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It can be difficult to know exactly when your cannabis crop is ready to harvest. After harvesting the plant matter you’re after, you have to process it. Curing and drying are vital steps towards getting a tasty, usable product.
Harvesting your crop can be the ultimate victory for any marijuana grower, However, the key to reaping the best marijuana lies in knowing when to harvest and how to dry your plants properly.
In this section, we’ll teach you the basics of what to look for, and how to handle the harvesting process when the time is right. We will explain the drying process and give a lot of tips to produce the best buds possible. Without these steps, no one with a nose or tongue will touch your buds - so pay close attention!
When to harvest
After your plant has gone through its flowering phase, it will begin to slide into a decline in health. There are a number of different symptoms which can flag this for you. You’ll notice that the pistils of the cannabis plant are turning red. The stem might begin to broaden. Any resin on the buds will begin to brown and darken, and the leaves of the plant will start to yellow and die back. If your plant has flowered and you begin to notice any of these symptoms occur, chances are good that you are ready to harvest!
There’s some contention between growers on the precise ‘best’ time to harvest your cannabis. It depends in part on your own personal tastes. It’s not so different from harvesting other plants, even fruits or vegetables.
The best way to be able to properly see if your plants are ready for harvest is to use a magnifying tool of some sort. You should be looking for trichomes in your buds that are glittery and filled with resin. If you are seeing them this way, you will be able to harvest at the perfect time.
There are a number of different kinds of magnifying tools you can use to look more closely at your plants. Each will get the job done, but like with any aspect of growing and harvesting your marijuana plants, you need to understand what they all do and what the best tool for you is.
A Jewelers Loupe is perfect for someone working on a budget. It’s not very high-tech, making it the least helpful in seeing the details for the stage of life your buds are in. That being said, it should give you enough information to identify if it is harvest time yet or not.
More powerful than a jewelers loupe, a handheld magnifier of some sort will zoom in enough to give you an even better idea of your buds’ status. Such high magnification can cause some problems, however, since sometimes it makes it difficult for you to focus.
If you’re someone who likes state-of-the-art technology, this might be the route for you. It’s more expensive, as these types of technologies always are, but it will give you a black-and-white answer to your question: Are my plants ready for harvest? You just need to connect it to your laptop to see the information at hand. You should read up on the methods of using it before purchasing one of these.
The latest possible harvest will net you the best results, but with cannabis, that can mean an overpowering and unpleasant flavor if you wait too long. The color of the pistils is the most common way for growers to determine when they want to harvest their plants and begin processing them for use.
Some growers harvest as soon as the pistils begin to turn red. Others wait until the pistils are almost entirely red and the resin of the plant is dark. In general, the later you harvest, the more you will get, but it is also likely to have a stronger flavor. If you wait too long, you could see decreased effectiveness of the active ingredients.
Besides the color of the pistils, examining the resin on your flowering plants is probably the best way to know if they’re ready for harvest. You will notice that the glands covered in resin become enlarged when the plant is mature, and they will also start to swell and look deformed. The resin will darken from transparent to opaque amber as it becomes more mature. When the resin is still sticky and transparent, the plant is ready to be harvest. Once that resin darkens and becomes more amber-hued, you should make sure to harvest quickly because the plant will go through a deterioration of active ingredients.
The pistils of the cannabis plant will be white before the flowering phase. When they begin to turn red, you’ll know you’ve entered the period of time during which you can harvest your crop. If all of the pistils are white, it’s too soon: don’t try to harvest. A safe bet is when anywhere from 25-75% of the pistils have turned red or are beginning to turn red. Although it’s not a bad idea to remain patient during this harvesting phase, you don’t want to wait too long. If you let the plant go too far, you’ll end up with a lower quality product. If the plant goes too long without being harvested, the entire crop could actually be ruined.
Download my free marijuana grow guide at this link for more harvesting tips
When you choose to harvest will also affect the qualities of the bud. Harvesting earlier will give the plant a more stimulating effect when the ingredients are activated, while harvesting at peak ripeness will offer a more numbing hazy effect. This is another area where it comes down to personal taste. To figure out where you stand on the matter, a good bet is to harvest some of your plants early and some late. That way you can decide for yourself which is a better fit for your style as a grower.
Watch the trichomes
There is a second method of identifying whether your plants are ready to be harvested or not, in case the pistil method isn’t quite working for you. The trichome method is actually considered the more accurate one, so read carefully for it to truly benefit your judgment around harvest time.
