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When Is Your Cannabis in Season? Factors That Influence Growing, Harvest, and Availability

June 6, 2016

Cannabis is an annual plant that flowers from late summer into fall. The natural growing season begins when farmers plant seeds every spring; these seedlings quickly develop branches and leaves over the next few months, becoming taller and bushier until longer nights after the summer solstice trigger the flowering phase. In autumn, when flowers are ripe, they are cut down, dried, and trimmed before entering the market.


Growing Cannabis Indoors vs. Outdoors: 3 Key Differences

Wherever cannabis cultivation occurs outdoors, consumers typically enjoy an overabundance of fresh flowers after the yearly harvest. Commercially grown outdoor cannabis is sold cheaply and speedily in late fall and winter. States with legal cannabis sales often experience drastic shifts in supply and demand as farmers flood the market with product while some consumers turn to homegrown or cheaper black market sources. Top-shelf sungrown cannabis becomes available more gradually in the winter and early spring. By midyear, stockpiles dwindle and prices rise as surplus turns to scarcity.

How Do Environmental Factors Affect Cannabis’s Growing Season?

Cannabis crops

In the northern hemisphere, seeds are planted as early as March or as late as May, and flowers are harvested from September through November. Seasons are reversed in the southern hemisphere, so planting takes place from September to November and harvest time is March to May. In the tropics, near the Equator, it is actually possible to harvest outdoor cannabis throughout the year.

A cannabis plant switches from the vegetative to the flowering stage when the days get shorter and the nights get longer. The precise timing varies depending on latitude. A strain that starts flowering in early July when cultivated in California or Colorado should not flower until August in Canada or Holland. In Hawaii, that same strain may be capable of flowering at almost any time.


Why Cannabis Growing Techniques Differ So Much Between the US and Europe

Temperature, altitude, rainfall, and other environmental conditions also influence cannabis maturation and determine the ideal growing season in any given location. Mild weather encourages plants to finish sooner, whereas excessive heat or cold can delay flowering and ripening.

Do Different Strains Have Different Growing Seasons?

Young cannabis plants being grown

Strain genetics have a significant impact on growing season. Cannabis varieties adapt to their native habitat, and breeders create strains that are best suited to the local climate. Generally speaking, indicas stay shorter and flower faster than their sativa cousins, while equatorial sativas have the longest flowering time and may not survive long enough to ripen when grown too far north or south. A strain developed in a cool coastal area will likely finish early when grown in a warm inland region. While landraces and old-school strains tend to be more demanding, modern genetics have been designed to deliver higher yields in a shorter period of time.


The Cannabis Origin: What Is a Landrace Strain?

DJ Short, creator of the iconic Blueberry, reports that the second to third week of October is his favorite time to harvest his signature indica strain in Oregon, where he lives. But he waits until late November or even December to harvest certain sativas. The cultivators at Shine On Farms endure increasingly wintery weather at their off-grid farm in the hills of northern California’s Anderson Valley, long after the growing season has ended for their friends and neighbors, as they wait for their beloved Super Silver Haze to finish flowering.

How Do Cultivation Techniques Influence Cannabis Growth?

Farmer cultivating cannabis

Cultivation techniques, strategies, and preferences affect the growing season as well, and farmers make calculated decisions based on their experiences and objectives. Many believe it is better to plant when the moon is waxing and harvest when the moon is waning. Guerilla growers sometimes plant later in the season, a strategic decision resulting in smaller plants that are easier to conceal from law enforcement. Regulations such as plant count limits incentivize some legally permitted cultivators to plant early in order to grow larger plants.

When flowers ripen in the fall, farmers must choose the most opportune moment to harvest. Flowers that are harvested early induce a lighter, more cerebral high, and flowers that are harvested late have a more narcotic body effect. A later harvest also leads to increased risks from mold, mildew, pests, and damage from frost or storms.

Ed Rosenthal, the “guru of ganja,” considers cannabis perfectly ripe when the trichomes turn to a milky or amber color, but notes, “this is about a week later than some people prefer.” In his Big Book of Buds, Rosenthal complains that the cannabis for sale in Dutch coffeeshops is often immature, which results in a “racing and buzzy” high that he finds unsatisfying. “Obviously, ripening time is affected by your idea of ripeness,” he concludes.


