Harvest is the most exciting and also the most stressful time of the entire outdoor grow cycle. Six or more months of hard work and a whole year’s income ride on this small window of time, and it can make or break your operation. Here are some of the most important things to do before harvest to ensure success and avoid common mistakes.
1. Make sure your drying space is ready.
Clean and sanitize your drying area. Post-harvest contamination is a huge issue in regulated markets, so you want to have a good, clean start. Pull out your fans and dehumidifiers, clean them and test them to make sure they work. Acquire more if you do not have enough. Make sure you have a lot of ventilation and airflow to prevent post-harvest fungal issues. Buy a humidity monitor for your drying area and try to keep it as close to 50% relative humidity (RH) as possible. Especially after the first day.
2. Decide how you are going to harvest, dry and separate buds from plants, and calculate how much space you will need to do this.
Not having enough drying space is one of the most common mistakes new farmers make. This choice can also affect drying time and ultimately the quality of finished flower. Options include:
- Harvest, hang and dry whole plants and handle sorting later.
- Harvest and break down plants into individual branches and hang.
- Remove buds wet, and then dry the flower on screens.
Post-harvest contamination is a huge issue in regulated markets, so you want to have a good, clean start. Puffin Farm's drying area is cleaned and sanitized before harvest begins. Photo by David Goodman.
3. Scout plants for botrytis and fungal issues frequently.
As harvest approaches, depending on your location, the weather may be getting cooler and wetter. Any infected buds need to be removed daily, or the fungus can spread rapidly. After harvest, continue to check drying material, as mold can take hold in the drying area and destroy your harvest.
4. Watch the weather and be prepared to harvest early due to ongoing rain or extended temperatures below 25 degrees F.
Your beautiful crop can turn to mush quickly if the weather does not cooperate. An early harvested crop can still make high-quality concentrates. You may get less for it, but better than nothing if your crop is destroyed. The plants can handle temperatures lower than you would think, so do not panic and harvest if the weather is 26 to28 degrees F at night. The plants can freeze and thaw quite a bit without harm. It is extended freezing that is an issue. Do not panic if it rains a little, as well. It is constant, ongoing rain that is a problem.
5. Line up sufficient labor to take down and process plants, especially if you are going to screen dry and do a lot of leaf removal prior to drying.
Dr. Jade Stefano is co-founder and CEO at Puffin Farm, a Washington State sungrown cannabis producer and processor licensed since 2014. Stefano is on the Board of Directors of the Washington Sungrowers Industry Association, a non-profit that advocates and lobbies for sungrown cannabis farmers’ interests in the state. She holds an undergraduate degree in Biology from Reed College and is a state-licensed Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine. At Puffin Farm, Stefano oversees operations, product development and co-manages crop production with her husband, Benjamin Short. She has been a cultivator for more than 20 years.