Secrets of a successful & discrete outdoor cannabis grow: a guide to guerilla growing
As the temperatures warm up and finally it looks like summer may be round the corner for many of us, we begin to think about outdoor growing, and even doing a guerilla grow.
What is guerilla growing?
Quite simply, its a hidden, secret outdoor grow, normally not in your own garden, but hidden in the wild places.
Advantages of guerilla growing:
- well, unless you are unlucky to be caught at the spot and been under surveillance, there is little probability of you being prosecuted for cultivating cannabis.
- you can grow your own weed without buying expensive indoor grow room equipment
Disadvantages of guerilla growing:
- you can’t be with your plants every step of the way. For some of us, used to spending time literally watching them grow, that’s a hard break to make.
- losses – whether to animals or people, you have to accept no place is safe enough.
Picking your plants: photoperiod or autoflower?
As indoor cannabis growers, we’re used to playing God and creating our own perfect micro climates for our marijuana to flourish in. Growing outdoors however means we have to leave it up to “the big fella” and quite frankly he doesn’t do as good a job for many of us. So when picking your strains for outdoor grows take into consideration factors like length of decent summertime, the amount of rain you generally get and so on. Sensi Seed’s World Climate Map is very good at enabling you to quickly pick your area and gives suggestions for what will grow well there. You can read our suggestions for the best cold climate cannabis grows, for example. But having been at the receiving end of one too many October thefts of a virtually finished (albeit unflushed) bud heavy plant, I’m going to come out and say it:
“Autoflowering cannabis is ideal for guerilla grows:”
There are many reasons why autoflowering cannabis is ideal for growers who want to use the guerilla approach for their personal yearly nug supply:
1. Photoperiod plants grow BIG. Whilst this means that someone with an ideal climate like mine can get 1k+ plants, it has its disadvantages:
- big plants are thirsty plants.
- big plants are noticeable plants.
- depending on where you are in the world, you have to pick your strain according to the length of summer time.
- everyone, from thieves to the police, is looking for outdoors grows at the beginning of autumn. In Spain special helicopters do the rounds in October looking for green foliage standing out against the arid terrain. I’m pretty sure this goes for elsewhere too ..
- March-October is a very long time to wait.
2. Autoflowers on the other hand:
- smaller plants need less water
- smaller plants hide in natural foliage easily
- autoflowers finish according to age rather than hours of darkness, meaning you can start cropping 10 weeks from germination date.
- you can mix and match your autos, from the fast auto in 8 weeks yielding 20g of dried bud to the super autos which may take 4 months but will give you 300g ..
- Mix and match not only applies to finishing times, but to smoke appeal too. Lots of different types mean lots of different smoke …
- You know that saying: “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”: if you grow one big cannabis plant and lose it, you’ve lost everything; if you grow several small plants in different locations and lose one grouping, its sad but no big deal.
When autoflowers first started being developed, they were hailed as the guerilla grower’s godsend. Only they weren’t. People got fed up with lollipop buds, plants that reverted to standard photoplants, and smoke that wasn’t really all that. However some great work by breeders such as Dutch Passion, Dinafem and Short Stuff have raised the bar, and now there really are some great yielding stable autoflowering genetics with THC contents matching standard plants.
When to plant an outdoor grow
OK as we know people come from all over the world to this site so to give you an exact date isn’t practical because its going to vary to your individual climates …
But here is the general idea:
If you are looking for a early season crop, then the most important factor as many of you vegetable gardeners know is that we are waiting for the last chance of frost to have gone ..
However the temps of the grow during the cycle are going to affect the yield and possibly the quality of the harvest
For northern US and northern Europe, many plant autoflower seeds once a month from May until September. The earlier crops will probably be smaller than the crop planted in the beginning of July. But done properly there is no reason to assume the quality will be affected with those dates
In the Mediterranean we can pretty much plant from March and I have been harvesting some years until Xmas day (although saying this, we had a foot of snow fall in the mountains on March the 12th this year so nothing is set in stone).
- For the plant to grow well it will need 8 hours of direct sunshine and ideally your night time temperatures will not drop below 10c (50F) but the plant will tolerate a drop to 6C (42F). Its not a positive thing as there will be some element of shock that could interfere with the quality and quantity.
Choosing your spot(s) for a guerilla grow.
They say that preparation is the key (and we’ll get to more of this later), but with a guerilla grow planning is important too.
Choosing where to plant your stealth cannabis plants deserves a deal of fore-thought long before you even start germinating your marijuana seedlings. Putting a little work into where you decide to plant is going to be the deciding factor in whether you reap the rewards of all your work or just end up growing plants for others.
