It’s now Sept. 12, and we’re revisiting the Californian urban farm from last month’s column. The plants were placed outdoors during the last 10 days of July. It took a long time, because there are more than 2,800 irrigated containers that are 20-gallon soft pots. When the plants were first set they looked forlorn. They had some leaf die-back, and then they got sunburned because the leaves of the indoor plants were affected by the UV light when they were exposed. They bleached a bit, curled a little and looked sad.
Soon after placement, however, they started to look better. New growth, that is, the branches and leaves, have a fine field-green color and are far larger than indoor foliage.
Now, six weeks later, the plants have grown considerably and have just been allowed to flower. To keep the plants upright and give all the branches exposure to the sun, they have been woven into a six-inch square plastic netting.
Normally these plants would have been tipped into flowering by the longer nights in mid-August. To keep the planters growing vegetatively, a caretaker slowly walked a 400-watt HPS lamp slowly down the rows each night near midnight. Another HPS light mounted on a rolling cart also supplied dark-breaking light. Breaking the dark period halfway through the night resets the countdown so the plants never receive the 10 to 11 hours of uninterrupted darkness they require each night to start flowering.
Night lighting was stopped on Sept. 7, so the plants should ripen between the last week of October and the first week of November.
Several rows of plants were not treated with flashed light. They started flowering in mid-August and have another four or five weeks until ripening. They are considerably smaller than the treated plants. However they have tight premium buds that will definitely ripen before bad weather typically sets in.
- The next step is to prepare for harvesting and processing. We anticipate a minimum of about half a pound per plant, so preparations must be made for processing. We plan to clip the buds off the plants while they are sill in the field and then hang them to dry. Everything is still in the planning stage because there are several options:
- Hang the whole plants. Process when dry.
- Hang the branches with buds to dry. Then de-stem the buds and manicure them using auto machines.
- Clip the plants and run them through a de-budder machine.
- Clip the buds or use de-budding equipment and manicure the buds using a roller machine. Then place them in trays to dry.
- Cut the buds from the plants in the field. Then slice the stems off the plants using power equipment. Then run the branches through de-budding machines to gather the leaves. Dry or freeze the leaves for further processing.
The field is about an acre and holds about 2,800 20-gallon containers.
Agricultural netting was installed on each row. It is held together using an improvised “W” method of attached 8’ long bamboo poles. Plant stem and branches are woven through the plastic so no tying is required.
This plant is in about the first week of flowering. It is slowing vegetative growth in favor of reproduction.
Close-up of bud. The plant is starting to rapidly produce stigmas, the white pollen catchers.
Plant flowering for three weeks. The plant is placing all its energy into the flowers.
Close-up of bud. The small nugs are very tight.
TIPS OF THE MONTH
- Get ready for harvest. Make sure that you have the tools you will be using to cut, clip and manicure your harvest.
- If you have the time and energy, cut each bud as it matures. If only part of a bud has matured, cut that portion, leaving the rest to ripen.
- Outfit your grow space for drying. Items you might need include an oscillating fan, dehumidifier, heater or air conditioner to keep the space regulated at 70-75 Place trays and racks of strung string to hold the bounty.
- Once the buds are sufficiently dry, package them in glass, metal or hard plastic. If the buds sweat, forming condensation in the container, they are too wet and should be dried more by opening the package or re-hanging.
- Store with a 55 percent humidity pack and place in refrigerator. For long-term storage place in freezer.