Seed To Harvest Marijuana

The estimated $63.5 billion green rush has led to increased revenues in cannabis cultivation—positively impacting other industries Come learn all the best practices to harvest, dry, cure, trim, and store your homegrown cannabis – so you can get the best end product from your efforts! Outdoor cannabis growing has become a popular way to grow your own cannabis easily. But how to harvest cannabis, when and what's best to do?

Cultivating Cannabis: The Journey from Seed to Harvest

Cultivating Cannabis: The Journey from Seed to Harvest

Cannabis is emerging from the shadows of strict regulation, prompting the growth of a global market worth almost $25 billion today. This green rush has led to increased revenues throughout the entire cannabis supply chain—most notably in cannabis cultivation.

Such growth is rippling across industries such as energy and agriculture technology, with innovation allowing for greater scale.

Today’s infographic from Water Ways Technologies follows the journey of the cannabis plant, and explores cutting-edge technology that will fuel the future of cannabis cultivation.

Breaking Down the Cultivation Process

Cannabis is an annual plant, meaning it naturally goes through its entire life cycle in one year. However, this cycle is shortened to 3 months in commercial cultivation to improve productivity.

Plants can be grown from either a seed or a clone. The cloning method guarantees consistency, cost savings, and provides genetic stability from a disease-free source. All of these factors contribute to its popularity with commercial growers and the medical cannabis community.

Each stage requires different variables to ensure the highest standards are being met.

    1: Creating a Mother Plant: 3 months, 4 times a year

Mother plants create an endless supply of clones, making this stage the most crucial. The mother plant starts as a seed, chosen for desirable qualities that the grower wants to replicate—like aroma, flavor, and yield.

Growers then take clippings from the chosen mother plant, and dip each one in water and fertilizer. They are then soaked in rooting fluid and placed in a plug (individual cell), before entering an incubator.

The clippings remain here until they finish rooting. The incubator maintains the plant’s moisture by facilitating leaf absorption.

    3: Vegetation Process: 3-4 weeks

The clones are transferred to growing rooms and placed into a light substance similar to soil. They are moved on to flood benches—large tables that re-circulate excess water and fertilizer—which enable the optimal uptake of nutrients.

During this phase, the clones require 18 hours of light and 6 hours of darkness. There must be a constant analysis of the radiation levels to combat any damage from the artificial light source.

Following the vegetation process, the plants are separated into different flowering rooms. During this phase, buds grow and develop a solid cannabinoid and terpene profile. Terpenes are organic compounds that give cannabis varieties their distinctive aromas like citrus, berry, mint, and pine.

The cannabis plant is harvested once it reaches maturity. The flowers are de-budded, trimmed, and set on drying trays in a post-harvest room with low humidity, before they are ready for extraction.

This final stage requires a substantial amount of time and attention to detail, to ensure the best quality and most potent product possible.

Cultivating the Future of Cannabis

Efficiently producing high-quality, consistent cannabis will help meet growing consumer demand. Water Ways Technologies is an agro-tech company helping to propel this growth, by providing cultivators with data-driven insights from their precise irrigation system.

With a strong understanding of the full cannabis life cycle, Water Ways Technologies ensures that adjustments can be made at different stages throughout the growing process, resulting in the highest standards, and wider profit margins for investors.

How to Harvest, Dry, Trim, Cure, & Store Homegrown Cannabis: The Ultimate Guide

Ahhh, the moment we’ve all been waiting for. You have proudly, legally grown your own beautiful, sticky-sweet cannabis plant, nurturing it from seed or seedling, and it is finally mature and ready for harvest! Or wait… Is it? If you aren’t sure, then this article is for you! While the harvest, trimming, and curing practices may vary slightly from grower to grower, there are definitely some tips and best practices we’ve learned over the years that I want to share with you.

Read along to learn how to determine when your cannabis plant is ready for harvest. Then, we’ll go over the process for properly drying and curing your finished cannabis – to ensure it’s at that perfect “just right” stage: not too dry, but not so wet that it may mold during storage! I’ll also share tips about trimming, talk about long-term storage, and let you in on how we use our cannabis. Basically, everything you need to know.

If you’re new to growing, or simply want to learn more about how we grow and tend to our cannabis plants, be sure to check out these articles too:

Now on with the show, shall we?

HARVEST

How to Determine When To Harvest Cannabis Your Plants

Numerous indicators will signal when your cannabis is nearly ready to harvest. Each plant and strain is unique, so these signs can vary, but here are some general things to look for:

  • The leaves will begin to yellow, curl, and some will probably fall off
  • Buds will be plump and developed, and no longer appear to be growing larger
  • As the buds swell, the branches will become heavy and hang more

The colas on some of our big Maui Wowie girl, getting close to harvest time. You can see the branches are starting to sprawl under their own weight, and some of the fan leaves are dying. The girls in the distance were started a couple months later, and are just starting to plump up. Yep, this photo was taken from the roof!

