So, you’ve been growing marijuana plants and now you’re wondering if they’re ready to harvest. Or perhaps you’re curious about how to harvest marijuana now that you have some super sticky buds ripe for the picking.
Marijuana plants are fun to cultivate, but it takes time to harvest. However, equally important to remember is that harvest time is the best time.
Your buds are ready for harvest. Are you?
Keep reading to learn more about how to harvest cannabis, dry it, trim it, cure it, and store it with Alpacannabis!
New to the harvest? Looking to learn more about cannabis cultivation? Be sure to check out these other Alpacannabis articles too:
- What is The Best Organic Fertilizer for Cannabis?
- How to Clone Cannabis
- How to Grow Organic Cannabis
- Male Cannabis Plants: What Are They Good For?
Why Should I Learn About Harvesting Marijuana?
Anyone who decides to venture on their own with a marijuana grow should understand how to harvest cannabis. It’s not something that you should leave to chance.
The fact of the matter is that, if you’re growing marijuana plants, you have a lot on the line here. A massive grow operation can be worth thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars.
But if you’re just starting your grower’s journey, you’re probably not operating at the commercial scale just yet.
And that’s OK! We all have to start somewhere.
You’re here, and you’re ready to learn about what to do before, during, and after your harvest. And we’re here to provide you with the support you deserve.
So, keep reading to learn more about harvest time, what to do before and after, and how you can ensure a successful yield for the harvest ahead!
If you have any questions about harvesting marijuana plants, feel free to reach out to us at any time. We’re always happy to suggest products and techniques that could potentially enhance your yield, save you time, and – most importantly – make your life easier!
How to Harvest Cannabis
You’ve grown your plants, and now it’s time to harvest your marijuana. Your plants have completed the flowering stage. But what else do you need to do to ensure a fruitful harvest?
If you’re an experienced grower, your harvest and your plants are your livelihood. But if you’ve just finished growing your first plants, you might have some questions about the harvest and what to do after.
Novice growers can care about their plants too much. It’s actually quite common for new cultivators to give plants more nutrition than they need. But once you have the hand of it, your plants will grow to the point that your nugs are incredible.
But first, you’ll need to know when it’s time to harvest your plants.
Ready to Harvest Your Cannabis Plants?
If this is your first harvest, you’re probably wondering when you’ll harvest cannabis buds. While each strain is unique, there are some general signs that signal when your plants are ready to harvest.
Pistils and trichomes, resin glands, and other features of your plants need close monitoring. If you look at your trichomes, you can tell almost everything about the plants you want to harvest.
Here are some of the most common harvest time signals to watch out for:
- Each cannabis plant might have curling, yellow leaves. Some leaves may fall to the ground.
- The marijuana buds have fully developed and growth has stopped.
- The branches are now hanging as the cannabis buds have become heavier.
While these signs will offer insight into when your buds are ready for harvest, time is the ultimate indicator.
The best time to harvest will vary from strain to strain. For instance, sativa cannabis plants usually go through a longer flowering stage before harvest. As such, the plants are ready later than indica strains.
Most of the time, sativa-dominant plants begin seeding from late April to May. Then, harvesting cannabis takes place in October. However, the autoflowering marijuana plants are completely different.
We’ll touch upon autoflowering plants a bit later on. For now, let’s discuss trichomes and how to use them as a signal for harvesting cannabis buds.
All About Trichomes
If you’re a cannabis consumer, you probably know trichomes are a sign of potency.
But what role do they play in signaling your buds are ready to harvest?
First, let’s discuss what pistils and trichomes are and why your buds have them.
What are Pistils and Trichomes?
What’s the difference between trichomes and pistils?
For marijuana harvesting experts, the answer is easy. But for those who have never observed trichomes or pistils up close and personal, this might seem a bit foreign.
Trichomes grow on pretty white pistils. Young white pistils are the white hairs on your weed. But the milky white trichomes are what produce the cannabinoids.
If you look at your milky white trichomes under a magnifying glass (and sometimes the naked eye), you’ll notice they sit on white pistils. Unlike the pistils, the white or clear trichomes act as the “sunscreen” of marijuana plants.
Trichomes are tiny resin glands found on the leaves, stems, and buds of the marijuana plant. Milky white or clear trichomes mean you’re ready or almost ready to begin harvesting marijuana.
But what do amber trichomes mean? Is this a problem?
Well, that depends on how you look at pistils and trichomes.
There are three types of trichomes that exist in cannabis plants:
These look like mushroom heads growing out of your marijuana nugs. They are visible as small white spots with a crystal-like center and range from 10 to 30 micrometers.
Capitate Sessile Trichomes
These are shaped like a sphere and have a small stalk. They are found all over the entire plant, but they are especially prevalent in dense marijuana nugs. These range from 25 to 100 micrometers.
These trichomes look like a ball on top of a thin stem. You’ll find them near the branch junctions of your plants because they form after your plants go through the flowering stage. They range from 50 to 500 micrometers, making them the largest trichomes cannabis plants make.
As mentioned above, you can look at the trichomes to check the potency of your cannabis buds. So, it’s best to harvest the entire plant when the trichomes look right.
There are several methods you can use to determine when to start harvesting cannabis, but none is as accurate or effective as monitoring your trichomes.
