Harvesting & drying
Harvesting your cannabis plants properly is a waiting game. It’s important to be patient in the last few weeks of flower, so you get the most out of your hard work. You’ll want to invest in a jeweler’s loupe or digital microscope to take the guesswork out of when to harvest. These devices are used to view the trichomes or “crystals” you see on the buds. Now, when you should harvest your plants comes down to what kind of high you want.
To ensure your plant is ripe and at its peak, wait until at least 5-10% of the trichomes are amber on the main colas. Some people will wait until there are up to 40-50% amber trichomes. This will increase the sedative and body high effects of your buds. If you harvest before you see any amber trichomes, but there are a lot of cloudy trichomes, it will produce a more “heady” or cerebral high with little effect to the body. Some growers also like to give their plants 24-48 hours of darkness before cutting it down. This step is not necessary but some growers swear by it.
There are a few ways to harvest your plant(s):
- Cut plant down at main stem and hang as a whole plant
- Take down sections of branches separately and hang them to dry
- Trim off the buds and place in a drying rack
Ideally, you’d dry as a whole plant. This creates a slow dry and allows the extra chlorophyll in the plant to break down. This equals a smoother smoke in the end. Hang the plant upside down on a string, hanger or a rolling clothing rack. Dry the buds/plants somewhere dark, cool and accessible to you. You’ll need to check on the plants to check for mold and to assess how dry the buds are.
You should also have a fan or two going in the drying area without blowing directly on the buds/plants. It may be necessary to use a humidifier, dehumidifier, or heater to help control the environment during the drying process. Drying should take between 3-10 days depending on size and structure of the plant. Once the buds feel dry to touch, small buds can snap off or small stems will snap but not break clean off then they’re ready to dry trim and cure in jars.
Ideal drying environment:
- Temperature – 65°-70°F/18°-21°C
- Humidity – 50-55% RH
Wet trim vs. Dry trim
There are two ways you can trim your plant, dry trim and wet trim. Which one you choose depends on personal preference. I prefer to dry trim as the extra leaves make the buds dry a little slower.
- Trim buds on plant before buds are dry
- Easy to trim; leaves haven’t curled in yet
- Better overall appearance of buds
- Dries faster
- Good if you are worried about mold or high humidity
- Trim buds after the drying process
- Harder to trim; leaves curled in
- More brown appearance than wet trim
- Slower drying process
- More dense/uniform buds
Curing your cannabis
After drying and trimming your plant(s), you need to cure the buds in wide mouthed 32oz mason jars. You won’t want to skip this step as it makes up roughly 50% of your final bud quality. Curing your cannabis will not only preserve it for longer but also increase potency, smell, and give a less harsh smoke. Fill the Mason jar about 75% full so there’s room to move buds around. Cure the buds for a minimum of two weeks and up to six months. It is important to “burp” the jars to introduce fresh air into the jars for the curing process. Simply open the jars and move the buds around so they’re not in the same place as before then replace the lid. Keep jars in a cool, dark environment for optimal results.
When you start curing, monitor the buds after a few hours to assess if they feel damp or wet to touch. If they feel damp, leave the jar open for 2 – 4 hours then replace lid. I’d they feel wet, take buds out of the jar for about 12 – 24 hours to dry further before placing them back into the jar. You want the buds to feel dry to the touch but some amount of “sweating” does occur in the jars during curing. The moisture from within the buds is slowly drawn out. This slow dry is what cures the buds. It’s a good idea to buy some small hygrometers that you can put into the jars with the buds to monitor the humidity in the jars. It can be done without them but takes a lot of the guesswork out of it.
Ideal curing environment (in jars):
- Temperature – 70°F/21°C
- Humidity – 58-65% RH
- Open jars 2-3 times a day – Week 1
- Burp jars 1-2 times a day – Week 2
- Open jars every other day to every few days – Week 3+
- Burp jars once a week to one every 2 – Week 6+
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