‘Beyond Buds’: A Look Into Ed Rosenthal’s New Guide to Cannabis Extracts

Mendocino farmer and activist Casey O’Neill, who writes for The Ganjier, says, “There are about as many methodologies for harvesting cannabis as there are cannabis farmers.” Because crops frequently ripen all at once, and harvesting is an arduous and time-consuming process, O’Neill says, “It is better to start harvesting early and finish on time, rather than starting on time and finishing late.” O’Neill also appreciates the high bestowed by “fewer amber trichomes and more clear to milky ones,” which add “a kiss of ephemeral lightness,” avoiding the “sedative, opioid effect of the amber trichomes.” He explains that his indica-dominant strains would be “too heavy for the modern consumer” if they were allowed to ripen more fully.

The Impact of Harvesting, Drying, and Curing Decisions on Seasonal Cannabis Availability

Cannabis buds on a wooden table

Once plants have been harvested, they must be dried to reduce water content and remove chlorophyll. Plants should be hung in a climate-controlled room for 10 days to two weeks, although some claim that as few as five or six days can be sufficient and others insist that two weeks is the minimum. According to Franco, of Green House Seed Co., “The difference between drying 10 days and 14 days is not very evident to the novice, but creates a world of difference to the connoisseur.” Flowers that are dried too rapidly will have a harsh or bitter flavor, and flowers that are too moist will not burn.

Connoisseur-quality cannabis should be cured after drying, but commercial growers rarely take the time to do so. “In a perfect world, there would be about six to eight weeks between cutting the flowers, hanging to dry, trimming, and then stabilization,” says Kevin Jodrey, the cultivation director at Wonderland Nursery in Humboldt County. “The reality is that the grower prays for a quick drop as soon as it is dried and trimmed, which could be as short as 10 days from chop to sale.”


Leafly’s Visual Quality Guide to Selecting Cannabis

Drying and curing inevitably shape flavor and effect, for better or worse. Preserving and developing the cannabinoid and terpene profile is a delicate process. Temperature and humidity should be controlled and adjusted according to flowers’ density and terpene content. Flowers that are dried and cured correctly offer a smoother, more nuanced smoking experience. “The high of cured weed is always deeper and more introspective, often becoming a meditation and inner-vision tool,” says Franco. “The flower becomes much more complex and refined, gaining in depth as well as in variation of bouquet.”

Boutique farms are more inclined to dedicate extra time to produce a premium product. Nikki Lastreto of Swami Select says, “We like our flowers best around April. Some strains take longer to ripen — full Kush strains aren’t quite ready until July.”

When to Look for the Best Cannabis in Season

Harvested cannabis

Meticulous handling, hand-trimming, and proper storage differentiate craft cannabis. Small family farms may lack the resources to trim an entire crop all at once, and instead trim continually for several months. Swami Select has found that flowers can maintain optimal freshness for a year or longer when stored in black ultraviolet glass jars in a cool dry space. Therefore, although cannabis harvest naturally occurs at the same time each year, different quality buds may arrive at your local dispensary at different times over the course of the year.


How long is my cannabis good for? Leafly’s guide to storing cannabis

Of course, modern cannabis growers are not constrained by the seasons. By cultivating in greenhouses and periodically blocking out light to simulate longer nights, farmers are able to use the sun’s energy to power three or more harvests per year. These greenhouse-grown flowers — commonly known as “light dep” — are of particularly excellent quality when allowed to ripen under the peak summer sun in late June and July.

Meanwhile, innovation and electricity have made it possible to maintain a constant supply of cannabis throughout the year: a hydroponic indoor grow with staggered light cycles, for instance, can generate at least one harvest every month, ensuring a perpetual supply of fresh indoor-grown flowers year-round. As such, you’ll never arrive at your local dispensary to find it empty due to cannabis being out of season.


How to Pair Fresh Spring and Summer Produce With Cannabis

That said, consider the fact that while you can find fresh produce at the grocery store all year-round, when locally grown fruits and vegetables are in season they are unequivocally superior. If you are fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time, the same principle applies to seasonal sun-grown cannabis.

  • Kerry Huakai Emerson

    A similar article we submitted to Leafly before the publishing of this article equipped with even a Ed quote and DJ Short references:

    Creating the Perfect Hawaiian Pakalōlō Grow Indoors

    “Marijuana may not be addictive, but growing it is” -Ed Rosenthal

    Pakalōlō (the Hawaiian word for cannabis) in Hawai’i is world renowned
    as some of the most ‘ono (delicious) Pakalōlō on the planet, but what is
    it that makes the Pakalōlō of paradise so special?

