These days, cannabis use is more accepted in our society than it has been in almost a century. This means growing your own is also a potentially less-risky endeavour than before. Still, that doesn’t mean your grow isn’t threatened by factors that could result in its untimely demise.
Unfortunately, good bud is pricey, and not every friend of the ganja has the patience (or the time and knowledge) to start their own grow. Because of that, the precious weed you’re growing makes a great target for would-be thieves and criminals.

Just like you, shady folks would love to get their hands on some top-tier bud—especially if they can get it for free and without the work. Of course, you want to do your best to protect your outdoor plants to avoid squandering all the time, money, and energy you’ve invested.

THE #1 RULE FOR CANNABIS GROWERS

There is good reason why “No Tell, No Smell, No Sell” should be the #1 rule for every grower, no matter where in the world you live. Don’t talk about your plants, not even to your friends and family, and keep your grow out of sight from curious eyes. Use measures to control the odour, and do not sell or proudly give away your weed to acquaintances. If no one knows your plants exist, the risk of someone stealing your crop will be much lower.

PROTECTING YOUR CANNABIS PLANTS FROM THIEVES

Not talking about your weed is one thing, but keeping your weed out of sight and smell so it won’t attract unwanted attention may warrant a little extra work. Here are some things you can do to keep your plants safe from discovery and theft.

HIDE YOUR CANNABIS IN THE GARDEN

Even if you grow cannabis in your own garden, you still don’t know who’s gonna come around to snoop at your next “friendly” neighbourhood barbecue. Not-so-well-meaning neighbours may not seem like a real threat, but more and more accounts of this happening are mounting. The good thing about growing weed in your own garden is that it’s potentially easier to keep your crop hidden than other locations.

If you grow cannabis in a corner of your garden, you can camouflage your plants by hiding them among tomatoes, flowers, and herbs. Many of these companion plants for cannabis are not just ideal for hiding your weed; they also provide added benefits such as repelling common cannabis pests like ants or aphids, improving soil composition, and even attracting the good guys such as bees and ladybugs.

If you want to hide your cannabis even more effectively, you can camouflage your crops amongst plants with a remarkably similar appearance. That way, someone would have to take quite a good look at your garden to find something suspicious. Here are some good plants you can use to hide your weed:

• Pride of Madeira (Echium fastuosum)

A flowering plant that looks shockingly like weed, its large and elongated flowers have a very bud-like appearance alongside cannabis-like leaves. Pride of Madeira is great for hiding your cannabis, especially during the flowering phase. Pride of Madeira is a gorgeous-looking specimen. It’s perfect for camouflaging your more “medicinal” plants among a canopy of beautiful ornamental buds and foliage, as both will blend together flawlessly.

Pride of madeira

• Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina)

Staghorn sumac is a flowering plant that sort of looks like a cross between a fern and cannabis. Its flowers do remarkably look like cannabis buds, and the thin-fingered leaves just add to the illusion, making this one particularly fitting if you’re growing sativas. It works well for hiding both lighter and darker cannabis plants, as the plant starts out as a light green colour and later becomes darker with reddish flowers.

Staghorn sumac

• Lupines (Lupinus)

The finger leaves of lupines look very much like those of cannabis, minus the serrated edges. Because of that, and thanks to their similar stature, they make excellent weed-hiding plants. Added bonus: You can get them at any garden centre, and they don’t require much care to grow. Works good for sativas and indicas.

Lupines

• Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica)

Upon first glance, the common stinging nettle may not appear to have much in common with cannabis, yet it is great for hiding your weed. With its serrated leaves, long internode spacing, and similar overall structure to cannabis plants, stinging nettle is actually an exceptional camouflage candidate. Plus, nobody is likely to go, “Wow! Stinging nettle!!”, and want to take a closer look. People normally choose to keep their distance from these threatening plants. In other words, they are just perfect!

Stinging-nettle

OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND: TIPS FOR STEALTHY WEED GROWING

Although it might be stating the obvious, the main key to a successful (clandestine) weed grow operation is to keep your crop hidden from sight. Aside from the aforementioned camouflage techniques, there are some other tactics you can use to keep your weed obscured.

CHOOSE THE RIGHT SPOT

To start, make sure to plant your weed in an area that isn’t easily visible from your house or from your neighbour's property—even from a higher vantage point. Look for a less obvious spot in your garden blocked from view. Put yourself in your neighbour's shoes so you can better judge what they can possibly see. To give you even more control, consider planting in containers instead of directly into the ground. This way, you can move your weed plants away from prying eyes if need be.

KEEP YOUR PLANTS SHORT

Some cannabis plants can grow into monsters—especially outdoors. You definitely don’t want 3m plants standing out like a sore thumb in your garden and alerting everyone who happens to pass by. So, keep your plants short—at the very least below the top of your fence.

