How to harvest, dry and cure indoor cannabis
Knowing when to harvest indoor cannabis is vital. Harvest too early and you may be missing out on some valuable last-minute THC production and yield. Harvest indoor cannabis too late and you may find the effects of the cannabis are a little too ‘heavy’. Knowing how to correctly dry and cure your cannabis will ensure you retain the best taste from the terpenes. With a well timed harvest, dry and cure you will find the quality and satisfaction from your cannabis crop will increase significantly. Read on for more info.
Indoor cannabis crop harvest basics
In an ideal world, before you harvest your cannabis plant you will already have an idea of your own personal preferences. Do you prefer early harvested or late harvested cannabis? Or do you prefer it somewhere in the middle? You also need to make sure you are growing the type of cannabis seeds that will give you the most pleasure. Even if you have been growing a long time, it can still be worth the effort to spend a few moments considering the best cannabis seeds for you.
Early harvested indoor cannabis
Some people prefer the lively energetic buzz that comes from an early harvested crop. You may ask ‘what happens if I harvest indoor cannabis too early?’. The answer is that you may lose out a little in terms of harvest weight and THC/cannabinoid production. But you may prefer the overall effect.
Those that prefer early harvested indoor cannabis may not be too worried that THC levels haven’t yet peaked. The different ratio’s of cannabinoids present in early harvested weed seem to suit some people who are not concerned that they are sacrificing some potential yield by harvesting early. Early harvested cannabis often has white hairs/pistils with clear and colourless trichomes. To the experienced eye, early harvested cannabis simply don’t look quite yet ripe, but for some growers it’s just perfect!
For some people, cannabis that has been harvested a week or so early really is the best for medical use or recreational enjoyment. What’s more, it you prefer early harvested indoor cannabis then the typical indoor cannabis ‘time to harvest’ can be shortened by a week or two. The indoor cannabis harvest is faster, but it should be personal preference which compels the early harvest rather than commercial pressures.
Perhaps the majority of growers harvest indoor cannabis when the trichomes are mostly cloudy. The trichomes may not yet be showing much amber/red colouration and many of the pistils (hairs) will now be red/orange rather than white. At this point THC levels are approaching their peak and so is the overall yield. For many growers, this stage of ripeness is regarded as optimum. The high offers a good balance, not too heavy, not too energetic.
Late harvested cannabis
Some growers very much prefer to leave their cannabis for a longer flowering phase. This means that significant numbers of trichomes have transitioned to a red/amber state. This indicates that the trichomes have done as much cannabinoid/terpene production as they can and are starting to break down.
The pistils are now amber/red and the buds look fully ripe, or even slightly ‘over ripe’ to the experienced eye. The cannabis leaves may be yellowing and looking well past their best. Yield is as heavy as it can get. At this point the buds tend to give a heavy ‘stony’ feeling, often with strong body effects. For some medical marijuana cannabis growers, this is perfect.
When is indoor cannabis ready to harvest? Knowing your own preferences when it comes to the type of high you want is a key starting point. If you are growing your own cannabis seeds, you should be harvesting cannabis at the ideal time to give you maximum pleasure.
This is one of the great benefits of growing your own cannabis, you decide which genetics you are going to enjoy and when you are going to harvest indoor cannabis, not someone else. You can grow cannabis with anything from 0% THC to 25%+ THC. The average amount of THC in most weed is actually around 15%.
For some people, the stronger the cannabis the better. Other cannabis users can dislike strains which are too powerful, they prefer medium or even low-THC strains, perhaps with some CBD in them.
Typical time to harvest your indoor cannabis crop
|Flowering type||Average harvest time||Min.||Max.|
|Feminised||9 weeks||7 weeks||14 weeks|
|Autoflower||10 weeks||10 weeks||15 weeks|
For photoperiod feminised cannabis seeds, an indoor bloom time of around 9 weeks is about average for a typical hybrid strain. Fast indica strains can be ready to harvest in as little as 7-8 weeks of bloom. Slower sativa strains or Haze strains can take 11-14 weeks in bloom. Assuming a 5 week veg time, and a 9 week bloom time for a ‘typical’ hybrid strain an average length of time between cannabis seed germination and harvest of indoor cannabis is around 14 weeks. Harvest quantities of several hundred grams per plant is possible.
