Outdoor cannabis growing has become a popular way to grow your own cannabis easily. But how to harvest cannabis, when and what's best to do? How to Pick Male Plants and Make Cannabis Seeds Why Every Home Grower Should Make Seeds (At Least Once) I encourage growers to make seeds for themselves. A lot of people have been asking how,
How to harvest cannabis, dry and cure your outdoor crop
Growing cannabis outdoors is perhaps the lowest cost way to grow your own. All you need is a few good quality outdoor cannabis seeds and a sunny, sheltered spot with reasonable quality soil. You can always supplement the soil with additional high quality compost and fertiliser if necessary.
You don’t need to live in a warm, tropical climate to be able to grow great quality outdoor cannabis. High quality autoflower seeds can grow from seed to harvest in around 100 days outdoors (they are even faster indoors). Even those with short summers can find a good 3-month window to grow and harvest some autoflower seeds outdoors. But what are the best ways to harvest, dry and cure outdoor grown cannabis? Read on for some expert tips and advice.
Harvesting advantages of autoflowers grown outdoors
Growing autoflower seeds offers some tremendous advantages to the outdoor grower. Autoflowers have earned a solid reputation for being easy and convenient to grow. With their fast life cycle and short size they are a fast way to grow plants which will hide easily behind other plants and shrubs.
- Autoflowers grow from seed to harvest in around 100 days outdoors. That’s much faster than photoperiod outdoor strains and ideal for those with short growing seasons.
- Autoflower seeds tend to produce short, stocky plants which are around 1m tall. These are much easier to hide than 3-4m monster plants grown from photoperiod outdoor feminised seeds.
- Autoflower seeds are easy to grow with little maintenance required. If you choose a sunny location with good quality, moist soil you can expect a straightforward grow with little effort.
Harvesting advantages of photoperiod feminised strains grown outdoors
Your other main option for outdoor cannabis growing are feminised photoperiod cannabis seeds. Unlike autoflower seeds, you won’t be able to grow these in short 100-day summers. You will typically need 5 months or so to grow these larger plants. But harvests can be huge. Yields of well over 1Kg from a 3m tall specimen are quite possible.
If you enjoy a reasonably long growing season you will be able to harvest your outdoor photoperiod cannabis plant before the worst of the late-season weather arrives. For some outdoor cannabis growers, feminised photoperiod cannabis seeds are the preferred choice.
- For the largest harvests, outdoor cannabis seeds with photoperiod genetics are the best choice.
- Plants can be 3-4m tall and just as wide in optimum conditions. However, for some growers such large plants can present security/risk issues and are difficult to hide.
- You need to ensure that your preferred outdoor photoperiod strain is able to complete the bloom cycle before the growing season ends.
One other advantage of growing photoperiod feminised seeds is that they may be able to recover somewhat more easily from a pest attack or accident than an autoflower.
Autoflowers have a fixed life cycle outdoors, usually around 100 days. If an autoflower plant suffers any kind of grow incident/accident in its prime, it may not have the time to recover from it. A photoperiod plant, with a longer growth phase before bloom, may be able to recover slightly better when it comes to dealing with attacks from slugs, rabbits or other pests.
When to harvest outdoor cannabis, autoflower seeds vs photoperiod feminised seeds
In general, autoflowers take around 100 days from seed to harvest outdoors (indoors, with optimised conditions they often take nearer to 75 days). This means that growers in warm climates can get 2 (or even 3) successive outdoor autoflower harvests per year. That’s one of the reasons autoflower seeds have become so popular with outdoor growers.
Outdoor feminised seeds often have a 5-6 month life cycle. That’s longer than the life cycle of an autoflower, but the grower is usually compensated by heavier harvests than those produced from smaller autoflower plants. However, unless you live close to equatorial latitudes, you will only be able to grow one outdoor photoperiod crop per year.
Note that some growers of photoperiod feminised seeds can artificially force extra productivity from their plants if they grow in greenhouses equipped with blackout blinds. This can allow growers to ‘force’ an early bloom and create quicker harvest cycles by creating 12/12 light conditions manually. Some balcony growers also use this technique.
