It takes roughly three months to grow a marijuana clone to full maturity. When starting from seed, it can take even longer. After putting in that much time and labor throughout the growing process, the last thing a gardener wants to do is botch the harvest. After all, when and how a gardener harvests the marijuana crop will have a dramatic impact on the finished product’s flavor and overall quality. If a gardener is growing cannabis for more than personal use, the flavor and quality of the finished product will affect its marketability and profitability.
Although not technically part of the growing process, it is usually up to the cannabis horticulturist to implement a harvesting technique. Just like the growing process, the harvesting process should be approached in a series of stages. And, also similar to the growing process, there is more than one way to obtain good results. However, certain guidelines should be followed to ensure the grower reaches the full potential of his or her garden.
Patience, patience, patience. It cannot be stressed enough. It is very easy to get overly excited as the marijuana plants reach the final stages of flowering. Many novice growers make the mistake of harvesting before the plants are actually ready. Many years ago, when I began cannabis gardening, I was guilty of making this common mistake. All I can advise is: be patient. In many cases a gardener’s patience will be rewarded in both an increase in yield and in quality.
The average length of cannabis’s flowering stage is around eight weeks. As the plants approach the 7th week of flowering, a grower can start to monitor the visual signs of maturity. The best tool for this job is a magnifying glass or pocket microscope. Many growers choose a magnifying tool with the magnification power of between 10x and 30x. With one of these devices a gardener can closely examine the trichomes and make a decision on when to harvest based on their concentration.
The trichomes are the essential oil glands that harbor the vast majority of the plant’s cannabinoids, including THC and CBD. As trichomes mature, they turn from a translucent color to a cloudy white color, and then, finally, to a dark amber color. The key is to harvest when the vast majority of the trichomes have become white and cloudy. This usually means there are also a fair amount of amber and clear trichomes. The idea is to maximize the amount of “ripe” trichomes. If a grower does not have access to a magnifying tool, the old school “red hair” method can be used to determine when to harvest. As the pistols on the flowers mature, they change from a white color to a reddish brown color. Before the days of using magnifying tools to determine maturity, it was common for growers to harvest when the majority of the pistols on the marijuana flowers became red.
In order to remove excess salts from the medium and the plant, a grower should implement a flush during the last week or two of the flowering stage of growth. This can be somewhat difficult to time out if experimenting with an unfamiliar strain. For most strains, the flush would begin at the end of the seventh week of flowering. There are many different flushing agents available for purchase. Each product is a little different so be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions. Another approach to flushing is to simply stop feeding the plants any fertilizer and instead provide only pH balanced water for the remainder of the plant’s lives. Marijuana plants that are not properly flushed can become a finished product which contains residual salts. This will adversely affect the flavor of the finished product and its marketability.
Wet vs Dry Trimming
After patiently waiting for the plants to mature and properly flushing, it is time to start cutting the plants for harvest. First things first, all the large fan leaves should be removed from the plant. At this point, the grower must decide whether he or she wants to trim some of the leaf material remaining around the flowers while the plant is still wet or wait to trim until after the drying process is completed. The biggest advantage of wet trimming is that it can be done more quickly than dry trimming. This is assuming the trimming will be done by hand. We’ll get to automatic trimmers in a minute.
The reason why wet trimming is faster is because the majority of the plant material intended to be removed is perpendicular to the flowers. This makes it easy to access and trim with a scissors. On the other hand, when the plant material is completely dried, it becomes stuck to the flowers and takes a little more time to remove (when done by hand). Many hobby growers still rely on trimming by hand, while many commercial growers use machines to automate at least a portion of the harvest. Ultimately, a grower needs to make the choice as to which method will work best for him or her.
The drying process is the process in which the plants are hung up to be dried. Most growers will simply cut the plant into sections that are easy to manage and hang them upside-down on a series of strings or wires. The temperature and humidity of the drying area are the keys to a successful drying process. The ideal temperature for the drying area is 65-75 degrees F. The ideal humidity for the drying area is 45-55 percent. It is also important that the drying process is done in the dark. When done correctly, the drying process should take about 6-12 days. The branches and/or stems snapping instead of bending is a good indicator that the drying process is complete. At this point, it is time to remove the buds from the stems, do a final manicuring by hand, and begin the curing process.
Trim machines offer automation to one of the most tedious tasks in marijuana horticulture: the trimming process. Trimming large amounts of marijuana can be time consuming and costly. Trim machines are devices in which cannabis flowers are automatically trimmed. Most of these devices require the flowers to be dried. It is important to know that not all trim machines are created equally. Some trim machines operate at radically high RPMs, which not only creates a lot of noise, but can potentially damage the quality of the finished product. The better trim machines emphasize gentleness and put quality at the top of the priority list. The better trim machines are also easy to dismantle and clean for quick and effective maintenance.
