growing weed in the wild

Big yields.

We recommend these organic fertilizers:

Roof: This can be great for sun but may have too much wind.

How to set up your outdoor marijuana grow.

Silty soil is the ideal growing medium. It’s easy to work, warms quickly, holds moisture, has good drainage, and contains a lot of nutrients. The best silty soil is dark, crumbly loam—it’s fertile and probably won’t need any amending.

Most potting soils used in gardening are loam soils. If you’ve ever worked with potting soil, you’ll know that its composition is rich and diverse, and it looks dark and hearty. Beyond texture and color, the soil should smell rich and alive.

However, plants grown in pots, buckets, or barrels will likely be smaller than those planted in the ground because their root growth is restricted to the size of the container. In a broad sense, the size of the pot will determine the size of the plant, although it’s possible to grow large plants in small containers if proper techniques are used.

Sandy soil is easy to work, drains well, and warms quickly, but it doesn’t hold nutrients well, especially in rainy environments. You’ll want to dig large holes for your plants and add compost, peat moss, or coco coir, which will help bind the soil together.

Typically, outdoor growers will add amendments to soil when weed plants are transplanted outside. Outdoor amendments usually come in powder form that you mix in with soil.

Here are some important considerations before starting an outdoor marijuana grow.

What size pot do I need?

While some plants thrive in their native soils, which are usually one of the compositions listed above, cannabis plants are best grown in soil that includes a combination of the three consistencies above—this mixture is known as loam.

Sustained temperatures above 85°F will cause your plants to stop growing, while continued temperatures below 55°F can cause damage and stunting to plants, even death.

For most first-time gardeners, we recommend buying a quality potting soil that will provide your plants with enough nutrients to get them through most of their growth cycle without having to add many amendments. This pre-fertilized soil—often referred to as “super-soil”—that can grow cannabis plants from start to finish without any added nutrients if used correctly.

Low costs.

Types of outdoor grow spaces.

Most outdoor weed growers will either dig a hole and add fresh soil for the plant, or grow their weed in pots. This will allow you to better control the growing medium and the amount of nutrients your plants receive.

You also want to consider privacy and security. A lot of people want to conceal their gardens from judgmental neighbors and potential thieves. Tall fences and large shrubs or trees are your best bet, unless you live in a secluded area. Also, most state laws require that you keep cannabis plants concealed from the street.

In general, 5-gallon pots are a good size for small-to-medium outdoor plants, and 10-gallon pots or larger are recommended for big plants. Regardless of size, you’ll want to protect the roots of your plants from overheating during warm weather, as pots can quickly get hot in direct sunlight. This will severely limit the growth of your plants, so be sure to shade your containers when the sun is high in the sky.

Cannabis plants require a large amount of nutrients over their life cycle, mainly in the form of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. How much you need to add to your plants will depend on the composition of your soil.

You can plant directly into the ground, using the preexisting soil, but you’ll need to understand your soil’s composition and amend it accordingly. If you go this route, we recommend getting your soil tested, which will minimize headaches, and it’s easy and relatively inexpensive. A soil test will tell you the makeup and pH of your soil, any contaminants present, and will recommend materials and fertilizers to amend your soil.

Cannabis landraces in Qinghai province, central China. Credit: Guangpeng Ren.

Recently, we’ve seen a resurgence in the interest in cannabis, for sustainable fiber production as well as medicinal and recreational purposes. With more and more countries decriminalizing the possession and growth of cannabis, the plant may be making a comeback — and for researchers looking to study its origin, that’s great news.

So for decades, researchers looked at indirect evidence. Most cannabis strains appear to be from Central Asia, and several cultures of that region have used cannabis for thousands of years, so that seems like a likely place of origin. It’s a good guess, but not exactly true.

When a study can land you in jail.

After crossing legal and logistic hurdles, Fumagalli was able to gather around 80 different types of cannabis plants, either cultivated by farmers or growing in the wild. They also included 30 previously sequenced genomes in the analysis.

The early domestication of cannabis in the Neolithic could be a big deal. Cannabis isn’t exactly a food crop. You can indeed use it to get oil, and the seeds can be consumed but its main use is for fibers and for intoxication. Usually, when archaeologists look at a population domesticating a crop, they naturally think of food as a priority — but this would suggest that Neolithic folk also had, uhm, other priorities. Or simply, cannabis was a multi-purpose crop.

For millennia, hemp (the cannabis grown for fibers) has been an important crop. Clothes, ropes, and various other products used hemp fibers, but the emergence of modern metalworking and modern synthetic fibers (such as nylon) led to its downfall, and the once-popular plant became all but forgotten. Until recently.