When to harvest outdoor cannabis according to trichome appearance
Many growers will examine the colour of the trichome resin glands and monitor the transition from clear, to cloudy to amber. This technique works well for both autoflower strains and traditional photoperiod outdoor strains.
Many growers buy an small magnifying glass (sometimes known as a jewellers loupe) to make accurate close-up judgements on the trichome appearance. You can also buy a sophisticated digital microscope which will also do a great job at showing trichome appearance.
Cannabis harvested with clear, colourless trichomes tends to have a lively, uplifting and energetic high. However, THC levels may not have quite peaked and the buds may not have finished growing. Most outdoor growers prefer to wait a little longer as this tends to give heavier harvests and slightly stronger weed.
Waiting until the clear trichomes are transitioning to cloudy/milky allows your buds to pack on more weight. It also allows THC content and resin coverage to increase, meaning stronger buds. Many growers like to harvest their cannabis when the trichomes are mostly cloudy. You may notice that a few trichomes are starting to show some amber colour at this point.
Leave your buds another week or two and you will notice more and more of the trichomes have transitioned from cloudy/milky to amber or red. Some growers prefer to harvest at this point, feeling that their cannabis has more of a narcotic, heavy effect. Many consider that a majority of red trichomes represents a somewhat over-ripe crop. But some growers prefer it that way e.g. medical marijuana growers who want a strong body effect with good sleep inducing qualities.
When to harvest outdoor cannabis according to pistil (hair) colour
As well as considering the appearance of the trichomes, many cannabis growers also monitor the colour of the pistils. These are the hairs which come out of the buds. Initially the pistils tend to be white. As they start turning increasingly brown it is an indicator that the plant is approaching harvest.
50% brown pistils
Cannabis is approaching harvest, though with many pistils still white in colour growers will often wait a little longer until they harvest.
70% brown pistils
At this point the majority, but not all, pistils are brown. For many growers this represents a good harvest point.
80-90%+ brown pistils
For some growers this would represent a mature cannabis crop with heavier, narcotic effects. Although some growers might consider such buds to be a little over-ripe, there are plenty of growers who consider the extra bloom time well worth the wait. But it’s worth saying that we all have a unique endo cannabinoid system that responds differently to cannabis.
One of the great joys of growing your own cannabis seeds is that you (not an unknown grower/dealer) decide precisely when to harvest the cannabis in order to deliver maximum personal satisfaction. Some cannabis users have strong preferences for specific strains which have been grown to a perfect ripeness level for them.
100% brown pistils
Most growers would consider a crop to be over-ripe if all the pistils are brown, but there are a minority of growers who would disagree.
The next time you grow some cannabis seeds, try taking (and drying) buds at different ripeness levels and comparing the high/effects from them. You may be surprised to find you have a clear preference which influences your harvest timings for future cannabis crops.
When to harvest your outdoor crop according to sativa vs indica genetics
If you know the cannabis genetics contained in your strains it will help you estimate the approximate harvest time. Much depends on the latitude that you are growing at as well as the specific climatic conditions experienced during your grow. But in general, indica genetics tend to reach maturity faster than sativa or haze genetics.
In the northern hemisphere, late blooming Haze varieties may not be ready to harvest until late November. For northern European growers that is simply too late for outdoor growing. Knowing which outdoor strains will grow well in your conditions is part of the skill of the experienced outdoor cannabis grower.
Drying cannabis buds grown outdoors
Drying your outdoor grown cannabis plants requires careful planning. If you plan to dry them outdoors you will need a warm and dry climate, though this can be difficult to guarantee around fall/autumn as the weather often turns cooler and wetter. That’s why many outdoor growers invest in some specialist drying equipment at home.
If you are growing cannabis outdoors in the hills and countryside you will probably be used to chopping down the plants and putting the heaviest branches and buds in large sealed bags to transport home. This can be a nervous journey since the freshly harvested weed can have a powerful odour. Stick to the speed limits and don’t attract attention on the drive home!
