When And How To Harvest Outdoor Marijuana Plants
The harvest is another crucial stage in your plants’ lives; in some ways, it’s the most important of all. The harvest makes or breaks your end result, making it the deciding factor of whether or not your entire growing season will be considered a success.
You would be making a serious mistake if you planned on going into the harvesting time without doing the proper amounts of research ahead of time. You need to understand the seasons and the sun, your personal security, what to do to prepare for the harvest, and what exactly happens during the flowering period. Read on to gain a better understanding of these elements of the all-important harvest:
Change of seasons
Throughout your cannabis plants’ lives, you have been monitoring a fundamental tool for measuring energy intake and time: the sun. It is the most consistent and important element of any kind of gardening. It will be equally important at the end of your plants’ lives as it was at the beginning. Once the summer is coming to a close, you should start to again keep track of the sun and the amount of light that it is providing to your cannabis plants.
During the middle of the summer, your plants are probably receiving 14 hours or more of sunlight. In the northern hemisphere, the turning of August to September is around the time that the amount of sunlight decreases dramatically. For instance, within the month of September the loss of as much as 90 minutes of sunlight per day can be expected. This is exactly the change that causes your marijuana plants to change their energy focus to flowering instead of vegetation.
If you remember, the process of sex selection involved manipulating amounts of light in order to trick mature cannabis plants to begin flowering. This strong reaction in the plants is no accident; all plants have the strong ability to distinguish day from night. So when summer turns to fall and there are only 12 or 13 hours of daylight per day, the flowering process initiates within days.
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Because of this sensitive reaction in marijuana plants, you can manipulate them fairly easily so that they start to produce buds exactly when you want them to. They react this way to artificial lights the same way they would the natural sunlight.
This sensitivity is also why you should never plant your marijuana plants in a location that is exposed to any street lights or other artificial lights. They require properly dark nights, just as they would experience in nature during the fall. This is why growing marijuana is the easiest in a place that has four distinct seasons. If you decide to grow cannabis, you will soon see that fall is your favorite time of year.
Are you prepared to harvest?
When this time rolls around, you will probably have been looking forward to the harvesting time for months already. You have managed to keep your plants happy, healthy, and secure during the whole season, and now you can reward yourself with a high yield and a good harvest. Just like with any other step in the process of growing marijuana, there are a few tricks to harvesting successfully. You need to keep an eye out for very specific signs, and you need to know which potential mistakes are best avoided. The last thing you want is to ruin everything from a silly mistake after getting through a full season of growing.
The first most important element in successfully harvesting your plants is making sure the timing is right. This requires a careful monitoring of both the weather and your plants. If you are feeling eager and harvest too early, the potency as well as the yield could be greatly reduced. If you are too hesitant and wait until after the plants’ peak time to harvest, the potency will begin to degrade as well.
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This is why it is important to keep a close eye on the details to determine when your plants are at the perfect harvesting time. In order to know exactly when to do it, you will need to have a very thorough understanding of the flowering period’s rhythm. When in doubt, be more patient.
As soon as the flowering phase has begun, start paying attention to the sun’s timing and strength as it correlates with the seasonal changes. Use this as your means of understanding when the best time for harvesting is. You should also look at the plant itself for signs of being ready for harvesting. You should also know the weather forecast pretty well, as the weather conditions of the actual day of harvest are also crucial.
Before harvesting, you should know how exactly you are going to go about it. It will always include cutting and moving your plants, but will you move the entire plant or cut them while they are at their growing site? How will you transport them? These questions are generally a matter of security.
You can place the plants or cuttings in sealed bags so that the odor isn’t noticeable within your car. You should consider having a friend drive the route with you shortly behind, making sure the whole way is safe. You should have your drying room ready to go before you harvest your plants so you can safely begin to dry them as soon as you are there.
When to harvest
The best sign that you’re ready to harvest will be apparent all over the marijuana plant in the leaves and the buds themselves. The physical characteristics of the plant will change considerably. The larger leaves will turn a yellow-brown color which tells you that the marijuana plant is dying. The stigmas of mature plants will wither at the base of the buds, while remaining a healthy white color on top.
