A Guide to Harvesting Your Outdoor Cannabis Crop

Outdoor cannabis grows are a time-honored tradition among horticulturists around the world. And when your hard work has come to fruition, the quality of your flower largely depends on how and when you harvest. Using proper harvest supplies and techniques can make a significant difference in the potency and overall quality of your cannabis buds.

In this basic guide, we’ll take you through the step-by-step process of harvesting your outdoor cannabis crop, along with the tools you’ll need.

Step 1: Timing Your Outdoor Cannabis Harvest

Generally speaking, most outdoor grows begin their harvest in the fall. In fact, the popular harvesting month of October is cordially referred to as “Croptober” — one of the busiest months for outdoor grow cultivators. During this time, cultivators should inspect their trichomes for a milky, cloudy appearance with many beginning to take on an amber-like color. Generally, this is a sign that the THC potency within the trichomes covering your buds has reached its peak.

If you harvest your crop too late, those valuable trichomes will begin to break down. When the resin within your trichomes undergoes chemical decomposition, THC degrades to CBN, reducing the flower’s psychoactive potency. Along with cannabinoid decomposition, the buds begin to lose their aroma and entourage properties due to terpene burn-off.

Without a doubt, timing should play a significant role in your harvest strategy.

Step 2: Prepare Your Trimming and Drying Areas

Even if you run a tight ship when it comes to keeping your cultivation rooms and workspaces clean, you want to go the extra mile before trimming and harvesting your branches and buds. Sterilize your trimming tables, your harvest tools and supplies, the floors, walls — everything including the kitchen sink.

And don’t forget to sterilize your drying racks, trays, and drying rooms. It’s all too disheartening to labor through a successful outdoor harvest, only to have your buds grow mold and fungus in the drying room or when curing.

Step 3: Review Your Harvest Supply Inventory

While cleaning and sterilizing your trimming equipment, storage bins, drying racks, and trays, consider the size of your outdoor crop. Verify you have the tools and supplies to usher your buds into the next phase of their development. Some of your buds may be trimmed and go on to be sold as-is. Others may be tossed into ice water and transformed into bubble hash. Or maybe your buds are destined to be shredded and processed into ground flower for distillation.

Regardless of how you plan to make use of your crop, cannabis cultivators need the tools and supplies to harvest their plants in a quick and efficient manner. Below is a guide to the harvest supplies and tools cultivators need to accomplish this task. While reviewing these supplies, keep in mind the size of your crop, the amount of labor you have on hand, and if you have enough space for your harvested buds.

With these three steps in mind, let’s review some of the most important supplies cultivators should have on hand to ensure the successful gathering of their crops.

Must-Have Harvest Supplies

There are many supplies a cannabis cultivation operation needs to carry out daily tasks. A portion of these is essential for collecting, drying, and storing mature, flowering plants. Let’s review the equipment and supplies you’ll need to harvest and trim your cannabis crop.

Harvest Supply Overview List:

Cultivator Trimming Supplies

The weeks and months of fending off pests and mold, balancing nutrient solutions, and adjusting lighting intensity and spectrums crescendos with harvest season. Propagating and growing healthy, flowering cannabis plants is a skill and artful labor, but during harvest season it’s time to trade your green thumb for trimming shears and equipment.

There are two methodologies when it comes time to harvest your crop: hand trimming and machine trimming. Both techniques are popular among cannabis growers, and each has its own set of benefits. In addition, growers will need to decide if they want to wet-trim or dry-trim; a decision that should be made with your operation’s end goals in mind. We go into a bit of detail to help you decide which is best for you in our article explaining the differences of each method.

Regarding trimming, let’s explore a couple of the supplies needed for the age-old method of hand-trimming first.

Hand Trimming Supplies

There is always a need for sheers in a grow room come harvest time. Even if you plan on using trimming machines, you’ll still need to gather your whole plants first. It’s always a good idea to have multiple pairs of trimming shears available to ensure there are clean pairs available between employee shifts and between various strains to avoid cross-contamination.

commercial trimming shears
Shear Perfection® Platinum Series Titanium Trimming Shears are engineered with a titanium-coated stainless-steel blade. These precision shears feature ergonomically designed grips with spring-loaded action to maximize comfort and reduce fatigue.

A great example of quality shears is Shear Perfection® Platinum Series trimming clippers. These harvest shears are designed with growers in mind. For cultivators looking for precision, comfort, and durability when collecting whole plants or hand-trimming buds, these shears are worth considering.

