Harvesting, Drying, and Curing Marijuana
Harvesting, Drying, and Curing
So now that you’ve made it through weeks of vegetative and flowering, babysitting your plants and making sure they have everything they need, it’s time to reap the rewards.
I think harvest time is the most exciting part of the grow because it’s almost like a cannabis Christmas. Cleaning and trimming up all the branches to see what sort of gifts you’re getting this season.
To make sure you get the fullest potency and ability to store the weed though, you are going to have to make sure you dry and cure your marijuana after you chop them down. This process takes a few weeks, but it is really easy and only takes a few minutes a day to ensure top quality dankness!
Trichomes are teardrop-shaped appendages that hold a majority of the active cannabinoids in your buds and give your marijuana its characteristic frosty look. As the hairs of your plant start to turn red, you will want to begin examining your trichomes with a magnifying glass (with at least 30x magnification) to determine if the plant’s ready to be cut down.
To determine if your lady is ready, remove a small bud from your marijuana plant and put it on a bright piece of paper. Use your magnification device to examine the trichomes color closely as this will be your determining factor.
- Clear – Not ready to be harvested. Minimal THC development
- Opaque/Cloudy – Produces a “mental” high, more focused on brain activity than body
- Amber – Produces a heavy, couch-lock type high
The most ideal times to harvest your marijuana will depend on the type you are growing. If you have a sativa strain, then it is best to harvest when the trichomes are clouded. If it is an indica strain, then harvest when they are predominantly amber. If you want a little bit of both worlds, there is nothing wrong with harvesting when half are cloudy and half are amber. Experiment with your strain and find the harvest time you prefer best.
If the trichomes have told you it’s time to harvest, the first thing you’ll need to do is start cutting off the branches and trimming them down. I like to cut all the branches off first, throw them in a huge pile (like the picture above), then go through and trim each branch down individually.
Once I have all the branches cut off, I have made it a habit to immediately clean up the hydroponics system and all other devices. This makes sure that no rot or mildew develops in my system or on my devices and also encourages me to start my next grow as soon as possible.
You will want to trim off the large fan leaves that have no buds at all and clean up around the buds as much as possible. The more leaves you have, the more moisture that will be in your system which can slow drying and be a haven for mold. However, you obviously can’t trim too much either, or you’ll be trimming off good THC. Use other weed you’ve used as a reference for your trimming and do the best you can; it doesn’t have to be perfect here.
Drying pulls as much moisture out of your buds as possible in an efficient way without ruining the quality. Again, the problem with moisture in the buds is that it becomes a breeding ground for mold which can ruin your end product completely and make it smell like absolute shit.
Immediately after you trim your branches, you will want to hang them up in a well ventilated room. A simple oscillating fan is sufficient circulation. Just hang a string up and tie your branches on to let them hang on.
Examine the branches regularly and to detect the growth of any molds. If you find any, it is best to get rid of those buds so the mold cannot spread to the others and fix any problems that may have caused the mold in the first place.
You want the humidity to be low so moisture can readily evaporate from the buds and to keep the risk of mold down. You also do not want any fans blowing directly on the branches. This will cause your buds to dry too quickly and can turn your marijuana into something more resembling hay than weed.
You will want to dry your plants anywhere from 3-10 days depending on environmental conditions. In areas with less humidity, drying will take less time, and higher humidity means longer dry times. You will know the drying process is completed when the branches are breakable. If the branches will only bend, there is still too much moisture, and you need to dry longer.
The process of curing is a lot like the drying process in that one of its primary functions is to remove moisture. However, this process is where flavors and potency can really be enhanced when done correctly.
After you have determined that the buds are dry enough to begin the curing stage, all you have to do is put them in an air tight jar and keep them in a dark, cool place like a cupboard, closet, or even a refrigerator.
When you begin curing, you’ll need to make sure you get rid of excess moisture every day. Do this by pulling the buds out, laying them flat on a paper towel or paper bag, and drying the inside of the jar. After you’re done wiping the moisture away, just put the buds back in the jar and back into storage. After you have aired them out a few times, you shouldn’t need to pull them out for drying any more than once a week or every other week.
You should cure for at least 1-2 weeks, but as long as you’re storing the bud in dark places, they will continue curing and developing that characteristic fresh bud smell. If stored correctly, weed can maintain its potency for at least a year or more.
Once you’ve cured your finished product for a little bit, it’s fully ready to serve it’s intended purpose, getting you high. Whether you are a smoker, vaper, or green chef, you’re going to have a swelling level of pride when you finally get that first bit of homegrown THC in your system.
When you’re ready to start growing again, start thinking about all the changes or variations you can make to your grow to improve your next venture. Maybe use a different strain? Try to improve overall yield by getting a better light or custom building your own system? The options are limitless.
I try my best to improve my yields each time or make my job a lot easier by getting new devices to help automate the process. You can find a lot of ideas for grow improvement from Growing Elite Marijuana. I’ve been using it to revise my growing setup each and every time and my yields are over 3x what I was originally starting with.
I hope my guide was helpful to you and if you use it to grow yourself, then I hope you’ll tell me all about it. Not only so I can improve upon the guide and find out what’s working for people but because I love meeting other growers and seeing what kinds of things they’re trying. Until that time though, happy growing and may the pantheon of marijuana deities bless you with a rich bounty of beautiful buds.
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