The process of cultivating cannabis plants is crowned by the harvest you gather and the joy. It matters a lot, to your success as a cannabis plant grower, to harvest cannabis plants when appropriate and by doing this correctly. Your big buds have grown from a tiny seedling into a mature cannabis plant and have grown to a point where they are covered in crystals. Your final product will be judged on the quality and potency it contains. You can significantly increase the potency and quality of your cannabis crop by following a few easy steps to dry correctly and cure it.
Three key steps are required to produce amazing resinous buds at this stage.
- The right time to harvest cannabis
- Correct way of drying cannabis flowers
- The finishing (curing) of the final product (dried flowers). We’ll walk you through each step and help you maximize your THC, CBD, and terpene levels. This guide will help you enjoy the best of home grown marijuana.
Timing The Harvest Of Your Plants
Why it matters:
To maximize the amount of cannabinoid in your buds, it is important to know when to harvest them. You’ll miss THC, CBD, and other great stuff if you don’t harvest your buds in time. But if you wait too long, these same molecules will begin to degrade.
Maximizing THC Level
Let’s look at THC as an example. Although it can be found throughout the plant, the most concentrated concentration of this wonderful psychoactive molecule is in the resin on the buds. THC crystals (or trichomes) begin to form about halfway through flowering. However, they start to cover the buds within the last week.
The trichomes will be fully developed by the time the buds are harvested. This will increase the THC content and the potency. The resin glands can begin to break down if you wait too long before harvesting. THC and THCV found in buds will also be broken down into CBN. This cannabinoid has a strong sedative effect and unpleasant effects. Proper harvesting and drying will reduce the amount of CBN found in your final buds.
Maximizing CBD Level
Now we know that THC isn’t the only important compound in marijuana. CBD, CBG and CBN all have a role in reducing the effects of THC. Some cannabinoids, such as THCV, also have psychoactive effects. Because of its medicinal properties, CBD is the second most-used cannabinoid behind THC.
Although CBD isn’t psychoactive, it interacts with THC and can alter the quality of the high. It has important medicinal properties such as painkilling, anti-nausea, and other benefits. CBD doesn’t lose its potency over time, unlike THC. CBN, however, has been shown to increase CBD’s calming and analgesic properties.
You can reap the full benefits of CBD if CBD is harvested before THC has completely degraded. It is clear why it is so important to harvest when you are ready. It doesn’t take a lot of work to grow beautiful, resinous buds. Now, you can lose half of your THC to CBN, or get excited about harvesting too early.
How to determine the right time to harvest
Seedbanks will give you an estimate of the time it takes for each strain to flower before they can harvest them. It is impossible to give an exact time because there are so many variables in growing conditions. You have a lot of options, considering the variety of cannabis strains and individual preferences.
You can see signs that your cannabis plant is reaching maturity. The flowers will become heavy kolas as they grow. The calyx will begin to swell, and small crystals will appear around the flowers. The flowers may feel sticky and have a pungent aroma. The white pistils of the flowers will darken as they swell, becoming a darker shade.
Some fan leaves, especially those that are larger than others, may yellow and wilt during this period. This is normal part of the growing stage. These leaves can be removed and more light allowed to lower areas of the plant.
To determine when to harvest marijuana, most growers use the color of their trichomes. The trichomes, which are tiny structures found on your flower and trim leaves that produce THC, are what you need to know. They should not be confused with pistils, which are the protruding long hairs from the flower.
A magnifier is required to get a good look at the trichomes. You can easily find inexpensive 20X magnifying glasses for jewelers on ebay and loupes. They allow you to examine the trichomes in detail. However, they can also reveal a world of imagery that can be very interesting and a side of your plant that is fascinating.
What exactly are you looking for?
Three changes are possible as your plant matures:
- The Trichomes’ heads are flatten, or’mushroom-like’ in shape.
- They change from being clear to milky- or cloudy.
