Cannabis Harvesting, Drying & Curing

Harvesting cannabis
Harvest Preparation

The time for harvesting has arrived! You have managed to plum your ladies up during the vegetative growth stage. Your Buds are now big and juicy, and your once delicate seedling now a mature cannabis plant. The tedious hard work of growing is done, and your plants are top heavy with crystal dunked buds. The decisions made at this stage of growth will determine the quality, taste, and potency of your final product.

There are 3 key steps for producing amazing resinous buds at this point:

  1. Timing your harvest.
  2. Drying your buds.
  3. Curing your buds.

Let’s take a closer look at each step and show how you can maximize THC, CBD and terpene content. Follow this guide and you will enjoy the densest, most flavor-filled buds you have ever smoked from home-grown cannabis.

Timing Your Harvest

Why does this matter? Knowing when to harvest your crop is essential to maximize the cannabinoid content. If you decide to harvest too early or too late you will have buds lower in THC, CBD, and all the other good stuff. Never mind the density of your bud!

THC CompoundMaximizing THC Content

As we are well aware, THC is the delightful psychoactive cannabinoid found in the resin on our buds. THC is found throughout the plant, the THC crystals (or trichomes), begin developing a short way through flowering but really start covering the buds in the last 2 weeks. Having patience and waiting until the trichomes are fully developed will maximize the THC and this will increase the potency of your bud.

If we wait too long to harvest, the resin glands will start degrading. THC and THCV found in the final bud will also break down and convert into CBN, this cannabinoid produces sedative effects and in my opinion, has a rather unpleasant narcotic effect.

If we harvest and dry properly we can limit the amount of CBN in our final Product.

CBD CompoundMaximizing CBD Content

We know now that THC isn’t the only important cannabinoid found in our cannabis. THC, CBD, CBN and other cannabinoids moderate the effects of THC. Some cannabinoids such as THCV have their very own psychoactive effects on us.

Thanks to the medical benefits, CBD is the second most popular cannabinoid after THC. It is not psychoactive but does interact with THC and therefore can affect the quality of the high.

Unlike THC, CBD does not degrade over time. However, CBN has been shown to increase the calming effects of CBD. This means that if we wait to harvest until some of our THC has degraded, we can get a greater benefit from CBD.

We can see why timing our harvest just right is so important. There is no way we worked so hard for many months growing big, dense, resinous buds just to lose half of the THC to CBD or miss out on potency by harvesting too early.

Harvesting Time

Most strains bought from seedbanks will give you a rough estimate of how long each may need to flower for. This can never be precise though; there are just too many factors and variations in different growing conditions to give an exact length of time. The different phenotypes inherent in most strains, and we find ourselves with a very wide window of opportunity.

Trichomes and pistols Harvesting

Luckily there are a few signs that a maturing plant is ready for harvesting. As the flowers grow they begin to merge together into dense kolas. We will begin to notice each flower swell and small crystals appear. These flowers will become very sticky to touch and your strains unique aroma will become pungent.

Take note of the white pistils (little hairs) growing from each flower, these will begin to darken in color from white to a golden reddish brown. At this stage of flowering, some of the larger fan leaves may begin to go yellow and wilt. Don’t panic! This is perfectly natural at this stage in growing. It is ok to remove these leaves and allow more light and airflow to lower parts of your plants. Most growers (myself included) use the color of the trichomes to help them decide when the best time to harvest is.

The trichomes are the tiny structures on the flowers of your plant that produce that yummy THC we wish to maximize. Don’t confuse these trichomes with the pistils which are the 2 long hairs protruding from each flower.

What are we looking for?

The best way to go about inspecting your plant for the right tell-tale signs will be with a simple magnifying glass (20x or better). This will help to not only show when it’s time to harvest but also open up a world of amazing imagery and an aspect of your plant that is fascinating to look at. As our plants mature, the trichomes will go through 3 changes we can visibly see:

  1. They will swell up and the head of each will flatten or “Mushroom”.
  2. Change from clear to a milky or clouded color.
  3. Then begin to turn amber or brown.

trichomes on cannabisThis change in the trichomes color can provide us with a decent guide to the relative levels of THC and CBD in each bud. CBD develops later than THC during flowering. THC and the terpenes responsible for flavor tend to peak at around the same time (when the trichomes turn milky or cloudy). CBD, however, doesn’t peak until the trichomes begin turning amber or a reddish-brown color. We can take this information into account when carefully choosing the moment of harvest to meet our own personal preference.

Some prefer a heavy physical stone and some a lighter headstone. As a general rule, the longer you leave your plant before harvest, the heavier the stone.

Now that we are aware of how important timing your harvest is, let’s have a look how to go about doing it. Before we go ahead and cut any plants, take a step back and consider flushing your cannabis plants.

Flushing

No matter what type of grow medium you choose, flushing before harvesting and even during the growth stage of the plant is very important. Cannabis plants can suffer from a build-up of salts or nutrients. Many growers flush their plants using plain water every 10 days to help clear this build-up out. When we feed our babies, they do not use all the nutrients we give them. Some are stored for later.

If we continue feeding on a daily basis the plants build up these reserves and they accumulate in stems, leaves, and buds. If nutrients are not perfectly balanced our plants’ will suffer a condition known as “nutrient lock”.  When “nutrient lock” occurs, the plants may show deficiency symptoms. To prevent this condition, you need to run clean water through either the soil or grow system to clear the build-up and then start feeding again.

Flush your plants when:

  • When changing nutrients (at the start of flowering).
  • When symptoms of “nutrient lock” appear.
  • Every 10-14 days to prevent nutrient build-up.
  • Pre-Harvest.

Flushing throughout the entire grow will be ideal to prevent nutrient problems. If this is not possible for whatever reason, be sure to flush before you begin harvesting as this WILL improve the quality and taste of your bud. As with most cannabis topics, there is debate as to when and how much to flush your plants. With regards to this blog, we have discussed flushing cannabis plants grown specifically in soil (although the method remains fairly similar with other grow mediums or systems).

Flushing soil is very simple when we are about week/ 10 days from harvesting we will begin the process. Most growers use rainwater but tap water is fine as long as the PH is 6.2. Flush your plants each day leading up to harvest day. The amount of water needed is determine by the size of the container the plant is grown in. Basically, you should be looking to put through the same volume of water as the volume of the container.

One last tip that growers swear by before harvesting, is to leave your flushed plants in total darkness for 36 hours before harvest. It is believed that this shocks the plant into using its very last energy into creating resin. Personally, I do not do this. I prefer not to stress my ladies at any stage of development, even during curing. In the follow-up blog, I will discuss the process of trimming, drying and curing your very own homegrown bud!

My fellow growers, Have Fun Harvesting!Cannabis curing

Written by MJ, March 2018

~ Medical Cannabis Seed Bank

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