Time is not the best indicator, because this will vary depending on the strain, your location, growing conditions, and the type of plant. For example, sativa cannabis plants typically have a longer flowering period and later finish than indica strains do. We typically grow sativa-dominant plants, starting seed in late April to May and typically harvest the cannabis in October. Autoflowering cannabis plants live and grow in a timing universe of their own… We’ll talk more about them in a moment.

Personally, the most reliable indicator that we pay attention to is the cannabis trichomes.

What are Trichomes?

You know all those shiny, sticky, wonderful-smelling crystals you can find all over your cannabis flowers? Those are trichomes. They play an important role in the plants natural defense mechanisms, and also contain the thing we’re all after here – cannabinoids.

The actual definition of trichome is “fine outgrowths or appendages on plants, algae, lichens, and certain protists.” Originating from the Greek word “Tríchōma,” meaning “growth of hair,” these tiny microscopic mushroom-looking protuberances look like something out of a science fiction novel. But they are actually the very factories that produce the hundreds of known cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids that make our favorite cannabis strains potent, unique, and effective.

Leafly

Monitoring Your Trichomes to Signal When to Harvest Cannabis

While it requires a little closer look, the appearance of the trichomes is the best way to determine the stage and condition of your cannabis plant. More specifically, pay attention to trichome color and opacity. Because they’re so tiny, you’ll want to use a jewelers loupe as a magnifying glass to examine them. Aaron starts keeping an eye on them even before the aforementioned signs begin. Throughout the growing cycle, the trichomes will change from clear to milky and cloudy, and eventually to amber.

As a general rule of thumb, when the trichomes are very clear, the cannabis plant is still immature and the THC is less developed. Harvesting cannabis at this stage may result in a more speedy, racy, less smooth and comfortable user experience. When the trichomes change from clear to fully cloudy, that is when we like to harvest cannabis. Or even a tad later, as described in the “when in doubt” bit below. This is when the buds are now at a very well-balanced stage of development.

On the other end of the spectrum, if you let the cannabis continue to grow too long and the trichomes turn all the way amber, the result is often a more lethargic, heavy body high. I don’t know about you, but I am not a fan of “couch lock”! Some people prefer a more sedate and sleepy vibe. If that is the case, I suggest you grow strains that are known for those attributes in the first place, rather than trying to push your cannabis plant to an overly mature state by prolonging the harvest.

When in doubt, harvest cannabis when the plants trichomes are primarily cloudy and a little amber, rather than a mixture of clear and cloudy. More growers have the regret of harvesting their plants too early as opposed to too late.

Determining When to Harvest an Autoflower Cannabis Plant

Figuring out when an autoflower plant is ready for harvest is a bit more tricky. They don’t always lose their leaves. Their trichomes change from clear to cloudy and amber, but not always as obvious or evenly. Yet some oddball strains never turn amber at all! It isn’t as easy to confidently say “Yep, you’re ready to go!” as you would with a regular plant, so you have to simply do your best to judge.

Autoflower breeders will usually provide a timeframe, such as 12 weeks from seed to harvest. This can help provide you a general idea of when the plant will be ready, but it isn’t set in stone. We have found that our autoflower cannabis plants almost always take a couple weeks longer than predicted. But if the breeder says “this plant takes 11 weeks”, if you hit the 14th week, it is likely time. Chances are, if the buds are nice and swollen, and some of the trichomes are looking cloudy for at least a week, you can pull it then.

See? Unlike the autoflower Aaron was examining above, this auto plant was turning only slightly yellow (and this photo was taken on a foggy day, increasing that look) but otherwise wasn’t losing leaves or turning brown – yet it was definitely ready!

How to Harvest Cannabis

It is best to harvest cannabis plants in the early morning hours or before your lights turn on. When the time is right, many cannabis growers simply chop the entire plant down at once. That is certainly one option, and something we do with autoflower plants for sure! When it comes to our big girls, sometimes we harvest cannabis plants in sections instead. Why? Well, for a couple of reasons…

In our experience, the buds on the upper branches become ripe and ready for harvest faster. Therefore, we may choose to cut the main stalk about halfway up – in order to remove the top portion of the plant only – or cut off individual upper branches first. This will provide more time and sun to reach the lower flowers, and allow them to fatten up for another week or so.

Taking the plant in sections also spaces out the timing, effort, and room required for drying and trimming too. This helps make the next steps a bit more manageable, especially if we are harvesting several large plants.

When we finally harvest the lower portion, we cut the stalk with a small hand saw down at the soil level or just below. Following a “no till” and recycled organic living soil practice, we leave the roots in place inside the grow bag! The root ball will decompose, feeding the worms and soil over the next several months until the following growing season.

An example of a partially harvested plant. The top portion of this Cookie Wreck was ready to go, but the bottom limbs needed a little more time. So we only cut off the top portion of the plant to hang dry inside. The lower limbs were cut about a week later, and the stem/roots left in place in the grow bag.

What About Flushing?

If you read other websites instructions on how to harvest cannabis, you will often see a section about flushing the plants prior to harvest. We don’t flush our plants because the way we organically grow cannabis does not require it. In contrast, flushing living organic soil essentially strips it of the complex ecosystem you worked so hard to build in your soil! It defeats the purpose.

