The Life Cycle of Marijuana

"Croptober" is a magical time of year for vendors at Higher Leaf! This nickname affectionately refers to the Fall harvest of outdoor grown marijuana, not unlike the harvest of other crops like grapes used in wine making. The natural growing cycle has come to an end for the year and many of our vendors have been harvesting, drying, and curing their haul for the last couple of weeks. We can’t wait to see new strains and products hit our shelves in the coming days. Have you ever wondered exactly how long it takes for marijuana to go from seed to smokeable herb?

While indoor producers can take advantage of planting different crops year round, outdoor growers are limited to the traditional May to October growing season. It can take anywhere from 8 weeks to 16 weeks for marijuana plants to reach maturity and complete the flowering stage. Indoor producers usually harvest multiple crops year round while outdoor producers will rely on their fall harvest for the next year.

Once the plants have reached their peak, it’s time to carefully harvest by hand. Signs of readiness include flowers merging into larger, sticky kolas and a noticeable smell will emanate from the plant. You will also see the trichomes darken in color and change shape. This fresh cannabis is consumable, but it will have a fraction of its potency and can taste too harsh to enjoy.

After harvesting the buds need to dry in a cool, dark place. The buds are hung upside down and given plenty of space between stems to evenly dry. This process can take a as little as a few days or up to a couple of weeks. Drying reduces the harshness of the bud, eradicates the fresh hay flavor to improve taste and can even boost potency. 

Curing technically starts the moment you remove kolas from the plant. It’s more commonly refers to the act of storing partially dried marijuana in glass jars until it’s ready to consume. This process helps evenly distribute the bud’s water content over the course of a couple weeks. Jars are regularly opened to introduce new air and improve the overall effects of curing. It also allows producers to check the bud for too much or too little moisture throughout the process. Buds have finished curing when the stems snap in your hand instead of folding over when bent. Once the weed is successfully cured, it’s ready for packaging and sale!

You may be asking yourself, “But what about outdoor crops that are only harvested once a year?” Outdoor producers often take advantage of nitrogen flushing to store their bud long term without any adverse effects. Cured bud is stored in sealed containers that have all the oxygen replaced with nitrogen. Oxygen causes marijuana to oxidize, which reduces the quality and potency over time. Instead, storing it for several months in nitrogen keeps the bud just as fresh as the day it was sealed. This gives outdoor producers the ability to stock the shelves with their products all year long.

Have more questions about marijuana farming and processing? Contact your local Kirkland marijuana experts for more information at