Avoid public areas or well frequented footpaths. Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing more funny or satisfying than chucking some auto seeds in a police station’s planting area or in front of the local town hall, but lets get real here: you’re unlikely to see the plants grow to maturity. (Still funny tho – I had a friend in Spain that went around every bar planting seeds in the flower pots. Everywhere you went there they were, but I don’t believe he ever managed to see one through to the end)
Think about your chosen spot from all viewpoints (including above), and bear in mind whether a deserted area in the tail end of winter will still be empty come the summer picnic season. Look out for signs of human use (unfortunately people often leave a trail of debris marking that they use the area) or more postively signs of wild animal use: deers don’t go where people do, so a deer trail or wild boar sore is more safe all year round.
For me when selecting a planting area there are some things which are a must:
Access to water.
One guerilla grow I did had 27 x 6 foot photoperiod plants scattered around the mountains of where I lived. Southern Spain is a semi-arid area (in fact its Europe’s only desert), with temperatures reaching 40C (104F), the plants started drinking 2/3 gals a day. Getting water to my beautiful but struggling plants became a nightmare, as I spent 3 hours a day rock climbing with 30 kilos of water, making trails through the undergrowth and completely negating the “plant em and leave them” approach necessary for secrecy. See below for trade secrets on minimizing the watering cycle in a guerilla grow.
Quality of soil
Another point to consider is the quality of the soil and the surrounding planting for camoflauge. Here’s a tip:
Brambles and stinging nettles are full of nitrogen, and enrich the soil. If you find a hidden spot with plenty of these, then you’ve found a guerilla goldmine:
- the nettles themselves are evidence of good soil
- they like a damp soil, so show that there is plenty of moisture in the area
- they give shade to young / short plants
- they act as a deterrent .. lets face it not many people thrash around in patches of brambles (apart from you that is)
So in summary: you are looking for a place which isn’t on a hiking trail, yet still is accessible enough for you to get to. It shouldn’t be overlooked, and your cannabis plants shouldn’t stand out as green against a bare background. Soil should be good, and if possible there should be cover plants both for disguise and protection. You also need a fresh water source or be prepared to lug bottles of water.
Good places to start:
The side of railway tracks – just don’t get caught trespassing & remember safety signs are there for a reason. It can be a double edged sword: ok you are less likely for the general public to come across your girls but to be honest you are more likely to get caught by the authorities trespassing
Another good area is arable land (in the hedgerows) but make sure the farmer doesn’t follow a herbicide spraying program because that will kill your girls like nothing else would.
Numbers of cannabis plants and camouflage.
And then you need to do it all again. You ever hear of the saying “don’t put your eggs in one basket” here this applies as well. If you’re looking for a good yield from autos for your efforts it really is a numbers game.
- You should plant your crops in different areas in (loose) blocks of whatever numbers you want. I always think of my glass as half full so I might plant in blocks of ten autos in ten different areas. And if in the worse case scenario I only get away with 10% reaching maturity I have covered the cost of the seed and will have enough weed to last me a few months at least compared to having to go out and buy it works out much better for me at least
- If I’m planting photoperiod plants then I only do so in groups of 3 or less.
Why keep the numbers low? After all splitting plants up into different locations means more work in preparation and greater maintenance. I’ve answered this in part above: planting in a number of different locations minimizes the loss. Police do run campaigns during September looking for guerilla grows, and these are usually conducted by helicopter. From the air, one or even three plants do stand out, even in an arid zone or a forest clearing. A square-ish block of 15 plants however is extremely visual from above, no matter how well hidden from the ground. Plus in the worst case scenario and you get busted for a guerilla grow, it is better to be accountable for 2 plants as opposed to 50.
There’s another thing to consider when planting out your small groups: camouflage. Planting at the edge of the shade of a tree’s canopy will blur your plants outline from above; from ground level look for ruins, narrow ravines and so on. No matter how remote you think your area is, if you found it, the chances are someone else will too. However most dog walkers etc aren’t searching for guerilla grows and if you choose a spot with natural camouflage they will pass on by without even registering your plants.
Preparation and Planting.
- Now this is a fact if you dig over the earth and add plenty of organic matter, then you are going to get bigger healthier more productive cannabis. Its great if you have a head start by fertile soil (remember the brambles and nettles?) Well prepared soil also makes watering more efficient thus increasing the number of days you have to trek out to your guerilla grow and water your plants.
- I would advise a collapsible trenching spade such as the military use:
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- If possible dig over the area well and add as much well rotted manure or specialist cannabis compost as you can carry there. I always add a spoon of Epsom salts and any other slow release fertilizer you can think of which will help improve the condition of the soil and add the needed nutrients for a great start. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to dig over a much larger / deeper hole than you may think necessary. Cannabis produces a great root system in order to grow so quickly, and you can help this by loosening the surrounding soil area.
- In a guerilla set up I don’t worry about ph issues but go by whats growing naturally in the area to give me an idea that my plants will flourish in that soil.
- There are a number of different materials you can add to your turned over soil which will increase the time between manual waterings. These materials retain moisture (instead of it running down through the soil).
