Growing outdoor cannabis does have it’s benefits as you are growing in natural (free) light, have an unlimited amount of fresh air and don’t have to rely on electronic devices. However there are also negative sides on a outdoor grow. Think about: Cold/wet weather, pests and neighbours that could steal or ruin your plants. All of these issues could make it pretty hard to harvest perfect buds, at the right moment. In this article we have listed some tips and tricks thats helps you to improve the quality of your outdoor cannabis harvest.
1. Choosing the right moment
All cannabis varieties are anual plants. This means that their life-cycle (From germination to maturity) happens in just one season. So you will have one chance to harvest a plant at the right moment before it “dies”. The length of this season varies per strain and it’s genetics.
Strains that are evolved from plants that were located around the equator(mostly sativa) do need very long, warm summers to ripen fully. They need a long season. On the other side, plants that have ancestors from colder areas with shorter days, often finish earlier (because winter comes faster in these ares. These are mainly the Indica types. However most strains we grow today are a mix of indica/sativa and they will be ready around september-October.
To choose the exact right moment you need to keep a close look on the buds and it’s trichomes. The best way to do this is using a macro lens for your phone/camera or magnifying glass and watch them from up close. As your plant slowly ripens, the trichomes will start to change colour:
- Transparant: The first weeks of flowering, the trichomes will be transparant and clear which can be easily seen with a close-up look on your buds. Transparant trichomes mean that they are somehow “empty”. They do not contain many cannabinoids yet and the buds are not potent at all. This is too early to harvest!
- White/Milky: In this phase, the trichomes are getting a milky white colour and the transparancy is slowly decreasing. The colour white means that the trichome is filling up with the cannabinoid THC. The longer you wait the more trichomes become white. If you want to achieve a energetic, head high, the right moment to harvest is when most trichomes are fully white.
- Amber: If you wait even longer, you will notice that some of the trichomes heads starts to turn amber/brownish. This means that the THC is turning into CBN (Cannabinol). This cannabinoid will give a more physically, “couch lock” effect. Depending on which effect you’d like, you could wait untill more trichomes are amber before you harvest.
Our recommendation: Chop them down when +- 20% of all trichomes are amber. This will give you a nice balanced effect of both cannabinoids.
Trichomes slowly turning white.
2. Determine which buds are ripe enough
When growing indoors, you will often see that all buds are ripe enough to harvest at the exact same time. This is mostly due to artificial lighting (sometimes from more then 1 source) and letting the plant grow in a certain way ( Low/high Stress training). This leads to a room without much shade so the light will shine all the way through the lower leaves/nugs.
This can be different when growing outdoors. You are depending on the movement of just 1 light source (Sun) and this leads to some parts of the plant not getting enough (or less) light. Next to that, outdoor plants are more bushier and bigger. This means that there can be variation in the ripeness of the nugs. The outer, more exposed nugs wil ripen first. The inner nugs that are in the shade of the plant will ripen a few days later.
At the right moment, it could be just fine to harvest them all at once. However if you are a perfectionist that wants all buds to be identical in potency/quality, you could harvest the ripe ones first. Then let the inner buds stay on a little longer so they can ripen further.
3. Watch the weather
A cannabis plant matures and behaves mostly based on the circumstances of their surroundings (Light hours, temperatures and seasons). Before a plant is fully riped and ready to be cut, there is a big chance that the weather has going through some changes. Think about wet, cold periods or rainstorms and high humidities.
This doesn’t mean that it’s over and your plants will be ruined because they are not living in their favourite circumstances. But you will need to pay close attention and watch your plants everyday. Weather conditions could fasten the harvest moment, think about high humidity conditions that will cause bud rot if you wait too long. In that cause timing your harvest is very important.
The trick is to balance the ripening of your plant with certain weather conditions that could ruin them to find the right moment to harvest.
When it comes to temperatures, it’s the coldness you need to be aware of. Cold nights could be an attack on the health of your plant which results in lower quality yields. So sometimes it’s better to harvest your plants a little earlier then let them ripe in a freezing conditions.
However a cannabis plant is strong enough to withstand short, “light freeze” periods. A temperature between 0 and -2,5 Degrees Celcius for up to 3 hours is not a big problem. If these periods get colder and longer, you will notice the first problem with your plant.
The biggest struggle with frost is the fact that ice-crystals will freeze the plant-tissue and damage it’s cells. This leads to the decrease of metabolism and general functions of the plant. The plant will grow slower and is not able to transport minerals and water properly. The leaves will start to wilt and become dark green and crispy. The longer a plant is exposed to these conditions, the more damaged it will be.
Fact: Plants in pots are more vulnerable for cold then plants in open ground. Their soil will freeze quicker because the pot is exposed to cold air from all sides.
When it comes to rain, it’s a bit like the frost issue. It’s not a problem when there is a bit of rain for short periods of time. However: Longer periods of heavy rain/wet weather will cause problems! Bud-rot and other fungus loves wet conditions and it’s just a matter of time that they take over your plant. But how to avoid them?
Let’s say your cannabis isn’t fully riped yet but there buds already look nice and there is a period of rain coming. Then make sure that you know exactly how much and long it will rain + What the weather will be in the following days.
If the following days, after the rain, are warm and dry, there is no problem to leave your plants outside. However if the rain is there to stay for a longer period of time, you have to decide and take your losses by harvesting your plants a little early. This will prevent mould/ Bud-rot to completely ruin them. Another option is to place your plants inside for a few days.
4. Setting up the drying area
Drying is an art and when done wrong, it can ruin all your hard work in a few days. The most important thing when it comes to drying is offering your fresh buds the perfect environment. Fungus/ mould can spread quickly if the humidity is too high and if light is entering the room, the breakdown of THC will continue. Therefor we have listed a few requirements you need to follow to succesfully dry your cannabis:
- Keep the humidity in the “dry room” between 50-65%
- keep the temperature between 15C and 21C (60-70 Fahrenheit)
- Make sure the room is always as dark as possible
- Cannabis is very sticky, so watch out for dust/hairs floating through the room
- Make sure no insects/bugs can enter the room as they could still mess with your buds
- If you need to transport your fresh chopped buds, put them in a clean, dry bucket. Try to bring them to the drying room as quick as possible.
- The best moment to harvest and transport is when temperatures are cool and it’s not fully light. Bright sunlight and heat breaks down THC and could increase the humidity in your transport bag/bucket.
- When harvesting a guerilla grow, make sure you transport the buds in a smell proof bucket/bag and harvest when you expect the least people to be around.
- Cut your plants with a clean scissor/bypass pruners. Spores of mould could infect your fresh trimmed buds.
- Use alcohol to desinfect the cuts on the branches of your buds, they turn brown quickly and are vulnerable for mould/bud-rot when drying