Once the buds and branches are at home you can begin the process of drying them. Even if you never grow cannabis indoors, many outdoor growers buy a small tent and some drying racks to dry their buds in. Some people hang the larger branches from clothes hangers or a piece of cord suspended across the top of the grow tent. You will need an extraction fan and a carbon filter to eliminate the smell. Drying an outdoor cannabis harvest without odour protection is always tremendously risky when others live nearby.
Often the buds will take around a week to dry. One drying tip is to start at 60% humidity for the first few days, slowly working your way down to 55% again for a few days. After 7-10 (max) days you may wish to set your dehumidifier to 50% to dry the buds a little further.
As soon as the branches start to snap (or almost snap) you can be sure that the buds on those branches are just about ready to be put into your curing jars. Be aware that the larger buds/blooms can take a day or two longer to dry.
Buds that are bright green at harvest often fade to a paler, less vivid appearance after drying. Often, you may notice brown colourations and perhaps even some blue or red hues as drying/curing progresses.
Trimming cannabis buds grown outdoors
Some growers don’t mind waiting until the buds are dry before trimming off the excess leaf material. Usually, after around a week of drying the buds are considered dry enough to think about jarring and curing. This is usually around the time that the branches have dried sufficiently to snap. The only problem with waiting until the buds are dry is that you may lose some of the trichomes when trimming dry buds.
For that reason, many growers prefer to try to trim the buds when freshly picked, or shortly afterwards. Some rubber gloves help keep your fingers clean, and a good pair of scissors (or trimming scissors) is highly recommended. From time to time, you may need to scrape the scissor hash off the blades to save for a post-harvest celebration smoke/vape. The trimmed leaf material can be frozen and used to make hashish or cannabis concentrates.
Curing and storing your outdoor cannabis crop
Curing and storing your outdoor grown cannabis buds is exactly the same process as that used for indoor cannabis harvests. If you have dried your cannabis well (without over-drying it and losing your delicious terpenes) you are ready to cure your buds.
Curing is the slow process of slowly removing the last remnants of moisture while allowing the buds to reach a state of preservation where they will last for months, or years. During this process the aroma can intensify to produce quite breathtaking flavours and aromas. A great terpene profile not only makes your buds taste delicious, they may also modulate the type of high you experience.
As the cannabis buds reach the curing stage they have lost most, but not all, of their moisture. The final curing stage is the last, and perhaps the most important part for the connoisseur cannabis lover. Growers often use glass jars. Plastic containers are less desirable since they can be softened or discoloured by the sticky resin. The well trimmed buds are placed in the glass jars leaving a centimetre or two at the top of the jar. The jars are sealed, and left in the dark.
The jars are then unsealed occasionally, once or twice a day, to allow any moisture to be released. Some people call this ‘burping’ the jars. Two or three weeks is considered a minimum cure time. Many connoisseurs prefer to wait longer, feeling that curing is complete after around 1-2 months. The cured buds will vape with a clean flavor, without a ‘chlorophyll’ taste.
Once your buds are fully cured you may prefer to store them in a freezer to fully preserve potency and ensure no degradation. Never store your buds in a high temperature environment (e.g. a hot loft space) if you want the best long term storage.
Fine control of the cannabis curing process with Boveda or Integra humidity sachets
You bought the best cannabis seeds and you grew them to the best of your ability. The last thing you want is to open your jars to find that the buds are mouldy because they were insufficiently dry.
Likewise, you don’t want to open your jar of precious buds and find that they are just too dry and crispy, with poor taste and aroma. This can feel like the buds are low quality and too old with a harsh effect when vaped/smoked.
When you open your jars you want to see and smell premium quality buds, with optimized potency, a well cured aroma and a delicious taste. One way to help achieve this is with humidity control sachets from companies like Boveda or Integra.
These sachets release moisture if your buds are too dry, or they absorb moisture if the buds are damp. You can select different products from these companies. From Boveda we recommend the “58% Humidity” sachets. From Integra we recommend the “55% humidity” packs.