- Trichomes start to turn amber- or brown
Below is an image of fully formed trichomes that range from amber to milky to clear. Learn more about the perfect timing to harvest cannabis plants in our Guide: When to Harvest Cannabis – Knowing the Right Time to Harvest Marijuana Plants
Three (possibly even more) types of trichomes can be found on cannabis buds. They secrete many different cannabinoids as well as other substances. There are three types of trichomes on cannabis buds. Each strain will produce its own mixture of cannabinoids. These can interact with each other to create different highs.
The trichome color changes can be a good indicator of the amount of CBD and THC in each bud. THC develops in flowering later than CBD. THC and flavor-inducing molecules called Terpenes peak around the same time as THC, which is when the trichomes turn milky or cloudy. CBD production does not peak until the terpenes turn reddish or brown in color. This is when most of the THC has been converted into CBN.
CBD’s sedative effects are enhanced by this stage. You can adjust the harvest time to suit your preferences by carefully observing the trichomes. Are you more comfortable with a heavier stone or a lighter stone head? The stone will be heavier the longer you leave it to grow. Most growers don’t harvest when the trichomes have cleared. Clear trichomes can still get you high with marijuana, but the effects might be minimal.
Some growers prefer to take their plants when they are fully milky. This will give you a great hit without making it too heavy.Growers prefer to harvest when a certain percentage of trichomes has turned amber. This can be anywhere from a few individual amber trichomes up to about 80%. As you move up the scale, you will notice that the stone you can expect is heavier and more physical. As always, your choice of strain can influence this. You could generally say:
- Indica dominant strains have a heavier stone by their nature. Indicas don’t necessarily need amber, as partly cloudy trichomes can still provide a body stone.
- Sativa dominant strains are by their nature more cerebral and less physical. You may need to wait until 25% or more of the trichomes are amber before you can get a good bake out of a long-flowering sativa.
Your own experiences with the results of your setup will be invaluable.However, it is a rule of thumb that the longer you leave it, a more addictive the effects.
How to harvest cannabis
You now know the importance of timing when harvesting marijuana, and how you can go about it. We need to stop and think about flushing our marijuana plants before you cut them down.
Flushing out the medium
Cannabis plants can become irritated if they are grown in soil, hydroponics, or other mediums. To help eliminate this buildup, many growers flush their plants with plain water once every 10 days. Your plants don’t use all the nutrients you provide immediately when you feed them. Some nutrients can be stored for later use.
If you keep feeding your plant and they don’t have to use them up, the reserves will accumulate and remain in the leaves, stems, and buds. If you are unable to keep your plant nourished, they will accumulate and stay in the leaves, stems, and buds.nutrient mixIf the nutrients you’re using are not balanced enough to meet your plants’ needs they could suffer from “nutrient lockout”.
Each of the nutrients’ molecules work together. The plant might become intolerant to certain nutrients and minerals if it has too many of any one. The plants might show signs of nutrient loss when they are unable to use the nutrients.deficiency symptomsThese problems will not disappear if you add more nutrients.
You can prevent or fix nutrient locking by running clean water through your system. This will remove all built-up nutrients, and you can then feed again.You may have to flush your plants at the following times:
- You can switch nutrients, such as at the beginning of flowering.
- If your plants exhibit symptoms of nutrient loss
- To prevent nutrient loss, it is recommended that you take a break every 10-14 days
Flushing during the grow can cause nutrient assimilation issues. Flushing your buds before harvest will improve their quality.The question of whether flushing before harvest is beneficial or not is the subject of much debate. Some growers think it’s ineffective and doesn’t have any beneficial effects and believe flushing lowers the THC content by starving the plants of nutrients.
Some claim that flushing increases THC content because the plant is starving. This causes the plant to grow faster to complete flowering before “winter” is perceived. Most growers flush their plants for between 3-7 days before harvesting. Because of the potential for nutrient residues in buds to cause a bitter taste and harsh, burning smoke, it is recommended that you flush your plants before harvest. These are the basic steps to follow if you decide to flush your plants prior to harvest.
