Outdoor cannabis harvest: tips and tricks
List of contents
- When to harvest outdoor cannabis plants
- How to harvest outdoor cannabis plants
As many of you know, cannabis legalization in numerous countries has led to an increasing interest in home growing from many users who, in other circumstances, would have been forced to resort to the black market. Thanks to this, marijuana cultivation has gained numerous followers in recent years, as currently many people grow a few plants in their balconies, patios or gardens, in order to stock up on marijuana.
However, the effort made during half a year (or longer in some cases) can be ruined if you don’t take into account a series of parameters when harvesting your cannabis plants. Today we are showing you a few tricks to bear in mind to ensure you'll get high-quality buds. Nobody likes to see how the flowers they have been taking care of for months get covered in fungi due to an error!
When to harvest outdoor cannabis plants
The first thing you need to know is when to harvest your plants. Logically, the first step is reading through the traits of the strain you are cultivating, as they usually include an approximated harvest date (for example, mid-October) that normally coincides with the first weeks of autumn.
Nevertheless, this information is merely a guideline and can vary from plant to plant (even from the same strain). In addition, harvest time is also determined by the climate and growing conditions (temperature, number of hours of direct sunlight, etc). Let's see in more detail what you can do to correctly establish when to harvest your plants.
How to know it's harvest time by looking at the plant's trichomes
This is, without doubt, the most commonly employed and effective method to know when your plants are at their peak in terms of cannabinoid and terpene production, which is the perfect time to harvest them. To do this, and as you will see in much more detail in the link below, you should pay attention to the colours displayed by the stalked glandular trichomes (those small "lollipops" that cover the buds and the leaves surrounding them), which we often call resin.
A simple 40-60x magnifying glass will be enough to observe their colours, which will change throughout the flowering phase. Indeed, these trichome heads will go from transparent (immature) to a milky/amber tone (mature) during this stage. As the plant continues storing more cannabinoids and terpenes, the trichomes will change further, giving you a clue about the best time to harvest. We recommend gathering your crop when all the trichomes are milky, opaque, or whitish in color.
Here you have a translation of an article from TGA Subcool about the harvest of cannabis plants. Both the effect and taste of marijuana are directly related to its harvesting time. How to know which is the perfect time for harvest? What are trichomes and how to harvest plants depending on their colour? How to maximize your crops according to the desired effect? Here you have the answers to all these questions, with examples and personal experiences...Subcool
Climatic or safety factors
At any rate, and although you’ve already established you are harvesting in, let’s say, within 10 days, there may be some factors that could force you to change the harvest date... these are the drawbacks of outdoor cultivation!
It is best to know the local climate and adapt the strain to it. This is an example from one of our collaborators who lives in an area with lots of rain from mid-August to mid-September. What happens in this case? When growing fast-flowering varieties, the harvest time will coincide with this rainy period, something that nobody wants. But if he uses long flowering strains, he'll be able to harvest them in October without too many problems.
As you can see, the local climate can have a significant influence when choosing which variety to grow, as this choice could make the difference between a failed and a successful grow. You also need to bear in mind the theft of cannabis plants, which happens more often than we think, and tend to prompt some growers to cut their plants early in order to secure their harvest before somebody else does it for them.
How to harvest outdoor cannabis plants
Once you are more or less certain of when to harvest, it's time to carry out a series of actions that will improve the success rate of your mission of harvesting the largest possible amount of high-quality flowers without problems. Let's see a few of the most important actions:
During the plant development (vegetative phase) and right before the flowering stage, you can do some topping in order to obtain a greater number of smaller flowers. If you live in an especially humid area subject to fungi proliferation during flowering, having more small buds and fewer large colas can help to avoid a fungal attack such as botrytis. Pruning the lower part of the plant will also improve air circulation and lower the risk of future fungal infections.
As you probably know, growers usually stop feeding their plants one or two weeks before harvest in order to force them to use up all their nutrient reserves, so they can obtain "clean" plants, something that greatly improves their aromas and flavours. It's therefore advisable to stop using fertilizers - whether solid nutrients or (especially) liquid - about 15 days before the estimated harvest date. Don't worry if the leaves turn yellow, that's exactly what you want!
Whether organic or mineral, using silicon-rich nutrients throughout the cultivation will help the plant to better withstand pathogenic pests and fungi attack. Silica Blast by Botanicare and The Hype Company's Samax are excellent silicon sources. Similarly, many growers use a root stimulator during the last 2-3 weeks of flowering to boost the plant's immune system, and make it more resistant to fungi and other sources of stress.
In a similar way to nutrients, it is advisable to avoid overwatering your plants towards the end of the growing season (especially outdoors). The objective of this is to slightly reduce the water intake in order to harvest plants with a lower degree of humidity in their tissues, something that, on one hand, will promote the drying process, and on the other will help lower the chances of a fungal infection, which could ruin the harvest in a matter of days (or even hours).
In some cases, it's possible that certain parts of the plant mature faster than others. Should this happens, you'll have to harvest the ones that are ready and wait a few more days for the rest to ripen properly. This way, you won't only gather all the parts at their peak of ripeness, but you'll also secure part of the harvest as you get to dry the weed. This is a cultivation technique that can save you some problems, both in terms of the rain and the dreaded thieves.
Rains and foliar treatments
Ideally, your plants shouldn't get wet (for any reason) during the last weeks of cultivation, whether as a consequence of the rain or any foliar treatment with phytosanitary products. The drier the buds, the less chance of a fungal attack occurring; and you'll also improve the drying process. For this reason, many people cover their plants with some type of clear plastic during the last weeks of cultivation, greatly reducing the risk of fungal infections. Using stakes or support nets is also a good idea, as late summer storms usually come with strong winds that can split entire branches.
Pests (fungi, caterpillars)
You've seen some tricks to prevent some dreaded fungi, such as powdery mildew, mildew, or botrytis, from attacking your plants. Besides the above-mentioned remedies, you can also use preventive products throughout the cultivation, and especially right before the flowering phase. This will be the perfect moment to apply some type of broad-spectrum fungicide, as well as Bacillus Thuringiensis (to fight caterpillars), Bacillus subtilis (powdery mildew), and Trichoderma (botrytis).
How to dry your outdoor cannabis crop
Once you have successfully reached the end of the growing season and harvested your outdoor plants, it's time to dry your buds, a vital process in which you can't afford to make mistakes. Basically, you need to find a cool, dry, dark, and well-ventilated place to leave your plants to dry for two weeks. You can hang the whole plant (or its branches) or use a circular drying net, or even a clothesline. The temperature and humidity should be around 20ºC and 50%, but you can find more information in our post about drying marijuana buds.
These tips will ensure an outdoor harvest of maximum yield. We hope they will help you achieve the perfect harvest! Of course, and as always, we encourage you to share your tricks or doubts with us and the rest of our readers... together we learn more!