Are Your Cannabis Plants Ready to Harvest? Check Your Trichomes
Trichomes show the stage and condition of a cannabis plant. This, of course, includes whether it’s ready to harvest.
Specifically, you’ll want to look at the trichome color and opacity. Since these compounds are so all, it’s ideal to use a magnifying glass or a jeweler’s loupe to look at your plants to check the trichomes.
You can also check cannabis plant trichomes before other signs start. This is because throughout the grow cycle, trichomes change, going from clear to milky and cloudy. Eventually, they change to amber trichomes. Plants with cloudy or amber trichomes are ready for harvest.
Most of the time, clear trichomes are a sign of immature cannabis buds. This means the THC hasn’t fully developed in your marijuana plants, and if you choose to harvest cannabis at this time, the nugs will not offer such a great experience.
If you look at the trichomes and they’ve changed from clear to cloudy or milky, your flowering marijuana plant is ready to harvest.
The COLAs on your plants should be well-developed and at a well-balanced stage of development. However, when the trichomes turn amber in color, a change happens in the experience your weed will provide consumers.
Amber trichomes form when the flowering plants are left to mature for too long. This results in a heavier, more lethargic high, also known as “couch lock.”
Some consumers will enjoy a sleepier high. So, if you’re looking for a more sedative bud, wait for your trichomes to turn amber in color. Or, you can always grow cannabis strains that have these characteristics without having to wait.
How to Know When to Harvest Autoflower Marijuana Plants
A cannabis plant will tell you when it’s ready to harvest. But it’s your job as a cultivator to pay attention to the signals your plants offer.
To harvest a cannabis plant early is an absolute sin. So, how do you know when to harvest marijuana plants?
Your autoflower cannabis plant grow will not always lose leaves. Equally important to know is that the trichomes won’t always go from clear to milky and amber in color as apparently or evenly.
What’s more, some strains won’t turn amber. With this being the case, you’ll need to look at your plants and determine when’s the best time to harvest.
Wondering when your autoflower cannabis plants will be ready to harvest? Before you harvest cannabis, think about the following considerations.
Most of the time, autoflower cannabis breeders will offer a timeframe regarding what to expect with the plants. This should offer somewhat of an idea as to how long it will take the autoflower cannabis plant to mature before harvest. However, this will still vary.
If your breeder claims that the plants will take 11 weeks and it’s been 14 weeks, it’s probably time to harvest your cannabis plants. You’ll need to check on the buds to ensure they’re mature, but as long as the trichomes are milky and have been for at least a week, feel free to harvest your plants.
What strain has the most trichomes?
Some strains have more trichomes than others. Whether they turn amber or not depends on how long you let them grow. But even if your trichomes haven’t turned amber, you can still achieve the sedative effects you want with the right strain.
Regardless, not every grower wants amber trichomes. Sometimes, the trichomes might have turned amber because of a mistake. while the nugs covered in amber trichomes will still smoke well, these effects aren’t always desirable.
The most trichome-heavy strains available now include the following:
- Hash Plant
- OG Kush
- Sour Diesel
- White Widow
For those interested in catching plenty of kief and making hash, these strains are for you. But remember, check the trichomes on your pistils to ensure you’re harvesting at the right time.
Tips to Harvest Cannabis While Growing Outdoors
Sativas are the many different strains that come from areas close to the equator. These need long summers to grow, and growers in hot regions prefer them.
On the other hand, the strains that withstand harsh, cold climates are indicas. These plants tend to finish faster.
Regardless of which different strains you find in your grow, growing outdoors calls for different marijuana harvesting techniques.
Here’s what you’ll need to do when harvesting your outdoor plants:
Consider the weather
Your plants will flower as the seasons change from summer to fall. However, weather can fluctuate. Depending on where you are, you might experience cold fronts or rainstorms before harvesting your plants.
This isn’t too much of an issue. However, you will need to check the weather constantly and possible start harvesting your plants early if something happens that could compromise your plants.
A light freeze is alright for some plants. You might be able to get away with keeping your plants in 28F to 32F for up to three hours. However, if your plants experience lower temperatures for longer hours, you could have a problem before harvesting your yield.
If the cold is too unbearable, each plant might have dark and crispy leaves that appear wilted. Deeper frosts could damage the plant even more. This is where potted plants can come in handy.
If you plant in pots, you can easily bring them indoors to escape the cold. However, if you plant in the ground, you’ll need to determine another way to save your harvest.
Cold fronts are problematic for a cannabis plant. But rain can be just as bad. The duration and severity of a rainstorm can damage a plant with ease. However, if the rain will pass fast and the plants will dry out quickly, your plant could weather the storm with ease. But if the storm is bad, mold can occur. If this happens, harvesting a bit early is better than losing your yield to sogginess.
Keep in mind, regardless of whether it’s cold or rainy, you can shield each plant with a big tarp and a few tall stakes. Remember, once the cold or rain passes, you’ll need to take the tarp down to ensure each plant gets the sunlight and air it needs.
Now, to Harvest Cannabis
Most cannabis plant cultivators prefer to harvest their cannabis plants early in the morning. This is when the sun isn’t fully out and the temperature isn’t so hot. But what’s even more important to consider is how you’ll harvest each cannabis plant.