FAKE FLOWERS / FAKE FRUITS

Disguise your weed plants by sticking fake flowers or fruits onto them! You can even stick real flowers from your garden onto your cannabis. These will, of course, wilt after a few days, but this shouldn’t be a problem if you have a good supply growing nearby—just replace the “weed ornaments” every few days. To create fake fruits, simply use some red, yellow, or orange paper and cut out the shapes of chillies or small bell peppers and attach them to your plants. From a little further away, passerbys would be hard-pressed to tip to the scam.

WATCH OUT FOR PEOPLE BEHAVING SUSPICIOUSLY

If you’re growing weed, see whether people—including your neighbours—are taking an unusual interest in your garden. They may not even have evil intentions, but who knows what will happen if they tell someone about the plants they discovered. Before someone steals your crop, be smart and don’t even let it get as far as someone noticing your weed.

DON’T FORGET THE SMELL

Keep in mind that in addition to making your crops invisible with companion plants and a good hiding spot, the other important thing to think about is the scent of your cannabis plants. The further away your plants are from sensitive noses, the less chance the odour will draw in unwanted individuals. Moreover, some of the companion plants mentioned above have pungent and sometimes overwhelming scents of their own, making them perfect to disguise dank smells at the end of the cannabis flowering phase.

HOW TO HIDE CANNABIS ON YOUR BALCONY

A balcony is great and practical for growing cannabis, but it also has some downsides. One is that you have fewer options when choosing a hiding spot. But here too you can hide your plants among companion species so your grow operation isn’t visible from across town. How about some tomato plants or beans to give your cannabis some cover? With some creativity, you can arrange your plants in a way that makes your weed totally invisible to passersby, and that nosey guy next door…

HOW TO HIDE CANNABIS ON YOUR BALCONY

Additionally, you can look into blocking the view by erecting structures like a bamboo fence or something similar. Do everything in your power to give your plant access to sunlight while keeping it obscured from view

If you happen to live in an apartment building, the odour from your plants can be a big problem. Choose the furthest spot on your balcony so you can at least somewhat minimise the odour.

A better solution is to instal a small greenhouse on your balcony. These are not expensive and can be found for less than 100€. You can equip the greenhouse with an exhaust and a carbon filter, so you can eliminate the odour problem. In addition, most greenhouses provide privacy since they are semi-transparent and you can’t really see what’s inside.

If your balcony is small and you don’t have the space for a greenhouse, consider low-stress training (LST). This is a training method used by indoor growers where they gently tie down cannabis plants for better yields. As LST also means limiting the vertical growth of cannabis, it is optimal for a stealthy grow on your balcony too. You can also top your plants first (cut off the main growing tip) to increase yield potential even more while maximising lateral (as opposed to vertical) growth.

HIDING YOUR STEALTH GROW IN A GREENHOUSE

If you’re growing in a greenhouse, this has the advantage that you can install an air filtration system to effectively neutralise the odour of your plants. You can also consider securing your greenhouse with an alarm system, cameras, and automated motion-triggered lights. Most of the time, the presence of cameras and lights alone will be enough to scare away cannabis criminals. In addition, if you’re growing legally and your crop does get stolen, camera footage can be passed on to the police as evidence.

GUERRILLA GROWING

The highest risk that your crops may be discovered and stolen is if you grow outdoors in public. This will require extra planning and added efforts so you can keep your grow-op stealthy and secret. Start by looking for a suitable spot off the beaten path. As a rule, the more difficult it is for you to get to your growing spot, the less likely it is someone else may find it. Outdoors, there is also a risk that animals may get to your plants, which may require extra protection in the form of chicken wire, etc. Then again, doing so could also increase the chances of your grow being discovered, so keep that in mind.

If you’re planning a guerrilla grow, here are some tips on how to best go about it:

LOOK FOR A REMOTE SPOT

The key to a successful guerrilla grow is to minimise outside interaction with your plant. This can only occur when your specimen is hidden from the public, otherwise it’s at great risk of being discovered, stolen, or vandalised. When scouting for a spot, make sure there are no paths around and no obvious signs of civilisation like parking lots or benches. As a rule, the more difficult it is for you to reach and find your spot, the better. When you have found a possible spot, check it at least a few times both on weekdays and the weekend to see whether any hikers or other people come around.

CAMOUFLAGE YOUR PLANTS

Even if you found the “perfect” spot, you should still camouflage your cannabis plants. Plant them in between other species, or together with companion plants that would fit the location. Plants with a similar structure—such as lupines—are great for camouflaging your cannabis in the wild.

Of course, there are other factors that make a good outdoor cannabis growing spot, such as light, soil quality, and access to water—plus, you should be able to get there without unreasonable difficulty.

