Story and photos By Danny Danko
Choosing Your Spots
Winter is the perfect time to find new guerrilla grow spots. Where you choose to plant is by far the most difficult and important decision you’ll make. If you’re lucky enough to have secluded property of your own, by all means, plant there, however most growers will have to go “guerrilla” to get their crops. While we don’t encourage growing pot on public property, we recognize that it happens and all too often, growers are making misinformed decisions on where to plant that lead to plant discovery or worse.
Find places that are unlikely to have visitors of any kind throughout the year, whether they’re hikers, hunters or campers. That clearing with the telephone or electrical lines may look like a great spot, but it won’t be so ideal when the grass mowers or wire repairmen show up midseason. The best spots are hard to get to - like the center of a thorny bush cluster or a remote cliff that’s off the beaten path.
It helps to have an alibi such as bird-watching or fishing and carry things like binoculars or a tackle box to enhance the charade. Look for southern-facing slopes and keep in mind what your grow area will look like from above. Police choppers fly around in almost every state looking for outdoor grows and you don’t want them spotting your precious plants.
Try not to make a path that’ll lead others to your plot – take different ways in and out if you can. Also consider a nearby water supply such as a river, creek or lake. Water weighs about 8 pounds-per-gallon so you’ll want to reduce the distance you have to carry it as much as possible. I’ve seen some innovative backpack watering systems that help ease the burden. Unless you get steady rain throughout the year, there will come a time that you’ll have to bring water to your grow.
If you want to put out sizable plants, winter is the time to root the clones or start the seeds indoors under some grow-lights. It’s always better to put out larger more developed bushes for plants that yield pounds instead of ounces. The healthier and stronger the plants you put out, the more you will get in the end so keep them happy and thriving.
Putting in Plants
Once the winter starts to wind down and the threat of frost has passed, it’s time to prepare your plants to go outside. Acclimate them to the stronger sunlight by placing them outside for a few hours per day if you can. Gradually increase the amount of time spent outside in the sun until you’re ready to put them into your chosen outdoor space.
Box up the plants and bring them out to your growing spot. Now is the time to dig a deep hole and drop some pro-mix or coco-coir into it as well as any organic additives and amendments. Mix in some perlite and water-absorbing crystals for a lighter mix that will still hold more moisture for dry times during the coming summer. Roots will thrive early on making for stronger plants that are able to handle the weight of massive buds.
Remove the plants from your containers and plant them into the soil-mix in your holes. Backfill the plants with mix and water them in until all of the mix is moist. At this point, it’s a great idea to use some preventative pest control in the vicinity such as a slug barrier to prevent the slimy scourge or some predator urine or soap to discourage deer from eating your young growth.
Some growers use chicken wire to create a barrier for their plants. Deer in particular, love to eat young cannabis sprouts so if you’re in an area with deer, this is always a wise precaution. Make sure your plants get enough water in their early life so that roots don’t dry out and kill the young bushes. Outdoor plants need strong stems to withstand winds and heavy rains. Branches that lay on the ground will soon rot. Weak stalks should be tied to a stake or trellis in order to stay upright.
Keeping Plants Happy
Summertime is crucial to the development of healthy strong branches that will support the weight of swollen buds later. Heat can become an issue and drought will kill plants before they have a chance to grow. Any time it doesn’t rain for more than 10 days or so, plants will need to be watered. If you chose a spot near a water supply, you can use a cheap manual pump to flow water to your crop. If not, be prepared to carry in enough water to saturate roots completely. Add some nitrogen-heavy nutrient such as liquid fish or seaweed to this water to supplement the nutes already in your soil-mix.
Other than watering, always check for pests when you visit your plants. Look on the undersides of leaves and along stems for any damage and examine the whole plant thoroughly. Any infestations should be dealt with immediately - Don’t allow slugs or bugs to ruin your nugs.
If you planted seeds and not clones, they should be showing their sex towards the end of the summer. Remove all males as soon as they appear to avoid filling your female buds with seeds. Male flowers look like tiny banana pods and females show white hairs coming out from the nodes where branches meet stems. If leaves begin to turn yellow, add more nitrogen-heavy fertilizer diluted with your water.
This is the time to pray for rain. In fact, you should always celebrate summer rain showers in whichever way you choose. Those rains mean one less visit to your guerrilla grow as well as bigger, stronger plants in the long run. Rain during the summer is your friend, come fall however…
The Road to Harvest
As fall approaches, you’ll need to add some flowering nutrients and supplements in order to optimize your yield. This is a perfect time to sprinkle some bloom-boosting bat guano around the root zone and water it in. Flowering plants require flowering nutrients so remember to go easy on the nitrogen and look for products with added phosphorous and some potassium.
Autumn is also the time that humidity will cause bud rot to invade your colas, turning perfect buds into a mushy mess. If you can, shake accumulated rain and moisture off of branches whenever possible. As a last resort, some outdoor growers harvest early once they’ve witnessed a mold attack that they can’t fight.
As fall colors begin to turn and frost approaches, it’s time to plan the actual harvest. Pick an overcast morning or evening to avoid running into anyone and prepare your mission carefully. 5-gallon buckets make great containers for trimmed branches. They seal up some, if not all, of the strong odors of fresh-cut pot plants and conceal them from prying eyes as well. Be sure to but branches in with the cut end down to avoid crushing your cannabis cargo. Cut your plants down to branches that fit into the buckets and work quickly to take them down and get out. Get your harvest to a safe location and start the trimming and drying process there.
After harvesting, some organic growers like to bury a dead fish or two in the bottom of their hole. This organic material will decay and produce available nitrogen when you start back up in the spring. For now, relax, enjoy the fruits of your labors and start thinking about some new spots for next year…
Getting Advanced Outdoors
For years, outdoor growers have been looking for slow dissolving time-released nutrients specially formulated for pot plants. Widely available products such as Osmocote and Miracle Gro sticks last long but are meant for a variety of plants and thus not ideal for cannabis. The scientists and researchers at Advanced Nutrients have solved the problem with their newest product, Heavy Harvest.
Heavy Harvest is a three-part nutrient that needs only three applications during the growing seasons. Separated into Spring, Summer and Fall formulas specific to the growth needs during those times, Heavy Harvest specially-coated and concentrated pellets are designed to break down slowly and feed the plants throughout their life-cycle. The nutrients are pot plant specific and buffered so they’re released slowly and effectively for advanced growth and huge yields. For continuous feeding and only three visits a year to your garden, try Advanced Nutrients Heavy Harvest on your next outdoor plot.