Seven Tips for a Successful Cannabis Harvest

Heady Vermont Staff 7 Oct 2020

While many cannabis growers treat harvest like the final stage of cultivation, it is far from the end. Careful attention to processing, drying and curing at the end of the crop cycle is what elevates your flower from shaggy homegrow to connoisseur-grade cannabis. Here are a few pointers for getting the most out of your cannabis harvest.

Tip 1: Timing is everything for cannabis harvest.

The first, and perhaps most important, aspect of harvesting cannabis is knowing exactly when to start chopping down the ladies. A precision harvest is essential for potent cultivation. Growers must be very careful not to cut down plants that are not yet at the pinnacle of resin production, but they must also be wary of cutting plants too late—at a time when THC production has curtailed and resin glands begin to degrade.

Depending on the strain, it’s time to harvest when the pistils have turned amber, and the trichomes are no longer translucent. Observe this color change with a microscope or hand lens. Peak harvest is when around 50-70% of the pistils are amber, and many of the trichomes are milky, with just a few amber. Timing is vital, but with knowledge of a strains’ characteristics and ample practice, gauging the proper time to harvest will lower the chances of cannabinoid degradation.

The number of days in flower will vary by strain. Typically, indica plants will be ready for harvest in approximately 50 days to 60 days. Sativa plants can stay in bloom longer, usually between 60 days and 70 days. Check the breeder and strain recommendations, but also take your unique environmental factors into account.

Tip 2: Flush before you harvest your cannabis.

Before you even harvest, there are steps you can take to maximise the benefits of trimming. These steps include flushing, which, for those unfamiliar, involves cutting out nutrients and administering pure water to your plant’s growing medium before harvest. This practice encourages plants to utilise stored nutrients before harvest time, resulting in smoother and more flavourful flowers.

Most growers opt to flush their crop for around two weeks during the tail-end of the flowering stage. There are many ways to do a proper flush to your plants, but the most common one is to water your plants with 5x-10x the quantity of volume of your pots (i.e: 3 liter pot means you need 15-30 liters of water to flush).

Proceeding to properly trim, dry, and cure your flowers will further blunt the harsh edge and enhance their aromatic properties.

Tip 3: Decide on wet or dry trimming.

Some growers prefer to trim immediately after harvesting their flowers, whereas others like to dry out their buds beforehand. Both of these techniques feature their own benefits and downfalls. If it’s your first time trimming, you can test both methods out and see which one you like better.

Processing for drying begins by removing the large fan leaves from the stem. Removing fan leaves can be completed manually with a gloved hand or scissors, and doing so will create better airflow around the flower. Leaving fan leaves attached can prevent buds from drying correctly, which is a recipe for mold. Compost the leaves or juice them – cannabis leaves full of nutrients!

Tip 4: Get the right tools for the job.

Don’t cheap out on trimmers. Your hands will thank you later! Two sets are a must. Let one pair of resin-covered scissors sit and clean while you trim with the other pair.

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Do some research and find the ones right for you that fit into your price range. We especially like the Fiskars Microtip for all-purpose trimming, and the Chikamasa for manicuring. And support your local grow store by ordering from an independent cultivation retailer like White River GrowPro. Another plus: The experts at your neighborhood grow shop can give you great tips if you’re not sure what you want.

Tip 5: Prepare yourself for long hours.

Trimming is a tedious job – prepare to sit in a chair for hours on end. You can do a few things to make it more fun, though. Set up your workspace with everything you need beforehand. Make sure you’ve got comfy seating. Give yourself plenty of light to prevent eye strain. Play upbeat music, invite friends, or kick off a Lord of the Rings marathon. Whatever works for you!

Must-have supplies: Trimmers/scissors, rubbing alcohol, paper towels, turkey bags or vacuum heat seal bags, sharpie, scale, eye protection, trim bin, nitrile-free gloves, bowls, eyedrops, soap and water, lots of water, vitamins and healthy snacks.

Tip 6: Monitor your dry closely.

Overdrying is a buzzkill – literally. When buds become desiccated, a percentage of resin glands shrivel and burst open. Cannabinoids deteriorate and evaporate quickly. Volatile terpenoids and other compounds responsible for bud taste and scent also deteriorate, as moisture leaves the plant material.

Depending on how long buds are allowed to dry out, a significant percentage of cannabinoids and terpenoids are degraded or gone forever — and even ‘rehydrating’ can’t restore those buds to their former glory.

On the flip side, having too much humidity, not enough air flow or having buds too close together in your drying room can be a recipe for mold. Here are a few quick tips for ensuring a perfect drying process:

Keep the dry room well-ventilated with proper and gentle air flow. Achieve this with floor- or wall-mounted fans and by having adequate ventilation set up before harvest. Allow enough space between buds for air to circulate.

The room will also need to be temperature- and humidity-controlled using humidifiers and dehumidifiers. Geography and outside climate will play a role in what equipment is required to manage humidity.

Keep the plants at 50-percent to 55-percent humidity with temperatures around 60 degrees to 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the first seven days. You can lower the humidity to between 43 percent and 48 percent after seven days at the same temperature.

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When a plant’s stem is no longer rubbery and doesn’t completely break when bent, the plant is dry. Depending on the strain, drying can take anywhere from seven days to 14 days before plants are ready for curing.

If you don’t feel like messing around with hanging flower and burping jars for drying and curing, check out Cannatrol’s Cool Cure Box. It’s designed for home grow drying, curing and storage with no smell – a nice alternative to, say, stinking up the guest bedroom of your house for a few weeks.

Tip 7: Careful curing is worth the wait.

It can be tempting to start reaching into your jars and smoking that sweet nug before it’s completed the curing process. After about two weeks, you can probably start enjoying your harvested weed, but the longer you wait, the better.  You can remove small popcorn buds using the “pinch” method.

Most growers will cure their weed for around a month; however, curing for 4–8 weeks will really get the most flavor and aroma out of your buds.

Curing begins after the flowers are dry enough to be cut from the stem, also known as “deboning.” While cutting off the flowers, leave a small portion of the stem attached to the bud, so it doesn’t fall apart.

It can be tempting to start reaching into your jars and smoking that sweet nug before it’s completed the curing process.

Then the flower should be placed into an airtight container, preferably glass. Ideally, a good cure will take two weeks to three weeks, but curing longer maximizes terpene profiles.

“Burp” the containers at least twice a day (by removing the lid to the container for a short period of time) for 2-5 days to release extra moisture that has escaped from the buds. Like every other aspect of growing weed, there are a number of philosophies around this – check out the Elevated Agriculturalist method recommended by Joe Veldon. Burping will only need to be performed a few times weekly once the flower has cured for seven days to 10 days.

If you’re storing your weed for more than a couple of months, Paul from Cold War Organics recommends keeping it in glass, airtight jars in a cool, dark place, and using humidity control such as Boveda packs to keep your nug fresh.

Happy Harvest! Want more great grow tips? Check out this Harvest How-To from The Elevated Agriculturalist.

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