However, many home growers and most commercial growers use chemical fertilizers and pesticides that get absorbed into into the plants vascular system, and in to the buds. Those plants will require a “flushing” period. This is where the plants root ball and soil is repeatedly flushed with water for about two weeks prior to harvesting, to help rid the plant of built up chemicals and salts. If not flushed, the bud will burns really harsh and tastes unpleasant. Hmm… I wonder why? If you need instructions on flushing, see this article.

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TRIM

When to Trim Cannabis

I could have put this trimming section either here, or after the “How to Dry” section to follow, because you can do either! Some ganja farmers insist on trimming their finished plants before they dry – also called a “wet trim” or ‘trimming wet”. On the other hand, many cannabis growers prefer to wait until they’re dry. Others periodically trim in the middle of the drying process, or do a little of both. It really all depends on your schedule and personal preference, which you’ll develop with time.

Trimming can be really tedious and time-consuming, so we go after it whenever we have a chance! And by “we”… I mean Aaron. He has more free time in the afternoon than I do (which is still limited) so he’ll usually grab a semi-dry hanging branch to work on here and there whenever he can, hoping to get it all taken care of before it is time to cure.

We always remove at least the largest fan leaves while the plant is still fairly wet and hanging dry. This aids in air flow and drying, and also reduces the amount you have to trim off later.

How to Trim Cannabis

We find it easiest to trim off at least some of the larger, prominent fan leaves while they’re still fairly wet. Removing bulky leaves helps promote drying. Additionally, as the leaves dry they will curl around themselves and the buds, which makes it more difficult to slip the trimming snips in there. On the other hand, after the cannabis has dried, the leftover leaves can become so brittle and loose that they are easy to flick off with the end of your snips or even a toothpick.

When it comes to trimming, perfection is not the goal. Not in our opinion at least! We grow for personal use, family, and friends. We don’t need perfectly manicured buds, nor do we have the patience for it. Plus, there are trichomes and THC on some of the leaves! Therefore, we hardly bother with trying to remove the “sugar leaves” – the smallest ones coming out from the center of the buds. Yet we do trim away the larger, non-sugary leaves that are attached to the main stem around the buds.

Before, during, and after trim. We remove all larger leaves (attached to the main stem within) but only roughly trim off the smaller leaves that are coming out from the middle of the buds themselves. After trimming up a large COLA or branch, Aaron usually breaks them down further – off the main stem into individual nugs for curing and storage.

Cannabis Trimming Tools

In regards to tools, I highly recommend these precision trimming snips. They make the job much easier! We have several pairs, and use them extensively both for cannabis and in the garden – like for thinning seedlings. They even come in a non-stick option.

I also suggest investing in a “trim bin” to trim your cannabis over. It is ergonomic, with dips for your arms. The bin has two parts: a screened upper section to catch all the leaf debris that you’ll likely discard, and a lower compartment that collects trichomes/keef that falls through the screen. Keep that! Sprinkle it on top of your bowls, or use it to infuse homemade canna oil! (Post coming on that soon)

We compost our excess leaf debris, both in a passive compost pile and in our worm bin. Yep, the worms love it! Smart little buggers.

Our favorite trimming snips, and trim bin. Look at all that keef and crystal that gets collected under the screen!

DRY

How to Dry Your Cannabis

After they are cut down, cannabis plants are traditionally hung upside down to dry. As the cannabis dries, the THC converts from a non-psychoactive state to one that is psychoactive. However, you don’t want to rush the drying process! THC also slightly degrades with drying, and buds that are dried too quickly will experience a more significant decomposition of THC than those that are allowed to dry more slowly.

An ideal time to dry cannabis is around 5-7 days. However, the time it takes to reach the ideal dryness (explained below) will vary depending on your climate and drying location. Also, the condition of your plant will play a role, such as how fat the buds are, how many fan leaves are still attached, and so on.

One plant broken down into individual branches, hanging to dry from a “clothes line” in our spare room. Note that we keep the window covered with a dark sheet to block most of the light. The top image is just to show the set-up. We also use an herb drying rack to set any loose buds or smaller branches on. Yes, it does smell quite strong in the room! Yet with the door closed and a towel stuffed below the door, it prevents the whole house from smelling.

Ideal Cannabis Drying Conditions

It is best to dry cannabis in a temperate, relatively dark location. Light also degrades THC, so keep those drying plants out of direct sunlight! Good air flow is also very important. You’ll want to provide a fan to increase air circulation in the room and create a constant light breeze, but avoid pointing the fan directly at your plants – unless you’re in a very hot and humid climate. Even then, keep the breeze on the light side.

The ideal humidity level for drying cannabis is about 45-55%. If your humidity is lower than that, keep the fan extra low or omit it altogether to avoid overdrying your buds. We’ll talk more about how to measure humidity in just a moment. Serious growers, or those in particularly challenging climates, may use the assistance of humidifiers, dehumidifiers, heaters, or air conditioners to achieve that sweet spot.