Another sign, and one in which there is a bit of latitude, is in the color of the marijuana buds themselves. It is a good idea to pick them at the first sign that they are losing their rich green color. If they turn brown, a sign that they’ve withered a bit, the buds will smoke more harshly. The one benefit to waiting until you near this point is that the resin glands will contain more resin, and some people don’t mind the harsher smoke since they bargain that they are receiving a stronger, more intense high. This is a personal decision and one that you’ll learn more about over your successive harvests.
The changing hours of the sunlight are of course the most important aspect of your marijuana plants’ lives. Plants are naturally in tune to the changing amounts of light and darkness that they are receiving, and the increasingly longer hours of darkness sends a signal to a plant that it must mature. Depending on where you grew your marijuana plants, and whether or not they were started indoors and then replanted, the sun will be the most important predictor in knowing that harvest is approaching.
Some cannabis growers, like those in many parts of Australia, Hawaii, and the southern parts of North America, can often get two or more harvests a year, because the sun provides plenty of light throughout the year. In that case, the marijuana plants will grow large, flower as if to reproduce naturally and then begin again. But since they are already quite large, and have plenty of leaves to catch the sunlight, the second harvest occurs in much less time than did the first.
For the rest of us though, cannabis growers in areas in which it is important to have your marijuana plants removed by the end of summer and the onset of the first frost, the sun is a lifeline to our finished product. The middle of the summer, which in the Northern Hemisphere falls on the 21st of June, has as much as 15 hours of sunshine. Marijuana plants will not typically flower unless they receive at least 12 hours of darkness a day. Indoor cannabis growers are typically able to harvest more often because they control the light. The trade-off for the outdoor grower is receiving more in less frequent harvests. If you only have a few marijuana plants, it is some- times possible to cover them completely and induce harvesting, but this is not a functional reality for most cannabis growers.
The light and darkness factor works 170th ways though. Some growers will actually shine very bright lights, like halogens, on their marijuana plants during the night in order to reset the internal clock. This is useful if you wish your plant to grow in size and not begin its flowering. In Australia some Sativa varieties can grow to 16 feet with internodes around 3 to 4 inches in variety. Obviously a plant of that size will produce a large amount of recoverable crop, but getting it that size requires a year-round growing season. To get it that size they may need to convince the marijuana plant that it is not quite time to flower, and that perhaps it should continue using its energy toward leaf production and upward reaching.
Another good way of identifying a general time for harvesting your plants is thinking about the September Equinox. This is not a clear rule, however, so don’t blindly harvest on this day. It is a good point in the calendar for knowing when to stop watering. You should cease your regular watering schedule a few weeks before the September Equinox. As the date gets closer, be extra careful to notice any differences in your cannabis plants that might mean they are ready for the harvest. Your plants should stop growing taller and should begin flowering instead. Focus on how fast your plants are flowering and the other physical aspects of the plant.
The most important part of choosing the correct harvest time is the flowering period. You can expect six to twelve buds per plant once their flowering phase has begun after the light has decreased. The rate will begin slowly, but then will increase rapidly (like when you make popcorn). More buds will appear, and the already existing buds will also continue to grow. When you can see that the rate of bud production is decreasing by a large amount (like when the popping rate decreases in popcorn), the flowering phase is complete.
Mark your calendar for one week after the last day of the flowering period. This is when the plants have grown as much as they are going to, making it the peak time to harvest your plants. Once again the popcorn metaphor can be useful – if you leave the popper or microwave on for too long, the kernels will start to burn. Even if there are kernels that remain unpopped, it is the right time to turn off the microwave. The same goes for marijuana plants. Although you might be missing out on a couple new buds, letting it go on too long will be a worse consequence when considering the entire yield. You never want to jeopardize the first few buds in order to get a couple more.
The most crucial element of harvesting your plants is your security. Don’t let your excitement to harvest the marijuana make you forget about your personal security. This is perhaps the important time for ensuring your safety since you can’t exactly deny the fact that you own the plants if you are caught in the act of removing them. Therefore, you need to be extra cautious in the days before and on the day itself. Don’t inform a single person that you are about to harvest, and on the actual harvesting day you should be extra careful about telling people where you are.
Until the harvest, security is mainly a matter of diverting unwanted attention away from your marijuana plants. All of this changes as the flowering period ebbs, because now you must concern yourself with your actual yield. In this situation, cannabis growers have been known to resort to some very elaborate and even over-the- top means to protect their buds from prying eyes.