Harvest time usually involves chopping whole cannabis plants down. However, if your cannabis plants are especially large, you might want to harvest cannabis plants in sections.
By harvesting cannabis plants in sections, you’re focusing your efforts where they matter most when they matter most. The buds found on the upper branches usually become ready for harvest quicker. With this in mind, it’s ideal to start your cuts on the main stalk around halfway to the top of your plant.
By cutting half of the plant, you’re removing the top portion of the plant. This will give your lower buds more access to the sun, allowing them to grow more for another week or two.
Sectioning the plants also allows you to space out the entire harvesting process. The timing, effort, and room you’ll need for drying and trimming your buds will be spaced out. And this makes harvest season more manageable, especially when you’re harvesting a massive cannabis plant (or multiple plants).
Once you’re ready to harvest the lower half of your cannabis plant, shop the stalk using a small hand saw at soil level. Sometimes, you might want to cut it just below soil level, but this is a matter of preference.
If you’re following a no-till and recycled organic living soil practice, it’s best to keep the roots in the ground inside a grow bag. As the root ball decomposes, you’ll effectively feed the worms and soil for several months until your next grow season.
How often do you harvest marijuana?
If you’re harvesting from an indoor grow, feel free to harvest as often or as infrequently as you’d like. The great thing about harvesting from an indoor grow is you don’t necessarily need to harvest all the time. This is especially the case if you plan your flowering appropriately.
Flowering can take between 3 and 8 months. So, if you’d like to harvest frequently, you can find yourself harvesting small plant room four times annually. Or, if you’d prefer to have a big flowering plant (or multiple), you may only find yourself harvest once or twice per year.
Harvesting more often means you don’t have to worry about a big plant harvest or a small plant harvest. And it also means there’s more cannabis to go around (especially if you’re selling the flower).
When it comes to outdoor growing, harvesting season is just the beginning and end of each grow season. This is because a marijuana plant can only survive so long outside before winter comes along and kills them off without proper protection.
For outdoor growers, harvesting cannabis in early or mid-September means you’ll have a full 7-8 months before the next growing season. If this is your first grow, it’s important to plan ahead and stay on top of things. Of course, if you’re already a seasoned outdoor harvest veteran, then you know what works for your grow.
Most outdoor growers will plan autoflower seeds. This is because an autoflower plant has a shorter life cycle. However, these are neat because each plant will automatically start flowering when they reach a certain age.
Rather than starting the flowering stage when the plant has more access to sunlight, autoflowering plants start the flowering stage once they grow to a certain point. If you should choose autoflowers, it’s important to pay attention to when your plant starts flowering. This is often in the range of 8-10 weeks.
Thus, an autoflowering plant can begin growing early in the season, usually around March or April. Then, flowering will finish and harvesting will take place by June or July. Once harvesting is over, you can begin growing another crop for harvesting in the fall. This ensures growers are harvesting multiple times annually. However, the autoflower plant is usually smaller.
If you want to control the growing cycle of a plant, you can utilize light deprivation. Light deps are rather simple, and you can use a tarp over your greenhouse to cut the light your outdoor plant grow receives. This gives you complete control over the plant flowering cycle, allowing you multiple harvesting seshes in each season.
However, light deprivation isn’t an end-all-be-all. You’ll need to purchase a greenhouse and other equipment to gain control over the flowering stage. Furthermore, you’ll need to apply the tarp and remove it daily. Even if a plant receives too much light for a single day, you might ruin the flowering and lessen THC production in your yield.
Flushing Cannabis Plants
Most other sites discuss the importance of flushing a cannabis plant before harvest. But this isn’t something every cultivator does.
If you’re organically growing your cannabis plants, you don’t need to flush them. The fact of the matter is that if you’re flushing living organic soil, you’re effectively ridding the complex ecosystem of all of the living goodness that you’ve built up in your soil. With this in mind, don’t flush your organic living soil, for the sake of your plants!
When to Flush a Plant
On the other hand, if you’re a home or commercial grower who uses chemical pesticides and fertilizers for your plants, flushing your soil is a good idea. Since these chemicals easily get absorbed into your plants’ vascular system, they can get into your buds, too. Thus, a flushing period is ideal for your plants.
To flush your cannabis plants before harvest, you’ll take the plant’s root ball and soil and flush it with water for around two weeks before harvesting. This will rid the plants of the chemical and salt buildup.
If you don’t flush these chemicals, you’ll notice a difference in your buds. It will burn too harshly and have an unpleasant taste. Thus, flushing all the bad stuff is ideal if you want to ensure your good stuff isn’t tainted!
What happens if you flush too early?
Flushing lets your plants absorb nutrients that are still in the soil. But if you flush too early, you’ll likely restrict your plants’ access to these nutrients and hinder their growth and flowering. Flushing too early usually results in discolored or yellow leaves, so you’ll know if you made a mistake. You should really only flush your plants one to two weeks before harvesting though.
What happens if you don’t flush before harvest?
This all depends on your grow. If your operation needs a flush and you forget to do it before harvest, the final product might be sub-par. Some growers report they have black ash, chemical-ridden flavoring, and bad-funky odor in the buds. Unfortunately, if you don’t flush the nutrients before you harvest your plants, it can have a severe impact on the quality of your yield.