If you are growing autoflowering cannabis seeds the average length of time between germination and harvest of indoor cannabis is around 10-11 weeks. Some heavy yielding autoflower strains such as Auto Ultimate can take 12-15 weeks, but the extra few weeks ensure genuinely huge yields of several hundred grams per plant. Conversely, some autoflower strains such as Auto Blueberry or Auto Blackberry Kush can have an indoor cannabis life time from autoflowering seed to flower/harvest of 9 weeks if you get the fast phenotypes.
If you want a really fast harvest with a quick grow cycle, autoflower seeds are a great choice. The best autoflower seeds can produce some truly exceptional quality cannabis too.
How to tell if your indoor cannabis plant is ready for harvest
How to tell when indoor cannabis is ready to harvest ? Many indoor cannabis growers base their harvest date on a few factors. The recommended bloom time given by the cannabis seed company is a good starting point. Often that is regarded as an earliest harvest time when grown under optimum conditions.
Some people would rather allow an extra week or so, based on their own preference. But individual phenotypes, grow system and grow conditions can all affect the growth rate and the subsequent timing of the harvest. Knowing and understanding the different ways to assess the optimum harvest point depends on a few factors. The following pictures may be helpful.
Pictures of indoor cannabis plants ready for harvest
Experienced growers decide the precise harvest point for their cannabis plants after inspecting the general appearance, the leaves, trichomes, bud development and pistil (hair) colour. These pictures may be useful reference points when deciding to harvest your own plants. Especially for the less experienced growers, a ‘when to harvest cannabis picture’ can be worth a thousand words!
Tips for harvesting, curing and drying indoor cannabis
There are several steps involved in the harvest, dry and cure of your cannabis plant. Perhaps the first choice is whether you are going to wet-trim or dry-trim your plant. Many growers tend to think that wet-trimming is slightly easier. However, your own personal preference is important. Both wet trimming and dry trimming work fine. It may be worth trying both methods at least once and see which one works best for you.
Wet trimming your cannabis plant.
Hopefully you will have timed the chop date for your cannabis plant to perfection. Some gloves are a good way to stop your hands getting too sticky/smelly. Trimming your plant before it is dry (‘wet trimming’) may seem easier to some growers. The leaves still have enough moisture to retain their shape, pointing out (away) from the buds. This can make it easier to manicure and wet trim the buds.
When wet-trimming your plant there will be a strong odour produced, especially if there are several people involved in the process with lots of buds. Many people use an air extraction/filtration system in the trimming room to minimise the smell. And, although expensive, professional clippers are a good investment if you have a lot of trimming to do.
The first step is to remove the larger fan leaves by hand and following up with scissors/clippers to gradually remove smaller leaves around the buds. It is a slow process, but many find it very satisfying. The manicured buds can be removed and placed on a drying rack/net for around 7-10 days to dry. Some growers prefer to leave the manicured buds on a branch, and hang that from some cable or coat hangers. The manicured buds are clipped off the branch once dry.
During the time on the drying rack/net, the buds shrink and lose weight as they dry. The precise amount of time taken to dry depends on a few factors, including bud size, ambient temperature and ambient humidity. During the drying stage the buds slowly lose their water. Drying cannabis quickly at high temperatures is regarded as bad practice and removes a lot of your tasty terpenes.
One advantage of wet trimming is that the buds can be removed from the drying rack/net and placed straight in your curing jars. The ‘waste’ leaves and trim are often saved and used for production of hash or cannabis concentrates. Many growers prefer wet trimming, feeling that ‘dry trimming’ shakes off too many dried trichomes – reducing the potency of the buds.
Dry Trimming your cannabis plant
The other option for your cannabis plant harvest is known as dry trimming. Some people prefer this approach. Usually the complete plant is hung upside down, or the largest branches are cut off and hung upside down. Some people remove only the fan leaves, others leave the fan leaves in place. The idea is to allow the remaining plant sugars and juices to flow to the buds.
One advantage of dry trimming is that the entire plant can be removed from the grow room into a separate drying room if available. This could be important e.g. to growers that want to start another crop immediately.
Around 14 days (or so) after hanging the plant upside down it will be dry enough to trim. Some people use ‘trimming trays’ to catch any resin coated sugar leaves or plant material that falls off. This can be used for making hash, cannabis oil or other types of cannabis concentrate.
