If you’ve decided to join the thousands of other home growers who have been springing up in states where it is legal, there is no shortage of help and advice around. From choosing the right grow lamps to knowing when to harvest, there are literally hundreds of guides and blog posts out there in cyberspace.
Preparing, planting and growing beautiful cannabis plants all sounds fine. There are even guides on how to roll a joint and choosing between the different types of weed grinders and blunts. But aren’t we missing something? You can’t just take your carefully cultivated plant and start smoking it. Here, we cover the basics for the important but often overlooked stage of harvesting, drying and curing your buds to make them ready for smoking.
Choose your moment
Harvesting can be the most nerve-racking step in the whole growing process. The procedure itself is easy enough, but making the decision on when is the right moment can be stressful. Go too early and the yield and potency will be suboptimal, but leave it too late and the buds start to go brittle during the curing stage.
One of the best indicators is the leaves starting to change color and adopting a slightly yellow hue. That means the time is close, so now start watching the trichomes closely. If they are still clear, it is too early to harvest, but when they turn milky white, it is a good indication that the time has arrived. Leave it too late, and they will go a yellow/orange color. Just remember, novice growers tend to go too early – if the trichomes are starting to yellow a little, it’s really not a problem.
Before you harvest, it is important to flush the cannabis plants to remove unused nutrients. This simply involves flooding the grow medium with water. Give it a few minutes to dissolve the nutrients, then add more to flush it through. Ideally, you should do this 10 to 14 days before harvesting. You’ll then notice the leaves changing color more rapidly. Give the plants one last flush the day before you harvest.
Cannabis plants produce more resin during the night, so the ideal time to harvest is early in the morning, just before first light. Some growers simply chop the entire plant at the base. That’s the most straightforward approach, but with larger plants, you might want to consider harvesting in sections.
It’s often the case that the buds on the upper branches ripen faster. Again, allow the trichomes to guide you and if they are still looking a little transparent lower down, you can either cut the plant midway up the “trunk” or simply lop off the higher branches. Then give the lower sections an extra week to 10 days to fatten up. Harvesting in sections also makes the drying and curing processes more manageable, especially if space is at a premium.
When you dry your buds evenly, it helps enhance the potency of the weed, as well as its odor and color. Failure to get this stage right can lead to mold growth or loss of flavor and vibrancy – and that would be an enormous shame after all the effort that went into growing the plants.
To dry your weed, first cut the plant, either at the base or into separate large branches. Then hang your cuttings upside down, ideally in a temperature and humidity-controlled environment. You need to keep it as close as possible to 70 Fahrenheit and 50 percent humidity.
The stems will probably need two to three days of hanging. You can tell they are “ready” when the thin stems snap when you bend them. At this stage, you can cut your stems into smaller sections and place those into a large tote or a similar container. It doesn’t have to be air tight, but it does need a lid. During this stage, you should regularly rotate the stems and turn them over to help ensure they dry evenly and prevent any mold from getting the chance to form.
The overall drying process will be complete in four to seven days, and only now should you trim the excess leaves. Note that some people remove these immediately after harvesting. For sure, it is much easier, but it means the leaves retain chlorophyl and you end up with that grass-like aroma.
Hold the thick stem over a screen or a large tray and carefully cut away the leaves and the surrounding smaller stems. Take your time, and avoid touching the bud, as any contact will cause it to lose trichomes at this delicate stage.
Now the final stage. To cure your buds ready for smoking, place them either back in the tote or ideally, in glass mason jars. Curing takes between four and eight weeks, and during the first two weeks, you should open the container daily to allow fresh air to filter through. After that, you can reduce it to opening once every two or three days.
Harvesting, drying and curing your buds is not difficult, but it demands care and a methodical approach. Getting it right makes all the difference to the quality and potency of your smoke, so make sure you devote as much attention to these final stages of the process as you did to growing your plants.