5 Problems and Solutions for Outdoor Growing

Cannabis has been around for thousands of years.  For most of that time period, cannabis has been cultivated outdoors.  Despite the trend, growing cannabis outdoors is still an excellent choice, even preferable to some.  Outdoor growing does not require the massive amount of electricity that indoor grows often do.  The sun is a free resource.  Moreover, outdoor cannabis enjoys the natural light water, and ventilation provided by the sun, moon, stars, and atmosphere. However, growing weed outdoors isn’t easy.  Here are five problems outdoor growers may encounter and possible solutions to tackle them.

Battling Weather and Pests

She’s breathtaking, unpredictable, dangerous, and the greatest threat to cannabis grown outside.  Outdoor cannabis is vulnerable to the damage that pests and weather can cause in an instant.  Insects like caterpillars, outdoor growing cannabisaphids, spider mites, and grasshoppers can run rampant in cannabis gardens, destroying entire harvests.  Gophers, ants, and fungus flies can devour cannabis root systems.  Birds can consume cannabis seeds before they’ve had a chance to sprout.  Deer can eat entire plants.  Even smaller animals like mice, rats, rabbits, dogs, and cats can damage plants either be eating them or leaving behind parasite-attracting fecal matter and harmful urine.  And while nature’s ambient light and atmosphere are theoretically exactly what cannabis needs, they can also be hostile.

Temperatures that are too hot or too cold can kill or stunt cannabis plants

Volatile winds can bring plants to a breaking point. Droughts or typhoons can dehydrate or drown plants.  None of these things can be totally controlled when cannabis is grown outside.

Solution  

Pesticides can help to deter harmful critters.  Of course, the type of pesticide used can pose a problem as well.  More on that later. Despite her sometimes-inconvenient tendencies, mother nature loves balance. Many natural predators of cannabis pests will come to the rescue if attracted by the proper substances. Aphid midges, ladybugs, beetles, amphibians, and praying mantises are examples of predators that eat parasitic insects. Fences are great deterrents for deer and other large mammals. Birds of prey like hawks and owls will help remove pests like mice, moles, and rats. Scarecrows can temporarily turn away birds until seeds sprout.  Once they do, take down the scarecrows and allow the birds to help remove cannabis hazards like caterpillars. When it comes to protecting cannabis from the elements, greenhouses can be a great compromise, but not necessarily the only way to shield your plant.  Growing cannabis in an appropriate environment with the right weather and surrounding foliage can help the plant thrive.  Finally, the cannabis plant itself hasn’t survived for centuries because it’s weak.  Cannabis’ smell is a natural repellant for many pests, and growing outside actually encourages strains to develop naturally stronger potency in order to increase their chances of survival.

Pesticides

Farmer using pesticides on their cropsProtecting cannabis from pests can be expensive, time-consuming, and dangerous.  Constantly reapplying pesticides, especially synthetic chemicals, can become costly.  Moreover, the kind of pesticides used can have an environmental and health cost that shouldn’t be overlooked.  One of the reasons why labs test for residual pesticides in cannabis strains for commercial use is because many pesticides can have detrimental effects on human health and the environment.  Pesticide use has been linked to neurodegenerative disorders like ALS and Parkinson’s disease, birth defects, asthma, autism, diabetes, and cancer.  Chemical pesticides also don’t do a great job of distinguishing between good and bad insects and are responsible for the decline of the biodiversity needed to keep ecosystems thriving.

Solution

Many environmentally friendly pesticides exist and have existed for as long as humans have been cultivating crops.  One of the best controls for harmful pests are the predators that already exist in the natural environment.  Introducing these insects can keep your cannabis safe with little extra intervention.   When extra intervention is needed, organic pesticides like neem oil, citrus oil, garlic, onion, organic soaps, and cornmeal are just a few substances that organic growers use to ward off unwanted insects without exposing themselves or the environment to unnecessary damage.

Water

Rain is free, but ask anyone growing cannabis in California, it isn’t always guaranteed.  Cannabis needs water to grow, and unsustainable water use can be devastating to the environment.

Water shortages in California have led to a near extermination of the state’s endangered salmon

Additionally, outdoor grows that do not regulate their water runoff and use harmful pesticides risk exposing nearby streams to contaminated water and altering the landscape through soil erosion.

Solution

Thankfully, there are ways to use water sustainably.  While they are not as easy as diverting water from streams, they are far more beneficial in the long run.  Growers can use rain barrels to store rain water.  Growers can also use less water and reduce runoff by recycling water through reverse osmosis technology as this medical marijuana farm has done.  Finally, growers can become familiar with their local wet and dry seasons, build a stockpile of water during the wet seasons, and limit their water usage to their stores rather than local streams during the dry seasons.

Visibility and Security

Unlike indoor marijuana grows, outdoor gardens are potentially visible to anyone who wants to look for them.  This makes outdoor cannabis vulnerable to curious trespassers and the federal government.  While outdoor growing cannabiscannabis has been legalized for either medical or personal use in 29 states plus the District of Columbia, it remains federally illegal. That means that if they were so inclined, the DEA could confiscate any cannabis they find, and the chances of them finding outdoor grown cannabis are higher than indoor grown weed for obvious reasons.

Solution

The best solution to this problem is to build a high, privacy fence around your cannabis.  While this isn’t a cheap option, it can save you in the long run from trespassers and unwanted to onlookers.  Other options include investing in outdoor security cameras.

Laws and Regulations 

I’ve already mentioned cannabis’ status as illegal because of its Schedule 1 classification.  But even in states where cannabis is legal, cannabis regulations can be unclear or prohibitive.  For example, cannabis’ powerful aroma can be considered by neighbors to be a nuisance, and some localities will hand out hefty fines if cannabis growers are in violation of odor rules.  Additionally, states have different limits for how much cannabis a person can grow at once.

Solution

Become familiar with your state’s cannabis regulations, including any odor rules or limits placed on the amount of cannabis you can grow.  If you aren’t satisfied with your state’s rules, talk to your local representatives about it.  Knowledge is power, and as legislators become more aware of cannabis’ benefits and its increasing popularity, the more likely they are to change the laws.

5 Problems and Solutions for Outdoor Growing was last modified: by
Dianna Benjamin

About the author: Dianna Benjamin is a freelance writer, teacher, wife, and mom horrified and fascinated by social justice and our inability--yet constant pursuit--to get it right.