between hydroponic and guerrilla grow ops is the risk of pests small and large. Slugs and mites are frequent offenders, as well as bigger mammals like deer and rabbits, who have acquired a feverish taste for gnawing on cannabis plants.
In these cases, there are several options for pest control, including slug pellets and chicken wire. Additionally, using urine or stool from cats, dogs and ferrets helps to deter larger animals from getting too close. It’s not the most fun for growers to lug around dog poop, but it can make the difference between a decent yield and a totally obliterated crop.
Terpenes, which are secreted in the same glands as THC and CBD, act as their own natural pest repellents by wafting pleasant aromas, that bring in pollinators and keep out unwelcome intruders.
BE REALISTIC ABOUT YIELD
By the time plants have reached optimal THC concentration, flowers are ready to be harvested and transported back to your home to be trimmed, cured, then, finally toked with your friends and loved ones. Speaking honestly, it’s unlikely, that all of your plants will produce maximum yield, which is why it’s so important to plant more than you need. This way, even if some of your crop is KIA, you’ll still have plenty to bring home.
Once again, be as covert as you can bringing your buds back home. Depending on how skunky your yield is, you’ll want to avoid unnecessary human interaction. I’ve heard guerrilla growing likened to sneaking into your parents’ house at 3am – the goal is to go unnoticed.
Finally, after you’ve successfully harvested your crop, you may want to give back to the land you’ve cultivated by growing grass or other plants to revitalize the taxed-out nutrients in the soil back to fertility.
Ultimately, guerrilla growing is a great way to save money, reduce CO2 emissions and gauge your stock as an outdoor cultivator. While there are no guarantees of success, by planning and executing with caution, passion, and detail, guerrilla growing can be a satisfying process, that produces impressive results.