Flushing Cannabis in Soil
You need lots of clean water to flush marijuana that has been grown in soil. Rainwater is a common method of water supply for growers. Clearex can be added to your water if you wish, but it is not required. Run the water through the container until it reaches a pH of 6.2. You will need to use approximately the same amount of water as your container. It all depends on how dry the soil is.
Cannabis in Hydro Systems
To flush marijuana in hydro systemsFor the last few days, you should only run clean water through your system. Your water should be pH 5.8. However, this is not as important as it is now since there are no nutrients to lock in. Leaf yellowing can occur when the plant is deficient in nitrogen after flushing. This is normal and not something to be concerned about.
You might also want to leave mature plants in complete darkness for 36 hours before harvesting. While there is no evidence to support this claim, growers swear that it increases the potency of their plants by shocking them and forcing them to create resin.
Harvest your cannabis plant
Remove the fan leaves that are larger than your kolas and branches before you begin to cut them. It is easiest to do this while the plant is still standing. Although some growers may remove the smaller leaves at this point, it is advisable to keep them on during cutting and drying. These tiny leaves protect the trichomes, and allow the buds to dry slowly, which preserves more flavor, weight, and potency.
Although it can be tempting to hang the entire plant at once, you will get better results if you separate each branch and kola. Each branch and kola should be treated separately to ensure they don’t touch when drying. Use a pair of scissors or Fiskars to remove each branch. If you haven’t already, remove the large fan leaves. Carefully handle the branches. If you are not careful, the trichomes can fall off. This is something we do NOT want. It is now time to dry the lovely sticky buds.
Tips for Drying Cannabis
The Best Flavor: Cannabis is one of the most versatile plants in terms both of taste and smell. It contains over 100 flavorful terpenes, flavonoids and other flavors. These delicate molecules are responsible for the complex flavors found in different strains, whether you like the sweet bubblegum taste or the sharp bite of Sour Diesel.
Poor drying and curing can cause terpenes to become brittle, making weed that smells like it has been sprayed. These are the three main ways to preserve the terpenes within your buds.
- Slow drying: While fast drying can make your bud smokeable quickly, it leaves behind bland, light-weight buds. To preserve taste, weight, and smell, dry slowly.
- Give good air circulation: This prevents mold and fungus from growing, which can ruin the taste and ruin the whole bud.
- Cure for 2 to 4 weeks: Careful curing will bring out the Terpenes and make for more delicious buds.
In your drying area, hang each branch upside down. The drying area should be darkened and provide fresh, clean air. This is where ventilation is crucial. Although a fan can help, don’t direct it at your plants. What you want is air circulating, not blasting at them. Make sure to leave plenty of space around each branch.
While heat will dry plants quicker, it is not always the best. A room temperature of 65-75F (18-24C), should suffice. Regularly inspect your plants to check their health and then turn them around to allow the airflow to reach all the parts. Many growers use custom-made drying boxes or cabinets.
These boxes provide a controlled, enclosed environment for drying your weed. You can make a simple box with hangers and fresh air with a little DIY. It is important to consider the relative humidity of your drying area. The ideal drying area should range from 45% to 55%. It is possible to start slightly higher and gradually decrease it over the course of several days. They will not become too “crispy”, which will result in the THC being broken down.
Drying can take anywhere from a few days up to several weeks. It should not take less than four days. On average, it takes between a week and 10 days. When your plants crack between your fingers, you will know they are dry. This is a crucial step that you should not rush. Although this dried marijuana is safe to smoke, it is best to wait until the final treatment is completed in order for the potency and flavor to be fully appreciated.
This is the best time to trim your cannabis before it goes into the final stage of cure. Use a pair of scissors (sterilize after each trimming to ensure maximum safety) to give your buds their final manicure. The aesthetic part of the process is up to you to determine how neatly your buds should be trimmed. No matter where you fall on the tidy bud spectrum, don’t throw away the trimmings. The small leaves can be loaded with trichomes. They are also great edibles.
