Croptober is officially upon us! It’s an exciting, yet stressful time of year — You will finally be harvesting the fruits of your labor!
The proper harvesting, drying, and curing of your hard work is crucial — if you’re unprepared, things can go south quickly. Expect a swift change of season — colder temperatures and higher humidity. In this last segment of our Outdoor Grow Guide series, I have compiled a list of the top priorities to ensure a prosperous Croptober.
Pure Water Flushes
If you haven’t started flushing your plants, now is the time to get started! To guarantee clean-burning tokes, it’s best to feed your plants only pure, dechlorinated water for a minimum of two weeks before harvest. Properly flushed plants will ensure white ashes while smoking (a sign of clean flower) and provide a far smoother flavor.
Remove Fan Leaves
In order for the buds in the middle of your plants to bulk up, they need adequate light! Now is the time to strategically remove the fan leaves that block light from reaching the nugs in the middle of your canopy. As mentioned in previous Grow Guides, be very aware of any dead, crunchy leaves that your plant is shedding during the end of its life. These dead leaves can easily get stuck in between flowers or branches and become necrotic — rotting away and inviting botrytis (mold) into your pristine flowers.
Harvest in Tiers
Depending on the strain and when flowering triggered, be ready between the 7th-31st to cut down your ladies. You’ll be able to test the readiness of your flowers by the trichome maturity. Continuously scope your trichomes throughout this month and keep an eye out for the harvest signal: amber trichomes. If this is your first season, or you need a refresher, check out our Grow Guide: Harvest Time!
Big plants can be tackled in multiple tiers — enabling the plant to continue to grow throughout October, thus optimizing yields. Begin by cutting off the biggest buds at the top of your plant. After a couple of weeks, harvest the middle buds (which will have bulked up a significant amount). Finally, after one more week or so, harvest the smallest buds. This staggered technique of harvesting minimizes the overwhelming nature of croptober while also letting the entire plant mature to perfection.
Drying Your Harvest
In September’s Outdoor Grow Guide, I went over how to build the ideal drying room. If you haven’t built or designated a drying space yet, go back and check our How To: Cure and Store Marijuana guide.
For cannabis to dry properly, humidity needs to be right below 50%, and there needs to be adequate air movement. Note: avoid fans directly blowing on drying branches or nugs. To keep a perfect drying environment, dehumidifiers, fans, and HVAC are your best friends. The goal is to keep temperatures consistent between 60-70 degrees.
Secure Your Harvest
Now, this isn’t something I like to think about, but the truth is that theft happens. And this is the time of year to be particularly on guard for ganja poachers. I recommend installing a motion sensor flood light at the very least. Security cameras would be the next step if you live in a densely populated area and are concerned about your crops being stolen.
Plant Cover Crops for Winter
If you are planning on reusing your soil next year, you should consider planting some cover crops! Whether you grew in beds, pots, or gathered all of your soil into one big pile, cover crops can improve the quality of your soil. Nitrogen fixing cover crops such as field peas (you can find winter hardy varieties) will infuse your soil with more nitrogen, making more of this precious nutrient available for the next crop. If soil is left out through the winter season, it’s vulnerable to erosion — wind, rain, and snow will wash it away little by little, culminating into a significant loss by the end of the season. Clover, vetch, and rye are great winter-hardy cover crops that improve the quality and tilth while you’re not directly using the soil. If you’re intrigued by cover crops, you can learn more about them in our Grow Guide: Cover Crops.