Excessive heat can also dry out cannabis more quickly. If possible, hang your cannabis to dry in a climate-controlled location – not in an outdoor shed, garage, or other spot that is prone to extreme temperature swings. A temperature right around 70°F is ideal, though anything from 60-80°F is adequate.

We dry our cannabis in a spare room in our house along a clothes line, or in the spare shower. It is easiest to break the plant down into branches and spread them out a bit, as opposed to hanging the whole damn thing like a dying Christmas tree. We use this combo thermometer/hygrometer in our drying room to assess the conditions.

How to Tell When Your Cannabis is Dry Enough

If you are able to dry your cannabis in an environment with the ideal conditions described above, it will likely be done in the suggested time frame of 5-7 days. To assess if your cannabis is dry enough to move on to the curing process, test the humidity level of the buds themselves! You’ll need a humidity meter, also known as a hygrometer, to do this. The hygrometer will be used during curing as well. For inside jars, we use these cigar hygrometers.

The goal is to get the humidity of the flowers down to about 60-65% by the time they’re ready for long term storage. Therefore, I recommend to start the curing process when your cannabis is in the range of 62-68% humidity. With humidity over 70%, the chances of mold developing in storage is far greater! Additionally, the buds will only get more dry with time.

When you think the cannabis is fairly dry, clip off a few sample buds. I suggest taking a nug from a couple locations on the plant to get a nice average. Place the buds inside a sealed jar with the hygrometer inside as well. Close up the jar and get a reading. If the humidity shoots to 70% or greater quickly, they’re definitely not ready to cure! On the other hand, if it is hovering right around the sweet spot, allow them to stay sealed in the jar for 24 hours to get a true reading. If after 24 hours, it is within the target range, proceed to curing. If you find the humidity has creeped up, allow the plants to continue to dry. Check back again in a day or two.

If you haven’t trimmed yet, do so before moving on to curing – keeping in mind that may take a few days too, and the weed won’t just stop drying for you in the meantime. Therefore, I suggest trimming in small batches and adding it to sealed jars as you go.

What is Curing Cannabis

Do not overlook the importance of curing! Have you ever noticed that some cannabis smokes really smooth and tastes absolutely amazing, while others are more harsh and flavorless? Sure, a little bit of that has to do with the strain or growing conditions… but the main factor that makes weed wonderful or woeful is: if it was cured properly! No, the crummier stuff isn’t just “old”. Old weed can still taste good and smooth too! In addition to the final flavor and experience, curing also ensures the cannabis will store well long-term and retain quality.

Curing is essentially a continuation of the drying process, but in a more slow, controlled environment – such as in sealed mason jars – and occurs for up to two months. Meaning, once the cannabis is dry, it isn’t necessarily ready to enjoy at its prime yet. Ideally, you should allow the cannabis to cure fully before enjoying it. Sure, you can sample some early here and there of course, but super fresh bud is not going to be the same as the stuff that has been allowed to cure.

Proper curing stops the degradation process before volatile compounds like terpenes and cannabinoids evaporate or transform into less favorable compounds. Additionally, cannabinoid synthesis (the process of creating those valuable chemicals) continues to take place even after harvest!

Colorado Pot Guide

I also recently learned that during the curing process, bacteria works to break down the chlorophyll in the plant material. Chlorophyll is what makes the plants nice and green in color, but also contributes to a harsh smoking experience. Therefore, less green finished nugs isn’t necessarily a bad thing!

How to Cure Cannabis

Once you are able to obtain a humidity level of about 62-68%, put the trimmed buds in airtight containers, such as in a sealed mason jar. We use these half gallon jars. Store the containers in a dark, temperate place. Now, over the following weeks, periodically burp the jars. By “burping the jars”, I don’t mean a quick open-and-close of the lid. Leave the lid off for 10 to 15 minutes, and then re-seal the jar. The purpose is to allow some air exchange – to introduce oxygen and release moisture or other off-gassing substances.

How often should I burp the jars while curing, you ask? Some growers burp their jars one to two times per day during the first week or two. It is especially important to burp frequently if your cannabis is on the higher end of that humidity range, and leave the lids open even longer – up to an hour. On the other hand, we usually get our nugs down to around 63%, so we burp a little less frequently. We aim for once per day, but sometimes miss a few days. It isn’t the end of the world.

After the first couple of weeks, a burp just once per week is great – for the following month. After a full 6 to 8 weeks of curing, you can reduce the burping frequency to once per month. At that time, you also don’t need to worry as much about the length of time the lids are off. A shorter burp is fine.

There are a few things you’ll want to pay attention to during the curing process:

Keep a hygrometer inside at least one of your containers. You can rotate it amongst jars if needed, or use a few of them. Try to position it in a way that is visible through the sides of the container. If the humidity inside the jars begins to climb to 70% or over, take the buds back out of the jar for a day or two. Spread them out somewhere with good airflow, such as on an herb drying rack, screen, or even on cardboard.