Cleanly separate the individual buds from their stems and place them in glass jars. While plastic tubs and bags are acceptable, we prefer glass. After the buds have been in their jars for a week, you can open them twice daily and let them ‘breathe or burp’ for five minutes. This allows for complete air exchange and helps to remove any moisture.
Now your buds are ready. Different strains will cure at different times. However, you’ll often find that your weed grows better if it is properly stored. Curing is key to a great final smoke. It’s the perfect finishing touch for all your hard work in your grow room.
THC is present in every part of the plant, but the leaves and especially its buds contain by far the highest concentration of THC.
Also, it is worth knowing that the concentration of THC in various parts of the plant may differ a lot, depending on how you work with each plant part. To put it this way, the leaves of the cannabis plant will reach maturity, from a THC content point of view, once they are entirely green and stop growing.
But, the female buds of the plant, if they are left unfertilized, can continue accumulating THC for another 6 to 10 weeks since the first time they bloomed, an aspect that is different from one plant strain to another. This is why the buds will always be much more potent than the leaves.
Different Strains – different harvest time
If you get your plant seed from a reliable seller, he will give you indications about when it is best to harvest the plant, again because this depends a lot on the strain.
But if you are growing several strains of cannabis or got seeds without getting information about harvesting, you will have to keep the plants under close supervision and follow your gut instincts on when it is best to harvest the plants. When it comes to harvesting leaves, pruning the plants adequately throughout their development should let you know when the leaves are ready to be harvested.
When the leaf reached its maturity, being completely green and extended, the maximum amount of THC has been reached. You can harvest some leaves while the plant continues to develop and head toward the flowering moment, but don’t overdo it, because it may traumatize the plant and it will delay its flowering.
Also, don’t prune the leaves around the buds, because they will continue accumulating THC until the plant flowers.
Male Cannabis Plants – Flowers
While male buds don’t over the same potency as female buds, it is still worth harvesting them because they provide a decent high when smoked.
The best moment to harvest cannabis male buds is when they almost ready for pollination. This means that they will have the pollen sacks fully grown, hanging and visible, but not yet open.Now is the best stage to collect them if you want to enjoy the biggest amount of THC they can accumulate.
Also, it is worth saving a couple of male buds if you’re looking to pollinate the next year cannabis generation of plants.But, the biggest prize is to get the unfertilized female buds of the plant, the ones that are capable of providing the best sensations when smoking cannabis.
Female Cannabis Plants – Flowers
Again, the buds will reach maturity depending on the plant strain you are growing. Once a plant flowers, pistils will raise from the flower, appearing like small hairs.
In their initial development stages, the pistils are white, which shows that they are not ready to be harvested just yet. A pistil that reached the highest level of THC will have a deep golden color or be even brown.
Also, both the female buds and the leaves in their proximity will have on their surface very small stalks, which are rich in THC resin. When this happens, the plant will appear like being frozen or covered in dew drops. When these small crystals appear, it means that the female bud reached the full bloom stage and you should be prepared to harvest the plant.
The crystals should have a crystal clear color or a milky white appearance when they are best to harvest. Don’t allow them to reach an amber-like color, because the THC concentration will drop, as these crystals will start to decompose.
Also, because of them and to avoid losing them, harvesting should be made with a lot of care and patience.
Fertilized female flowers – harvest seeds
Each bud should be separated from the parent step by using a very sharp scissors and place the harvested buds into a bowl. This will help you get the seeds from your own plants in order to create a future cannabis plantation, allowing you to manually select the best looking seeds.
To do this, take a bud between your fingers and place a collection bowl under it.
Then gently squeeze and rub the bud between your fingers to allow the seeds to fall. You will definitely feel the seeds while you do this, so be careful not to drop them randomly.
If you don’t insist in growing another crop from the seeds of your own plants, although your plants are usually more productive when it comes to seeds rather than the buds you buy from any seller out there, to harvest your cannabis plants just uproot it entirely and hang it upside down, with its buds toward the ground. This will allow them to dry nicely before being used.