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Growing Your Own 101 by Cold War Organics: Harvest, Drying, Trimming, Curing and Storage

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Heady Vermont Staff
Heady Vermont Staff 5 Oct 2019

This article has been adapted from Paul Sachs’ Growing Your Own 101 article at ColdWarOrganics.com.

There are two ways to determine when plants are ready to harvest and using both will often give a more accurate verification than using just one. The first is to examine the pistils (hairs) of the female flower. If the pistils are straight and white, the plant is not ready to harvest.

The second method is to watch the trichomes (a.k.a., frost or sugar). You’ll need a strong jeweler’s magnifying lens to do this. The trichomes will change from clear to cloudy when the plant is ready to harvest. If the pistils are still straight and white, then there’s no need to examine the trichomes. When half or more of the pistils turn orange or brown and curl back inwards, then it’s time to look at the trichomes. When the trichomes turn cloudy, the plant’s THC content is at its peak. It’s time to harvest.

Pruning the leaves of the plant while it’s still standing is a common practice.

NOTE: cold, damp fall conditions outdoors may hasten harvest time not because plants are ready sooner but because they are more susceptible to disease. A plant should be harvested at the first sign of disease (usually bud rot). THC content may not be peaking but something is better than nothing, which is what you may end up with. Disease can spread rapidly.

Pruning the leaves of the plant while it’s still standing is a common practice. The leaf stems (petioles) are sticking straight out and are more easily accessed. The big, lower fan leaves can actually be removed days before harvest. More of the trimming done now reduces the finish work later and allows the buds to dry more evenly.

Try to remove as much of the leaf material as possible even if there’s frost on them. Leaves often burn harsh and can irritate the lungs and throat.

Once preliminary trimming is done, the plant can be harvested and hung indoors to dry. If the plant is very big, cut the branches off and hang them separately. Don’t rush the drying. Room temperature with normal humidity is ideal. Buds can be removed once the branches are dry enough to snap or crackle when you bend them or when the buds break off the branch easily.

Final trimming or manicuring can be done when buds are removed from the branches. Try to remove as much of the leaf material as possible even if there’s frost on them. Leaves often burn harsh and can irritate the lungs and throat. Sugar leaves don’t have nearly the THC concentration of the inner nugs. Well-trimmed buds more nearly approach uniform moisture content and are overall, more flavorful. Frosty trimmings can be used for edibles or tinctures.

If at any time an ammonia or moldy smell is evident when you open the jar, take the buds out and spread them out to dry for a few days.

Proper curing brings out the best flavor and potency from your buds. Once manicured, buds should be put in a sealable jar and stored in a dark, cool location. Through the first few weeks, the jar should be opened for a few minutes (several times/day) to allow oxygen in and moisture out (a.k.a. burping).

If at any time an ammonia or moldy smell is evident when you open the jar, take the buds out and spread them out to dry for a few days. After a few weeks of burping, you can reduce the frequency to once every few days. Buds are typically ready to smoke after about the 4th week of curing but continue to improve for another month or more (if you can stand waiting).

Don’t store buds in plastic containers or bags and don’t put them in the refrigerator or freezer. Keep them in glass air-tight jars in a cool, dark environment.

Storage is important if you want to maintain the quality of buds for longer periods of time. If you’ve harvested enough weed to last more than a couple of months, here are some things you can do to preserve your weed’s quality.

Don’t store buds in plastic containers or bags and don’t put them in the refrigerator or freezer. Keep them in glass air-tight jars in a cool, dark environment. Don’t keep jars near anything that gives off heat and don’t store roaches, pipes, grinders, or any other paraphernalia in the same container with your buds. They tend to smell bad and so will your weed.

The recommended RH level for cannabis buds is between 59% and 63%.

There are some commercially available two-way, humidity control materials such as Boveda that can help preserve freshness. These products will either draw moisture from flowers if they’re too moist or increase humidity in the container if they’re too dry.

Manufacturers of these products make them in different relative humidity (RH) levels for different stored materials such as food, tobacco, or herbs. The recommended RH level for cannabis buds is between 59% and 63%.

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