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How is Cannabis Harvested?
After the longest summer in history, fall vibes are definitely welcomed and you know that means, right?
No, not pumpkin spice! We’re talking about Croptober!
You know, the unofficial 5th season that spans from around mid-September, throughout October, and into November when cannabis crops grown outdoors across the Northern Hemisphere reach their maximum potential and are ready for harvest.
Cannabis plants grown outdoors only flower once per year, but greenhouse cannabis grown using light deprivation techniques and indoor cannabis crops can be harvested multiple times per year.
Although it may feel like the end of a long, hard fight when (and if) your crop makes it all the way to harvest, the truth is that the work has just begun as the series of steps that the farmer takes next can drastically impact the quality of the final product – the nugs being bagged or jarred up for sale.
Preparing for Your Cannabis Harvest
Ok, so you’ve scoped out your trichomes and they match right up with your predicted harvest date.
You’ve flushed your plants with distilled water for at least a week (if necessary) and you have gathered the necessary tools:
- Gloves – Usually disposable latex gloves, they keep the stickiness of trimming and harvesting off your hands
- Isopropyl alcohol – Perfect for keeping your workstation sanitary (and un-sticky!)
- Lines or racks – Fiber/wire/twine lines stretched tight or metal racks used to hang harvested cannabis branches allowing the flowers/buds to properly dry before trimming
- Small clips – Used to attach/hang branches to lines for drying
- Storage bins – Ideally airtight plastic or metal storage both for transporting harvested branches to your drying area and then to store dried/trimmed buds for the curing period
- Trim bins or trays – Contains the mess from trimming and can gather kief
- Trimming shears – Some larger lop shears are handy for downing the thicker branches and stalks of your plants when harvesting. Smaller, one-handed, scissor-like shears are more useful for precise trimming
If growing indoors, cut the lights as much as you can to where you can still safely operate the harvest. A cool (60-to-70-degree-ish), dark(ish), dry room is ideal for harvesting and drying cannabis.
If growing outdoors, avoid hot, sunny days for harvesting if you can. A cool, dry day, with low wind, and indirect sun or overcast skies would be ideal.
If you can maintain that cool temperature and a relatively low humidity level (45-55%), you will encourage non-psychoactive cannabinoids to continue their natural conversion into THCA, increasing your crop’s potency even after you have chopped it down!
Conversely, if the temp is too hot, or that humidity is off, that process halts and your potency and terpene content is stunted.
While some folks literally trim buds as they harvest the crop, the more common method is to chop the “whole plant”, branch by branch, leaving the individual buds to be trimmed later in a controlled environment.
Hang it Up to Dry
Whether to trim the unwanted water leaves before the drying process or after is always a point of debate among growers, but the common consensus seems to be that if you live in an area with high humidity, trim those water leaves off early or risk mold forming. If you live in a dry environment, leave those leaves be or the buds might dry out too quickly.
Within a week of being hung to dry, you’ll know that the branches/buds are ready when the stems snap instead of bending when you apply pressure. Now it’s time to closely trim your buds for the ultimate bag appeal.
Time for a Trim
The fresher the buds are, the stickier their trichomes will be. This can be frustrating, but a lot of growers prefer that to trimming buds that are too dry and watching those trichs fly off the nug.
Remember that iso alcohol? That will be crucial during trimming as your shears will get gummed up fast with ‘scissor hash’.
Once your buds are properly trimmed, pack them into airtight containers and store those containers in a cool, dry, dark place – again, between 60 – 70 degrees is best.
Those containers should stay in that spot for at least 2-3 weeks, although 4-6 weeks will dramatically improve your flavor and effects. During that time, a few times each week, remove the containers one by one and open each lid for a few seconds, then reseal and replace each one. This “burping” process recycles the oxygen in the containers and prevents mold from forming.
Measure Your Success and Bask in the Glory
These buds are the reward for all the risk and hard work you have contributed.
Once you have your flower in its final form, CannaSafe™ will step in to help you measure your success by testing for potency, pesticides, microbial, moisture content, foreign matter, water activity, terpenes, mycotoxin, and heavy metals. Testing regularly can help you identify your crop’s strengths and weaknesses. Once identified, our experts will help you determine the next steps towards your success.
Having a plan for harvest time is essential for optimizing that reward.