🇺🇸 Retired veteran, father, rock-climbing expert & rosin connoisseur.
Preparation is the key to success. Every aspect of running a thriving cannabis operation, from procuring supplies to managing a team, building an extraction lab, or ramping up for harvest season benefits from careful planning and proper preparation. With the time for harvest quickly approaching outdoor grows, this is a great time to review how growers can prepare the farm for the next growing season, even before this year's crop is chopped.
Without thoughtful planning during the season of autumn’s bounty, growers can set themselves up for a sluggish start come springtime. Falling even a few days behind at the start of a growing cycle creates negative ripples that impact the entire operation. And lost time equals lost dollars, a situation every grower wants to avoid.
Thinking a few steps ahead pays dividends. Let’s take a look at some post harvest best practices that will help prepare the farm for the next growing season.
1. Reassess Cultivars
Choosing the right cannabis cultivars for the next growing season is crucial for maximizing your energy and resources. So what are the best cultivars to grow? The ideal cultivars will vary depending on the farm’s specific goals and circumstances. Reviewing and adapting your cultivar selection process based on performance and market dynamics is a worthy winter-time activity to think about near harvest time.
First, determine your goals. Are you growing to maximize yield by volume, or quality of resin? Cannabinoid content or terpene profile? Resiliency to pests or mildew? Is everything going to the lab for extraction, or will you also sell flower?
Also consider market trends. What are consumers demanding? Which cultivars have been hot? Which terpene profiles are gaining notoriety?
2. Pre-order Supplies
Waiting until springtime to purchase your supplies can spell disaster. When demand is high supply is often squeezed, and farmers can be left waiting for weeks in order for distributors to play catch up. Purchasing supplies in the autumn and safely storing them over the winter months protects against long wait times or a stressful scramble of shopping around in the spring. It’s hard to put a price on peace of mind.
If buying and holding isn’t ideal, pre-ordering is a good option as well. Either way, be sure your supplies are secured.
3. Soil Sampling
Farmers can sample their soil after the harvest is complete, but before the ground freezes. A soil assessment provides insights into which fertilizers (and in what amounts) will properly support a robust upcoming growing season. Soil nutrient levels will fluctuate year over year, and testing the soil is the best way for farmers to anticipate the required amendments in the spring.
A clear view of your soil’s nutrient levels informs the amount of fertilizer to pre-order for the following year.
4. Plant Cover Crops
Cover crops like clover or mustard do a great job of protecting soil surfaces during the winter months. Winter often brings lots of rain and/or snowfall, which can lead to excessive erosion. Considering all the energy spent constituting the ideal soil for your cannabis, the last thing you want is for it to wash away. The best cover crops hold your valuable soil in place during the winter months, while minimizing impact on the field and soil nutrient levels.
5. Waste Disposal
After harvesting the valuable flowers, farmers are left with a lot of cannabis biomass that doesn’t currently offer value in the market. This biomass is waste for all intents and purposes, and it shouldn’t be left carelessly to rot. Proper disposal of the useless stalks and branches of the cannabis crop is a critical aspect of preparing the farm for next growing season. The good news is that root systems are fine underground, there’s no need to remove them.
Regulations and requirements for cannabis biomass disposal vary depending on the location of the farm. Know your local laws.
That said, leaves and organic waste can generally be composted with minimal preparation. A wood chipper is great for mulching stems and branches so they can be easily scattered for faster decomposition.
6. Clean Up
Biomass isn’t the only thing farmers need to clean up after harvest. A post-harvest sweep of the fields is a valuable step in winterizing the farm and preparing for the season ahead. Farmers should gather items like stakes, trellis netting, damaged irrigation components, etc. rather than leaving them as litter in the field. If the plan is to reuse any of these items next season, cleaning and sanitizing them before storing over the winter months is a best practice.
7. Winterize Equipment
Proper maintenance and storage can extend the life of your equipment and help avoid unexpected issues at the start of next year’s growing season. Winterizing your equipment is a great way to protect and maximize your investment and set yourself up for success next year.
Thoroughly clean all equipment, removing any remaining plant matter, soil, or debris. Disassemble and inspect for wear, damage, or malfunctions. This is a great time to repair and replace equipment as needed.
If possible, store your equipment indoors to protect it from potentially damaging winter weather. Remember to keep things organized and labeled for easy access next season.
The mantra "preparation is the key to success” is especially relevant when it comes to the cannabis farmer’s post harvest process. The late autumn months are prime time for growers to look ahead, assess their goals, and make informed decisions that will impact next year’s growing cycle. While it’s easy to focus solely on harvest during October, post-harvest best practices, from cultivar selection and soil sampling to supply management, waste disposal, and equipment maintenance should still be top of mind before the winter freeze sets in.
A bit of extra work and planning following a busy harvest season will set your operation up for a strong start in the springtime. Your future self (and team) will thank you!
Thoughts? Let us know by joining our secret Facebook group. Hang out with a community of like-minded solventless heads like yourself. Ask our head extractor questions, share your latest press and learn from hobbyists and experts in the industry.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Why is it important to reassess cultivars for the next growing season?
Reassessing cultivars allows growers to align their strain selection with specific goals, such as maximizing yield, improving resin quality, or meeting market demands. It ensures that the chosen cultivars are well-suited to the farm's unique circumstances and objectives.
When should I pre-order supplies for the next growing season?
It is advisable to pre-order supplies in the autumn, well before the spring growing season. Waiting until spring can lead to delays due to high demand and supply shortages. Pre-ordering or purchasing supplies in advance helps ensure timely delivery and peace of mind.
Why is soil sampling crucial for preparing the farm for the next season?
Soil sampling provides valuable insights into soil nutrient levels, allowing growers to anticipate the required amendments for the upcoming growing season. It helps determine the appropriate fertilizers and quantities needed to support healthy plant growth, ultimately maximizing crop yield and quality.
What are cover crops, and why should I consider planting them during the winter months? Cover crops, such as clover or mustard, help protect soil surfaces during the winter. They help prevent erosion caused by heavy rain or snowfall, ensuring that valuable soil remains intact.
How should I dispose of cannabis biomass after harvest, and what are the regulations to consider?
Proper disposal of cannabis biomass is essential. While regulations vary by location, it's crucial to know and adhere to local laws. Leaves and organic waste can often be composted with minimal preparation. Stems and branches can be mulched using a wood chipper for faster decomposition.