As previously mentioned, after the drying process the flowers should be removed from the stems for the curing process. The curing process is essentially the grand finale of the harvest process. During the curing process the flowers continue to dry (very slowly) and their flavor is enriched. A good or bad cure can make or break an entire harvest. Most hobbyists rely on glass jars for the curing process. Each jar should be filled with dried and manicured cannabis flowers to around 3/4th full. These jars should then be stored in a cool, dark place where they can be examined daily. For the first week or two the jars should be opened (“burped”) once or twice a day. This lets out some of the built up humidity and lets in some fresh air. After the first week or so, the jars can be opened less frequently (anywhere from once a day to once every other day). After a couple of months the curing process is complete and the marijuana should be at its peak flavor.
Like other dried herbs, properly dried cannabis can be stored for years and still retain flavor and quality. Many growers looking for long-term storage solutions choose glass containers. There are also some manufacturers that make specialty containers specifically for cannabis storage. These containers help maintain ideal humidity levels and protect the marijuana’s quality. Long-term storage of cannabis is best achieved in a cool, dark place. It is also important to leave the storage container undisturbed as much as possible as jostling will diminish the quality.
After trimming cannabis flowers, a grower will be left with a pile of left over trim material. This material can be easily converted into usable extracts. Edibles and/or smokable concentrates can be easily made from trim material with little more than household items. A quick search on the internet can provide detailed instructions to growers on how to turn trim material into usable products.
There is a world of difference between marijuana that was properly grown, flushed, dried, and cured and marijuana that was not. Higher quality and more flavorful marijuana is not only more enjoyable for the grower, but is also more valuable on the market and is, in turn, more profitable. After all the time and labor invested into a marijuana growing operation, it makes no sense to have a poorly conducted harvest. In fact, the harvest is the holy grail of the flowering process and the entire marijuana cultivation process. It is ultimately the prize sought after by anyone who has ever decided to grow cannabis. Take each harvest as an opportunity to expand your knowledge and fine-tune your trade. As with other aspects of growing cannabis, becoming a master of harvesting comes with much experience and experimentation.
By: Eric Hopper
Grow Industrial Hemp: A Complete Guide
Hemp and marijuana are known to be the two different species of the Cannabaceae plant family. If you are planning to industrial hemp, you must pay focus on the leaves and stalk of the plant. Large-scale industrial hemp cultivators grow these plants to obtain their oil-rich and highly nutritious seeds.
Industrial hemp usually enjoys a vigorous growth with length and lanky stalks as well as deep taproots. If you are likely to grow industrial hemp on your farm, you can expect the crop to be ready for harvest in four months.
Listed below is the complete guide to growing industrial hemp:
Select The Right Genetics:
Industrial hemp is known to be an amazing agricultural crop that you can harvest for its seeds and stalks. Thus, you need to take genetics into account. In the present time, many farmers are growing hemp for CBD extraction. If you have planned to grow industrial hemp for its fiber and seed to make food and clothes, always go for European strains like Carmaleonte or Fibranova. If your purpose is to extract CBD from hemp, it is always advisable to look at the American grown strains while cultivating the same.
Climatic Considerations Are Important:
You need to check for the climatic conditions while growing industrial hemp in your farm. This crop is known to be sturdy and durable that is able to grow itself well in a variety of environments. But as this crop comprises of deep taproots, it could locate hard-to-find water. You must take a note that industrial hemp is not an indoor plant and you cannot grow it inside your home. Experts always advise you to grow this crop on a massive industrial scale. This will always help you to reduce your overall costs concerning its farming and will boost the margins of profit. The mild climate is best-suited for its growth.
Quality Of Soil:
Never grow your industrial hemp against poorly drained soils. This is because the excess surface water after heavy downpour shall cause damage to your crop. Hemp plants are often considered to be sensitive to flooding. It is therefore advised to make the use of a firm and fine seedbed to help the crop germinate uniformly. Don’t worry if you are not able to arrange for high-quality soil. Even in the absence of such soil, the hemp plant will thrive perfectly. Hemp plant always helps to improve the quality of the soil.
Importance Of Plant Density:
The right density of plant is also important to flourish the growth of the hemp plant. It is advised to plant the hemp seeds as close together as possible. The perfect hemp field that you are planning to grow shall comprise of thousand plants, each having a single stalk. The arrangement resembles a cornfield. If you are growing the plant for grain, a lower seeding rate of up to 45 pounds per acre is known to be an ideal choice.
Feeding The Hemp:
You can always plan of buying the products of hemp from a reliable source such as Industrial Hemp Farms. However, if you plan to grow industrial hemp on your farm, it is very important to take care of it. This is done by feeding your hemp right. Your hemp plant requires a lot of feeding. In the first few weeks of growing hemp, you must make sure that it receives plenty of nitrogen. Apart from it, phosphate, as well as potassium, are two other important elements that your hemp needs importantly.
