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outdoor sun-grown cannabis
outdoor sun-grown cannabis

We’ve arrived in the bountiful harvest season. Crops are ripening on the tree, bush, plant and vine. Here on the farm, the cannabis harvest has begun! We start early, believing that an early cutting while the plant still has growth potential encourages a vigorous response. The first rain storm of the season schedules our first cuttings. We top 4 inches of everything that’s chunky.

Literally, the top 4 inches of the bud. We’ll gently separate the flower enough to cut it up so high that we have to hang them on metal hooks made from baling wire, just like Christmas ornaments. A good general rule with plants (so long as they still retain vigorous growth capabilities) is that cutting or harvesting will stimulate the plant, sort of a threat-response. Combine this natural plant response with the energetic, magical, nutritive addition of rainwater and we find that the plants regrow what was taken.

The 3Ds of Harvesting

It’s all about the 3 D’s: Is it Dense, is it Dank, is it Done? You like to have all three, but meeting any two of the criteria creates a sufficient standard for beginning the harvest. There are about as many different methodologies for harvesting cannabis as there are cannabis farmers. My goal is to discuss one set of methods, with the hope of participating in a conversation from which I can learn new things to apply on our farm.

Starting Harvest Early to Strengthen Plants, Improve Quality

In my experience both as a cannabis farmer and a diversified farmer of some three dozen crops, it is generally better to start harvesting early and finish on time, rather than starting on time and finishing late. In a perfect world, all cannabis would be picked at the height of ripeness. We aim to maximize the amount of ideal-window harvesting by starting early. We push the plants to finish more uniformly by removing the spear-points with the first prediction of rain. This allows nature to start us moving on the harvest, avoids some potential for mold and creates a more standardized coverage of sunlight because some of the more outspoken branches have been brought down a bit.

We then harvest in waves once per week or so, because each section of the plant will ripen as it is exposed to sunlight. By starting ahead of the curve, we are able to maintain our harvesting pattern so that the bulk of the crop is harvested at the ideal point in time. Each successive wave has the opportunity to swell and ripen, trichomes exposed to the sun and wind.

Cannabis is a xeric plant, meaning that it developed in desert-like environments. The trichomes are a water-saving adaptation, they grow around the edges of the stomata, protecting the plant from dessication while allowing the conversion of carbon dioxide and oxygen to occur. Cannabis has evolved an effective means of respiration in hot, dry climates (stoma tend to close and plants respire less the hotter the air) by means of trichome formation.

In order to guarantee a maximum of trichome formation, we believe it is important for each layer of the plant to receive a full complement of the natural elements; grown from the soil with water, exposed to the air, kissed by the fire of the sun and caressed by the moon and stars. One of our purposes in starting early and only cutting short chunks of plant each time is to make sure that every bit of the medicine we harvest has achieved its full energetic, spiritual, nutritive and medicinal potential.

How Starting Early Affects Indicas and Sativas

Many of our strains grown to full, late expression are too heavy for the modern consumer. Everything we grow is hybridized, we don’t do any pure-strain indicas or sativas (for various reasons). Our strains that tend toward the heavier, indica dominance, finish earlier than our later sativa dominant strains.

Our tendency to pick early coincides nicely for our indica strains because we prefer an earlier harvest with fewer amber trichomes and more clear to milky ones. This avoids the sedative, opioid effect of the amber trichomes. Our stronger strains contain so much opioid feeling already that we’re focusing on adding a kiss of ephemeral lightness to avoid couch-lock-chip-bag syndrome.

Early Harvest Can Help Plant Fight Mites and Mold

As farmers, the more effectively we begin to harvest while the plant is still growing vigourously, the less we deal with pests and issues. Mites, molds and mildews take advantage of weakened, stressed or dying plants. The cannabis plant is more likely to encounter pests as the season moves along, and as its focus becomes flowering it is less able to defend against them. Living things lose their defenses as they age; the cannabis plant is no exception.

We support the plants with frameworks, remove excess leaf and sweep the insides to promote light and air movement. As the end approaches, we tell each plant to focus its energy by removing the largest, densest tops. This starts our harvest, and just as importantly, creates new light and air movement to the parts of the plant most likely to develop disease issues.

Protecting Your Crop Investment

Beginning the harvest early safeguards the investment in time, energy and money you’ve made by helping to protect your later harvests. Invariably as the season moves along, everything ripens up at once and only so much can be harvested at one time. Growers who start early are more likely to finish with a higher consistency of quality and less weather-damaged product. Weed doesn’t mind getting rained on, but if the plant is dying and has seen several storms, it starts to look like shit.

A Farmer’s Duty to Grow Dank Cannabis

As cannabis farmers, we have a duty to the future of our industry to continue to increase the quality of our product. Every season we refine our techniques, truly getting better with age. We do honor to our cultural heritage by stepping forward as leaders in the industry.

You can put all the crops I grow into one category: Quality. I couldn’t have articulated this until recent conversations with Leo Stone, CEO of Aficionado Seeds. We agreed that a wholehearted focus on quality production is the cornerstone to a genuinely successful enterprise.

Quality is a holistic concept that starts with the health of the land. In order to have healthy farmers, families, communities, we must honor the land and tend it so that we hand greater bounty to our children then we ourselves first encountered. We exist in the cycle of the seasons as farmers, stewards of a powerful plant that has been with humankind for eternity. With our practices, we do honor to our people, our place in timespace and to the Earth, sharing and spreading the love and good energy.

That’s How I Harvest. How About You?

I’ve shared my harvesting process. How do you handle your harvest? You can comment below with your insights and experience.

13 COMMENTS

  1. I harvest for flavor. I want full phenolic ripeness. After wet trimming and drying on the racks I can smell the difference and confirm it by checking harvest dates. There are diminishing pushes of white hairs. Somewhere between the third and forth set at about 20% white hairs for my indica hybrids is where I cut. I do a staggered harvest as well for similar reasons because of weather and plant health while hoping to catch the sweet spot. This year I left some to get over ripe and explore the nose as it further evolves.

  2. Thank you for sharing your processing and adding to the discussion. Smelling the difference as the proper cure sets in is a huge factor for me, appreciate you noting it. Great success! 🙂

  3. Try reading this on an iPad. Why use a light gray 8 point font and DISABLE pinch & zoom? This site was obviously designed by a young millennial. Mark my words: you’ll regret this the day you turn 40!

  4. Is it common for some strains to finish early?

    My 8 week chem dog, finished at 45 days in the light dep, with 90% of all the hairs turned, purple leaves and milky trichs.

    They were all super healthy, no bugs and just given teas and top dressings their whole life, about 5 months.

    Best!
    Jax

  5. As a small scale grower I find this fascinating. Does the early harvest have anything to do with seed production? Or do you grow entirely feminized plants? And what do you do with the buds you clip early? Do you use them in tinctures or are they for smoke?

  6. We simply stagger our harvest, by strain finish times. A mixture of early, mid & late varieties. Strictly by overall look of senescence also, haven’t scoped a trich in years. This tipping, sounds like a method born from trimming out Botrytis.

  7. One thing I’ve always made a point of that I hardly hear of others doing: dunk the plants in water as they are harvested. This can remove vast amounts of dust, previous foliar sprays, dirt and dead bugs. Hang the branches outside for a half an hour to drip before bringing them into the dry room.

    This one step, while adding some time, brings about a much cleaner product.

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