Ready to Harvest?

Stephen Andrews
24 Oct 2022

Croptober is here. It's the season when a lot of growers impatiently wait to harvest their Cannabis plants. How do you know it's about time? Where to start with? How to treat the plant material after that? Keep reading and get some fresh tips on harvesting your Cannabis plants and properly drying and curing them afterward.

Rather than waiting for the "right" moment to harvest, you can start with the buds growing on the uppermost part of the plant. That is if you want to start earlier. The top half of the plant has the buds that mature first and collecting those buds won't affect other growths. 

If you are harvesting for the first time, you will notice that the fruits on the lower part of the plant have slightly different colors, and that is because they mature slower than their counterparts in the upper parts of the plant. You can return later to collect the lower buds, giving them sufficient time to mature. 

Use clean tools when you harvest as you don't want to pass any infection now at the end. Handle the branches gently so as not to lose trichomes in the process. Keep the big branches attached, which will make it easier to hang them later for drying. 

How to Cut Plants?

Small cultivars can be cut down at the main stem. With big ones, make a cut for every branch separately. Work gently with the branches to protect the flowers and the trichomes they contain. Separate the plant branch by branch to ensure there is sufficient airflow before you hang them to dry. Lay them on a plastic tray as you wait time for drying and curing. 

When all branches are collected from the plant, take pieces of twine and bind them near the points where you made the cuts. Use a washing line or anything like rope, cord or string to hang the branches. Prune off the big fan leaves from the stems using scissors, again ensuring the tool is clean. Removing the leaves is easier done when the plants are freshly chopped and it will improve airflow around the buds. While there are various ways to reuse the fan leaves once removed, your buds definitely won't need them. 

an open jar with dried and cured cannabis buds.

How to Dry Cannabis?

Drying is an important step in growing and harvesting Cannabis. It determines the final outcome or in other words, whether you will have good buds for smoking or not.  

The room temperature where you put the branches to dry should stay between 65-75°F, with humidity around 50%. Following these parameters is vital because any excess or lack thereof will negatively affect the flowers. 

If it's too cold in the room, it will slow down the drying of the flowers. If it's too hot or dry, you will end up with weed that's too harsh to smoke; the flowers might also appear dry on the outside while they're still damp on the inside. Mold may also form due to too humid environment. Finally, it's also crucial that the room is dark to preserve satisfying amounts of THC. Exposure to light will accelerate THC degradation resulting in a weed that's too stoney. 

There should be enough space between the branches to ensure airflow circulation and avoid damp retention. If you fear dampness, you can additionally use a fan on a low setting to improve the room airflow. 

The plant material may take anywhere between 3 and 10 days to dry adequately. It may depend on the strain, the room conditions, and your skills (or even preferences) as a grower. When this part is done, you can continue with curing and storing. 

How to Cure Buds? 

Curing is the final step in the growing your own Cannabis journey. Don't falter now at the end. Curing is what ensures the dried buds retain the full spectrum of smell and taste. 

After the drying stage, only an initial amount of moisture is handled out of the buds. Now it's time to store the finished buds in sealed containers to optimize the moisture levels and thus preserve flavors and aromas. 

Most growers cure their buds in airtight glass jars. Humidity inside the containers needs to be in the range of 55-65%, and the preservation period should last at least two weeks. Again take care of the room temperature where you store the jars. Most terpenes are sensitive to heat and can quickly degrade and evaporate. Aim for a slow cure at temperatures around 65-70°F. 

Proper curing also extends the shelf life of Cannabis. Well-cured weed buds can remain stored in an airtight glass jar in a cool, dark place for as many as two years without apparent losses in potency, aroma and flavor. 

It's easy to make errors when you are a new grower. But making mistakes is okay. It's how everyone learns. It would be a pity not to learn from those mistakes and repeat them on your next harvest. So take note of how you handle the harvest and the succeeding weeks of drying and curing. If you grow several different strains, note how each reacts to prolonged or shortened drying periods, curing, temperature and humidity exposure, etc.

Happy harvest!

Stephen Andrews