Cannabis grows pretty much everywhere — that’s why it’s called “weed” — and just because people in Central Asia were quick to adopt the plant doesn’t necessarily mean they were the first ones to grow it.

A modern cannabis greenhouse. Image credits: Richard T.

Many botanists believed the plant emerged in central Asia, but a new study shows that east Asia (including parts of China) is the origin of domesticated cannabis.

Diversifying crops.

With this, they found that the likely ancestor of modern cannabis (the initial wild plant that was domesticated) is likely extinct. However, its closest relatives survive in parts of northwestern China. This fits very well with existing archaeological evidence, which shows evidence of hemp cord markings some 12,000 years ago. In particular, it seems to fit with a 2016 study by other scientists that said that the earliest cannabis records were mostly from China and Japan.

A research team was led by Luca Fumagalli of the University of Lausanne and involved scientists from Britain, China, India, Pakistan, Qatar, and Switzerland. The researchers compared and analyzed 110 whole genomes of different plants, ranging from wild-growing feral plants and landraces to historical cultivars and modern hybrids.

The team also identified the genetic changes that farmers brought over the centuries through selective breeding. They found that some 4,000 years ago, farmers started to focus on either plants that would produce fibers, or on those better suited for producing drugs.

A new study traced back the origin of cannabis agriculture to nearly 12,000 years ago in East Asia. During this time cannabis was likely a multipurpose crop — it was only 4,000 years ago that farmers started growing different strains for either fiber or drug production.

“Our genomic dating suggests that early domesticated ancestors of hemp and drug types diverged from Basal cannabis [around 12,000 years ago] indicating that the species had already been domesticated by early Neolithic times”, the study adds. The results go against a popular theory regarding the plant’s origin, the researchers add. “Contrary to a widely-accepted view, which associates cannabis with a Central Asian center of crop domestication, our results are consistent with a single domestication origin of cannabis sativa in East Asia, in line with early archaeological evidence.”

“We show that cannabis sativa was first domesticated in early Neolithic times in East Asia and that all current hemp and drug cultivars diverged from an ancestral gene pool currently represented by feral plants and landraces in China,” the study reads.

While this study offers an unprecedented view into the evolutionary history of cannabis, it’s still a relatively small sample size. Finding wild samples is hard — and feral samples you find today aren’t really wild, they’re just grown varieties that escaped and are now feral. Furthermore, even gaining access to cultivars can be difficult.

For instance, hemp strains bred for fiber production have mutations that inhibit branching, which makes them grow taller and produce more fibers. Meanwhile, strains bred for drug production, have mutations that encourage branching and reduce vertical growth. This results in shorter plants that produce more flowers. In addition, plants grown for drug productions also have mutations that boost the production of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

They concluded that the ancestral domestication of cannabis plants occurred some 12,000 years ago, during a period called the Neolithic, and that the plants likely had multiple uses.

Take a trip along the roads of Nebraska, Kansas, and Iowa, in particular, and you will see miles of cannabis growing naturally. In the likely event that you find some, your first thought is probably to fill up your car with the stuff! Think about it; you could easily bring thousands of dollars’ worth of it home.

There is also a possibility that you find ruderalis weed. It usually grows in Russia or Mongolia. However, cannabis lovers have certainly planted some ruderalis seeds in the wild. It is an exceptionally tough plant, more than capable of coping with inclement weather. It has a low level of THC but should provide a better high than the ditch weed you find. Ruderalis plants grow short and sturdy, so you will notice the difference between it and tall ditch weed.

If you have a car and time to kill, locating feral cannabis doesn’t take a great deal of detective work. Travel to the states we mentioned above, and cruise the roads for a while. Soon enough, you will find what you’re looking for. It isn’t unusual for ditch weed to reach a height of nine feet, so it will easily stand out!

What About Wild Marijuana in America?

The final, and most sensible option, is to admire the plants and go on your way. Take a few pictures to show your friends, but make sure you don’t take any weed with you! If the plants are growing miles away from civilization, you can forget about them with a clear conscience.

Your second option involves getting in contact with the police. If they are unaware of the cannabis, they may thank you for bringing it to their attention. Those who regularly use the field won’t be as grateful! That said, you should consider the location. If it is within walking distance of a town, you can justify your actions by thinking about the possibility of children using it.

As far as the time of year goes, you are better off waiting until the fall season. It is at this stage that most cannabis plants flower outdoors.

Some claim that people get hemp mixed up with ditch weed. It is an easy mistake to make; even the police find it hard to differentiate. These individuals assert that you will get high if you smoke enough feral cannabis. The amount you need depends entirely on your tolerance level.