    Plants, animals and humans seem to adapt very well to the climate here
    in Hawai’i for the most part, but just ask any Hawai’i grower about the
    challenges that arise when taking a non-Hawaiian Pakalōlō strain to the
    islands and growing her for the first few runs.

    It can take many seasons for non-Hawaiian Pakalōlō to adapt to our
    various micro climates here in Hawai’i, some strains never really
    acclimatize and have to be abandoned after a few seasons of less than
    desirable results, while other strains such as the infamous ‘98 Aloha
    White Widow quickly adapt to the climate in Hawai’i and are passed
    around through our underground community for other growers to sample and
    add to their gardens.

    A strain like ‘98 Aloha White Widow that has been on the Big Island for
    almost two decades now can change in amazing ways that even give the
    strain a truly Hawaiian feel to it. ‘98 Aloha White Widow growers who
    try to grow a White Widow strain that has not adapted to Hawai’i usually
    say the differences are so drastic it almost even seems like a
    different strain.

    In twenty years ‘98 Aloha White Widow has been accepted into Hawaiian
    Pakalōlō culture and is even considered by many to be the Hānai
    (adopted, related by love not by blood) Haole (foreigner, alien) cousin
    of many of our favorite Hawaiian landrace strains like Kona Gold, Puna
    Buddaz, Kaua’i Electric, Moloka’i Purpz and of course Hollywood’s
    favorite Hawaiian Pakalōlō strain: Maui Wowie.

    Unlike many new additions to the wonderful world of weed in Hawai’i,
    landrace Hawaiian Pakalōlō strains have had centuries to adapt and
    acclimatize to our unique tropical micro climates since this medicinal
    wonder weed first arrived upon the shores of the Hawaiian island chain.

    Before the 1970’s Pakalōlō in Hawai’i was grown almost exclusively
    outdoors, with an absolutely perfect climate for growing year round in
    full tropical Hawaiian sunshine, the need to grow indoors never really
    presented itself.

    That need finally presented itself in the form of Operation Green Harvest born on the Big Island of Hawai’i in the late 1970’s.

    Federal, state and local narcotics officers with the aid of police and
    National Guard helicopters, began scouring the islands searching for
    Pakalōlō with the goal of eradicating perhaps the most medicinal
    cannabis on the planet.

    By 1980 Green Harvest was a statewide operation, with the majority of funding coming from the Drug Enforcement Agency.

    Local people now have to live in fear of invasive helicopters violating
    our privacy and stealing our Pakalōlō. To this day it is not uncommon to
    see armed men descending out of helicopters on ropes and leaving with
    loads of Pakalōlō plants in tow flying away into Hawaiian sunset.

    Operation Green Harvest pushed many growers in Hawai’i inside and forced
    both indoor and outdoor growers alike to abandon many larger Hawaiian
    sativa strains with their long flower cycles in favor of faster
    flowering strains that could be hidden in the bush or harvested months
    earlier than Hawaiian landrace sativa strains.

    It is estimated that %1 of all electricity used in the United States goes to indoor Pakalōlō growing operations.

    With numbers like that on the rise daily and countless new grow rooms
    being built as we speak (or type) as well as in order to help growers
    around the globe who want to cultivate Hawaiian Pakalōlō indoors; we
    decided to share our Mana’o (thoughts and beliefs) on the best ways to
    grow Hawaiian Pakalōlō indoors.

    Hawaiian sativa strains have been grown here in Hawai’i for hundreds of
    years, during this time they acclimatized to the environment, perhaps
    the most important factor in growing a Hawaiian sativa indoors is the
    photo period or light cycle you give your plants.

    In Hawai’i there is between a maximum of 13 hours and 26 minutes on the
    summer solstice June 21st to 10 hours and 50 minutes during the winter

    There is less than a 3 hour difference between the longest day of the
    year and the shortest here in Hawai’i. There is also no daylight savings
    time, we never have to set our watches back or forward, we stay on
    Hawai’i time.