CAMOUFLAGE YOUR PLANTS

BE SAFE GROWING INDOORS: CONTROL SMELL, NOISE … AND YOUR COST

Even if you’re growing indoors in your own home, you want to keep things safe and reduce the risk of your private grow show being discovered. You’d be surprised how easy it can be to make foolish mistakes that could raise someone’s suspicion. Here are some tips on how to be safe when growing indoors:

DON’T TELL, DON’T SELL, DON’T SMELL

We know how difficult it can be to not share your excitement about growing some fantastic weed, we really do. Nevertheless, keep your mouth shut about your plants. Don’t talk about it to your neighbours—not even your friends, and definitely not your chatty stoner sister. It’s as simple as that: If nobody knows about your grow, the risk is largely mitigated. Not only should you not brag about your horticultural skills to anyone, don’t be tempted to give away any of your weed, as this will also greatly increase your risk.

ELIMINATE ODOURS

Cannabis smells. For growers and weed lovers, this isn’t a problem, but it can be for those less enthusiastic about it. Plus, it can be a telltale sign for everyone passing by your house, including shady folks who’d love nothing more than to get their hands on your weed. In other words, you need to eliminate excess odour when growing indoors.

A spray or gel won’t cut it. For your indoor grow op, now matter how small, you want a proper air intake and exhaust, which you will need anyway so your plants can grow optimally. These systems can also be equipped with a carbon filter to minimise smell. Even still, try to keep your grow-op as far from any nose but your own as possible. Moreover, when looking over the strain descriptions for cannabis seeds online, try to stick with low-odour specimens if you have any fear of smell becoming an issue.

Also, don’t forget that the scent of cannabis will stick to yourself, your clothes, and your hair. You may be used to the scent, but others will notice it. So, after a day of manicuring your plants or some heavy smoking, take a nice long shower and brush your teeth before meeting up with those you don’t trust sharing your weed journey with.

DON’T TOSS ANYTHING THAT COULD GIVE YOUR GROW SHOW AWAY

Perhaps you’ve considered all of the above issues related to disguising your weed, and feel that there’s no chance of your grow-op getting discovered. Before writing your weed off as 100% hidden, be sure that you also consider what you’re putting in your garbage. The best safety measures are worthless if you’re tossing out tons of old soil, fertiliser bottles, broken fans, and other telling stuff like fan leaves. If you have suspicious garbage related to growing weed, you can collect this stuff during the week, then get rid of it in a bin in another part of town.

KEEP THINGS FRIENDLY WITH THE NEIGHBOURS AND MINIMISE NOISE

Your endeavour may become the talk of your neighbourhood if it causes a nuisance for neighbours, maybe because of the smell or because of noise. Maintain a nice relationship with your neighbours to keep trouble at bay. When it comes to noise, even a small grow operation can become cacophonous from fans, lights, exhaust, etc. You can instal a duct muffler to keep things quieter, and in general, you should do your best to ensure your equipment doesn’t share a wall with your neighbour's bedroom.

EXTRA TIPS FOR PROTECTING YOUR PLANTS FROM THIEVES

No matter where you grow weed, if you’re trying to keep it away from prying eyes, stealth is key. We talked about finding places to hide your weed, the advantages of companion plants, and how you should keep odour under control. But there is something else you can do to minimise the risk for discovery: choose suitable strains that won’t be easily discovered.

Obviously, a sativa that may grow as tall as 3 metres is less than optimal if you want to keep your grow-op a secret. To minimise chances of theft, it can be a great idea to look into shorter cannabis cultivars instead. Some varieties, such as RQS’ Royal Dwarf or Blue Cheese Automatic, will not get taller than 60cm, which makes them better-suited for stealth. Likewise, the shorter growing time of autoflowers can also reduce the chances of discovery. This same rule applies to cannabis strains that are naturally low in odour, which can make balcony grows a significantly easier time.

BE SAFE: CHECKLIST FOR YOUR STEALTHY CANNABIS GROW

• Don’t tell, don’t sell, don’t smell
• Keep your grow out of sight and out of mind
• Hide your plants among similar looking plants
• Keep your outdoor guerrilla grow hidden from the public
• Be wary if people show an unusual interest in your property
• Lean about low-stress training
• Reduce smells by installing an air filter
• Watch what you’re tossing out with your garbage
• Keep a good relationship with your neighbours

PROTECTING YOUR CANNABIS PLANTS FROM THIEVES—THE BOTTOM LINE

If you want to protect your grow from thieves, a calm approach is always the best one. Violent methods of protection or retaliation against thieves rarely benefit the grower in the long-run. Don’t lay any traps or do anything that could ultimately end up getting you in trouble instead of the thief. The best offence is a strong defence if you want to keep your cannabis safe.

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