If you’re using your shears to carefully hand-trim some craft buds, it’s a good idea to have a trim bin available for each employee. Harvest More’s trim bins are designed to make hours of trimming more comfortable and are constructed with a stainless steel screen and brush to ensure you capture all the pollen that falls to the tray while trimming.

Harvest More Trimming Tray
Harvest More trimming trays are portable, durable, and designed to maximize comfort during hours of trimming. They also help ensure trichomes are not lost during the trimming process by using a 150-micron screen and pollen brush.

These trays can convert any surface into a trimming station and the polypropylene construction is recyclable for cultivation operations keeping sustainability top of mind.

Mechanical Trimming Equipment

For large-scale outdoor grows, hand-trimming each and every bud just isn’t feasible. The amount of time and labor needed for commercial crops can quickly become cost-prohibitive. Thankfully, we have mechanical trimming machines like the Mobius M1085 Wet/Dry Bud Trimmer. This feat of engineering can trim up to 120 lb of web cannabis per hour or up to 60 lb per hour if the buds are dry.

To keep that harvested product moving, we also recommend the Mobius MBX. This state-of-the-art cannabis stem bucker can separate flowers from leaves and stems at up to 150 lb per hour. The 304 stainless steel construction allows for easier cleaning and sterilization, helping your cultivation business take a step towards future-proofing itself against compliance regulations.

The Mobius MBX Trimmer Bucker
The Mobius MBX is a highly efficient cannabis destemmer that has been designed to be easy on your delicate buds. It is GMP-certified and is compliant to be used in food or pharmaceutical facilities such as cultivation or cannabis manufacturing rooms.

Mobius trimmers and buckers can be implemented into a highly automated cultivation facility. With parts that can be interchanged without tools, you can rotate clean components during a busy harvest while simultaneously sending used modules to be cleaned and sterilized.

The trimming method you decide on will depend largely on the size of your crop, how you intend to sell your product, and available staff. Regardless of whether you’re a hand-trimming or large-scale automated cultivator, there are trimming solutions available to you.

Cannabis Drying Trays and Racks

From the time you cut down your plants, the clock started ticking. After trimming, it’s important to immediately begin the drying process to reduce cannabinoid degradation and terpene dissipation. This means having an adequate number of drying racks and trays prepared for the incoming flower.

A popular drying solution includes Metro’s WavDri cannabis drying trays. Although we go into a bit of detail in a previous article, suffice it to say these trays were specifically designed to safely dry flower. WavDri trays include several features with cultivators in mind. Some of these include:

  • Space savings: WavDri trays can be stacked when not in use to reduce their storage footprint.
  • Microban technology: This helps inhibit bacterial growth on the surface of your tray, minimizing its ability to reproduce and spread to your cannabis buds.
  • Easy rotation: By placing a second WavDri tray on top of your buds, you can simply flip the entire tray for fast, efficient flower rotation.
  • Vented construction: The holes designed throughout the tray encourage the proper amount of airflow around your buds to help expedite the drying process.

Metro’s WavDri trays are commercial dishwasher safe, making it easy to clean any sticky residue between batches of cannabis. This also makes it easy to sterilize your trays to prevent mold and strain-cross contamination.

Metro WavDri Cannabis Drying Trays
Metro’s WavDri trays are designed specifically as a drying solution for the cannabis industry. The trays are food-safe, constructed from FDA-approved materials, and resist mold and bacteria. WavDri trays fit neatly on commercial drying racks to save precious space in your drying room.

When combined with drying tray racks and sufficient air circulation, WavDri trays will save you time in the drying room while protecting your valuable product. Once your drying buds reach a moisture content of about 14%, it’s time to store and cure your crop.

Cannabis Storage Supplies

It wasn’t that long ago when “curing” and “storing” cannabis were two distinct tasks. Traditionally, you would cure your dried cannabis to allow most of its remaining plant matter to decompose (because smoking chlorophyll is pretty gnarly.) Then, you could store the cured cannabis safely until it was ready to be used or sold.

With the advent of cutting-edge storage solutions, curing and storage can often take place simultaneously. Grove Bags tote-liners are a fantastic example of providing cultivators with combined curing and storage solutions. Placing your flower in a tote (even if you’ve cleaned it) not only risks contamination and exposure to pests, it does nothing to prevent terpene loss and oxidation.