    Hawaiian landrace strains barely recognize a difference between their
    vegetative growth photoperiod at 13 hours and the traditional 12/12
    flower photo period. Many beginning growers who attempt to flower a
    strain like Maui Wowie indoors at 12/12 will notice that Wahine (female)
    Maui Wowie plants may take up to 4-6 weeks to display their first

    Try inducing a 11/13 or even a 10/14 light/dark photoperiod and watch
    the dramatic difference displayed as your Maui Wowie plants begin
    flowering right away and fully finish in up to 9-11 weeks as opposed to
    Maui Wowie flowered at 12/12 that may even still be light and airy with
    prematurely developed buds at 11 weeks.

    Here is an excerpt from an article by the legendary breeder of such
    superb strains as Blueberry, Flo and Grape Krush; DJ Short, illustrating
    the important part photo period plays when growing sativa strains

    Breeding tips by DJ Short (25 Nov, 2002)

    “How to bring out the Sativa and breed the ultimate buds”:

    “This is what distinguishes the true
    breeding, ancient acclimated, region of origin varieties – especially
    the tropical and equatorial Sativa – from the crosses that have happened
    since. The ancient specimens have a much narrower genotype range, and
    therefore a more specific phenotype than their contemporary crosses
    despite environmental conditions. It is up to future adventurers to
    provide the best possible environmental considerations, along with the
    best possible genetic considerations, in order to resurrect the
    legendary happy flowers of yore.

    After many years of first-hand experience breeding herb indoors as well
    as outdoors, I am of the opinion that the two most influential factors
    involving phenotypic variation and expression among current indoor herb
    breeding projects are the photoperiod (hours of light per day) and the
    angle of light in relationship to the growing plant.

    Specifically, I find the single most powerful influence to the Indica
    dominant phenotype is the traditional 18/6 veggie cycle and 12/12
    flowering cycle. The 18/6 veggie and 12/12 flower cycle is an attempt,
    however poor, to mimic the Indica-producing photoperiod. It is my belief
    that this light cycle strongly influences for Indica phenotypic

    Sativa phenotype characteristics will manifest under a more equatorial
    photoperiod, closer to a 13/11 veggie cycle and an 11/13 flower cycle.
    This is the light timing range to use to elicit more Sativa dominant
    expression from your plants.”​

    DJ Short is widely regarded as one of the best breeders every to bless cannabis culture with his colorful creations.

    Any advice on cultivation and breeding by DJ Short you can get your
    hands on is highly recommended reading for any grower or breeder
    regardless of skill level or how many years you have been growing.

    They (whoever they are) do say you “learn something new everyday”.

    One of the most beautiful things about cannabis cultivation is that
    there is always a new lesson to be learned in this fragrant flowery
    field with abundant knowledge already available from the legends and
    fresh ground being broken by Pakalōlō pioneers as cannabis culture
    continues to grow and flourish into the future.

    With a Hawai’i style photoperiod of 11/13 (or even 10/14) you will see
    your Hawaiian Pakalōlō bloom properly, as opposed to lagging behind in a
    12/12 photo period unsure if she is supposed to continue vegetative
    growth or begin flowering.

    After deciding upon the proper photo period, our next step is to choose
    the right light. On the market today you will find a smorgasbord of grow
    lights from traditional Metal Halide and High Pressure Sodium bulbs to
    new L.E.D. technology, but as for the light that comes closest to
    duplicating the broad spectrum of light emitted from the sun; plasma
    lights are the closest you can get to the sun.

    To truly create a Hawaiian style grow environment you must give your
    plants lots of light as it is estimated we have %75 sunny days yearly in
    Honolulu, but light is not the only factor.

    In Hawaii`i, there is no denying the quality of the air, people describe
    the atmosphere here as being “charged”and even “alive”. In nature,
    where the air is fresh, negative ions are in abundance.

    When the air is negatively charged, the growth of plants is dramatically
    increased. This is the reason everything the jungles of Hawaii`i grow
    so big and lush. The highest concentration of negative ions is found in
    places where there is moving water, where waves lap the shore or a
    waterfall creating a torrent of ionic-ally charged mist casting mini
    rainbows when the sun angle is just right.

    A negative ion generator in a grow room will aid the recreation of the
    Hawaiian grow environment. An ionized atmosphere affects the metabolic
    rate of plants. The more negative ions the faster the growth and
    healthier the plant.

    The secret lies in carbon dioxide.

    Hawai`i has a much warmer temperature and active volcano on the Big
    Island dictating that Hawaiian strains are used to absorbing more C02.
    If the C02 takes on a negative charge, it is more rapidly up taken
    during the process of photosynthesis. Ionization essentially allows a
    more efficient absorption of carbon dioxide resulting in faster growth.