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When you open the jars to burp them, take a sniff! A slight ammonia aroma is a sign that the cannabis is too wet and is starting to spoil. A strong ammonia odor or visible mold are indications that the cannabis was much too wet, and is probably now ruined. Yet if you are using a hygrometer, you shouldn’t run into this issue.

On the flip side, if your cannabis has become too dry (less than 60%), you may be able to help it – with the assistance of these Boveda packets! Originally designed for the cigar industry, Boveda packets can be used to re-introduce moisture to overly dry cannabis. You can also keep them with your buds during long-term storage to regulate humidity, which may be particularly helpful in hot, arid climates. They come in various target humidity levels that they help to achieve or maintain, for example a 65% packet, 63% packet, and so on.

STORE

How to Store Cannabis Long Term

Once your cannabis has finished curing, you can shift to long term storage. For us, this looks no different than the curing stage – except that we aren’t opening the jars as often. We store our cannabis in the same half-gallon jars they were cured in. Choose any air-tight container, and store it in a temperate, dark location. It is recommended to quickly burp the jars about once a month, but we don’t stress that part too much. If you’re getting into your stash to use it, the jars are being burped plenty then.

You have probably seen that some people do vacuum/seal and even freeze their weed. We don’t find this necessary, or even preferable, Just how frozen and defrosted food doesn’t taste as good as fresh food, we’d rather keep the buds out – more fresh, and easy to monitor. We also aren’t huge fans of the idea of plastic touching the buds the whole time. On the other hand, if you are giving weed away, that is a different story. We do sometimes use plastic then. Either way, I don’t suggest fully vacuum sealing. Sucking all the air out of the package totally crushes the buds! If anything, use the seal feature only.

In summary, when cannabis is properly harvested, dried, cured, and stored, it can stay fresh, tasty, and potent for up to a year – just in time for the next growing season! Check out the photo above! That is our cannabis harvest from last fall, and it is still measuring 65% humidity. The color and chlorophyll will naturally fade, and THC may degrade slightly, but it still smokes and feels quite wonderful.

ENJOY

Using Your Homegrown Cannabis Harvest

To clarify, we don’t actually “smoke” our cannabis. At least not in the traditional sense. We use a high-quality vaporizer. It heats and delivers the desired cannabinoids and terpenes without actual combustion of the flower. Combustion (burning) the cannabis is more harsh on your throat and lungs, and it simply doesn’t do your bud justice. It totally destroys the flavor, and overheats the cannabinoids and terps to a far less efficient and effective temperature. We also make canna oil and capsules, but that is a whole different post for another day!

Here is an article all about vaporizing, which goes over the science and safety behind vaporizing cannabis. It also explores the differences between smoking and vaping, between using whole flower and concentrates, and how to make the most efficient, effective, safe use of your herb.

In short, the Firefly 2+ vaporizer is pretty much the best thing on the market. We used the Firefly 2 for many years, and just upgraded to the 2+ when it came out a couple of months ago. It is the safest for your lungs and body (no heavy metals, like other vapes!), can be used for flowers or concentrates, and exudes a controlled and wide-range convection heat on every draw – to get the most out of our your bud. No other vape uses that technology. It is efficient, effective, sexy, and the flavor is insanely good because you are actually tasting your cannabis at its full potential!

How you choose to consume your cannabis harvest is ultimately a personal decision. Our thought is: after all that hard work to grow beautiful organic homegrown cannabis, why turn around and burn the hell out of it?

That wraps up our Ultimate Guide on processing your homegrown cannabis.

I hope you found this article interesting, informative and useful! If so, please pass it on to your friends – to the left of course. You may also like this article about how to activate (decarboxylate) raw cannabis to prepare for to make homemade cannabis-infused oil, edibles, homemade cannabis tinctures, or soothing topical salve. Feel free to ask questions or leave feedback in the comments!

How to harvest cannabis, dry and cure your outdoor crop

Growing cannabis outdoors is perhaps the lowest cost way to grow your own. All you need is a few good quality outdoor cannabis seeds and a sunny, sheltered spot with reasonable quality soil. You can always supplement the soil with additional high quality compost and fertiliser if necessary.

You don’t need to live in a warm, tropical climate to be able to grow great quality outdoor cannabis. High quality autoflower seeds can grow from seed to harvest in around 100 days outdoors (they are even faster indoors). Even those with short summers can find a good 3-month window to grow and harvest some autoflower seeds outdoors. But what are the best ways to harvest, dry and cure outdoor grown cannabis? Read on for some expert tips and advice.

Harvesting advantages of autoflowers grown outdoors

Growing autoflower seeds offers some tremendous advantages to the outdoor grower. Autoflowers have earned a solid reputation for being easy and convenient to grow. With their fast life cycle and short size they are a fast way to grow plants which will hide easily behind other plants and shrubs.