Harvesting The Hemp:
When harvesting your hemp for fiber, it is important to start working on it after the final pollen has been shed around you. If you are harvesting the hemp for seeds, it is advised to wait for additional 4-6 weeks. Overall, you can expect your fiber hemp to be ready for harvest within 70 days of its procedure of seeding. In all the other cases, the harvesting of the hemp can also take a total period of 90 days respectively. The procedure of harvesting the hemp is quite straightforward. You are required to work on it when the plant has finished producing pollen. It is important to mention that this plant is sensitive to light. Thus, early planting results in the taller croups as well as an increased amount of fiber.
Retting Your Hemp:
This process is a post-harvest necessity. Retting means a microbial decay of pectin. This substance is responsible for the gluing of the fiber of hemp to its stem. You can consider the option of retting if you wish to obtain the highest quality fibers out of the plant. The process of retting is a little tricky as it relies completely on the weather. There are different kinds of retting namely, water retting, warm water retting, green retting, dew retting, and chemical retting.
Lastly, make sure that the water content of your hemp stalk does not exceed 15 percent by any chance during storage. Follow these easy steps and instructions and you will be able to grow your industrial hemp for yourself without any hassle. Good luck.
Three Ways to Build a Team That Stands the Test of Time
Frencis Perret Gentil Jr. and Chloe Blaskiewicz
Cultivation owners need to put together a team that is cohesive from the top down if they want to build a successful business that can weather the fluctuations of the market. A Director of Cultivation (“DOC”) with an educational background in horticulture, cannabis experience, and the right personality is a triple threat that will prove to be the biggest asset to any cultivation operation. New facilities would benefit most from cultivation employees without cannabis experience and existing facilities should promote from within the ranks, but all cultivation employees must have the stamina to follow a structured routine on a day-to-day basis. Most importantly, the owners and DOC need to take care of employees, which includes creating a cohesive culture built on teamwork and accountability in order to run efficiently and minimize turnover.
- Early in the application process, invest in a qualified Director of Cultivation that has the education, experience, and personality to run a successful operation.
Cannabis cultivation owners without personal experience in the industry should begin looking for a DOC very early in the process of applying for a license. The DOC can guide owners through the process and help them build a better financial model. DOCs provide insight into how the facility will be operated and calculate the key metrics, resulting in a model that will more accurately reflect the prospective business.
Education is a vital, and sometimes overlooked, aspect of a qualified DOC candidate. While most institutions of higher education do not yet provide curricula for cannabis sciences (yet), a background in sciences more generally – whether agronomy, botany, horticulture– is necessary to provide a solid foundation for a DOC. As an owner, having a DOC with at least a bachelor’s degree in horticulture demonstrates that they have a deeper understanding of a cultivation operation and can analyze discrepancies or deficiencies from a scientific perspective.
The importance of education cannot be understated, but it merely provides a foundation on which to build knowledge through experience. A qualified candidate would have at least four years of experience as a Lead Cultivator before becoming DOC of a cannabis operation. Working under an experienced DOC in cannabis provides invaluable mentorship and an opportunity to gain valuable knowledge and skills that can only be acquired by working in the field. A DOC with this type of background is qualified to operate a facility efficiently and meet the initial return on investment as stated in the financial model.
“A DOC with an educational background in horticulture, cannabis experience, and the right personality is a triple threat that will prove to be the biggest asset to any cultivation operation.”
The personality of the DOC is another quality that can prove to be a decisive factor in the success of the operation. Unlike other types of cannabis businesses, cultivation is a job that never stops because the plants are living organisms and need careful and consistent care. The best DOCs at some of the largest and most successful operations all have borderline obsessive tendencies that cause them to take a more proactive management approach. The job is also physically and mentally demanding, so the best candidates will be able to keep the same level of energy for long stretches of time. A DOC should also be driven, so that the business can continue to grow and expand as processes are refined rather than being content or complacent. During the interview process, owners should look for a DOC that has the energy and the mentality to take on a large-scale operation in addition to the educational background and experience.
Owners should treat hiring the DOC as making a careful investment into the success of the business. Some may not want to invest heavily into a person so crucial to the operation, but then again, the DOC is in charge of producing millions of dollars in work product annually. Cannabis cultivation is already a risky endeavor and investing more money in a qualified DOC can help to mitigate more of the risk early in the process. Instead of focusing on finding a DOC that fits the arbitrary number budgeted for that salaried role, owners will be better off seeking candidates that meet all of the criteria –education, experience, and personality—and invest more if the result will be having a strong DOC heading the operation.
- Hire the cultivation team strategically with the long-term goals in mind.
