As the Fall colors begin to emerge the cannabis plant is ready for harvesting. The cannabis plants up at Outcast Acres in Saratoga Springs have one season of growth from early June to mid October when harvesting begins. As the season moves, the plants will respond to the changes in sunlight exposure and begin transitioning from the vegetative, leafy growth stage to the flowering stage.
Cannabis plants have four stages of growth:Germination (3-10 days)
Seedling (2-3 weeks)
Vegetative (3-16 weeks)
Flowering (8-11 weeks)
Different types of cannabis plant genetics have shorter or longer growth cycles to maturity. Autoflowering plants have been bred to complete their growth cycle within 8-12 weeks from germination. ‘Quicks’ are slightly slower growing than autoflowers, they grow larger and have potentially higher yields. The flowering stage happens faster than full photoperiod plants and the growth cycle takes around 10-14 weeks. Full photoperiod plants take the longest and have the highest yield potential, completing their cycle in around 12-16 weeks. Autoflower plants are mainly grown for extract whilst ‘Quicks’ and Full Photoperiod plants are mainly used for the smokable market.
A good rule of thumb is 75 days in the ground to hit full maturity, depending on the seasonal weather, after they have gone through the vegetative stage. To increase the yield of flowers, each plant is ‘topped’ multiple times during the vegetative stage. Topping involves pruning the top stem which encourages the to develop two main stems as well as encouraging the plants to increase their energy in the lower parts, strengthening the core.
Chris spends all summer tending to the crop, checking for health and vitality. Harvest day changes from year to year depending on the weather. Cannabis, like most crops, is prone to mold when it is damp and densely populated. Blue skies in early Fall, with the temperature in the mid to high 70’s is perfect, before the autumn rains arrive.
Chris gets in close to his plants. An awesome quality of cannabis flowers is that they tell you when they are fully mature. Cannabis produces trichomes, sticky resinous glands that are abundant on the flowers and surrounding leaves. Take a magnifying glass or jewelers loupe to look closely, trichomes that are under ripe are clear or transparent and when they are overripe or menopausal they turn amber in color. Ripe trichomes are milky or cloudy and show the flowers are ready to be harvested by hand and prepared for drying. This year it was on October 10.
Post - Harvest: Drying and Curing
Some flowers will be frozen, within 1 hour of being in the field, for live resin extract products. The majority of flowers will be slowly dried and sent off for extraction to be made into our THC edible range.
At Outcast, Chris dries the flowers 12-15 days in a dark, temperature and humidity controlled environment. This slower, more gentle, approach helps preserve the trichomes which contain the cannabinoid and the fragile terpenes. The flowers are ready for extraction or curing when the smaller twigs on the branches snap.
Flowers that are for the pre roll market will be cured. Curing cannabis is important as it improves the smell and taste as well as having a smoother experience. Curing involves containering the dried flowers and controlling the airflow for a minimum of 3 weeks and up to 6 months. During this process the flowers use up unwanted sugars and starches and the terpene profile is preserved and magnified, resulting in a premium product.
Growing cannabis outdoors allows for the cannabis to reflect the land from which it is grown, offering a nuanced product that does not require the energy consumption and associated costs that you have with indoor grown cannabis.