  • Autoflowers grow from seed to harvest in around 100 days outdoors. That’s much faster than photoperiod outdoor strains and ideal for those with short growing seasons.
  • Autoflower seeds tend to produce short, stocky plants which are around 1m tall. These are much easier to hide than 3-4m monster plants grown from photoperiod outdoor feminised seeds.
  • Autoflower seeds are easy to grow with little maintenance required. If you choose a sunny location with good quality, moist soil you can expect a straightforward grow with little effort.

Harvesting advantages of photoperiod feminised strains grown outdoors

Your other main option for outdoor cannabis growing are feminised photoperiod cannabis seeds. Unlike autoflower seeds, you won’t be able to grow these in short 100-day summers. You will typically need 5 months or so to grow these larger plants. But harvests can be huge. Yields of well over 1Kg from a 3m tall specimen are quite possible.

If you enjoy a reasonably long growing season you will be able to harvest your outdoor photoperiod cannabis plant before the worst of the late-season weather arrives. For some outdoor cannabis growers, feminised photoperiod cannabis seeds are the preferred choice.

  • For the largest harvests, outdoor cannabis seeds with photoperiod genetics are the best choice.
  • Plants can be 3-4m tall and just as wide in optimum conditions. However, for some growers such large plants can present security/risk issues and are difficult to hide.
  • You need to ensure that your preferred outdoor photoperiod strain is able to complete the bloom cycle before the growing season ends.

One other advantage of growing photoperiod feminised seeds is that they may be able to recover somewhat more easily from a pest attack or accident than an autoflower.

Autoflowers have a fixed life cycle outdoors, usually around 100 days. If an autoflower plant suffers any kind of grow incident/accident in its prime, it may not have the time to recover from it. A photoperiod plant, with a longer growth phase before bloom, may be able to recover slightly better when it comes to dealing with attacks from slugs, rabbits or other pests.

When to harvest outdoor cannabis, autoflower seeds vs photoperiod feminised seeds

In general, autoflowers take around 100 days from seed to harvest outdoors (indoors, with optimised conditions they often take nearer to 75 days). This means that growers in warm climates can get 2 (or even 3) successive outdoor autoflower harvests per year. That’s one of the reasons autoflower seeds have become so popular with outdoor growers.

Outdoor feminised seeds often have a 5-6 month life cycle. That’s longer than the life cycle of an autoflower, but the grower is usually compensated by heavier harvests than those produced from smaller autoflower plants. However, unless you live close to equatorial latitudes, you will only be able to grow one outdoor photoperiod crop per year.

Note that some growers of photoperiod feminised seeds can artificially force extra productivity from their plants if they grow in greenhouses equipped with blackout blinds. This can allow growers to ‘force’ an early bloom and create quicker harvest cycles by creating 12/12 light conditions manually. Some balcony growers also use this technique.

When to harvest outdoor cannabis according to trichome appearance

Many growers will examine the colour of the trichome resin glands and monitor the transition from clear, to cloudy to amber. This technique works well for both autoflower strains and traditional photoperiod outdoor strains.

Many growers buy an small magnifying glass (sometimes known as a jewellers loupe) to make accurate close-up judgements on the trichome appearance. You can also buy a sophisticated digital microscope which will also do a great job at showing trichome appearance.

Clear trichomes

Cannabis harvested with clear, colourless trichomes tends to have a lively, uplifting and energetic high. However, THC levels may not have quite peaked and the buds may not have finished growing. Most outdoor growers prefer to wait a little longer as this tends to give heavier harvests and slightly stronger weed.

Cloudy trichomes

Waiting until the clear trichomes are transitioning to cloudy/milky allows your buds to pack on more weight. It also allows THC content and resin coverage to increase, meaning stronger buds. Many growers like to harvest their cannabis when the trichomes are mostly cloudy. You may notice that a few trichomes are starting to show some amber colour at this point.

Amber/red trichomes

Leave your buds another week or two and you will notice more and more of the trichomes have transitioned from cloudy/milky to amber or red. Some growers prefer to harvest at this point, feeling that their cannabis has more of a narcotic, heavy effect. Many consider that a majority of red trichomes represents a somewhat over-ripe crop. But some growers prefer it that way e.g. medical marijuana growers who want a strong body effect with good sleep inducing qualities.

When to harvest outdoor cannabis according to pistil (hair) colour

As well as considering the appearance of the trichomes, many cannabis growers also monitor the colour of the pistils. These are the hairs which come out of the buds. Initially the pistils tend to be white. As they start turning increasingly brown it is an indicator that the plant is approaching harvest.

50% brown pistils

Cannabis is approaching harvest, though with many pistils still white in colour growers will often wait a little longer until they harvest.

70% brown pistils

At this point the majority, but not all, pistils are brown. For many growers this represents a good harvest point.

80-90%+ brown pistils

For some growers this would represent a mature cannabis crop with heavier, narcotic effects. Although some growers might consider such buds to be a little over-ripe, there are plenty of growers who consider the extra bloom time well worth the wait. But it’s worth saying that we all have a unique endo cannabinoid system that responds differently to cannabis.

One of the great joys of growing your own cannabis seeds is that you (not an unknown grower/dealer) decide precisely when to harvest the cannabis in order to deliver maximum personal satisfaction. Some cannabis users have strong preferences for specific strains which have been grown to a perfect ripeness level for them.

