Harvest Techniques

It’s that time of year again, and what is done now can make or break your whole crop. So here are some tips from the North country.

Everything seems to be coming in early this year, so it is getting a bit late to do much in the way of amendments. Any fertilizing should stop about two weeks before harvest. This is also a time to cut back a little on the volume or frequency of watering, since this is what happens in Afghanistan and India during the fall, and that’s where the plants originated. It tells the plant that it is time to finish flowering.

We take off all the yellow leaves, especially those that are really dry and brown, and also many of the large shade leaves to allow more air circulation and sunlight in the interior. This lets the inside buds grow ripe and hard.

On these misty mornings and occasional rainfalls be ever alert for white powdery mildew. After a rain or a heavy dewfall, I have taken to blowing off the excess water gently with a leaf blower. Leafblower I have tried many preparations to try and deal with mildew, such as hydrogen peroxide, skim milk, and Actinivate. A friend on the coast says that organic apple cider vinegar works, another in Long Valley swears by cranberry juice, and yet others use Serenade. Nothing seems to be a sure cure, especially given different climatatic conditions around the state.

When it comes to the day to cut your precious beauties, how do you decide which ones to take? Some people look at the hairs. At the very tip of the bud little pale greenish white hairs come out. As long as these are fresh and white and juicy, there is probably a lot of vitality still in the plant. When most of those little hairs are brownish or even sort of burnt looking, it is getting to be time.

Others take a 60X mini-scope and look at the trichomes, attempting to count the clear, cloudy and amber ones. Some say that it is ready when 1/4 to 1/3 of the trikes are amber. Others say that it really depends on the strain and some are ready with all clear or half cloudy. Everyone has their “secret method” of picking the exact day in the 3 to 4 day window of optimum potency. Some claim that early harvest will mean more CBD and later will make more THC. Perhaps when it’s totally legal real scientific research will settle this debate.

In the meantime, I have my own idiosyncratic method of deciding which plants to take in. On any given day in harvest, I go out and pick the ones to take the next morning. Research has shown that the terpene content of any plant is at its peak before daybreak or at first light. Sunrise itself is much later – we’re talking first light. You want to cut at that time. It is said that the best time to harvest most all vegetables and flowers is at first light.

To pick the girl to cut, I use kinesiology or muscle testing. That is, I ask the plant itself if it wants to come in the next morning. Touching a bud lightly with a finger I ask, “Do you want to come in tomorrow?” “ Are you ready to come tomorrow?” “Would it be better to leave you ’til another day?” If I get “Yes!” to the first two questions and a “No!” to the third, then I know that the plant wants to come in. Who knows better than the plant itself when it is fully ripe?

Then in the early morning and late afternoon of the day before, we really strip down the plant, taking all the even slightly yellow leaves and any large fan leaves, because we don’t do any wet trim after the plant is cut. At that time, I also take apart the trellis and tie the name tag onto the stalk.Wagon

The next morning, I go out with a headlamp when it is still dark and cut down the whole plant with a saw, place it into a wagon and wheel it in to hang upside down.  The plant is hung within 15 minutes of being cut. All the moisture and nutrients and vitality still in the trunk and stems will now flow with gravity down into the buds. It takes a little longer to dry the whole plant this way, rather than tiered cutting. The small leaves left on will dry and wrap around the buds, which protects the trichomes. The less you handle the plant the more the trikes stay put.Swami hanging plant
Previously, I used to harvest differently, like most farmers who use the trophy or tiered cut method. Early on I would even take three cuts, do a close wet trim and hang the 5-7 inch stems on a wire. Then I changed to cutting off whole branches and hanging those after a wet trim. Cutting in the morning, putting the branches into 5 gal buckets like long stem roses, they would stay fresh all day. We would often finish up wet trim at 8 or even 9 o’clock. Now the “live” trim is the day before and I just hang the whole plant early in the morning with no wet trim. This maintains the highest level of terpenes.
More on drying and curing will come later.

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