The concept is simple: you simply need to take a look at the trichomes on your plants’ buds to be able to establish whether or not they are ready for harvest. Trichomes are the growths that resemble mushrooms in shape. Some trichomes are known as resin glands, which have a crystalline structure or appear frosty as they grow on the leaves and buds of your plants. If you have ever noticed the stickiness of weed, this is also responsible for that texture.
The trichomes you need to be paying close attention to are the ones that have a little ball on top of them since that is where much of the THC and other fun chemicals are housed. The key is being able to determine when they are at their highest THC level, so when is the peak time for harvesting them. Since it’s difficult to see with the naked eye, you should use one of the magnifying tools listed above to get a closer look.
So when do you know that the trichomes are ready? You need to compare them with the following color and texture rules:
Clear, White Hairs
This is definitely not the time to harvest. If the trichomes are clear, they won’t be potent enough for harvest, and your final yield will suffer because of it. You should wait until nearly half of the hairs are darker in color and are no longer sticking out so straight.
Half Clear or Cloudy Trichomes
It is still rather early for a harvest. The buds have not reached their full-size potential, although they will still produce a high if you harvest them now. This type of high will most likely be more energetic or “speedy.” The strain’s odor will develop further if you wait to harvest.
Mostly Cloudy Trichomes
Congratulations, you have reached the perfect stage for harvesting your buds! This is the point when they have the highest levels of THC, so if you want to maximize your yield outcome then you have to act fast. You will know your plants have reached this stage when 50 to 70 percent of the hairs have darkened from their original white color. Because of this peak amount of potency, the high that comes with the buds harvested at this time will give you some serious euphoria and will even relieve pain. This can be considered the most “intense” high you can get.
Amber and Cloudy Trichomes
This is a bit later than the absolute peak time for the greatest amount of potency, but only because the buds have slightly less THC and more CBN. If you are looking for a more relaxing, anxiety-reducing high, then this could actually be the perfect time for you to harvest. This high is heavier and often results in a “couchlock” result. You will be able to identify this stage when 70 to 90 percent of all the hairs have darkened.
You can look even more into the effects of harvesting your buds slightly earlier and later, depending on the exact type of high you are looking for. You can even harvest some during the peak time and some later, giving you a variety of options. Just make sure to label correctly so you don’t find yourself extremely relaxed when you were looking for a more energetic effect.
How to harvest
When you’re ready to harvest, you’ll carefully cut off all the sticky buds from your plant so that you can finish the cultivation process that you started months ago. You’ll want a heavy duty shears or scissors to handle the thickness of the plant matter, and a dish of isopropyl alcohol on hand so that you can clean sticky resin off of your scissors and hands. You’re best off wearing gloves for the cutting process, it can get pretty gooey.
Take off any of the biggest leaves that don’t have any resin: you can dispose of these. Remove small leaves and leaves which are curled up around the buds. These will usually have a lot of resin, and if you’re being thrifty, you’ll want to keep them.
How to dry marijuana
Finally! You’re almost done with the cultivation process. You’ve got a bunch of buds sitting there, just waiting to be dried and processed. Don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet, though. The drying process is the most important part of making sure your Cannabis product has a good taste. It’s easy to ruin your product with poor practice, so dry your buds with care.
Right after you harvest, the plant matter will still be chock full of chlorophyll. Remember that you want as much chlorophyll as possible to be changed into glucose. It will taste bitter, and it definitely isn’t ready to be used. You still need to activate the tetrahydrocannabinols (THC) in the plant. This only takes a few days of drying, but it’s absolutely vital that it’s done right if you want a smokable bud.
During the first phase of drying, you will need to make sure that your buds are drying out fairly slowly – between 4 and 10 days. The key thing to look out for, during this process, is preventing mold from developing while you are drying them.
It’s very important to put the same amount of care and effort into drying and curing your Cannabis buds that you did into growing them. This is where you can have the most control over what the plant actually tastes like. If the process isn’t done properly, you can easily ruin all of your hard work thus far. Right after you harvest the plant, it will still be full of chlorophyll, and activating the THC only takes a few days, so remember to stay patient until the whole project is complete. The light is at the end of the tunnel.
Download my free marijuana grow guide at this link for more drying tips
You’ll want to stop photosynthesis from occurring in the plant after you harvest, so put the buds in a cool dark location. This will prevent transpiration from occurring due to heat and light.