- Peat moss – swells up and retains 20 times its weight with water. However it is also very acidic and you need to counteract this acidity by adding an alkaline element. Vinnie Kaz recommends oyster shell flour which is also a source of calcium.
- Coco. Can absorb 9 times its weight in water and you can buy it in a compressed form which is easy to carry to the site, dig through and then when you first water thoroughly the coco will expand hugely in volume. However it doesn’t add any nutrients to your soil.
- Sawdust which has been left outside to mature for 2 years or more is a great water absorber and also adds potassium and calcium.
- Water retaining capsules are, in our experience a hit and miss element. Yes, they retain water, but do so to such an extent that they can throw the wet/dry cycle that cannabis needs to flourish out of sync. If the soil is ALWAYS wet, roots can become de-oxygenated and liable to root rots.
- Consider using an on site water storage unit to collect and store water for you. You can dig holes for any kind of water collecting plastic drum with a wide surface area and collect rainfall in order to minimize the number of times you carry water to your plants. Another option if there is a water supply nearby is to install and disguise a larger water container and pre-planting pump water to this container. When the container is full, take the pump and piping home with you, but use this as your source when watering.
- To give the plants the best start in life, I find it best to grow my seedlings for the first two weeks indoors. This means I can germinate them with a high success rate and nurse them through the delicate first 2 weeks. This also means I can get a jump start on spring and get young established plants out into the ground when soil temps are only just thawing enough to germinate cannabis seeds. Planting the sprouted seeds in 3″ pots means they are fairly easy to carry in a sports bag, with only a few casualties.
- When I plant, I have prepared the ground in advance so it’s a simple matter to pop them in the ground, quickly firm the soil and water them in. The least amount of time on site with cannabis plants in hand, the better.
- When planting out I use mulching to reduce ground level soil water evaporation. A loose mounding of hay/straw/cocoa bean hulls around the stem reduces water loss at soil level as well as gradually breaking down and adding nutrients to the root system.
- Normally when I plant I will also liberally sprinkle slug pellets (not the blue ones) and also a top dressing of ferret shit. The former protects against slugs and snails, the latter against rabbits.
- (If you’ve no access to a ferret then there are commercial brands available to deter four legged pests)
- When the plants are young you need to keep an eye on the weather, as if its too hot, it can only take a short time of sunshine to shrivel a young and tender plant – I would normal check them around every 3 days in hot weather
OK so they are in the ground and if you’ve followed the above advice there is very little else to do apart from watering and perhaps feeding later in flower. All the work in guerilla growing was spent in the planning and preparation.
Getting a successful outdoor cannabis grow.
- Read our guide to outdoor cannabis grows here. And remember that even when growing cannabis outdoors, using good nutrients will still increase your yield and potency.
Be realistic: not all your plants will make it to harvest time.
This applies to photoperiod plants as well as to autos, but you have to assume that some, if not many, of your little wild plants won’t make it through. Its not just thieves and responsible citizens, though. You’ll lose some to diseases, and others to wildlife.
Now I came across this device on Amazon which looks like it may work wonders in protecting your precious plants if your main problem is the small and furry kind .. Now I haven’t tried it myself, but it has AMAZING reviews by zillions of satisfied customers … keeps away deer, cats, dogs, rabbits (and in my neck of the woods the problem critter would be goats).
Uses a motion detector to sense whether animals are within a 1000 square foot area. It then sprays a fast spurt of wtaer which startles them away! Uses a 9 volt battery
Contech Electronics scarecrow motion-activated sprinkler for humane animal deterrence
Scarecrow detects and sprays animals in a 1000-square-foot area day and night
Lightweight plastic shaft; metal sprinkler head
Includes sprinkler mount and motion detector; 9-volt battery not included
2-year limited warranty; measures 17-inch
To help aid not having areas discovered by people, its good to learn some basic field craft:
- take different routes to your planting area .Its surprising how quickly a twice a week visit to your site can end up leaving a obvious trail for others to follow.
- Visit the area at varying times
- Park your vehicle in different place
- Basically just don’t get lazy. Think like a fox! And use some common sense …
3. When you do visit your guerilla grow, take a few moments to check your plants over, keeping pests and diseases in mind, as these are much easier to treat if caught early. As flowering progresses, watch out for possible bud infections such as mold.
Harvesting your guerilla grow.
This is the most dangerous point in any guerilla grow. Some advise harvesting at night, but I think any activity outside during the dark is more suspicious. Perhaps its better choose a bad weather day when casual visitors aren’t around and keep the time on site cutting down plants to a minimum. If you can, let a friend drive the route home shortly ahead of you to check the route is clear.
Don’t get surprised when you lose some ……that the name of the game and that’s why you planted so many and that the challenge a true guerrilla grower will be prepared to deal with.
Good luck! …. & don’t forget to chuck a seed in front of the local police station ….
Free the weed
And happy tokin