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Croptober Essentials: Tools & Tips for A Successful First Harvest
Set yourself up for a success.
My first Croptober was October 2019.
As an indoor grower, this was more of a coincidence than anything else.
But as an outdoor grower, it marks the end of a season, and the beginning of harvest.
And even though I've never grown outdoors, there are quite a few things that hold true when it comes to harvest whether you're growing indoors or out.
If you're gearing up for your first harvest, use my these tools and tips when the time's right:
6 Essentials For Your First Croptober: Harvest Tools You Need
To make it easy, below is a quick list that you can use to grab the supplies you need. I'll explain each item and why I've included it below.
The Quick List:
What & Why:
Weed is sticky and your hands are oily.
Gloves keep your hands free of resin and your buds free of finger oils.
My preference: Black industrial nitrile gloves.
Industrial strength is great for avoiding tears that can happen during harvest.
Get yourself a sharp pair of scissors and/or plant clippers.
If you're growing big tree trunk stalks, you're going to need clippers, but for most other jobs, sharp scissors will do the trick for chopping buds and branches at harvest as well as during the trimming process.
My preference: I like Chikamasa scissors (the orange handle, expensive scissors at your local grow store).
These were recommended to me early on and, if you buy real Chikamasa's and care for them, they can last for quite some time and remain sharp. That said, there are a TON of knock-off's that have the orange handles to look like the real deal. It's one of the few items I will still buy in person, for retail prices at the local grow store because I know I'm getting a legitimate product sourced from the actual manufacturer.
3. Isopropyl Alcohol
If you've spent any time around weed, you've likely already figured this one out: ISO is key tool in keeping your tools clean.
For the same reason it is great at removing resin from your bong or pipe, it will also remove resins from the blades of your scissors (quickly).
My preference: Get the highest % you can get (91-99%).
Ace Hardware usually has gallons of ISO for half the cost of the grow store, but the grow store is more consistent about stocking it. Also, I recommend a small mister/spray bottle. This will save you a ton of wasted ISO pouring it on your tools, and instead, you can mist them as much as needed.
4. Trim Tray
You can trim on any surface, anywhere, but if you have a tray that's made for it, you can recoup some of the trichomes that are otherwise lost during the trimming process.
As you dry trim, trichomes (the little bubble-like heads that look like crystals on your buds and leaves) casually fall off the buds and trim itself. When collected, this is a very basic form of dry sift hash.
When I first started growing, I was using a rolling tray as my trim tray. It worked, but I lost that sift in the process.
My preference: It doesn't have to be branded, but make sure it has a filtering screen.
Mine has a 160µ screen in the tray and a collection area below that I can scrape up sift after it accumulates. Then, you can throw it on a bowl, in a joint, cook with it, or even press it into rosin if you collect enough.
You need to hang your harvests on something.
What you use will largely be determined by your space (and budget).
My preference: Metal clothing hangers.
Metal is easy to sterilize and remove sticky resins from (using ISO). That said, I have friends who use fishing line and string up rows of buds, and also have friends who just hang their buds from their cotton trellis. Then, there's fancy adapters and contraptions for the high tech home grower if you're so inclined.
Make sure to label these hangers if you’re growing more than one variety (or can’t tell them apart). I use small strips of printer paper and a stapler (to avoid tape that can stick to buds).
Your space will dictate what's best...
6. Drying Space
Your space is your biggest tool: You need to have a place to dry your harvests.
And if you haven't thought this through yet, now's better than when you've got a handful of plants on hangers waiting for a place to go.
It doesn't have to be fancy—it can be a garage, a spare bedroom, a closet, or a grow tent.
I've even seen growers use 40-gallon totes (with fishing line) for easy transport and stackability.
My preference: I dry in our guest room 99% of the time.
When I'm not drying there, I'll hang it up in a tent, but that's usually only if there's a concern for smell.
If you've concerned about smell, drying in a controlled space with a carbon filter on your exhaust will make a big difference, but if smell is not a concern, you can dry anywhere you have space.
Find a place that won't be disturbed often, ideally in a low-light, moderate temperature area of your home.
I also recommend a small hygrometer (measures temp and relative humidity) in your drying area, and a small dehumidifier if levels get above 70%RH.