Hanging the buds upside down will help you trick the plant matter into thinking that it is still alive, as long as there is still circulation inside the plant tissue. The last thing the plant will do is use up the remaining chlorophyll in its cells as energy. You want the plant to dry relatively slowly because of this, so there is time for the plant to convert all of the chlorophyll into sugar. Don’t use fans or heaters to quicken the process.
The ideal temperature for drying is somewhere around 18 degrees Celsius. Keep the humidity moderately high, too (around 60%). Again, you don’t want the plant matter to dry out too quickly.
During this process, always remember to treat the buds gently and with care. All that sticky resin will stick to anything it touches, and will pick up dust, so don’t forget about the importance of the environment. Stay mindful!
Within a few days, the leaves of your Cannabis plants will have bent around the buds, curling up over them. Some growers advocate removing these leaves before drying the plant, but there are a number of disadvantages to doing this.
If the big leaves have been removed, the plant will have less mass and a smaller quantity of chlorophyll. Having less mass means it will dry more quickly. Again, just because you want the plant to dry doesn’t mean you want it to dry quickly.
When the leaves are present over the buds, moisture has to evaporate through them. In addition to slowing the evaporation process, this will help lower the risk of mold developing on the buds. Plus, it will help protect against dust and other negative factors.
After a couple weeks, the leaves will be totally dry, and the buds and stem should still be a little bit flexible (and likely very sticky). Keep handling them carefully so that you don’t lose any of the precious resin. If the plant matter has become brittle or easily crushed into powder, it’s too dry. The bud should be sticky and have a sweet fruity flavor.
Fast drying buds
If your final product is bitter, it’s very likely that it was dried too quickly. Keeping humidity up in the drying room will help prevent this. It’s important to remember this. Sometimes it can be tempting to use fans or ventilators or dehumidifiers to speed the process along, but you’ll only do yourself a disservice by doing this.
The one time you are ok using these extra tools is if the environment you’re drying is naturally too moist. Also, if you’re in desperate need of accelerating the drying process, you’re better off using a dehumidifier than a heater.
Throughout the drying process, make sure that you’re keeping a weather eye out for mold. Don’t let the plants touch or crowd each other during the drying process. If some of the buds are just too big to dry at the center, cut them up into smaller pieces and dry them on a sieve or filter which allows air to circulate.
How to cure cannabis
There are a number of reasons why you should cure the buds right after you’ve harvested them. There are even more (and more important reasons) for why you should make absolutely certain that you’re curing them the correctly.
Curing is the best way to make your buds taste good. It’s as simple as that. This is because curing them breaks down the chlorophyll. It allows the most subtle flavors that make your harvested buds taste unique to come out. The smoke itself will be smoother and less likely to cause you to cough or have a headache.
Curing even makes your buds smell better. Instead of smelling like fresh hay or newly cut grass (which is typical in buds that have just been harvested), they will have a more unique and enjoyable scent. They even will have a better smell and taste for turning into edibles, in case that is what you would like to use some of them for.
Download my free marijuana grow guide at this link for more curing tips
Enjoyment aside, curing your buds is useful from a purely practical perspective. When you cure your buds, they are less likely to develop mold. Their potency increases, giving you “more bang for your buck,” and the response to them will even be different – you probably won’t feel as anxious or paranoid, nor will you develop racing thoughts. All in all, curing your buds just makes them better.
If you are still not convinced, you should try it out for yourself. Smoke some weed that comes straight from the plant, then compare it to smoking a cured or dried version of the same harvest. You will certainly see a distinct difference, and this is all it will take to convince you.
How to store buds
The final step is safely storing your cannabis harvest after it’s been dried and cured and processed. Above all else, remember that it will keep longer if it isn’t exposed to oxygen, heat, or light.
Before you put the buds away and seal them, make sure that they haven’t gotten too dry. It should remain flexible, soft and supple. Without a little moisture, it will crumble into an unpleasant dust.
The best bet for storage is air-tight jars. Some growers favor vacuum sealing the end product in plastic, but the jars are sturdier and less susceptible to being torn open or letting pressure be applied to the plant matter itself.
Check the buds 24 hours after you first store them and make sure everything still looks and smells right. If it smells strange, let it air out. Repeat this step as many times as necessary until the cannabis has a pleasant smell, rather than smelling of leaves/freshly mowed lawn.
Using smaller jars will help the buds last longer since they won’t be exposed to as much oxygen over the long term. If you’re trying to maximize the amount of time you store the buds, you can also use a freezer.
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