    Whereas humans and animals use lungs to breathe, plants use hundreds of
    tiny pores in the leaves called stomata to get C02 out of the air. As a
    byproduct of photosynthesis, plants release oxygen back into the air.

    In high-light situations, as in the tropics, supplying more C02 allows
    plants to use more of that light, which results in increased
    photosynthesis. In an indoor grow, increasing C02 and negative ions
    together creates a synergistic effect where the combined effect is
    greater than the sum of its parts. The plants stomata can absorb much
    more C02 when it is negatively charged.

    This simple recreation of a natural jungle environment rewards the
    grower with a significant increase in yield and quality of cannabis.

    C02 can make your plants grow up to 20% faster, produce larger plants, and enhance your yields significantly.

    Maintaining 1200-1500 PPM of C02 in the grow area allows growers to keep
    temperatures much higher than normal, up to 95°F. We recommend not
    exceeding 85°F in any indoor grow as 70°F-85°F is the temperature
    perfect zone for C02 enrichment.

    They (really who are they and where did they get so many great sayings) always say:

    “You are what you eat”, this goes for the food we put in our bodies,
    what we feed our animal ‘Ohana (family) and of course the fertilizers we
    give our plants. Therefor Pua Mana ‘Ohana recommends when cultivating
    Pakalōlō to do so organically feeding your plants what they would be
    getting in Nature, naturally.

    We have a saying here in Hawai’i: Malama ka ʻĀina (respect the land).

    The rich volcanic soil here in Hawai’i is world renown as some of the
    best soil on the planet. There are many organic volcanic soils on the
    market today that will compliment any Hawaiian strains you would like to
    add to your garden.

    We do not recommend growing Hawaiian Pakalōlō in hydroponic, aero-ponic
    or deep water culture set ups, the most effective way to grow Hawaiian
    Pakalōlō is to grow in soil or even coco coir with a high nutrient
    feeding regimen. As volcanic soil in Hawai’i is extremely rich in
    minerals and live with microbial growth, make sure you give them a soil
    that is loaded with minerals and inoculated with Mycorrhizae for a
    healthy root zone and you will have great results.

    Finding a soil containing or adding amendments like Fish Bone Meal,
    Oyster Shell Flour, Kelp Meal, Green sand, Glacial Rock Dust, Feather
    Meal, Bat Guano, Sea-Bird Guano, Langbeinite, Worm Castings, Crab Meal,
    Nettle Leaf and Humic Acid is another great way to give your Hawaiian
    Pakalōlō a taste of home.

    Volcanic soil is very high in calcium and we have found along with high
    levels of C02 Hawaiian Pakalōlō can take high amounts of calcium and
    magnesium and of course lots of fresh clean water!

    These techniques have proven invaluable in our Pakalōlō preservation and
    breeding projects as well as our medical grows as the islands have
    become more densely populated with growers the chance of cross
    pollination from invasive Pakalōlō has risen dramatically.

    While we can do our best to recreate the tropical conditions of Hawai’i
    when growing Hawaiian strains indoors, the truth is Hawai’i is very
    special and there is no way to grow Hawaiian Pakalōlō indoor exactly the
    same way as Mother Nature has done with a little assistance from
    Hawai’i ‘Ohana for Hanauna (generations).

    The best place to grow Hawaiian Pakalōlō really is outdoors in Hawai’i.

    “There’s no place like home” and “you can’t beat the real thing”.

    If you do grow outdoor here in Hawai’i, please make sure to Malama ka
    ʻĀina (respect the land) only using organic cultivation methods to
    preserve our ʻĀina (land; that which feeds us) for future Hanauna
    (generations), and watch out for the helicopters.

    For those of you here in Hawai’i, on the mainland or elsewhere on planet
    Earth planning to plant some Hawaiian Pakalōlō indoors, seeking that HI
    mind state high that makes your mind soar; this bud is for you.

    Aloha a hui hou,

    Pua Mana ‘Ohana

    • Willy Boy

      Maika’i o pua mana👏
      Aloha bradah kerry,I live nanakuli on oahu and tried with no avail to get my lima’s on 98 white widow.
      Plz my bradah.any help with my situation would deeply appreciated
      Mahalo nui loa o Kerry huakai

      Facebook:willz kerisiano

  • Ray

    Yeah, if she pees or throws up on the plant that would be detrimental to its health.