100% brown pistils

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Most growers would consider a crop to be over-ripe if all the pistils are brown, but there are a minority of growers who would disagree.

The next time you grow some cannabis seeds, try taking (and drying) buds at different ripeness levels and comparing the high/effects from them. You may be surprised to find you have a clear preference which influences your harvest timings for future cannabis crops.

When to harvest your outdoor crop according to sativa vs indica genetics

If you know the cannabis genetics contained in your strains it will help you estimate the approximate harvest time. Much depends on the latitude that you are growing at as well as the specific climatic conditions experienced during your grow. But in general, indica genetics tend to reach maturity faster than sativa or haze genetics.

In the northern hemisphere, late blooming Haze varieties may not be ready to harvest until late November. For northern European growers that is simply too late for outdoor growing. Knowing which outdoor strains will grow well in your conditions is part of the skill of the experienced outdoor cannabis grower.

Drying cannabis buds grown outdoors

Drying your outdoor grown cannabis plants requires careful planning. If you plan to dry them outdoors you will need a warm and dry climate, though this can be difficult to guarantee around fall/autumn as the weather often turns cooler and wetter. That’s why many outdoor growers invest in some specialist drying equipment at home.

If you are growing cannabis outdoors in the hills and countryside you will probably be used to chopping down the plants and putting the heaviest branches and buds in large sealed bags to transport home. This can be a nervous journey since the freshly harvested weed can have a powerful odour. Stick to the speed limits and don’t attract attention on the drive home!

Once the buds and branches are at home you can begin the process of drying them. Even if you never grow cannabis indoors, many outdoor growers buy a small tent and some drying racks to dry their buds in. Some people hang the larger branches from clothes hangers or a piece of cord suspended across the top of the grow tent. You will need an extraction fan and a carbon filter to eliminate the smell. Drying an outdoor cannabis harvest without odour protection is always tremendously risky when others live nearby.

Often the buds will take around a week to dry. One drying tip is to start at 60% humidity for the first few days, slowly working your way down to 55% again for a few days. After 7-10 (max) days you may wish to set your dehumidifier to 50% to dry the buds a little further.

As soon as the branches start to snap (or almost snap) you can be sure that the buds on those branches are just about ready to be put into your curing jars. Be aware that the larger buds/blooms can take a day or two longer to dry.

Buds that are bright green at harvest often fade to a paler, less vivid appearance after drying. Often, you may notice brown colourations and perhaps even some blue or red hues as drying/curing progresses.

Trimming cannabis buds grown outdoors

Some growers don’t mind waiting until the buds are dry before trimming off the excess leaf material. Usually, after around a week of drying the buds are considered dry enough to think about jarring and curing. This is usually around the time that the branches have dried sufficiently to snap. The only problem with waiting until the buds are dry is that you may lose some of the trichomes when trimming dry buds.

For that reason, many growers prefer to try to trim the buds when freshly picked, or shortly afterwards. Some rubber gloves help keep your fingers clean, and a good pair of scissors (or trimming scissors) is highly recommended. From time to time, you may need to scrape the scissor hash off the blades to save for a post-harvest celebration smoke/vape. The trimmed leaf material can be frozen and used to make hashish or cannabis concentrates.

Curing and storing your outdoor cannabis crop

Curing and storing your outdoor grown cannabis buds is exactly the same process as that used for indoor cannabis harvests. If you have dried your cannabis well (without over-drying it and losing your delicious terpenes) you are ready to cure your buds.

Curing is the slow process of slowly removing the last remnants of moisture while allowing the buds to reach a state of preservation where they will last for months, or years. During this process the aroma can intensify to produce quite breathtaking flavours and aromas. A great terpene profile not only makes your buds taste delicious, they may also modulate the type of high you experience.

As the cannabis buds reach the curing stage they have lost most, but not all, of their moisture. The final curing stage is the last, and perhaps the most important part for the connoisseur cannabis lover. Growers often use glass jars. Plastic containers are less desirable since they can be softened or discoloured by the sticky resin. The well trimmed buds are placed in the glass jars leaving a centimetre or two at the top of the jar. The jars are sealed, and left in the dark.

The jars are then unsealed occasionally, once or twice a day, to allow any moisture to be released. Some people call this ‘burping’ the jars. Two or three weeks is considered a minimum cure time. Many connoisseurs prefer to wait longer, feeling that curing is complete after around 1-2 months. The cured buds will vape with a clean flavor, without a ‘chlorophyll’ taste.

Once your buds are fully cured you may prefer to store them in a freezer to fully preserve potency and ensure no degradation. Never store your buds in a high temperature environment (e.g. a hot loft space) if you want the best long term storage.

Fine control of the cannabis curing process with Boveda or Integra humidity sachets

You bought the best cannabis seeds and you grew them to the best of your ability. The last thing you want is to open your jars to find that the buds are mouldy because they were insufficiently dry.