How to Flush a Marijuana Plant
Around a week or two before you begin harvesting, it’s best to flush plant soil by providing them with fresh water. This is something you’ll do to ensure each plant avoids nutrient buildup while ridding them of any contaminants.
Your final flush should happen maybe a week or two before you begin harvesting. You’ll simply water the plants using the same amount of water you would normally, but without any additives. In turn, this will push the plants to use the nutrients they have stored.
Looking at your plants’ trichomes, you can tell when the plants are ready for flushing. You can start once the trichomes turn milky in color.
Depending on the growing medium, you’ll need to flush for a certain period before harvest as follows:
- Soil – Between 7 and 10 days
- Coco and rockwool – 7 days
- Hydroponics – 5 to 7 days
Again, if you’re growing with living organic soil, we recommend you avoid flushing your plants. This will remove the nutrients from the soil, leaving it barren.
How to Trim Cannabis
Trimming cannabis is something you can do before or after you dry your buds. Some cultivators will trim their plants before they’re finished drying. This is what’s called “trimming wet” or a “wet trim.”
However, some growers like to wait until they’ve dried their cannabis. Others like to trim their buds while they’re in the middle of the drying process. Regardless, ultimately, it depends on personal preference and your schedule, which takes time to develop, of course.
When to Trim Marijuana Nugs
Trimming is one of the most tedious and time-consuming aspects of growing cannabis. With this in mind, it’s easy to put it off. But as soon as you have the time and energy to do it, grab some branches and get to work!
Pro tip: Remove the least of the biggest fan leaves while the plant is still moist and hanging to dry. This helps by increasing airflow, drying the buds quicker. But this also is nice because it lessens the number of leaves you’ll need to trim later on.
How to Trim Marijuana Nugs
The easiest way to trim your plants is to start by trimming the biggest fan leaves while the buds are still wet. By trimming these bulky leaves, you’ll enhance the drying process.
Furthermore, fan leaves will typically curl around themselves and your buds. This tends to be problematic as the tight bundles can be challenging to slip trimming snips into.
Equally important to remember is that if the nugs are already dried, the leftover leaves become quite brittle and loose. Then it becomes easy to flick them away with the end of your trimming snips. Sometimes, a toothpick will even make quick work of ridding the buds of those dried leaves.
As you’re trimming, remember that perfection isn’t what you need. Perfectly manicured cannabis buds aren’t necessary unless you’re trimming your buds for a boutique cannabis shop.
Most of the time, trimming won’t involve ridding the buds of the “sugar leaves.” These leaves are the teeny tiny leaves that come out from the center of your buds. While it’s ideal to trim the large, non-sugary leaves away, these sugar leaves can stay.
Take a look at the larger leaves. Trim those that are attached to the main stem of the buds. It’s not necessary to trim away the smaller leaves that come out from the cannabis buds themselves. Once you’ve finished trimming a big COLA or branch, you can further break it down.
Trim away the big leaves, leave the little leaves. But as you’re trimming, you’ll also want to trim the individual nugs off of the main stem before you begin curing the buds and prepping them for storage.
Professional Cannabis Trimming Tools You’ll Need
Before you trim, it’s crucial to have the right trimming tools on hand. If you’re not confident in your trimming skills, then leaf stripping snips would be the best tool to have. These function much like standard pinking shears but with a sleek and razor-sharp blade. You’ll use these by grabbing the stem of your big leaves and running them through the top of the snips.
The other option is to use a pair of precision trimming shears. These are very similar to the leaf stripping snips, but they’re sharper and made specifically for cutting off large fan leaves.
If you have small, twiggy branches that are difficult to remove with either of these tools, then try a bud shaver. This handy tool is capable of shaving away small stems with ease.
A trim bin is also a good option. This is what you’ll trim your buds over, offering an ergonomic station to get your trim on. With a screened upper section, you’ll also catch the leaf debris for composting.
With a keef catcher underneath, you’ll collect trichomes that fall through the screen. This stuff is great for compressing to make hash, or, if you prefer adding a bit of a kick to your bowls, sprinkle some on top.
Pro tip: Ditch the scissors if you’re trimming buds! Scissors tend to crush and mangle the cannabis, which makes it a lot harder to crumble later on. Trimming with shears is also a good way to cut yourself too!
More Trimming Insight
If you’re a home grower, it’s usually possible to chop all of the plants down at once since you don’t have a massive crop. Most of the time, you’ll likely only have six plants if you’re following your state’s homegrown laws. Reach out to a few friends, chop them down, and spark one up. You’ll likely spend a day or two trimming before you begin to dry and cure everything.
For growers cultivating one strain, it’s best to harvest each plant simultaneously. This is because the nugs tend to ripen at the same time, and if you wait too long, you could have issues.
However, for cultivators that grow multiple strains, each plant may become ripe and ready for the harvest at different times. Even if this is the case, you might choose to harvest all of your strains simultaneously to ensure you can finish trimming in a single sitting. But if you do harvest your strains early or late, this could impact the quality – this, of course, includes THC potency.