OPTIONAL: If you’re chopping for hash, you don’t need a drying space, but you will need freezer bags (as pictured above). I recommend the biggest ones you can get (jumbo/2-2.5 gallon) if you’ve got big plants/large amounts of weed you’ll be freezing for extraction.
Got the tools. Now, when do I harvest?
5 Ways To Know Your Plants Are Ready To Harvest
Whether you're an indoor or outdoor grower, there are a few key things to keep in mind when figuring out the right time to chop your plants, namely:
What & Why:
The goals for your harvest will be one of the biggest factors in your harvest timing.
If you are growing for flower, perhaps you want to take the plant longer to reach a full ripeness and a "heavier" effect.
But, if you are growing for hash rosin, you may want to chop early on in the ripening window to preserve a cloudier color.
2. Trichs (Trichomes)
As a plant ripens, the trichome heads (or "trichs") will transition from clear to cloudy to amber (a light brownish color).
Depending on your goals, you may aim for 5-10% amber as your measure of ripeness.
Or, you may wait until a plant's trichs are 40-50% amber.
Generally speaking, I advise finding somewhere between 10-40% amber. Anything past that is overripe.
Often incorrectly referred to as "stigmas" (even by myself, it's easy to get confused!), the hair-like appendages extending from your buds are Pistils (and the tiny hairs on them are Stigmas).
As your buds ripen, you'll notice these pistils change from a translucent yellow or white to a brownish-red.
They also begin to recede into the buds themselves.
If all (or most) of the pistils on your plant have changed color and receded, the plant is likely ripe for harvest.
4. Necrosis (aka dead tissue)
Cannabis is an annual plant.
And, as it heads towards that finish line, it starts to use up its nutrient reserves, resulting in leaves changing—from a lush green to a lighter green, or even yellow, red, and purple.
Note: This is not a problematic nutrient deficiency if it is happening at the end of your cycle. It is the plant intentionally depleting its stored supply.
If your plant's leaves look like an forest in autumn, your plant is likely ripening (or ripe).
What does the package say?
If you're growing from clone, it'll be the advice or instructions the genetic came with (if any).
But if you're growing from seed, most genetics companies offer descriptions on the packs or on their websites of how a plant grows, and an expected timeline you can work with.
Often, this will be listed as "7-8 Weeks" or "63-70 Days".
These are most often related to how the plant grows indoors, but can be used as an indicator for outdoors.
For example, if your "average" strain finishes in 9-10 weeks, then those plants would likely finish in the middle of your harvest window outdoors, whereas a 7 Week strain would be an "early season" harvest, and a 10-12+ week strain might be a later or end of window chop.
#'s aren't everything when it comes to gauging ripeness, but they can help you narrow the window for when to pay extra attention.
One last (controversial) note:
Spraying & Dunking: The Truth about Pre- And Post-Chop Treatments
On day 53 of my first grow—10 days from my intended harvest—I got powdery mildew.
At the time, I knew a lot less about what that meant, other than it was bad, and potentially harmful if left untreated.
So, I scoured the forums and google and webMD'd my way to the finish line, but I still wanted a way to "clean" the buds to smoke them.
Like many beginners, I found my way to Jorge Cervantes, and his bud washing technique of dunking your freshly chopped buds in a hydrogen peroxide mixture before hanging to dry.
Note: In a perfect situation, your plants are grown in a way that they are not contaminated, nor threatened by pests or pathogens.
But, in the real world, shit happens.
And, if you're a hobby grower who is counting on their harvests for personal use—or you just invested $100s in a grow setup and can't afford to go buy weed—throwing out months of work to be left empty-handed may not be an option.
In those cases, I trend towards the advice from my good friend Zac Ricciardi, National Cannabis Specialist for BioSafe Systems.
His advice (I'm paraphrasing): If you think you might've had a problem, better to be sure and clean up just in case.
Said another way: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
You can do a "just in case" pre-chop spray with a tool like ZeroTol (just make sure it breaks down into inert ingredients and is oil-free) and neutralize spores for molds and mildews.
This benefits you as the person harvesting (you're not inhaling those spores) as well as you as the consumer (you're not smoking those spores).
Indoors, you have a lot more control over what gets into your grow.
Outdoors, you're at the mercy of mother nature.
For what it's worth, if I was growing outdoors, I would do a pre-chop spray with ZeroTol and a quick bud wash to remove dust and contaminants that may be on my plants.