Whether you are harvesting hemp seeds, growing on a commercial scale or just learning how to grow marijuana or hemp, there are some “ground” rules you need to keep in mind when planting and harvesting your crop. When growing in a greenhouse you have the ability to control your environment, contrary to when you are growing hemp or growing marijuana with natural light. Hemp is an annual plant, which means regardless of the hemp or marijuana growing stages these particular plant species complete their life cycle within one growing season.
The hemp growing time ranges from about 90-100 days (3-4 months) from plant to harvest giving a farmer the chance to perhaps get two runs in a season, if they’re lucky. As a grower it is so important to observe and test your crop throughout the growing process, taking in all the visual cues, weather conditions, and hazards that can harm your viable product.
The short answer to this question is hemp harvesting usually begins around mid-August into early October, but truthfully weather can greatly dictate your harvest and harvesting window. Depending on what region you are in, weather can really make or break your final season’s profit. Take the southeastern states for example, where harvest and hurricane season fall a little bit too close for comfort. Strong wind and rain can cause plant breakage and bud rot, especially in the bigger colas of the plant.
Alternatively, the cold is also a harmful outsider in the later months of the year. Not only will your plants not survive an “out of the blue” cold snap, but cold fronts in general affect the CBD levels within your crop exponentially. Keeping an eye out for these weather conditions and testing your crop throughout its lifespan (esp. pre-harvest) is not only going to signal the crew when it is ready, but if your crop is viable.
– Hemp tests >.3% THC
– CBD and CBG potency levels (Reminder: Both of these can drop drastically once the plant reaches maturity, so harvesting hemp at the right time means money)
– Pesticides – most hemp and marijuana needs to be food grade.
– Mold– can show up in bigger colas and in different forms. Do yourself a favor and read up on how to keep weed fresh before, during, and after harvest.
– Moisture levels – between 10%-15%. There is a small window of acceptable moisture levels. This means the drying and curing process is a very important final step.
It is worth mentioning some key visual cues outside of testing and time frame to know when your crop is ready for the final chop. The first sign your hemp is mature and ready for harvest is by taking a look at the trichomes. Get that magnifying glass ready along with your other dispensary supplies, because if you know anything about harvesting you know it is about time to put some serious work in! Be prepared! Once you see those trichomes change from clear and transparent to milky white they are reaching the mature stage for harvest. Furthermore, when the fan leaves begin to yellow, fade, and curl this is a key visual cue you should rally the troops .
The process varies per farm per processor, but the freedom to experiment with what works best for your space and team keeps the process enjoyable. Once you plant, you need to think ahead and ask yourself “How do YOU harvest hemp?” What kind of end product do you want to bring into the industry? What suits your needs best financially and space wise? Once you figure out the direction of your company, your brand, and your product you will be able to clearly envision your harvest plan.
Judging by the type of CBD or CBG hemp you are growing you can finalize your method for harvesting hemp. Farmers growing on a larger scale for biomass are able to use industrial machinery and hemp farming equipment, which produces a mass amount of lower quality product and a lower overall market value. This form of harvesting and processing is naturally a lot less labor and time intensive. Some processors may have you relieve the buds from the stem and pre-weigh your product, making it easier for grinding cannabis in bulk as well as hemp.
For those farmers opting for the hemp flower route they will be harvesting by hand. Aligning a strong labor force will be key in ensuring you can harvest quickly to prevent profit and product loss. Take a look at your dry space and have a chat with your processors. Some farmers hang the whole plant and chop the plant at the stem, while smaller scale farms chop the branches and then buck the buds from the stem and use screens to dry.
Once your hemp has been harvested it is time for the final methods to ensure your crop is top quality. This leads us to the all important drying, curing and storing processes. The drying process locks in the potency and quality of your harvest, where ventilation is of the utmost importance. Use industrial blowers, fans, ac units, dehumidifiers etc. to provide good airflow throughout your whole drying facility. Drying improperly can severely decrease the quality and integrity of your crop and lack of ventilation could cause your harvest to mold.
Temperature and humidity levels: Keep your dry space between 60-70 degrees at a consistent 45%-55% humidity level.
Dry time: 10-14 days is ideal for drying hemp and cannabis. We recommend a drying time of at-least 7 days, drying your crop too quickly will decrease the quality.
Perfect moisture levels: You will want the final moisture level of your product to be between 10%- 15%, but 12% moisture is ideal.
Adding more: Think you’ve dried your crop too much? Adding newly harvested plants to your dry space will add moisture to your already hanging harvest. Keep a close eye on moisture levels of older plants and the humidity of your dry space.
Ventilation: Needs to be constant. Check out eco-friendly ways to pull air from outside and regulate temperature to save energy.
The process of curing is going to lock in the smell, taste, and look of your final product. Knowing how to store marijuana as a business as well as hemp is going to be a game changer as you wait for processor pick up and your product reaching the shelves. Remember your name is on this product until it reaches the processor or consumer and your name is everything. Stay focused till the end game, so you can reap the benefits season after season! Until next time, Happy Harvesting!