How to keep your outdoor cannabis plant safe from curious critters

Published Jun 19, 2020 11:00 a.m. ET
iStock / LeoMalsam

It’s that time of the year again when most of us in the appropriate climates have our outdoor plants in full swing, which means that they are left in the open and exposed in our garden beds. It’s an exciting time, yet also one that many dread as it’s a sort of lottery that results in a whole bunch of losers. Nature can be kind, and nurturing, and beautiful, but it can also be dangerous for your outdoor cannabis plants, which is why we wanted to take the time to highlight some of the options out there that can help to keep your garden safe from animals and in some cases, even people.

What is eating my plants?

This is the ultimate question, and unless you have a camera sitting around recording every movement, it might be hard to tell what’s going on, but there are some pretty specific signs that you can look for to determine the issue. If you go out to find tiny holes in your cannabis plants leaves, chances are pretty good that you’re not dealing with a wild animal.

Bugs like to leave small holes and damage behind that quickly adds up over time, and if you’re dealing with this problem, then you might want to check out our article about pests. Today we’re focusing more on other living cannabis plant predators. Smaller pests require a whole different level of skill to take care of that often requires the use of a pesticide.

However, if you’re finding your outdoor plants with entire leaves missing, buds chopped away, or you’ve discovered several plants that have been entirely uprooted, then chances are pretty good that you have a curious critter on your hands. This could mean anything from smaller rodents such as rabbits, gophers, and raccoons, or larger ones like deer.

When the damage is limited to the top portions of the cannabis plant, you may be dealing with a larger intruder like a deer, which can stretch out and reach over most short fences and barriers that are used around gardens as protection. For smaller critters, the situation can oftentimes be even more difficult to manage, as they can burrow and dig, which is why it’s a good idea to use multiple options if you want to keep your outdoor plants safe.

Why you need to intervene immediately

Outdoor plants tend to be much stronger than their indoor counterparts because they have to survive through heavy wind, rain, and other environmental conditions that result in a hardier plant and stem, and they are generally quite good at bouncing back when they are provided with the love and care that they need, but no matter what kind of plant you look at, every single one will come with an essential point of no return, where it is impossible to come back from the destruction.

Even if you are very careful and do your best to intervene as early as physically possible, the potential for animals to reduce your crop by significant amounts is always present, and it really doesn’t take much to do it. A small snip here, a branch there, and before you even know what happened, your entire harvest could be reduced greatly, and that is a result that no one who is growing cannabis wants to experience.

Are all outdoor cannabis plants susceptible to furry predators?

Outdoor plants of any sort, in particular, fruit-bearing options that, like cannabis, produce a much-wanted product, are at high risk all of the time. This is mainly because they emit a strong smell that can travel for several miles. Even if humans are unable to detect your outdoor plants, you can guarantee that every animal in the neighborhood knows that they’re there, so it’s a good idea to take precautions before you run into irreversible trouble.

How to keep animals out of your garden

The best way to keep animals out of your garden will depend on a few things, including the layout, the kind of intruder, and the materials you have on hand, or the budget that you must stay within. Luckily, we’ve got a little bit of something for everyone with these five ways to keep wild critters away from your garden.

  1. Fencing
    Sometimes all that you need is a simple barrier to keep animals out of your garden, and this is especially true if your outdoor plants are located in an area that has high traffic. A taller fence will take care of things like deer, and smaller ones can be enough of a deterrent to keep some smaller predators away, as long as you take the time necessary to bury it at least a few inches under the soil for added strength.

  2. Netting
    If you are not allowed to dig, as many renters discover, then the next best alternative may be a softer, more flexible barrier like material or plastic netting. For this, all you need to make are small holes to install standing pieces of wood for a frame, and if you use a lighter material, then the holes can be small enough that you won’t even notice them once they’re removed at the end of the season.

  3. Newspaper
    One of the most notorious critters to devastate cannabis plant crops everywhere is the raccoon, but if you’re dealing with these adorable little monsters, then they are really easy to scare away using a good layer of newspaper placed all around the garden and in between each of the plants. That way, when they take a step towards anything of value, it makes a loud noise to scare them away before they get a taste of your sweet, sweet plant.

  4. Aluminum foil
    This idea is similar to the last one, only not as economical or environmentally friendly, but it will last much longer without needing to be changed. Paper softens over time due to exposure to moisture, but aluminum foil will keep on crinkling for months, so if you’ve got a wandering gopher, raccoon, bunny, or skunk, they won’t get anywhere near your outdoor plants before running away for safety.

  5. Raised flower beds
    If your invader is one that likes to burrow from beneath the fragile root systems of your outdoor plants, then it might take a whole different way of thinking as fences, covering barriers, and even noise-making materials often aren’t enough to thwart the attempts of these crafty creatures. To solve the problem, it might be time to get started on a raised garden that is a whole box. A few inches of wood will be more than enough of a deterrent to keep your cannabis plants safe, and it will last for many years to come with little to no additional maintenance or setup.

5 Allnatural ways to keep pests away from your outdoor cannabis plants


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