It’s that time of year again, growers (especially for you outdoor growers): Autumn, a.k.a. Harvest Season! But before you go clipping your yields from the branch, we’ve got a few pieces of advice on harvesting your latest grow.
Flushing and Preparing Your Harvest
When it comes to a good yield, your plants will need to be flushed properly. You ever wonder why one harvest will taste great while another tastes kind of funky? Whether they’re flowers, fruits, veggies, indoor grown or outdoor grown, it’s likely they didn’t flush their plants properly.
Before you harvest you need to make sure your plants re properly flushed. We recommend using tap water for about a week to strip the salts and excess nutrients out of your harvest. This should be done a week out from when you plant to harvest. When done properly, that bitter and often harsh taste yields have should be gone, leaving fresh flavor for you to enjoy.
How to Tell When It’s Time to Harvest
There are two major ways to gauge when you should harvest: timing and appearance.
Now everyone should keep a journal for tracking growth, so if you have been feeding and tending to your plants on a consistent, regular schedule all you need to know are what peak times are best to harvest. Whether you’re growing fruit that takes a year to harvest or flowers that take a few months to harvest, if you keep a journal of your progress and understand the growth patterns of your plants you should be able to pin-point when to flush and when to harvest. But that’s easier said than done.
If you’re a little less organized you’ll want to do a visual inspection of your plants. Now it definitely helps if you have an idea of how long you’ve been growing your current harvest(s) for, but if you’re pretty sure what stage of growth you’re in you should be at least able to see if your plants are close to harvest. Fruit should be colorful but its leaves will lose some color, and herbs should be a rich green with yellowing leaves (if they start to brown you’ll need to harvest ASAP). This method is a little tricky depending on how long you’ve been following your plants, so if you haven’t done so before, start keeping a grow journal to track progress of your plants and adjusting as needed to still harvest when your plant naturally does
Clipping/Picking Your Harvest
After all the inspection of your plant is done you’re ready to start clipping off the fruits of your labor (all pun intended). We’ll go over a few common plant types and how they’re cut to give you an idea of the basics of what you’ll be looking forward to:
Decorative flowers, like roses, should be cut close to the ground (or medium) at a 45 degree angle. The only leaves that should be trimmed are those that would be submerged in water because they’ll usually attract bacteria if sitting in still water for longer periods of time, like in a vase on display.
Fruit like apples and oranges can be picked directly from the branches of the tree. Some fruit can be twisted off the stem completely, while others benefit from leaving a little stem behind (usually fruits that continue to ripen after they’ve been picked). Medical flowers, like Echinacea, should be should be cut at the base, with no more than an inch of stem. Other medical flowers, like #hemp, can either have buds that require the trimming of fan leaves or can be harvested and processed as a whole plant (but that’s usually in an industrial/farm setting)
Drying Your Harvest
So you’ve done some harvesting and now you’re ready to enjoy your yield, right? Well, for some plants like flowers and fruit that’s probably the case, but other plants require their yields to dry out and cure.
Especially in the arena of medicinal plants, most flowers, buds, stems, and any part of that plant you plan on using will need to be dried and cured for use. To do this, simply take the harvested buds and pedals of those flowers and lay them out on a drying rack. Make sure this rack and the environment around them can breathe, as any unwanted moisture can lead to mold in your final yield. Drying times are usually anywhere between a few days to a week, so check in on your yield and gently move it around so it can fully dry.
Plants also dry well by hanging them upside down, allowing them to form a better, longer lasting shape and color to your usable plant material.
Some plants require a little moisture in order to use them, while most medicinal plants do best when they’ve been completely dried. Once they’ve been dried to completion, you’ll want to store the usable plant material in a cool, dry, and dark place until you’re ready to use it.
A Couple of Last Notes
- Patience is Key when harvesting. Don’t rush your plants, give them time to finish growing and when needed, enough time to dry and cure before enjoying your yield. There’s nothing worse than working for 16+ weeks to blow it in the last one or two
- Use glass over plastic whenever possible, especially for storage. Drying, curing, and storing harvests in plastic bags or containers for long periods can bring down the quality of your yield. Plastic, when stored improperly, can give off toxins which can seep in to your plants and bring the taste and quality down severely
- Environment is vital to a harvest. Too cold and you can develop frost and/or mold, too hot and you can either burn the yield or dry it out beyond optimal use. What does that mean? You can use the yield, but it won’t have the properties it’s supposed to when you properly harvest them. Make sure the temperature and humidity levels are optimal for your plants. An average drying environment can be around 70°F (21°C) with 48-56% humidity, but always research the best conditions for your specific plants and plant types