Frequently asked questions about harvesting cannabis
If you have never grown cannabis outdoors then it’s something you may want to try. The costs of growing outdoor cannabis are far lower than indoor grown cannabis. You won’t need a grow light, you won’t need to pay for energy costs either. If you are worried about your carbon footprint, then outdoor growing holds a lot of attractions. Even growers at extreme northern and southern latitudes are able to grow autoflower seeds outdoors in short summers.
Do environmental factors affect the cannabis grow season?
Growing and harvesting outdoor grown cannabis really is enjoyable and rewarding fun. Understanding your own climate, the onset of spring and fall/autumn is an important starting point. Environmental factors play a large part in determining which strains will best suit you. You need to select the best cannabis seeds for your own requirements and climate.
Many outdoor cannabis growers grow both autoflower seeds as well as outdoor feminised photoperiod cannabis seeds. The grower can usually rely on their autoflower plants finishing in time even if stormy fall/autumn weather arrives early and damages the photoperiod cannabis harvest.
Daylight hours and outdoor cannabis flowering
Indoors growers use a 12/12 light schedule to artificially induce bloom. But outdoors the plants go into flowering a considerable time before 12/12 outdoor light conditions are reached. Precise timings for bloom can of course be vary from strain to strain. But most of them are triggered to start flowering when daylight hours drop to around 14 hours per day and below.
In the northern hemisphere at Amsterdam latitude there are around 16-17 hours of daylight at the peak of summer. In the northern hemisphere, outdoor cannabis plants usually start preparing to flower in August when daylight hours are quickly diminishing.
Between 10 – 25 August daylight hours start to decline from 15hrs per day to 14hrs. This is often the period outdoor plants start preparing to go into flowering. 12/12 outdoor light conditions are seen around 25 September at Amsterdam latitude. Around 25th October there are only around 10 hours of daylight. This (or before) is usually the date that most outdoor strains are harvested.
You will need to know the average last frost date for your region and be careful to put your seedlings/plants outside after that date.
Some growers will germinate their cannabis seeds indoors and grow them under indoor lights for a few weeks to give them the best possible start before planting them outdoors, after the last frost. The best outdoor cannabis growers will gradually ‘harden’ their seedlings by exposing them increasingly to outdoor conditions before they are finally transplanted outdoors.
The seedlings will need to be protected with slug/snail pellets. Some growers also surround their grow location with thorny brambles to give further protection from animals such as deer, goats and rabbits.
If the soil quality is poor, it can be easily improved with high quality compost from the garden centre. This will help improve the quality of your outdoor cannabis harvest. Once the plants are settled in their final grow position you can let them do the rest of the work. Just protect them from thieves and wild animals. In times of drought you may need to transport water to the grow site, but other than that there will be little to do.
Is there an optimal time to harvest your plants?
In an ideal world, you will know your own preferences for early vs late harvested cannabis. And with a little experience you will soon feel quite confident about judging cannabis ripeness from trichome appearance or pistil appearance. But the astute outdoor cannabis grower also has to consider the local weather patterns and plan ahead carefully.
If winter storms are due earlier than normal then it makes sense to harvest your plants early rather than allow them to get battered by bad weather. If you cannot be certain of the onset of winter weather, then it may be worth considering growing autoflower seeds rather than relying completely on photoperiod outdoor strains.
Some outdoor cannabis growers feel that growing their plants under natural sunlight gives the buds an extra ‘kick’, delivering a particularly satisfying high. Outdoor grown cannabis is certainly cheaper to grow with no energy costs. It can also be great fun finding an outdoor grow location and watching your cannabis seeds grow into healthy, heavy yielding plants. However you go about it, enjoy your outdoor growing and good luck!
4 Comments . Leave new
Generally your guides are good, so thanks. But this one on drying is not comprehensive enough. For instance, how do I dry the plants? If outside is it best to hang the whole plant upside down from a tree so the wind and the sun dry it with little risk of mould or do you strip all the good bits from the plants, discarding the trunk and branches and just dry the flowers/leaves in some other way?
