How to Plan Ahead for Your Cannabis Harvest
Harvesting cannabis plants involves much more than just cutting off the buds and letting them dry. Kent Gruetzmacher explains that being organized with all the tools needed will make the harvesting process as smooth as possible.
Whether you are growing cannabis indoors or outdoors, nothing beats the anticipation of an upcoming harvest. After months of hard work and planning, everything comes together with a garden full of beautiful flowers.
While you should be happy you made it this far, your work isn’t over yet. Not only is harvest time labor-intensive but it also requires a good deal of planning. During this critical period, you must ensure flowers are harvested at the right time, while also taking care not to damage them in the process.
Planning for your cannabis harvest will ensure all tasks are done correctly and finished in a timely manner. The same goes for your drying room, as careful planning will help ensure you create the best possible drying environment for those delicate flowers.
Keep a Close Eye on Your Garden
The first step in preparing for an upcoming cannabis harvest is to keep a close eye on your flowers. Luckily, there are some key indicators on buds that show exactly when flowers are at their peak ripeness. By following these signs, you will harvest your crop when cannabinoid levels are peaking and terpene profiles are the most pronounced.
If you don’t have a frame of reference for gauging flower ripeness, there are a good deal of resources available online and within grow books. Coupled with a magnifying glass for inspecting flowers, you have all the tools needed to harvest at the perfect time.
Pistils are referred to as hairs on cannabis flowers. With immature flowers, pistils generally remain white. As a cannabis crop matures, pistils begin turning red/orange. Most growers agree that a crop is ready when 70 percent of the pistils have changed from white to red or orange.
Trichomes are the white crystals covering cannabis flowers and sugar leaves. Trichomes are responsible for producing cannabinoids like THC and CBD, as well as the terpenes that give different cannabis strains their distinct aromas. You’ll know your crop is ready for harvest when more than 50 percent of the trichomes have turned milky.
Gather Necessary Harvest Tools
Once you know when your crop will be ready to harvest, you should start amassing the necessary tools required to get the job done. Garden shears are important tools used during the harvest process. Growers use shears to cut down full plants, then buck them down into more manageable sizes for drying. Always having a few pairs of sharp and well-oiled shears on hand is a great way to ensure a smooth harvest.
While shears are critical for cutting large stalks and bucking branches, scissors are needed for more detailed work. Most growers use scissors for cleaning up fan leaves and wet trimming during harvest. Scissors are also very handy for cutting through plant supports like tape, string, and trellis netting.
Tubs are another critical tool for harvesting cannabis. With tubs, growers transport fresh plant material from the garden to the drying room. For most home gardens, a couple of nice plastic tubs are all you will need for this task.
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Assemble Additional Materials
Other than harvest tools, there are other materials you will need to ensure a smooth harvest. Planning ahead and gathering these materials will help ensure you don’t have to make random trips to the store while also harvesting your plants.
Turkey bags are the most popular means for storing and curing cannabis flowers during harvest. Certain growers also like to use turkey bags while trimming to keep different strains organized, as well as to separate shake and popcorn buds from prized colas. Whatever the use, turkey bags will make your life easier during harvest.
There are several cleaning materials growers keep close when harvesting. You should have vegetable oil and/or rubbing alcohol at the job site to keep hands and tools clean. It’s also a good idea to stock up on paper towels and rags for cleaning up.
Setting up the Drying Room
Once you have accurately timed your harvest and amassed the appropriate materials, it’s time to get your drying room prepped. The key for properly drying cannabis is creating an environment with balanced temperature, humidity, and airflow. If you fail to properly design your drying space, it can lead to mold outbreaks or damaged flowers.
Once you have chosen the space, you need to figure out exactly how you are going to hang fresh plant material. The most popular drying methods for hobbyist growers are drying lines and drying racks. Each of these methods have their own benefits related to overhead cost, ease-of-use, and overall durability.
Airflow is one of the most important elements in drying room design. Your drying room must be equipped with an exhaust fan that will exchange stale air for fresh air within the room. Exhaust fans are also critical for regulating temperature and humidity levels. It is also a good idea to use wall fans to keep air circulating and ensure there aren’t any dead pockets where mold might propagate.
Depending on the climate where you live, you will likely need to use a dehumidifier in your drying room. As mold grows in places with humidity levels higher than 50 percent, humidifiers are essential in keeping such pathogens under control. Humidifiers are also very helpful for drying your cannabis flowers at the ideal rate.
The goal of any harvest operation is to get the crop harvested in a reasonable amount of time, while also ensuring the flowers aren’t damaged. Yet, you cannot realize this goal without proper planning and preparation. Planning ahead will save you time and energy down the road.
There is no question that harvest is the most exciting time for cannabis growers. While you should certainly revel in the anticipation of a bountiful harvest, you must also consider harvesting cannabis is hard work that takes a certain level of skill. Planning your upcoming harvest is a great way to expand your knowledge of cannabis cultivation, while also protecting the quality of your crop.
Written by Kent Gruetzmacher | Writer, Owner of KCG Content
Kent Gruetzmacher MFA is a Colorado-based writer and owner of the writing and marketing firm KCG Content. Kent has been working in the cannabis and hydroponics space for over a decade. Beginning in California in 2009, he has held positions in cultivation, operations, marketing, and business development. Looking specifically to writing, Kent has worked with many of the leading publications and marketing agencies in the cannabis space. His writing has been recognized by such icons as Steve D’Angelo and Rick Simpson.