However, this carries potential legal issues. There is a possibility that local police are well aware of the cannabis, and are watching out for people stealing it. While there probably isn’t an officer hiding in the bushes, you could find yourself in a police car. There is also a chance that the cannabis is part of an illegal growing operation. Once again, there is likely someone watching the crop. If they catch you taking some, the police will become the least of your worries.

This form of cannabis is extremely tough and can disperse its seeds across a large radius. Incredibly, these seeds can remain dormant for up to 10 years before sprouting! The state of Minnesota classified hemp as a noxious prohibited weed, along with various thistle species. This is because it damaged the plowing equipment of farmers! Like most states, Minnesota now has an industrial hemp program in place.

Attempts to eradicate ditch weed have proven futile. The FDA’s Herculean efforts only removed a fraction of what is growing wild. Remember, the seeds can lay dormant for a decade. Traipsing through fields and chopping down the growing cannabis plants doesn’t solve the problem at all. In Indiana, a police spokesperson said: “You can eradicate ditch weed as well as you can eradicate dandelion.”

How to Find Marijuana Growing Naturally.

Picture the scene. You are wandering down a highway when, suddenly, you see a group of plants that appear different to the rest. Your brain is telling you one thing, but you refuse to believe it is your lucky day. A sudden breeze arrives, causing these plants to sway majestically. You edge ever closer, the level of anticipation growing. YES! You have stumbled upon cannabis growing naturally in the wild. Time to light up! Or is it?

Anti-marijuana campaigners will wince when they hear how widely weed grows around the world. It is illegal in the mountain nation of Bhutan, yet thrives on rooftops! In countries such as Jamaica and Mexico, the heat and humidity mean fields of cannabis are in an enormous number of places. You can find feral marijuana in dozens of countries around the world.

First and foremost, you must understand that what you, Miss Marple, have uncovered, is called ‘ditch weed’ in the U.S. Known as wild marijuana or feral cannabis, it is usually descended from industrial hemp plants previously grown for fiber. The DEA says ditch weed is wild scattered marijuana plants with no evidence of tending, fertilizing, or planting. By the way, cannabis technically can’t be ‘wild’ in America since it is not a native species here. The correct term, in this case, is ‘feral.’

First of all, you need to gauge how mature the plants are. If they are in the vegetative stage, there is no point in taking any home. These plants are several months away from producing usable buds. If they are tall and producing nugs, you have the option of taking a few free samples home with you.

Alas, you are unlikely to enjoy an intoxicating high, no matter how much of it you smoke. It is likely weed descended from hemp fields from the days it was a significant crop. In those days, farmers bred hemp for fiber used in rope, clothes, and other useful items. The THC content is minimal. Even today’s hemp must contain a maximum of 0.3% THC, incidentally.

How High Will I Get if I Decide to Smoke Wild Cannabis?

As it is untended, the buds aren’t sticky, even though it will probably smell good! It is also important to note the location. There’s a possibility that pesticide or toxin run-off will negatively impact the quality of the bud. Is it worth risking your health (and liberty) for a minor high that could damage your health?

In Canada, feral cannabis isn’t as widespread because the colder winters are harsh on the plants. Also, our northern neighbors don’t have a history of large-scale hemp cultivation like America. Besides, cannabis in Canada is now legal for recreational use! Even so, you can find patches of tough ditch weed in all of Canada’s provinces if you look hard enough.

Despite the best efforts of the government, wild weed also runs riot in the United States. Vast amounts of time and money went into programs such as the New York City Marijuana Massacre. It is a ‘problem’ that goes back over a century. In 1914, the U.S. Department of Agriculture wrote on the abundance of hemp as a wild plant. Its report said you could find this form of marijuana in southern Minnesota, Iowa, and Missouri.

The third option is to try and claim the plants. This is another decision fraught with legal jeopardy. If they are not ready to harvest, you have to tend to them. This is illegal in practically every state unless you have an exclusive grower’s license. Even in legal states, growing is only allowed in a private space. Tending to these plants requires being outdoors in a public space, an illegal act.

Also, there are male plants mixed in with ditch weed, so it gets pollinated and puts its energy into creating seeds. Those who have tried to smoke it say they occasionally get a headache. If you have never tried cannabis of any type, perhaps the experience will prove pleasant. However, those with pot-smoking experience are unlikely to enjoy it.

The issue only worsened in the years after World War II. The American Midwest was the scene of widespread industrial hemp cultivation. The goal was to use the versatile plant to aid in the war effort. Production shut down in the late 1950s, but the damage was done. Since then, the plant has re-seeded naturally and spread throughout states such as Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Missouri. Cannabis activists have also deliberately planted seeds in secret.