Indeed you are right, this blog is not that extensive. Here you can check out an updated document about drying and curing https://dutch-passion.com/en/blog/the-best-way-to-dry-and-cure-cannabis-n918
Growing 3 plants 8 to 10 ft. Fertilized with raw fish only. My plants are as wide as high! I’need 2 strong men to pull them by the roots, hose the dirt off w
ith warm water then hang whole plants by their roots for six weeks in dark un-heated garage. What say you.
How to Pick Male Plants and Make Cannabis Seeds
Why Every Home Grower Should Make Seeds (At Least Once)
I encourage growers to make seeds for themselves. A lot of people have been asking how, so I put together these basic tips. Hopefully, it helps a lot of people and is fairly straightforward. This isn’t meant to make you a breeder or share all my techniques or secrets, this is to familiarize you with the process of creating seeds.
It’s easy to make your own cannabis seeds at home!
It’s a shame that many grow books tell you only to throw away your males. New growers may not know, but anyone who’s grown for even just a few years gets to the point where they wish they still had something they grew in the past, which is no longer available in seed or clone for whatever reason. The older you get the more it happens. Seed lines disappear entirely once they run out, and due to people not making their own. It’s good to be self-sufficient.
While it’s always fun to check out the hard work of your favorite breeders and their strains, it’s equally as important to pollinate a branch or two for yourself here and there and see what magic you can create or preserve. Please share this article if it helps or inspires you. Big agriculture is coming to the cannabis growing world and has the ability to change the plant forever once contamination happens, just like in the veggie world. We are losing genetic diversity fast as thousands of unique strains are lost. Please do your part if you are passionate!
Make your own seeds to save special or unique genetics
How to Make Your Own Cannabis Seeds at Home
These are basic starting points for the home grower. I believe every person who grows cannabis needs to have this skill. Every strain goes away over time when people don’t make more seeds. Growers should know how to make their own seeds for preservation and sustainability. These skills can go a long way. The precursor to serious breeding is the basic technique of creating the seed.
1.) Grow Male Plants
Male plants can be grown in very basic conditions in an isolated space, then flowered for pollen. Males can be started flowering next to females with a close watch for the first week or two, but be careful and remove them before pollen sacks form, bursting open and pollinating everything.
Branches can be cut off and put into a cup of water on a windowsill or under a CFL bulb, even under veg light cycle once they are in bloom. Pollen can be collected within a week from these branches, saving lots of space. Males can also be cloned or flowered very small based on your needs.
Best, however, is flowering the males in their own tent or space. With a carbon filter and negative pressure, and careful practices, you can avoid spreading pollen to unwanted spaces. The longer you flower a male out past its initial beginning release of pollen, the more of its flowering traits you will see! (More on best male plant selection below)
A beautiful male cannabis plant
2.) Collect Pollen
Pollen can be collected by tapping a budding branch gently over a piece of paper. Pollen will spread easily in the air, so make sure to turn off all fans. Visit males only after tending to female plants so you don’t accidentally bring any stray pollen on your clothes or hair!
A male plant right as pollen sacs start opening
3.) Pollinate Buds
Take out your female to be pollinated or shut off all circulation fans. Gently apply pollen to a labeled branch. The pollen must meet the white flowering hairs to create seeds. Week 3-5 is best to pollinate, and you can do a single bud or branch per plant and keep the rest seedless.
Every pollinated branch should be labeled properly, your memory will not last as you think it will. A proper branch label includes dates, strain names, breeder/sources, and has the female listed first and male listed second. An example label looks like this: 4/20/2015 – Star Pupil (Mass Medical Strains) x Prayer Tower Sativa 9 (Bodhi Seeds) and the label should be kept with the seeds when they are finished. As years go by, you will be thankful for the dates and breeder information, which can escape our memory on occasion.
Overhead shot of a seeded cannabis plant. Strain is “Star Pupil”
4.) Deactivate Stray Pollen
Water generally deactivates pollen, wash clothes and shower if needed after handling. 3+ hours after pollination, the plant can be sprayed down with water to deactivate stray pollen and can be brought back into grow room and fans turned back on.