With dry trimming, many of the leaves may have curled slightly inwards as they dried. This can make trimming perhaps a little more time consuming/tricky compared to wet trimming, especially for less experienced people. But it does depend on the variety you have harvested.
Foxtailed sativa buds with long thin blooms may be slightly easier to trim wet while their long thin leaves are pointing outwards and are easy to remove. Indica buds may be slightly easier to trim when dry. The small sugar leaves are often completely coated in resin and some growers simply leave them in/on the buds.
Curing buds from your indoor cannabis crop
With the bulk of the moisture removed the dry buds now need to be ‘cured’. Curing is the process of preparing the buds so that they can be preserved for the long term. Foods are often cured by drying, sometimes with the help of preserving additives such as salt. In the case of cannabis we want to preserve the flavour and potency and ensure it won’t become mouldy, but without the addition of any preservatives.
Many people find a good way to cure cannabis buds is to put the dry, trimmed buds into glass jars for a month or two. During this time the jars should have their lids opened for a few seconds each day to allow any residual moisture to slowly escape. This process, known as ‘burping the jars’ can become less frequent as the curing process progresses.
Many growers will check humidity in their curing jars with a hygrometer, aiming for around 52-62% humidity (around 55% is ideal). Humidity control bags (e.g. Boveda or Integra Boost) are a good addition to your curing jars, they help to stabilise the perfect humidity to cure your buds.
During the curing process the buds may slowly lose some of their bright green colour from harvest as well as the distinctive ‘chlorophyll’ taste which comes from fresh weed. Curing can often accentuate any red or blue hues in the buds, increasing the ‘bag appeal’. The buds reach a state of dryness where they can last for many months, or even years in a cool dry place, without getting mouldy. The cannabis trichomes sparkle and glisten on the cured buds, gently reminding/exciting you at the pleasure they will soon bring.
Many connoisseurs feel that the cannabis terpene aroma is significantly enhanced by a good curing process. Two months is considered a good curing time by many serious growers. During curing the jars should be kept away from heat and light.
Storing your cured and dried buds safely
Many growers like to preserve the quality as much as possible by storing their cured buds in a cool place (around 16-20 degrees is great). A basement or cool spot in the house is also ideal to store your cured buds. Some growers store their buds in a freezer, where they will remain potent for many years. The worst place to store your buds is a warm place, such as a hot loft. You will lose your delicious terpenes and see the cannabinoids degrade at an accelerated rate, meaning your buds lose potency and aroma profile quickly.
What happens if you harvest indoor cannabis too early?
An early harvest may be preferred by a minority of growers, but it comes at a cost. Yield and potency both increase as normal harvest date approaches. By harvesting early, you accept that you will miss out on some potential buds/yield. You will also be harvesting before the cannabis trichomes have had chance to maximise their production of THC and other cannabinoids. But that may not matter too much to you if you have a strong personal/medical preference for early harvested indoor cannabis.
Growing cannabis seeds in greenhouses and harvesting early
One common question from greenhouse growers is ‘how many times can you harvest cannabis in a greenhouse?’. If you use autoflower seeds, the average European grower should be able to get 2 successive crops per year. Those with better climates may manage 3 successive crops.
What if you don’t dry the cannabis well enough?
If you put slightly damp cannabis buds in jars you risk mould. Some indoor cannabis growers occasionally ask whether using a preventive fungicide before harvest is a good idea. The answer is that no-one should be spraying chemicals on the crop which people will be smoking/vaping in a few weeks. It’s better to take extra care when drying and curing your buds to prevent mould/mold in the first instance.
How to maximise indoor cannabis harvest yield
The typical harvest size for indoor cannabis is notoriously hard to define. There are many variables which can affect the indoor cannabis grower. Autoflowers may yield around an ‘average’ of 25-40g when grown in smallish 6 litre containers by a less experienced grower. But the same strain could yield several hundred grams in the hands of an experienced pro with a deep water culture hydro system and good nutrient management skills/equipment.
Thats why questions such as ‘what is the average harvest amount for indoor grown cannabis?’ or ‘what are good indoor cannabis harvest/yields?’ are so hard to answer for a cannabis seed company.
Learning more about the cannabis plant and how to optimise growth is a process of continuous improvement. Even expert growers with many decades of experience are still learning. The following tips may help you maximise indoor cannabis harvests.