Unlike the DOC who must have a horticulture degree, the remaining members of the cultivation team need not have such a focused educational background. Candidates that have at least two years of educational experience after high school are ideal because that background shows stamina and dedication to getting the job done. Cultivation employees will be performing and recording routine tasks in a regimented environment, and people without some type of higher educational experience often have more difficulty acclimating to the requirements of the job.
When staffing a new facility, usually the best option is to hire cultivation employees that do not have prior cannabis experience. A DOC will be able to instill good habits in the employees, whereas employees with cannabis experience will have a more difficult time unlearning bad habits learned in other facilities that are run differently. The inexperienced employee will only have one reference point and will be more faithful to the taught routine. Strict routine is the key to running an efficient operation and producing the highest-quality product, so starting with a clean slate of employees new to cannabis can provide some peace of mind to the DOC overseeing the entire operation.
For a new DOC coming into an established cultivation facility, it is imperative to keep the team in place because they know the facility’s routine. Bringing in a new group of people at once will slow down the output until the routine has been established, which could be a costly delay. Instead, the incoming DOC should identify and promote employees that are going above and beyond. When other employees see that it is possible to move up in the organization, they will work harder and with more diligence and instilling that type of motivation in employees will result in an operation that runs smoothly and efficiently.
- Establish a company culture where the owner and DOC take care of employees.
Taking care of employees is a key piece of running a successful operation because the job is labor-intensive and time-sensitive. There is no such thing as a 9 to 5 job in cultivation because the plants need to be monitored constantly. Many people operate under the false assumption that getting the facility up and running is the hardest part, but operating efficiently is the only way to last a long time in this industry. The success of the operation hinges on the employees that run the entire facility by performing the routine tasks. Employees will not know the routine in operations where there is high employee turnover, and by the time they do figure it out, they are burned out are more susceptible to turnover. Running an efficient cultivation operation long-term requires the owner to take care of both the DOC and employees and creating a cohesive culture with clear communication between everyone involved.
“Many people operate under the false assumption that getting the facility up and running is the hardest part, but operating efficiently is the only way to last a long time in this industry.”
When a new facility is opening and a team is in place, the DOC needs to be very clear with setting expectations for the team. An experienced DOC will understand the ups and downs of operating a facility and will be able to communicate with cultivation employees about the workflow and growing pains. The first four to six months of operations will require long hours to get everything set up and setting the expectation that everyone will need to work late for a few months will mentally prepare employees for the task ahead. The DOC may want to compensate for the longer work hours by letting employees know that they can come in late some days or take longer breaks, but that they will need to stay as late as it takes on a day-to-day basis to get the job done. Setting clear expectations and being transparent from day one means that there are no surprises and employees know what is coming and can be prepared, which reduces the opportunity to burnout and turnover.
The DOC should lead from the front to establish a culture of teamwork and accountability. To garner respect from employees, the DOC needs to demonstrate from the start that he is one with the team, by teaching by doing the task with them as opposed to telling them what to do. The role of DOC means that he knows how to operate the entire facility and how to do each and every job, so if the DOC indicates to employees that he is capable willing to get his hands dirty as well, the employees will have more respect for him. The DOC can show employees that the job is as simple as learning a routine that needs to be performed consistently with no less effort than the day before. The expectation that employees help each other complete the required tasks fosters a team environment where no one task goes home until all tasks are completed. Along those same lines, accountability to self and others is necessary for efficient operation and preventing burnout. Each employee should be responsible for properly completing their part of the routine, but other team members should speak up when something is not being done correctly to guarantee process adherence. A team accustomed to accountability instills confidence that the routines will be followed even when supervision is lax so that the DOC can take time away from the facility, knowing that employees will faithfully follow the routine. Cultivation is a representation of the team. Good communication, work ethic, and mutual respect will result in high-quality, efficient yields with a team that can stand the test of time.
Frencis Perret-Gentil brings a decade of cultivation operations experience to problem-solving and mitigating expenses to build compliant and efficient cultivation facilities.
Putting his background in plant sciences from the University of Hawaii and his former role as a school teacher to work, he patiently explains processes, educates on cultivation state-specific regulations, and recommends the best sustainable practices, nutrient profiles, automation systems, and schematics for flower rooms and lighting.
Frencis started out as a horticulturist for a hydroponic tomato production farm in Oahu, Hawaii and went on to become lead grower and director of cultivation for numerous cannabis facilities before joining Canna Advisors. He has extensive knowledge of inventory program management, THC/pesticide/mold/spore testing, hydroponic SOPs and regimes, advanced propagation methodologies, and genetic development and crossbreeding.
When he’s not educating and providing innovative solutions to cultivation operational challenges, Frencis can be found growing his own cannabis (which comes highly recommended by fellow Canna colleagues!), working toward his dream of one day owning a home on the Big Island of Hawaii, and surfing whenever he gets a chance.