Here’s what you’ll need to harvest a plant effectively:
- Chairs & Designated Break Down Area
- Clean Surface (a table will work)
- Rubbing Alcohol
- Clothes You’re Willing to Ruin
Ergonomic scissors that fit comfortably in your hand are a must. You’ll be using this tool for quite some time so make sure they’re comfortable.
Over time, your scissors will get increasingly sticky. This is why it’s crucial to get a pair you can clean plant matter off easily. Have a backup pair of scissors on-hand so you have a spare available.
Spring-loaded scissors are usually the go-to for most cultivators. But just because these scissors feel quicker doesn’t mean they’re the best.
For trimming purposes, Chikamasa scissors have a lot to offer. While they’re not spring-loaded and will take some time to become accustomed to, the precision and speed they offer are unmatched in this industry.
Pruners or shears are ideal for cutting branches with each. These are especially important for the thick, woody branches that a pair of scissors would likely break trying to cut. Keep the scissors on hand for your precision cuts, but have a pair of pruners ready for the thick branches.
Chairs & Designated Break Down Area
Trimming takes time and space. Set yourself up for the long haul with a solid setup. Make sure the area is cool and has plenty of light so you can see what you’re doing. Also, make sure the area doesn’t have excessive dust, particulates, or hair to avoid contaminating the weed.
The more time you spend breaking down the whole plant, the better the yield. So keep your working conditions as comfortable as possible to ensure a successful harvest as you put in the hours.
A comfortable chair will make a world of difference. Abstain from hunching over to keep your lower back decompressed. Back pain isn’t fun and while you probably like to harvest, you’re not going to enjoy it if you need to self-medicate with THC the whole trim sesh!
Trimming trays are fantastic for trim seshes because they’re easy to transport and fit in your lap with ease. If you decide on a trimming tray, try finding something that offers a screen for kief collection. Try not to get anything too complicated; simple designs are always best!
A bowl is also nice to have. This is good for placing finished buds in. However, most importantly, your work surface should be a quick clean. There’s nothing worse than trimming for hours only to have trouble cleaning up after.
A little bit of rubbing alcohol goes a long way! This stuff is perfect for debunking scissors and shears when the resin becomes unbearable. A small rag with a cup of rubbing alcohol is the ultimate solution for removing resin and wiping down your blades.
Clothes You’re Willing to Ruin
Your clothes will let dirty – regardless of whether you’re breaking down two plants or a hundred! Even if you only plan to trim two plants, it’s still best to wear some old clothes or use an apron. Silk aprons are usually best as the resin does not adhere to this material.
Pro Tip: A good pair of gloves will guarantee your hands stay free of resin. While the trimming gloves might seem a bit bulky, you can also rub a little bit of olive oil or coconut oil on your hands to keep the resin from building up on your hands.
Long trim seshes can become monotonous. Stay entertained by having good friends and good weed available for the sesh. But other forms of entertainment can help the time pass too.
Choose an option that doesn’t take your attention away from the task at hand. Stick to sativa dominant smoke seshes as these buds will get you buzzed with THC while still keeping you alert.
You can also use other non-visual forms of entertainment. Some of the best options include audiobooks, podcasts, music, and stand-up comedy.
When do you cut fan leaves before harvesting?
We’ve talked about trimming, but what about trimming the fan leaves from your buds? If you can’t see the pistils, the fan leaves probably need to go. But when should you trim these away?
You’ll want to trim your fan leaves at least a couple of weeks before the harvest. These large leaves don’t do anything for the harvest ahead and can only cause problems.
Most growers work to trim away their fan leaves weeks prior to their harvest. This period results in senescence, a phase during the plant cycle when your large leaves begin crinkling away.
Can I cut a bud off my plant and smoke it?
You can try, but this isn’t going to give you the effects you’re craving. Unfortunately, if you cut a bud off of your plant and smoke it, it’s going to be a harsh, not-so-enjoyable experience.
Long story short, it’s best to wait until your nugs are dried and cured to smoke some of it. But once they’re dry, you can try smoking some. However, only after your nugs have cured will they be at a peak level of potency and flavor.
Drying and Curing Marijuana Plants
Now that you’ve trimmed your weed, it’s time to dry and cure the buds on the branches. This will begin the removal of moisture from the canopy and will enhance their smell and taste as well.
Drying and curing your harvest are important because they keep you from smoking stinky, harsh weed. In fact, takes a bud off of one of the branches and snapping it in half will reveal its moisture content. The less moist the marijuana is, the better it will burn.
How to Dry Cannabis
After you harvest and trim your buds, it’s time to dry them. This process typically takes about a week. You’ll know your weed is dry when the stems snap and are brittle, and the nugs themselves feel like dried fruit rather than wet vegetables.
Start by hanging your freshly harvested buds upside down with string or green garden wire. You can fit them all on individual strings if you’d like, but most people prefer to hang them all together on the same wire.
Make sure your place of hanging can provide good airflow, plenty of shade (too much sun will dry out your buds, as well). You may want to consider a drying rack inside if you live somewhere with high humidity or with large amounts of rain that would quickly increase the risk of mold.
While your cannabis harvest is drying, your THC changes from a non-psychoactive state into one that’s psychoactive. But it’s crucial to remember that you should never rush these processes.
If you dry and cure your buds too quickly, you risk damaging your trichomes and decomposing your THC. Thus, keep these processes slow as you dry and cure your buds.
