Outdoor Cultivation and Pest Control; Outdoor Grow Techniques

Photo of Dom Hart by Vee in the hemp Fields of Hempfinity

Outdoor cannabis cultivation is the original growth method. It is such a rewarding experience to grow cannabis directly from earth, but the truth is, it’s not always easy. Outdoor cannabis cultivation comes with a set of challenges, like rodents and small animals eating the crop. These issues can be solved by utilizing techniques, like IPM (integrated pest management) and others, that prevent this type of damage to a cannabis garden. 

Outdoor Cultivation, Common Techniques for Cannabis Crop Protection

Building a Fence Around the Cannabis Garden: this is helpful for larger animals because the practice of using the scent of other animals, doesn’t always deter large animals.  

Bird and Pest Management: netting is good for birds because although birds in the presence of plants and flowers help deter some pests and insects; it’s important to remember that birds love seeds. Netting is a way to deter birds from eating seeds. But there are several methods for pest management/ control. Walter, Lead Farmer at Sol Spirit Farms had this to say about different forms of pest control:

We surround our open air hoop houses with a wide variety of evolving crops, serving several distinct functions. We grow lots of flowers because besides being pretty, and a food source for bees and other pollinators, flowers also can help feed many of the beneficial predatory insects that we depend on to defend our crops. We utilize trap crops like carrots and brassica’s that draw in aphids and other pests, distracting the pests away from the cannabis, and ensuring additional food sources for our beneficial insects. We also use compost crops which includes crops like comfrey, grown mainly for adding to the compost pile, but also helps provide diversity and prevents large blocks of a single crop from attracting pests.

Companion Planting: this is a natural way to deter unwanted pests, and is also good for adding other plant species to the garden which boosts diversity, and adds artistic appeal. An important consideration in adding companion plants is their contribution to the natural flow of ecosystems. Think about nature, the woods and the forests; the multiple species of trees/plants are known as polycultures. Polyculture is a form of agriculture where more than one plant species is grown together. Sue Carolton, CEO of the Ranchera Familia, had this to say about protecting an outdoor cannabis garden:

“We highly encourage anyone to include companion plants in a polyculture garden, meaning it includes more than one variety of plants whereas a monoculture garden is only one variety per planting area.  A few plants to suggest are; nasturtiums, marigolds, chamomile and clover.  The benefits of these plants range from increasing nitrogen to increasing oil production.”

Using the Help of Animals for Good: many animals have amazing smell senses and for many of them, the scent of another animal’s urine is unattractive so, it keeps them away. And for feeding the soil, things like chicken poop can be useful. Ian White, Head of Cannabis Growing Operations with Pegasus Agriculture Group, had this to say about protecting an outdoor cannabis garden:

The best method for the advanced grower is to utilize a living soil method, one that builds year after year. Feeding the microbes of the soil to break down the organic matter into usable nutrition, and allowing your plants to uptake nutrients, reduce watering, and create a greater amount of aeration in the soil. By feeding the soil, via microbes and organic matter (such as chicken poop or composts or fungi) you create a soil that is very alive and further enhance the plants ability to thwart disease, mold, or anything that can weaken the plants immunity or health.

Photo Credit: Reefertilizer 

Integrated Pest Management: IPM is a series of pest management evaluations, decisions and controls.Cannabis Cultivator Jenne Bee, had this to say about utilizing IPM techniques for outdoor cannabis gardens:

Basically, IPM is using natural prevention and environmental methods safe for the humans, pets and wildlife within the habitat, prior to jumping in bed with environmentally damaging pesticides. Even when using a pesticide is the last resort, it should be chosen with the utmost care, all things considered. My suggestions for preventive and proactive IPM: get a jewelers loupe, it’s like a double magnifying glass; pay close attention everyday, look under the leaves, crawl on the ground underneath if you have to; get to know your weather patterns, if you are new to gardening your area, your specific climate and microclimates may pose some surprising challenges if you don’t plan ahead.”

Building the Soil For Healthy Soil Biology: the components of soil impact the growth of a crop, because both premixed bags and natural soil can be damaging. Charlie McKenzie, Managing Director at CropWalk, had this to say about protecting an outdoor cannabis garden:

Decades of mechanical tillage, conventional synthetic fertilizer, and pesticides have left soil lacking what it needs most, healthy soil biology. If a Cannabis grower focuses on using regenerative agriculture principles like the ones outlined by the Rodale Institute, they can build the soil into just what the Cannabis plant needs and deserves. I prefer building a soil that is teaming with life and organic matter that supports what the plant needs over the course of its life.

Protecting a Cannabis Garden with Pesticides Vs. Insecticides Vs. Herbicides

While these “cides” are all utilized to protect the plant, they each serve a different purpose and knowing the difference can save a cannabis crop from harm.

Pesticides are chemicals that may be used to kill fungus, bacteria, insects, plant diseases, snails, slugs, or weeds among others. These chemicals can work by ingestion or by touch and death may occur immediately or over a long period of time. 

Insecticides are a type of pesticide that is used to specifically target and kill insects. Some insecticides include snail bait, ant killer, and wasp killer. 

Herbicides are used to kill undesirable plants or “weeds”. Some herbicides will kill all the plants they touch, while others are designed to target one species. 

In Closing

It’s important to get to know the pests, insects, soil, and plants that can serve as companion plants in the grow location. Regions differ, and what is found in one region may not match what’s in the other. For example, the soil in Florida is different from the soil in Nevada, and both of those are different from the soil in Michigan. Same goes for insects and other plants. Nature works in harmony and is proof that every living thing has a purpose.

Written by Vee, the Traveling Cannabis Writer 

This piece was originally written by the author and published in Grow Magazine.