After decades of marijuana prohibition laws, cannabis growers have become used to secrecy and stealthy growing. Even now, with all the decriminalization advocacy supported by scientific evidence, we still may need to hide our precious crops from spiteful eyes.
So, if you’re not legally allowed to grow weed in your garden, you’re lacking space, or you want to hide your ladies from peeping neighbors, read on. Today we’re talking about guerrilla growing.
What is Guerrilla Growing?
Guerrilla growing is, basically, choosing a hidden spot in the wild to grow your weed. Actually, guerrilla growing is not limited to cannabis plants. For example, if you don’t have a proper gardening spot, you could grow any vegetable you want. And maybe you should, but more on this later.
Pros and Cons of Guerrilla Growing
The first and most important pro is that the chances of being prosecuted for illegal growing are significantly reduced. Unless someone is following you and catches you green-handed, there are few chances they can frame you for this. Also, with guerrilla growing, you don’t need to worry either about neighbors and cops chasing the terpenes’ smell tail to your door.
On the other hand, you don’t need to invest in expensive equipment and lights for indoor grow.
Honestly, for me, the cons weigh a lot more than the pros in guerrilla growing because you don’t get to spend as much time as you’d like with your plants. For some of us, used to spend time literally watching them grow, that’s a hard break to make.
On the second point, you have to accept that NO place is safe enough. You can have losses, whether to nibbling animals or curious people.
How to Plan your Guerrilla Growing
Although guerrilla growing is a lot like outdoor growing, there are substantial differences, and you need to plan accordingly. Here are the major points to consider before setting up your guerrilla grow of cannabis in the great outdoors:
Pick your Plants: Photoperiods or Autoflowers?
There are many reasons why autoflowering cannabis is ideal for growers who want to use the guerilla approach for their personal yearly nug supply.
Yes, photoperiods grow BIG, and that’s certainly a blessing for someone like me that can get massive yields in the ideal climate. But do you really want your hidden crops to stand out like that?
Let’s compare photoperiods and autos when it comes to guerrilla growing.
- 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.
- March-October is a very long time to wait.
- 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 the 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.
When autoflowers came to light, they were hailed as the guerrilla grower’s godsend. But this excitement vanished pretty quickly. People got fed up with lollipop buds, plants that reverted to standard photoplants, and smoke that was not satisfactory, to say the least.
Fortunately, breeders have done some amazing work with strains such as Dutch Passion, Dinafem, and Short Stuff, and now there is some great-yielding stable autoflowering genetics with THC contents matching standard plants.
Choosing the Spot for your Guerrilla Grow
To choose the perfect spot(s) for your guerrilla grow we’ll use two main things: common sense and forethought planning.
Start planning for your spot even before you germinate your seeds. You don’t want to end up without a safe place to take your seedlings, or worst, choosing the wrong one in a rush.
When looking for the spot, I like to consider these things:
You need to think about your chosen spot from all viewpoints (including from above). 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.
So you’re looking for a spot that’s easily accessible for you (unless you have a burning passion for climbing rocks) but not visible from beaten hiking trails or a very frequented picnic spot. Look for signs of human use. Sadly, people tend to leave a debris trail after picnics.
A clearing in the woods could be perfect. Also, bear in mind the weed smell can be noticeable up to 10 meters away, depending on the wind. Planting among other high-volume crops can be a great idea as long as you don’t risk getting busted by the crops’ farmer and they don’t follow an herbicide spray program.
Choosing a hidden spot that’s close to a river, lake, or pond is a winner. You won’t have to travel carrying gallons of water (looking extremely suspicious) and regretting the spot you chose.
Furthermore, if you plant your guerrilla grow in a place near a water source, you don’t even have to water your plants that much, as they can simply draw water from the soil.
Planting directly in the ground can be a positive thing, as you may leverage everything the soil has to offer in terms of nutrients. Even so, it’s always it’s a good idea to prep the pre-existing ground and improve it by adding certain materials, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
On the other hand, you can use pots, which will come in handy if you feel like you need to move your plants around. But, of course, if the police find your weed pots out there, it will be easier to track you down.
Concealing is the key word in every guerrilla grow. Ideally, you will grow your weed surrounded by other plants to disguise the plants themselves and the smell. You can borrow a tip from a seasoned grower here: brambles and stinging nettles are pure gold. If you find a hidden spot with plenty of these, go to church and thank the Big Guy.
- The nettles themselves are evidence of good soil
- They like damp soil, so that shows there is plenty of moisture in the area
- They give shade to young/short plants
- They act as a deterrent. Let’s face it, not many people thrash around in patches of brambles (apart from you, that is)
When to Start your Guerrilla Growing?
Choosing the right timing to plant your outdoor grow depends on the part of the world you live in.
But, this is a good rule of thumb.
If you are looking for an early-season crop, then the most important factor is waiting for the last chance of frost to have gone.
For the northern US and northern Europe, many growers plant autoflower seeds once a month from May until September. The earlier crops will probably be smaller than the crop planted at 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. I have been harvesting for some years until Xmas day. However, the weather can be fickle. We’ve seen snowfall in the mountains through mid-March, so nothing is set in stone.
How to Plant your Guerrilla Grow?
The bulk of the work for guerrilla grows lies in preparation and planting, so let me walk you through my personal process.
1. Prepare the Soil
Well-prepared soil makes the watering more efficient, thus extending the number of days between one watering and the next.
Dig over the area 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 to help improve the condition of the soil and add the nutrients.
2. Amend the Soil
There are several 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 ground).
- 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 coir. It 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.
3. Collect Water
Consider using an on-site water storage unit. You can dig holes for any kind of plastic drum with a wide mouth and use it to collect rainfall, thus reducing the number of times you need to trek out carrying lugs of water.
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. Then, when the container is full, take the pump and piping home with you, but use this as your source when watering.
4. Germinate the Seeds
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 higher rate of success 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.
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 the soil level as well as gradually breaking down and adding nutrients to the root system.
Usually, 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.
Tips for a Successful Guerrilla Grow and Harvest
Have you ever heard of “loose lips sink ships”? Well, don’t sink your ship by telling your cool neighbor, your cousin, or your sister what you’re up to. Listen to good ol’ Benjie, three can keep a secret if two of them are dead.
Don’t leave a trail
Take different routes to your planting area. It’s surprising how quickly a twice-a-week visit to your site can end up leaving an obvious trail for others to follow.
Don’t set a pattern
Visit your grow at varying times. Otherwise, you may spark curiosity if someone sees you following a dedicated routine.
Also, park your vehicle in different places
Choose the right time to harvest
Some people advise harvesting your crops at night. I think any activity outside during dark hours is a lot more suspicious. Perhaps it’s better to choose a bad weather day when casual visitors aren’t around.
Keep the on-site cutting time to a minimum. If you have someone you can really trust or that has been helping you with the crops, have them drive the route home shortly ahead of you to check the route is clear and you can pass safely.
Not all your plants will make it to harvest time. This applies to photoperiods and autoflowers the same. You may lose some to wildlife, diseases, humans, and furry little predators. You need to accept that and move on.
And that was all! If you need more info on outdoor grows, please feel free to check our How to Grow Marijuana Outdoors: A Guide to Success.