Most of the time, you’ll need to dry your harvest for around 5-7 days. But the amount of time it takes for buds to adequately dry will depend on the climate and drying location for your plants.
Other variables come into play, too. For example, how large and dense the buds are, whether or not the fan leaves are still connected, and more.
Some growers will use a clothesline to hang their buds on individual branches. However, it’s also important to block out the sunlight that could enter the room. An herb drying rack can also be beneficial to use for drying your loose buds and small branches.
Pro Tip: The smell of a successful harvest is dank, and it’s only going to get more stinky as you dry your weed. Close the door to the room, and if you’re drying your bud in the house, make sure to stuff a towel under the door to keep your home from wreaking of potent buds.
Conditions to Support the Drying Process
As I mentioned before, keep the room free of sunlight. It’s ideal to have your dry cannabis in a temperate, somewhat dark room because sunlight degrades THC.
You’ll also need to have plenty of airflow in the room. Place a fan in the room to improve the air circulation and maintain a constant light breeze. But keep in mind, the fan should not be pointing directly at your plants unless the climate is hot and humid. Even if the climate is on the hot and humid side, make sure this is a light breeze and not a hurricane!
Keep your humidity in check! You want to have the room’s humidity level at between 45% and 55%. If the humidity is lower, lower the fan’s setting or remove it from the room to keep your buds from drying out.
If you live in a challenging environment, you might want to invest in technology to make your life a bit easier. Humidifiers, dehumidifiers, air conditioners, and heaters can all help you achieve the perfect drying conditions as you dry your bud.
Access the conditions of your room using a thermometer/hygrometer. This makes it easy to see exactly what the conditions are like, allowing you to make changes as necessary.
When to Remove Cannabis from the Drying Room
You’ve finished harvesting your plants and you’re tired of the waiting game. Now you want to know when you can stop drying your harvest.
If the conditions are optimized, you can expect your buds to be finished drying within 5-7 days. But regardless of the time frame, it’s always good to check the humidity level of your buds. This will require a humidity meter, which is also called a hygrometer. You’ll use this tool while you cure, too.
You want your flowers to have a humidity level of between 60 and 65% before putting them in long-term storage. With this in mind, don’t begin the curing process until your buds are between 62 and 68%. If the humidity exceeds 70%, your chance of having mold develop while it’s in storage increases immensely.
Once your harvest seems somewhat dry, clip some sample buds to test them. It’s smart to take a nug from a few spots on the plant to get a nice average from your reading. You’ll then put the buds into a sealed jar with the hygrometer inside.
After you close the jar, you’ll get a reading. If the humidity jumps to 70% or higher fast, the buds aren’t ready to cure. However, if you notice the humidity is hovering around where you need it, keep the buds sealed in the jar with the hygrometer for 24 hours to get a more accurate reading.
Once 24 hours have passed, check to see if the nug humidity is in the target range. If it is, move on to cure your nugs. But if your humidity is higher than you’d like, let your plans continue drying and check on your harvest again in one or two days.
If you’re not finished with trimming your branches, now’s the time to do it! This could take a few days, and your weed will continue drying. With this in mind, start trimming your buds in small batches and put them into your sealed jars to cure as you trim.
Pro Tip: The only real way to know when it’s dry enough is by touch, smell, and sight. Touch your buds with your fingers and see how pliable they are. If they’re still moist or feel wet at all, give them more time to dry out. Smell the outside of your buds. If there’s no attempt of a smell or the smell is very faint, it’s safe to remove them from the drying room.
What is Curing Cannabis?
Curing cannabis is when the magic happens – or continues! This process involves removing your buds from the drying room and prepping them ready for long-term storage. When done correctly, curing can dramatically improve the overall quality of your herb.
It’s a little mysterious when you think about it: all this time spent waiting for your harvest to dry, but now you’re actually opening up the jar and letting the drying process continue in a slow, controlled environment. Usually, this happens in seal mason jars and takes up to two months.
After your cannabis is dry, it’s not necessarily ready to consume just yet. You’ll want to let your buds fully cure before it’s ready to enjoy. Feel free to try some of it earlier, but the freshest bud dried straight from your branches isn’t as terrific as the buds that have been given some time to cure.
Curing halts the degradation process of all the good stuff we’re trying to preserve. The terpenes and cannabinoids in your nugs are volatile, and by curing your bud, you’re keeping them from transforming into other compounds you don’t necessarily want.
So, what’s happening here anyway?
During the curing process, you have bacteria working on your buds to break the chlorophyll content down. This is the stuff that makes plants green, and it also makes the smoking experience less pleasurable by making the smoke harsh.
If your nugs are overly green, they might not have been given enough time to cure properly!
How to Cure Cannabis
Once your cannabis is dry with a humidity level from 62-68%, it’s time to cure. This provides the most efficient way to activate cannabinoids that are responsible for many of the plant’s medicinal benefits.
You’ll know when you’re done curing by smelling a sweet scent coming from your buds. If they smell like hay or grass, then you haven’t finished with your curing.
Over the next few weeks, you’ll need to periodically burp your jars. This involves leaving the lid off of your jars for between 10 and 15 minutes to air them out before re-sealing the jars.