Avoid spreading pollen unintentionally. It can get everywhere!
A male cannabis plant exploding with pollen. Strain: Prayer Tower Sativa (below)
5.) Collect Seeds
Seeds are done in 2-6 weeks and should be dried in the bud when the plant is harvested. Seeds should be sproutable within one month of drying.
Female buds become swollen with seeds
A cannabis seed peaking out
What strains should I use?
Any strain with traits that you like, which speaks to you, or seems like a good cross, means your intuition is telling you something. Starting with stabilized or homogeneous lines is always a benefit. Certain genes such as Cookies, OG, and Diesels, are full of hermaphrodites and should be used with caution, only to be bred with if they are really your #1 passion. Follow your heart.
Crossing two unrelated strains for the first time is called an F1. Crossing a brother and sister F1 of the same strain creates an F2, and so on. Selections play a huge role in what the outcome will be. Making F2 seeds of an F1 you purchased, will not give you the same seeds. Rather, you will see new phenotypes resembling some of the parents and their parents, etc. With huge potential to find new special plants within.
Many combinations will work great, and some will not. If you fail, try again, selecting new parents. Each combination is unique. A and B might work great together, and C and D might work well together, there’s still a possibility that A and C combine to create junk. Every parental combo is unique!
If you see a unique trait that you like, make seeds!
Selecting a good female is easy, flower female plants from seed and again from clone to test stability. Smoke test is important. A potential mother plant should have all the high-quality traits that matter to you. Hermaphroditic plants are to be avoided.
Female plants to be pollinated should have all your ideal traits. Use only your best females.
Selecting a male, you have to use your senses a lot. The ones who grow best and smell best are a good starting point. Structure and root growth are important. Hollow stems may indicate high THC potential. Cut the top off a couple nodes down and find out. First showing or fastest flowering males are generally discarded. Very slow blooming late males are often times more recessive although not always. I like them. Males will start to drop pollen before they are “done” flowering enough to see their true traits. As a beginner, you can use the pollen at any stage, but those doing real selections are advised to always flower your males for weeks after the pollen starts.
For male selections, a strain you’ve grown before and enjoyed the females is a safe starting point.
Watch for resin production, look at how the flower clusters stack and produce. The male flowers form similarly to female flowers, large yield potential is often apparent in largely formed male clusters that can look almost like female buds from a distance. The more males you have to choose from, the more fun you will have!
Male plants can be a lot of fun to grow, too. Just like the females of the genetics they come from, they all have their own characteristics and unique traits. Once you get into “hunting males” you could get hooked! Some of my prized male selections from over the years are shown here. You’ll see resin production and traits of large floral clusters, as well as unique coloration!
This male Weapon X cannabis plant is about to pop!
Male Blue Magoo BX looking trippy under LEDs
Strain: Mr. E Reversed
For more advanced breeding selections, I recommend starting ideally a few hundred seeds. (For beginners, as many as you can is great, will help you find the best ones you can. Use your intuition!) Plants can be weeded out every few weeks selecting only the best contenders to flower out, and a lot can be achieved in a spare tent or closet this way, while still selecting through large populations! Clones of a prized breeding male may be kept in veg the same way females are, to be used again and again once their offspring are proven good! This is how a breeder can create the same batch of seeds for years and years, by using the exact same parents held in clone form.
These tips are just the beginning, and the purpose isn’t to teach you how to breed, but to teach you how to learn your own path and style of creating seeds and preserving our very special plant. The seeds you create will always be a very special grow for YOU.
Making your own seeds is more important than ever. We must do our part to preserve the natural genetic diversity of this healing plant as it has evolved for millions of years. Home growing is an important skill as commercial and medical cannabis is increasingly full of toxins and scary new technology. Please grow responsibly with love.
About the Author
Star Pupil strives to copy nature while incorporating breeding techniques and plant knowledge passed down from generations of experienced growers. Mass Medical Strains is located in western Massachusetts and all breeding and growing methods are 100% organic. Each and every plant is grown and harvested with wholesome intentions and positive vibes.