Growing cannabis outdoors can be an extremely rewarding experience, but it is not free of its own challenges and pests can be a big hurdle. Neem oil, beneficial insects, companion planting, and netting are amoung numerous techniques to prevent pests from doing damage to your valuable cannabis garden.
Growing cannabis is an extremely rewarding, enjoyable, and gratifying experience. There is nothing quite like sitting back to relax with some of your hard-earned end product, reflecting upon the hours and skill you put into creating it, and revelling in the high it offers. However, much like everything in life, nothing comes for free.
Reward is usually obtained via enduring the trial and tribulations of challenge. The end products of ripe and sticky cannabis buds is nothing short of awesome, yet growing cannabis can be a steep learning curve and comes along with difficulties that need to be adapted to.
Perhaps one of the biggest threats to a healthy and abundant harvest for outdoor growers are pests. Pests can come in all shapes and sizes, and many of them attack or affect different parts of a plant’s anatomy in varying detrimental ways. Outdoor grow operations are far more at risk to pest invasions than indoor ones, primarily because they are far more exposed to the elements and the critters that inhabit gardens, fields, and forests.
Sure, you can always go down the conventional route and apply a variety of chemicals to stave off such an invasion. However, many pesticides have been proven to be unsafe for both the environment and human consumption. Plus, you risk contaminating your hard-earned cannabis stash with chemicals.
Below is a variety of methods, that outdoor growers can use to prevent pest invasions, and to minimise any damage, that occurs if they do take hold.
Companion planting has proven to be an excellent, holistic, and natural way to fend off uninvited pests within your cannabis garden. Plus, this strategy is a perfect excuse to add other species to your garden to boost diversity and add aesthetic appeal. Additionally, some companion plants can even be served up for dinner.
The concept of companion planting is very much explained within the name of the practice. The idea is to surround your cannabis crop with plant allies in order to generate many positive effects, such as reduced risk of pests and disease.
Monocultures, or rows upon rows of the same species of plants, goes entirely against the living ecosystems we witness within untouched nature. When walking through a forest, we witness, what are known as polycultures, or many different plant species growing together synergistically. This is what nature intended.
The diversity occurring within polycultures increases local biodiversity and essentially forms a habitat, that is mutually beneficial for many of the species involved, boosting the overall health and vitality of the system. When incorporating your cannabis plants into a polyculture system, instead of just uprooting a patch of land and cultivating them in isolation, you are effectively recreating a natural environment and protecting them from pests and pathogens alike.
A polyculture minimises a lot of risk, and can attract beneficial predatory insects into the system. Companion plants can also act as natural pesticides due to the chemicals some of them release into the local environment. Excellent examples of companion plants include melissa, lavender, coriander, basil, and peppermint.
The strong and potent aroma of the mint plant acts to confuse pests and thus may protect cannabis plants. However, mint is known to spread at an intense rate, so it is advised to limit them to pots. Garlic chives also offer a strong scent, that may act to confuse invaders, and the plant makes an excellent garnish to many culinary dishes.
Nasturtium is often used as a sacrificial crop when grown as companion plants, acting to lure insects away from the plants of interest and taking the hit instead. The flowers of this beautiful plant also help to attract beneficial predatory insects.
STERILISE YOUR SOIL
Sterilising your soil will help to eliminate risk right off the bat. Many different pests and pathogens may be residing within your potting soil. Sterilising your material by exposing it to high temperatures via solarization or steam sterilisation will help to kill off the majority of these potential threats.
Beneficial insects can be introduced into cannabis gardens to act as pest management. These predators feed on many of the insects, that have an appetite for weed and may end up damaging your crop.
The introduction of ichneumonids (parasitic wasps) into your garden can help to keep caterpillar numbers down, as these long critters can cause major damage to both in interior and exterior of your crop.
The female wasps inject their eggs into living caterpillars. The eggs then hatch into larvae, and the larvae consume the caterpillar from the inside. Not a pretty concept, however highly beneficial for the health, vitality, and productivity of your cannabis crop.
The praying mantis can also be introduced into your garden to act as a beneficial predatory insect, as they seem to have a taste for caterpillars.
Diatomaceous earth is essentially a mix of microscopic shards made of fossils, that will inflict damage on insects, that make contact with them. This can be used to create a protective area barrier against ground dwellers, such as ants.
Many pests, such as aphids, are by no means fans of neem oil. A concoction of neem oil and water placed into a mister will help to deal with numerous invaders.
Sticky pads can be placed around your weed plants in order to catch pests from the air. If airborne invaders, such as gnats, land on these pads, they will become stuck there. These pads won’t put a total end to a pest problem, but they will certainly help to reduce numbers.
Our focus so far has been on the tiny. However, there are bigger creatures out there, that will also see parts of your cannabis plants as a nourishing snack. Birds are definitely on this list, however, they are obviously much larger than insects and may do far more damage. You won’t need to be too concerned about birds during much of the growing cycle. That said, if your intention is to bring some plants to seed production, then it’s time to keep an eye out for winged seed-eaters.
An easy and effective way to deter birds munching on your future seed bank is to erect netting around the perimeter of your cannabis crop. Netting will work to keep birds from accessing your plants, yet will also still let normal amounts of light through.
It should be said, that the presence of birds can sometimes be quite beneficial. They act to eat some pests such as caterpillars.
Without a doubt, we all love our pets and they hold a special place in our hearts. But unconditional love does not prevent some misbehaviour and mischief at times. Cats and dogs love to spend time outdoors and relish in exploring garden environments. Some of their seemingly favourite activities include digging up holes, running at fast speeds, urinating, and defecating.
Training your pets can allow them to still enjoy the garden space without harming your plants. If more secure methods of needed, fencing and netting can be utilised.