By burping your jars, you’re exchanging the air and introducing oxygen while you release moisture and other off-gassing substances.
You may be wondering how often you should be burping your jars while curing. This all depends on your personal preferences, but most growers burp their bud jars between one and two times daily throughout the first week or so.
If your buds have higher moisture content, it’s best to burp the jars more frequently and leave your jars open for long. Sometimes, you might even consider leaving the jars open for an hour.
Also important to consider is if your buds are on the dryer side of the spectrum. If they’re around 63%, you’ll burp the jars less frequently. One time per day will work, but if you miss a couple of days, it won’t impact your bud quality too much.
Once you’ve been curing your buds for a couple of weeks, you only need to burp your jars once per week for the next month. After curing the buds for 6-8 weeks, you can lessen the burping frequency to once per month. This is when you no longer have to worry as much about how long your jars are open. Short burps are alright at this point.
Tips for Curing Your Harvest
Curing cannabis should be done slowly over a seven-day period. It’s also best to use airtight containers when curing your weed. Your jars or bags shouldn’t let in any light and they should be opened daily to allow for the moisture to escape.
Check Your Buds Quickly
If you use glass jars, make sure to open them only briefly or you risk the chance of humidity building up inside. After a few days in your jar, once the cannabis is dry enough that it’s not tacky anymore when you pinch it between your fingers, it’s ready to be checked with a hygrometer.
Keep a Hygrometer Inside at Least One Jar
By keeping a hygrometer inside of one or more containers, you can check your progress with ease. Feel free to rotate your hygrometer in multiple jars.
Make sure the hygrometer is visible in the container. Then, if you see the humidity in the jar increasing to 70% or more, remove your buds from the jar for a day or two. Keep them spread out with good airflow, ideally on an herb drying rack, some cardboard, or a screen.
Open Your Jars Periodically for a Sniff Test
Each time you open your jars, take a whiff of what’s inside. Your buds should not have an ammonia smell. If they smell like that, this means the buds are too wet and they’re beginning to grow mold.
If you see signs of mold, this is also an indication that your buds are too wet. This might mean your harvest is no good, but if you’re using a hygrometer, this should never be a problem.
Other times, your buds might be too dry. If the bud is less than 60% humidity, you could bring it back to life. Some humidity packets meant for the cigar industry can re-introduce moisture to your dry buds. These are also good to keep with the buds when you put them away for long-term storage, especially if you live in a particularly hot, arid region.
Now that you’ve finished drying and curing your harvest, it’s time to store your harvest long-term.
How to Store Cannabis
After you’ve finished curing, you’re ready to prep your harvest for long-term storage. Just because you’ve harvested after your growing season doesn’t mean you want to use it all at once.
This is where long-term storage comes in handy.
If you have many marijuana buds, you’ll likely need to use some half-gallon jars. But you can use any air-tight container. Just make sure to store the container in a dark, temperate room.
Once you have your buds jarred, we recommend quickly burping the jars once monthly. But this isn’t super important. If you’re smoking some of the stash on your own, you’re likely burping the jars enough.
Some growers vacuum-seal or freeze their marijuana. This isn’t always essential, or even the preferred option.
Think about it this way. Defrosted food doesn’t taste as good as fresh food. So, it makes sense that your marijuana shouldn’t be frozen either.
Also, having plastic touching your buds isn’t the best option. But if you’re giving the bud away, don’t worry about it so much.
Regardless, avoid vacuum-sealing the buds as this takes all of the air out and crushes your nice nugs. If you feel like you have to use plastic bags, just seal them without removing the air.
Once you dry, cure, and store your cannabis, you might be able to keep it fresh, delicious, and delectably potent for as long as a year. Thus, your harvest could last all the way until the next growing season.
While the THC could degrade somewhat, your marijuana should still smoke and feel great.
How to Store Cannabis Long-term
You’ve removed the nugs from your plants, dryed it, and cured it. And now, you’re ready to store the fruits of your labor.
Long-term cannabis storage is essential as a grower. Unless you’re selling your whole haul at once, of course.
But for the vast majority of growers who’ve completed their harvest of many plants, there will be a lot of weed on hand.
In this section, we answer some of the most common questions about cannabis aging and storage.
What happens when cannabis gets old?
Any time weed starts to age, the bud deteriorates in a few ways. While it’s usually still a usable product, it’s not going to be as good as when it’s at its peak.
Here’s what happens:
Old Bud Loses THC
Over time, your bud becomes exposed to heat, UV light, and oxygen. This breaks down your cannabinoids, including but not limited to THC. While this won’t happen fast unless in extreme conditions, you’ll notice the difference in your experience within a few weeks. Even though old bud will still get you high, the potency will be lower than when you first finished curing it.
THC Content Converts into CBN
As your THC breaks down, it’s not going to dissipate. Instead, it converts into another cannabinoid known as CBN. Even though CBN offers some mild psychoactive effects, it will not get a person high alone. The conversion primarily happens as a result of bud exposure to heat and oxygen, but this takes some time for it to happen.
Old Bud Loses its Flavor
Besides losing its THC content, your harvest is likely to become weaker in flavor, too. It also might taste and feel harsher when smoking the bud if it’s older. This is the result of your terpenes drying out. If your harvest is in too much light or becomes too moist, you also can expect your terpenes to seem off, thereby impacting the flavor of your harvest.