While some will sleep near their ”babies” for the days immediately leading up to the harvest, others will set up trip wire that rings a bell if anyone approaches. If their site is close to home, they might keep a dog that barks a lot outside all night. Other cannabis growers simply watch the known entrance routes like a hawk. During these days the growers are irritable, cranky, and extra paranoid, but with a year’s supply (or oftentimes, even more) of cannabis at stake, can you really blame them.
It is also important to remember that all of the other security concerns still apply and the same level of care (if not more) should be taken. It is not unusual for marijuana plants to be staked out by potential thieves who are waiting for them to grow big buds so they can reap the benefits of your time and effort. The police could also have detected your plot weeks ago and be waiting for you to walk into a trap that you yourself have unwittingly set. When you show up at your site with shears, bags, and a backpack, it is hard to claim ignorance. Therefore it is important to do the following things: pick as secure a grow site as possible, and if you suspect that something is wrong, relax and walk away. After all, it’s just marijuana, it is not worth going to jail, or getting into a fight about.
How to harvest
Bring sealable bags. And if you bring like ziploc bags, make sure to bring a holdall because ziplocks are transparent (these bags are not transparant and odor free). Cut your plants into lengths that are easily transported – cut the stalks so they fit into your bags. Make sure you are not spending too much time at your site when harvesting; be efficient and fast. Just remember: all that matters is the removal and safe transport of your plants; however you do that is up to you.
Make sure your harvest is done a safe amount of time before the first frost has a chance to damage your plants. It is best to harvest on a beautiful fall day with clear skies and lots of sun. Don’t overthink this, however, as harvesting in the rain won’t be the end of the world. It will increase the drying time only by a fraction, and it will have no effect on the buds and resin glands. Don’t relax until you’re home safely with all of your plants. Once you have accomplished this, you will have very little to worry about from now on.
There isn’t a black and white way of being able to know what your yield will be like ahead of time. You can identify a few signs that will give you a basic idea of whether the yield will be really good, decent or poor. All of the factors that you have already worried about (sunlight, water, and soil) will have an impact on the final result of your yield.
You can expect a few specific quantities. For instance, if the plant is five feet tall, you should get a minimum of between two and six ounces of bud. Taller and bushier plants will produce more, of course. If any changes took places after the peak harvest time, you can expect a significantly worse yield.
Harvest twice per year
Some skilled marijuana growers are able to accomplish a double yield during a single season. One method is buying autoflowering marijuana seeds because it takes only 10 weeks for them to grow from seed to harvest.
There are some specific methods that can be used to be able to get this second harvest. A successful second harvest depends not only on how well you perform these techniques, but also where you live. If you are in a climate that is further north, your cannabis plants are most likely already vulnerable to an early frost or other seasonal changes. In that case, accomplishing a second harvest will not be as easy.
If you live in a more temperate zone where early fall is fairly mild, you might be able to successfully harvest your cannabis plants more than once during the growing season. It all depends on your technique of harvest in this case.
You can’t harvest plants normally once and then later decide you want to try a second harvest – the process begins already during the first time you harvest. Once you have removed most of the harvest (allowing only the tiny buds and most of the leaf to remain), you are ready for the next step. Immediately start up the same process that led to the first growth cycle that your plants have already been through. Add lots of water and some fresh fertilizer to stimulate another round of growth.
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You basically are just trying to get the cannabis plants back into their flowering phase so they produce more buds that you can harvest. If you leave most of the leaves, you will have a higher chance of the second flowering phase to be activated since they are what absorbs the sunlight that the plants need for growing energy.
Because the timing and intensity of the sunlight have already changed, the plants are already in their flowering phase. If you are living in a location that continues to have mild temperatures through the beginning of fall (such as in tropical climates), then you should be able to continue your plants’ vegetative phase even longer. You do this through light manipulation – simply have a light of some sort shining on the entire plant in the nighttime. This can be done with a flashlight.
If you have successfully interrupted their period of darkness normally required for the flowering stage, you will have started the plants’ growing back up again. When you want the plants to begin their second flowering phase, simply stop interrupting the darkness with your light. Keep in mind that flowering takes a couple weeks, so don’t keep the plants in their vegetative phase for too long. For instance, if the first frost or colder weather will be there within two weeks, then you should have already started up the flowering process three weeks prior.
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