For many Americans, October is their favorite month of the year. And who hasn’t been loving the pumpkin-spice lattes, Autumn colored leaves, and Halloween costume parties? But for outdoor marijuana growers (and farmers in general), October represents the culmination of a growing season filled with long hours and hard work.
For those who aren't 'in the know,' Croptober is a nickname popular in the Northwest, for the outdoor cannabis harvesting season. Because like wine, millions of pounds of cannabis buds have been ripening in the cooler fall weather.
Though you may enjoy perusing the plethora of pictures posted, Croptober is so much more than just a social media hashtag for many in the cannabis industry.
Cannabis consumers like the lower prices, but for outdoor cannabis growers, Croptober is often exciting and stressful, because they need to be prepared to properly harvest, dry, cure, and secure their crops.
Ready When They're Ready
Technically, there is no exact start or end date to Croptober. Cannabis is an annual plant that is harvested once a year, usually late September through early November.
A number of factors go into when a marijuana crop is ready for harvest:
- Date Planted
- Flowering Time
Cannabis crops that were planted later in the season might be slower to mature, likewise harsh weather and falling temperatures can either inhibit or hasten the need to harvest. And perhaps the biggest factor contributing to varying harvest times is the wide range of cannabis strains being grown.
Most cannabis strains being grown are a hybrid between cannabis Sativa, Indica, or Ruderalis. Sativa dominant plants grow taller and take longer to flower? (usually between 10 to 16 weeks). Indica dominant plants grow faster, usually flowering between 7 to 9 weeks.
Ruderalis plants are suited to growing in harsh climates. They typically have minimal THC content, however they are considered 'Autoflower,' meaning they start to flower and produce buds based on age rather than the light cycle.
Outdoor growers with fast-finishing cannabis strains or light-deprivation greenhouses might start Croptober in late September. But typically, Croptober occurs throughout the month of October.
Best in the Northwest?
For many residents of Southern Oregon and Northern California, the signs have been in full swing; chilly nights, towering plants and pungent smells – Croptober is upon them!
Seasonal farming is how cannabis is produced in much of the Emerald Triangle, (Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity counties) in Northern California. Up there, the air smells skunky and half the trucks on the highway are towing a trailer during Croptober.
In Oregon specifically, cannabis users visiting dispensaries can expect a flood of outdoor, 'sun-grown' cannabis to be hitting the market soon, and often for dirt-cheap prices. There will be no official record of exactly how much cannabis will be harvested this Croptober, but it’s reasonable to assume that it's going to be measured by tons and not ounces and pounds.
It’s also reasonable to assume that similar market forces will push prices down across the West Coast, and maybe even in other legal states, like Colorado or Nevada.
Pricing Indoor vs. Outdoor
Dispensaries in Oregon and California see a dip in sales during Croptober and right after, because so many home-growers begin to harvest the cannabis fruits of their labor.
And outdoor cannabis farms will be harvesting by the end of October, flooding the market until April or May. Based on the theory of supply and demand, one can anticipate a drop in outdoor cannabis prices.
But, indoor cannabis prices may drop at dispensaries as well, as indoor bud will be competing with the massive influx of the outdoor cannabis crops. And it’s awfully difficult for marijuana dispensaries to keep the prices of indoor cannabis high when that jar of indoor cannabis flower is sitting next to 10 jars of dirt-cheap 'sun-grown' cannabis flower.
2018 Bumper Crop
Many outdoor cannabis farms entered the 2018 growing season with a substantial sense of uncertainty. A number of farms were destroyed by devastating wildfires, and trying to accommodate the demand increase due to marijuana legalization has pushed some cannabis farms to the breaking point.
For the cannabis farms that were able to acquire local permits and state licenses to grow, the 2018 Croptober "is one for the record books," Hezekiah Allen, founder of the California Growers Association told The Press Democrat. Farmers from all over the Emerald Triangle region have benefited from a good weather year.
Handling Croptober as a Grower
As an outdoor marijuana grower, this is the time of year when all your hard work, dedication, and love pays off. But the proper harvesting, drying, and curing of your hard work is crucial and if you're unprepared, things can get overwhelming quickly.
So, I’ve made a list of priorities to ensure a prosperous Croptober.
- Pure Water Flushes – If you haven't started flushing your plants, now is the time to get started.
- Remove Fan Leaves – For the buds in the middle of your plants to bulk up, they need adequate light. Now is the time to strategically remove the fan leaves that block light in the middle of your canopy.
- Check Trichome Maturity – Test the readiness of your flowers by scoping your trichomes throughout this month and keep an eye out for the harvest signal: amber trichomes.
- Harvest in Tiers – Big plants can be tackled in multiple tiers – enabling the plant to continue to grow throughout October, thus optimizing yields.
Begin by cutting off the biggest buds at the top of your plant. After a couple of weeks, harvest the (now bulkier) middle buds. Finally, after one more week or two, harvest the smallest buds.This staggered technique lets the entire plant mature to perfection while also minimizing the overwhelming nature of Croptober harvesting.
- Dry Your Harvest – For cannabis to dry properly, humidity needs to be right below 50 percent and there needs to be an adequate airflow. The goal is to keep temperatures consistent between 60-70 degrees.
- Secure Your Harvest – The truth is that theft happens, and this is the time of year to be particularly on guard for ganja poachers. Locks are mandatory, motion sensor flood lights and security cameras would be the next steps if you’re still concerned about your crops being stolen.
In Oregon, thieves have begun stealing whole cannabis plants. Local growers say thefts of pot plants are on the rise in part because it’s Croptober and because it’s now legal to grow recreational weed.
This is far more likely to happen in a backyard cannabis garden as exemplified by one of many similar crimes reported in the city of Portland. In 2015, three marijuana plants were stolen from a backyard in Southeast Portland and the theft was caught on camera.
Sgt. Pete Simpson, spokesman for the Portland Police Bureau, told local news station-KATU, that any theft should be reported.
“The best advice we can offer is for people not to share the fact that they are growing marijuana. Otherwise, they should protect their property the same as everything else. Fences, lights, surveillance cameras if necessary,” Simpson said in an email.
The Aroma of Victory
For growers like Jerry Munn of First Cut Farms in Mendocino County, "It’s a month of aromatherapy. The long growing season requires great mental and physical efforts, love, and dedication."
"Croptober means smoking joints of fresh, sticky, resinous flowers and having resin stuck to our fingers and noses," says Munn. "The smells and flavors of new hybrids are at their peak and bring on a whole new terpene experience.
Expanding on Croptober, Munn says, "It's the victory of overcoming challenges and reaping the rewards. It brings people closer together, builds friendships and community."
End of the Season
Now you know the fundamentals of Croptober; the origin, the incredible effort, and the glorious cannabis reward at the end of the season. And it doesn't matter if you’re an outdoor cannabis farmer or just an avid cannabis consumer; Croptober is an important and impactful time of year for the cannabis industry and cannabis culture as a whole. But if you are a cannabis farmer, be sure to post some pics of your dope ladies, #Croptober 2018. Happy harvesting friends!