What causes weed to age?
You’re likely wondering what will cause your harvest to age. Several factors come into play here, including:
Maintaining a precise balance of humidity for your harvest is essential to keep it from aging. If your bud sees too much humidity, you run the risk of mold and mildew. However, if your harvest is in a dry environment with little water vapor surrounding it, the bud will become dry and lose its moisture content. Too much of either is problematic, so it’s crucial to find a happy medium to keep your terpenes and cannabinoids from diminishing.
The temperature of your harvest is also important to consider. Too much heat is never a good thing, and you should store your harvest in an area that does not exceed 25.5C or 78F. Mildew and mold thrive in environments between 25.5-30C or 78-86F, so make sure to avoid these temperatures.
How you store your harvest is also essential for preserving it. If you want to keep your bud from aging, it’s best to keep it in glass jars. Plastic containers are common, but these make the bud “sweat.” The release of your harvest’s inner moisture can make it age faster, resulting in dry, harsh marijuana.
Sunlight contains UV rays. This light impacts terpenes, THC, and various other cannabinoids, causing the weed to age. To keep your harvest as fresh as possible, make sure to store it out of direct sunlight as this will directly impact how fast your harvest ages.
How to Store Your Buds & Keep Them Fresh
Curing Your Harvest
After you finish harvesting marijuana, the drying and curing process begins. The best growers in the world know that THC content doesn’t matter if the weed hasn’t been properly cured. With this in mind, you’ll want to optimize the environment for curing for months as opposed to weeks.
Even for those growing outdoors, curing has the potential to enhance the flavor of buds. It’s at this stage that the THC becomes activated in the buds, producing the heightened effects many different strains are cultivated to produce.
While some want to harvest the best plants possible, growers should focus on curing for at least three weeks. With a few weeks of waiting, even the most obscure strains become more pleasurable. However, the key here is to ensure you don’t trap excessive moisture in your curing jars.
Specialized absorbing packets are designed to maintain the right moisture levels for your marijuana. These usually last up to four months to keep marijuana fresh throughout the entire process.
Using Air-Tight Glass or Ceramic Containers
You’ve grown your plants and kept your grow room environment optimized for success. But now, you need to use air-tight glass or ceramic containers to keep the oxygen exposure minimal.
Oxygen damages marijuana cannabinoids and terpenes. With this being the case, it’s crucial to maintain all of the hard work you did in the grow room.
Avoid using a plastic container as these actually accelerate the aging process. While you might find your friends using Tupperware, a glass or ceramic container will maintain your weed better.
Keep the Harvest Out of Direct Sunlight
Direct sunlight is also problematic for weed. The light can damage your marijuana, resulting in a loss of THC that expert growers simply cannot risk. Consider blacking out your jars to ensure the weed is safe from light exposure.
Some growers will even blackout their curing rooms. However, the blacked-out jars are ideal because this allows you to check on your weed without risking excessive light exposure.
While temperature control is important for the grow room, it’s also crucial as you cure your weed. After putting it into your containers, make sure to keep the room cool. Ideally, 70F or 21C to 78F or 25.5C. This is how you’ll keep mold from growing.
Keep Your Storage Clean
Even if you like to harvest, you might not like to clean. But keeping your storage as clean as possible will ensure you don’t have dust contaminating your weed. Try to avoid spending a lot of time in your storage room. Instead, spend time with your plants!
Will weed stay fresh when frozen?
As discussed above, some people think that freezing a harvest is ideal. While this might make your harvest last longer, it will ultimately impact the flavor and potency of your buds.
Regardless of such, it’s possible to store your harvest in the freezer for quite some time. Bud will last in the freezer for between 1 and 2 years. So, if you’re looking to keep your cannabis on-hand for longer, this is possible. However, make sure to avoid touching the buds as much as possible because the trichomes are likely to fall off.
Once you take your harvest out of the freezer, it’s best to wait for them to thaw out naturally. Leave the buds out to rest while they return to room temperature. While the top layer of your buds might be a little off, the rest of it will likely be as good as it was the day you tossed it in the freezer.
Are aged buds good?
By “aged buds,” we mean to say that aging cannabis by curing it is now becoming quite common. For some people, they see the curing process as a form of art. Leaving buds to cure for longer can encourage stronger flavor from the strain, and some people are curing their harvest for a minimum of five months before it’s ready for consumption.
Concluding on How to Harvest Marijuana
Harvesting marijuana is a big step in the process. If you want to ensure your weed tastes and smells great, pay attention to how you cure your harvest. Ideally, you’ll make it taste and smell as good as it did when you were grown!
If this isn’t possible due to either storage concerns or budgetary problems, there’s always the option of adding terpenes to make up for the lost flavor. Terpenes will treat your taste buds to a new experience, and it’s one of the best ways that you can enjoy weed after harvesting.
Whether you end up using the flower to create a cannabis concentrate or keeping your nugs on hand until you smoke or sell them, always remember how important it is to maintain control of your harvest. As long as you pay attention to the plant signals, nug humidity, and how you cure your weed, your harvest will be successful.
Did we miss anything in this article? Feel free to contact us if you think there’s something we should add here!