Likewise, you don’t want to open your jar of precious buds and find that they are just too dry and crispy, with poor taste and aroma. This can feel like the buds are low quality and too old with a harsh effect when vaped/smoked.

When you open your jars you want to see and smell premium quality buds, with optimized potency, a well cured aroma and a delicious taste. One way to help achieve this is with humidity control sachets from companies like Boveda or Integra.

These sachets release moisture if your buds are too dry, or they absorb moisture if the buds are damp. You can select different products from these companies. From Boveda we recommend the “58% Humidity” sachets. From Integra we recommend the “55% humidity” packs.

Frequently asked questions about harvesting cannabis

If you have never grown cannabis outdoors then it’s something you may want to try. The costs of growing outdoor cannabis are far lower than indoor grown cannabis. You won’t need a grow light, you won’t need to pay for energy costs either. If you are worried about your carbon footprint, then outdoor growing holds a lot of attractions. Even growers at extreme northern and southern latitudes are able to grow autoflower seeds outdoors in short summers.

Do environmental factors affect the cannabis grow season?

Growing and harvesting outdoor grown cannabis really is enjoyable and rewarding fun. Understanding your own climate, the onset of spring and fall/autumn is an important starting point. Environmental factors play a large part in determining which strains will best suit you. You need to select the best cannabis seeds for your own requirements and climate.

Many outdoor cannabis growers grow both autoflower seeds as well as outdoor feminised photoperiod cannabis seeds. The grower can usually rely on their autoflower plants finishing in time even if stormy fall/autumn weather arrives early and damages the photoperiod cannabis harvest.

Daylight hours and outdoor cannabis flowering

Indoors growers use a 12/12 light schedule to artificially induce bloom. But outdoors the plants go into flowering a considerable time before 12/12 outdoor light conditions are reached. Precise timings for bloom can of course be vary from strain to strain. But most of them are triggered to start flowering when daylight hours drop to around 14 hours per day and below.

In the northern hemisphere at Amsterdam latitude there are around 16-17 hours of daylight at the peak of summer. In the northern hemisphere, outdoor cannabis plants usually start preparing to flower in August when daylight hours are quickly diminishing.

Between 10 – 25 August daylight hours start to decline from 15hrs per day to 14hrs. This is often the period outdoor plants start preparing to go into flowering. 12/12 outdoor light conditions are seen around 25 September at Amsterdam latitude. Around 25th October there are only around 10 hours of daylight. This (or before) is usually the date that most outdoor strains are harvested.

You will need to know the average last frost date for your region and be careful to put your seedlings/plants outside after that date.

Some growers will germinate their cannabis seeds indoors and grow them under indoor lights for a few weeks to give them the best possible start before planting them outdoors, after the last frost. The best outdoor cannabis growers will gradually ‘harden’ their seedlings by exposing them increasingly to outdoor conditions before they are finally transplanted outdoors.

The seedlings will need to be protected with slug/snail pellets. Some growers also surround their grow location with thorny brambles to give further protection from animals such as deer, goats and rabbits.

If the soil quality is poor, it can be easily improved with high quality compost from the garden centre. This will help improve the quality of your outdoor cannabis harvest. Once the plants are settled in their final grow position you can let them do the rest of the work. Just protect them from thieves and wild animals. In times of drought you may need to transport water to the grow site, but other than that there will be little to do.

Is there an optimal time to harvest your plants?

In an ideal world, you will know your own preferences for early vs late harvested cannabis. And with a little experience you will soon feel quite confident about judging cannabis ripeness from trichome appearance or pistil appearance. But the astute outdoor cannabis grower also has to consider the local weather patterns and plan ahead carefully.

If winter storms are due earlier than normal then it makes sense to harvest your plants early rather than allow them to get battered by bad weather. If you cannot be certain of the onset of winter weather, then it may be worth considering growing autoflower seeds rather than relying completely on photoperiod outdoor strains.

Some outdoor cannabis growers feel that growing their plants under natural sunlight gives the buds an extra ‘kick’, delivering a particularly satisfying high. Outdoor grown cannabis is certainly cheaper to grow with no energy costs. It can also be great fun finding an outdoor grow location and watching your cannabis seeds grow into healthy, heavy yielding plants. However you go about it, enjoy your outdoor growing and good luck!

4 Comments . Leave new

Generally your guides are good, so thanks. But this one on drying is not comprehensive enough. For instance, how do I dry the plants? If outside is it best to hang the whole plant upside down from a tree so the wind and the sun dry it with little risk of mould or do you strip all the good bits from the plants, discarding the trunk and branches and just dry the flowers/leaves in some other way?

Indeed you are right, this blog is not that extensive. Here you can check out an updated document about drying and curing https://dutch-passion.com/en/blog/the-best-way-to-dry-and-cure-cannabis-n918

Growing 3 plants 8 to 10 ft. Fertilized with raw fish only. My plants are as wide as high! I’need 2 strong men to pull them by the roots, hose the dirt off w
ith warm water then hang whole plants by their roots for six weeks in dark un-heated garage. What say you.