Grove Bags Terploc Tote Liner
The Grove Bags TerpLoc® tote liner is the perfect storage and transport solution for cannabis cultivators. The liner uses TerpLoc® technology to allow moisture to travel in and out of the bag to maintain the perfect relative humidity for your buds to finish curing and stay fresh.

That’s right. We’re not using turkey bags anymore. Using advanced tote liners protects your budding investment, keeps your flower fresh, slows terpene burn-off, and maintains a relative humidity perfect for toking or pressing into terpene-rich rosin. Just insert one of these liners into a 27-gallon tote, and you’re all set to store or transport your cannabis safely while preserving its distinct, aromatic freshness.

Boveda Humidity Packs

If you’re storing your cannabis in large glass jars or other types of containers, be sure to have some humidity packs handy. Boveda humidity packs leverage advanced scientific properties to create a monolayer of water molecules around the trichomes of your stored cannabis. They also accurately maintain a near-perfect relative humidity within the container, keeping your cannabis fresh and even restoring flower that was a little too dry.

Freezing Your Flower

For the ultimate aroma and flavor, some cultivators choose to freeze their cannabis. This can be accomplished after wet trimming or in many instances, a cultivator may opt for freezing the whole plant after it has been cut down. Providing fresh-frozen cannabis to a manufacturer or processor allows them to glean trichomes or live rosin that brings customers as close as possible to a plant’s original strain profile.

Freezing your plants to maintain freshness can be optimized by using sealer bags designed for storing food and vegetable products. Harvest Keeper has developed a bag perfect for the job, keeping food-stuffs fresher for up to 5 times longer than standard freezer storage bags.

Harvest Keeper Commercial Vacuum Sealer
This commercial food-grade vacuum sealer is designed to keep produce, ingredients, and plants such as cannabis fresh much longer than standard freezer bag solutions. Great for storing your cannabis plants as fresh-frozen flower, significantly reducing the risk of freezer burn.

If your cannabis operation is in the business of storing part or all of your crop as fresh-frozen material, grab some shears, cut down your plant, place them in a Harvest Solution storage bag, and then vacuum seal and freeze! Of note, these bags are BPA-free, manufactured from FDA-approved food-safe materials, and greatly reduce odors by keeping terpenes inside the bag.

If you need to expand or upgrade your freezing space, we have a wide range of solutions. That said, we’d start by recommending a chest freezer or a walk-in. Our walk-in freezer solutions are customizable, so be sure to reach out to your Omega representative so we can be sure to provide you with the perfect size for your facility.

Resupply Before Your Next Crop!

Before you rest up, take a long toke, or have a brownie — don’t forget to resupply for your next growing season. Common resupply items include:

  • Propagation Trays: These trays are designed to give your clones and seedlings a great start by ensuring the growing medium stays aerated and excess water can drain from the bottom of the plant.
  • Plug Insert: Whether you’re starting your next crop with coco plugs or old-fashioned soil, plug insert trays conveniently space your new plants apart and allow for easy extraction when your plants are ready to be transplanted.
  • Humidity Domes: A great accessory for propagation trays, humidity domes have adjustable vents that provide humidity control within your propagation environment. Compatible with our Super Sprouter trays.

These are just a few of the supplies you’ll want to have on hand to get your next batch of plants propagating for the next growing season.

Harvest Supply List Run-Down

Now that we’ve added some context and use cases for the supplies you’ll be using while harvesting your outdoor cannabis crop, let’s review the list of supplies we covered above for your convenience:

Once you cut down your plants, it’s important to have all your drying and storage supplies ready to ensure you minimize terpene loss and prevent mold and fungus from latching on. Ideally, the above supplies should be sterilized if applicable and ready for use before you harvest your first plant.

Preparation Is the Key to Success

As the engineer and inventor Alexander Bell once said, “Preparation is the key to success.” This should be the mantra of every cannabis cultivator as it comes time to gather their crops. The guide we’ve provided above lights a path to a successful harvest. However, it must be harmonized with cultivators passionate about their cannabis crop, and who want to bring their customers the very best flower. Customers can tell when a bud was cared for from seed to flower to sale.

If you’re an outdoor grower, then you are no doubt in the bustle of harvest season. Do yourself a solid each year and be prepared with the equipment and supplies you need for every crop. Having the foresight to ensure you are prepared each season will ensure you have a celebratory Croptober and enjoy a profitable harvest.

And don’t forget to bookmark this article so you can swing back to review our list of must-have harvest supplies!

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