How to keep animals out of your outdoor cannabis garden
We know you can’t wait to get your hands on your homegrown weed harvest, but what about all the other creatures out there lurking in your outdoor cannabis garden? Are you in competition? And if so, how best to fight back and protect your stash?
Here’s a list of common list of animals and pests weed gardeners need to know about.
People often wonder if deer eat cannabis or hemp. It depends—when food is abundant, deer often prefer to skip cannabis. Makes sense, given that they tend to turn their noses at plants with strong scents. So, your weed might be safe, but deer will eat everything else in sight in your garden.
But, as is so often the case, there might not be enough alternative food for deer, and they will absolutely eat weed when push comes to shove.
Here are the best bets to keep deer out of your cannabis garden:
- The only sure-fire way to keep deer out is a deer-proof fence. Depending on your aesthetic and budget, you have options:
- The classic setup is wire mesh attached to posts.
- These days a lot more folks opt for polypropylene-mesh. It’s much more affordable than wire, but it’s also a lot less durable.
- Wood privacy fences or chain link fences also do the trick, but they have to be at least 8 feet tall.
- Having a dog that spends most of its time outdoors can be a huge deterrent.
- Repellant sprays can be effective, but again, nothing stops a starving animal. Note: Homemade sprays—using garlic powder and cayenne—are as effective as many store-bought ones, but they have to be reapplied more often.
Gophers and moles
Often lumped together, moles and gophers are actually two different types of burrowing mammals. Moles burrow underground looking for insects and leave more conical-shaped piles of dirt. Other than a touch of disturbance to your roots, moles don’t really pose much of a threat to your cannabis. Really, you can relax. Moles might actually serve some benefit in aerating the soil.
Gophers, on the other hand, are assholes. These (mostly) indiscriminate jerks will suck an entire plant down into their tunnels in one fell swoop, leaving you with nothing (they have more of a rounded pile above ground). And sadly, cannabis is on their list of likes, so here are methods to keep them away:
- Line the bottom of planting beds with gopher wire. Made from 3/4″, 20-gauge hexagonal mesh netting, gophers can’t chew through it. The biggest drawback is how labor intensive it can be if your beds are well-established (that’s a lot of digging). It’s much easier to do at construction time.
- Gopher baskets are great if lining entire beds isn’t in the cards. They’re essentially gopher (or chicken) wire bent into a basket shape. You can sink them into the bottom of the hole at planting time to protect individual plants. They’re a lot less work than lining an entire bed, but they tend to be pretty expensive per pop.
- Trapping works, too. There are various brands of traps: Victor Black Box, Macabee, Gophinator, and Cinch.
Lastly, predators—including owls, snakes, cats, dogs, and coyotes—all eat gophers.
Slugs and snails
A telltale sign of slugs or snails are munched outer edges of cannabis leaves and a visible slimy trail nearby. These sticky mollusks tend to prefer younger, more tender plants and pose less of a problem once plants are bigger. Here are a few options to keep your weed slime free:
- Sluggo, a store-bought product available at any garden center, is the best. Pet-safe and organic, simply sprinkle the pellets at the base of the plant. Replace after rain.
- Fill a saucer with beer and put it nearby. Expect many drunken, dead slugs or snails the next morning.
- Though some people swear by lining the base of plants with copper tape, made specifically for the purpose of shocking slugs and snails, it has never worked for me, so I don’t recommend it.
The big risk with Fido in the cannabis garden is if he digs too close to plants and disrupts the roots. If you see him getting too close, it’s a matter of training him, keeping him on a leash, or just keeping him the hell out of the garden.
While they’re great for keeping other pests away, cats can pose their own problems in the cannabis garden. Should they choose to use your plants as a litter box, know that their feces can attract unwanted parasites.
Additionally, their urine, high in ammonia, is indeed not a free fertilizer but a recipe for burn. Be sure to water a plant if you see it’s been peed on by a cat. A great way to keep kitty away from the weed is to line the soil with chicken wire. She’ll want nothing to do with walking across it.
While squirrels are otherwise complete assholes in the garden, the good news is they’ll largely leave your cannabis alone. Nuts and seeds (and that almost-ripe tomato) are their go-to foods.
Rats and mice
They’re gross, but not going to present much danger to your crop. Just give you the willies.
Unless you’re growing a crop for future seeds—which will be devoured by birds—your feathered friends are otherwise a blessing in the cannabis garden, as they eat all sorts of pests including caterpillars, snails, and slugs.
Johanna Silver contributed to this article.
Read more of Leafly’s guide to growing marijuana
- How to grow weed: Basics of growing marijuana
- 4 stages of marijuana plant growth
- Marijuana plant anatomy
- How to grow weed indoors
- How to grow marijuana outdoors
- Cannabis seeds 101: How to grow marijuana from seed
- How to clone cannabis plants
- Marijuana seedling and plant care
- How to harvest marijuana plants
- Troubleshooting common cannabis plant problems
- Buyer’s guides for cannabis seeds and growing equipment
- How to grow marijuana using hydroponics, aeroponics, or aquaponics