Harvesting Cannabis Properly

The quality of cannabis depends directly on how well you harvest and cure it. Even the most legendary strains will end up producing a lackluster or even negative experience if cured badly, and proper curing can bring out the best in any bud. After you’ve followed the steps to successfully growing your plants, you need to know when to harvest them and the right way to dry them in order to get the best out of your buds.

When to Harvest Marijuana

Harvesting cannabis at the right time will get you the maximum potency out of your marijuana. While you likely have an idea of when your plants will flower based on their strains, there are visual hints you can look for to confirm.

  • Pistils: This common method involves eyeballing the color of the pistils. If they are primarily white in color, it’s too soon. And if all of the pistils are red or brown, that means the harvest is past its prime. You want to harvest when about two-thirds of the pistils are brown or red.
  • Resin: When the plant is ready for harvest, its resin will begin to transition from transparent to an amber color. You want to harvest while the resin is still mostly transparent and sticky, as the quality of the buds will degrade as the resin gets darker and more amber colored.
  • Trichomes: If you have a microscope or a really good magnifying glass, you can check the trichomes themselves. These too will shift from being clear to taking on a cloudy amber color. Harvesting when about half of the trichomes are cloudy amber is the right move.

How to Dry & Cure Your Cannabis

Harvesting Cannabis Scissors
Photo by: Roxana Gonzalez/shutterstock.com
Once you’ve determined it’s time, the actual process of harvesting cannabis is really quite simple. With ample space, some string, a pair of gloves, and sharp shears, you’ll be drying your crop in no time.

Cutting Down & Trimming the Plant

When cutting down your plant, the technique is pretty much up to you. Some growers simply chop down the plant at the stalk and hang up the whole thing to dry, and others prefer to cut off branches individually until they’ve harvested the whole thing. Either way, it’s important to trim off the extra leaves that hang around the buds in order to avoid the harsh qualities that leaf matter brings to your final product.

It’s up to you how meticulous you want to be, but make sure to at least remove the larger fan leaves before hanging the plants. For those who are harvesting in large batches, machine trimmers may be the best option.

Slow Drying Your Cannabis

The second stage of harvesting cannabis involves hanging your buds and branches upside down. This is the tried and true way to start the drying and curing process. If you were using a grow tent, that’s a good place to hang them, and even a closet works.

You just want to dry your buds in a place that’s dark and not too humid or dry. Slow drying is key to harvesting cannabis successfully since it keeps the most cannabinoids and terpenes intact. The process should ideally take between 4 and 7 days, when the outsides of the flowers are dry upon the first touch, and the smaller stems start to snap rather than bend.

Curing Your Cannabis

Harvesting Cannabis Drying
Photo by: Roxana Gonzalez/shutterstock.com
Once you can snap off small buds cleanly and with no plant matter strings left behind, it’s time to jar your cannabis. You want a room temperature of around 70F, with 60-65% humidity.

Fill your mason jar about of the way with your dry-to-the-touch buds and seal them up!

For the first week, open up the jars to air them out at least once a day. This gives them the oxygen they need to do their thing, and you can check to make sure no moisture is building up. If your buds are getting moist and starting to stick together, leave them to air out for an hour or two before re-capping them.

After the first couple of weeks, you can begin decreasing how often you check on and air out your cannabis to once a week or so. You’ll continue to see improvements from the curing for up to 6 months, and then your buds will be ready to enjoy!