Try to become an expert in one grow method
There are numerous ways to grow cannabis. It grows well in soil, coco fibre and soil-free hydroponic systems of various types. Many people start growing in soil or coco fibre and try to become a specialist. In general, a good grower can achieve slightly faster growth in coco fibre than in a heavy soil mix. However, soil growers may argue that they enjoy superior taste/aroma and ‘good enough’ yields.
In recent years soil (and coco) growers have found the use of airpots and porous felt/fibre containers a great assistance to soil growing. Many expert soil growers have found it hard to match their success when experimenting other methods. It’s better to be an expert in one cannabis grow method than to be average in many.
Those that use soil-free hydroponic systems such as deep water culture or nutrient film technique have found that they can grow plants faster than they can in either soil or coco fibre. However, the technical complexity of growing in hydroponics simply doesn’t suit everyone. Many growers struggle with the daily pH and EC (electrical conductivity) checks required by the more demanding grow methods.
One good way to maximise your indoor cannabis harvest yields is to try to steadily increase your experience and competence in a given grow method, crop by crop.
Choose high yielding feminised cannabis seeds or high yielding autoflower seeds
Even the best growers won’t be able to achieve heavy cannabis yields with low yielding genetics. Certain specialist strains may be perfect for some growers even though they aren’t the heaviest yielders. But if you want to grow very heavy harvests then you need to select high yielding feminised cannabis seeds. If you choose the best cannabis seeds, you won’t be compromising quality. Dutch Passion’s top 5 highest yielding indoor feminised seeds and best yielding autoflower seeds may be a useful starting point. So may the following links.
Some of the recent USA cannabis seeds deliver a perfect combination of quality with high yield and delicious taste. You really can’t go wrong with some of the best USA cannabis seeds!
Planning a seed to harvest indoor organic grow
If you have never grown before, a good quality local grow shop is a valuable way to get the basics and perhaps some useful advice too. There are plenty of good online grow stores who provide well configured complete grow room packages for new growers.
As you gain in experience you can give yourself a pat on the back as you improve from being an average cannabis grower to a more experienced grower. As you do so, you will see your ‘average’ cannabis indoor harvest transition towards increasingly heavier harvests.
Experienced growers have the advantage of knowing exactly how to plan a seed to harvest indoor grow. They will understand the advantages (and costs!) of a good quality LED grow light as well as which grow method/nutrients to use. An indoor grow tent is a convenient option which can be packed up after use.
Many growers plan their indoor cannabis grow to avoid temperature extremes. In hot countries, experienced growers already know that avoiding the hottest part of the year will make their indoor grow easier to control, resulting in heavier yields and superior quality.
Planning a seed to harvest indoor organic cannabis grow?
With many connoisseur home growers preferring a quality-led approach (rather than a yield-focussed approach) interest in organic growing remains high. BioTabs are an organic nutrient company with a great reputation. The slow release organic nutrients take care of nutrition for pretty much the entire grow, apart from perhaps an occasional late top feed of liquid bloom nutrient for hungry plants in flowering.
Many people would say that the ‘average’ harvest for one indoor cannabis plant is probably around 30-80g of dry buds. But the best growers can routinely harvest several hundred grams of top quality buds from the same strain when grown in optimised conditions. Once you have successfully grown your own cannabis seeds you will realise the quality improvements that you can achieve over other sources. You can save cash too!
2 Comments . Leave new
good afternoon. when talking about curring jars do they mean mason jars ? my plants are budding now and i have been reading all the information on harvesting and drying . i have two beautiful plants . about how many jars do i need?
thank your website for my growing needs . Sandra Smith
Sandra, it has been my experience that a one quart canning (mason) jar will hold just about one ounce, give or take.
How to Harvest, Dry, Trim, Cure, & Store Homegrown Cannabis: The Ultimate Guide
Ahhh, the moment we’ve all been waiting for. You have proudly, legally grown your own beautiful, sticky-sweet cannabis plant, nurturing it from seed or seedling, and it is finally mature and ready for harvest! Or wait… Is it? If you aren’t sure, then this article is for you! While the harvest, trimming, and curing practices may vary slightly from grower to grower, there are definitely some tips and best practices we’ve learned over the years that I want to share with you.
Read along to learn how to determine when your cannabis plant is ready for harvest. Then, we’ll go over the process for properly drying and curing your finished cannabis – to ensure it’s at that perfect “just right” stage: not too dry, but not so wet that it may mold during storage! I’ll also share tips about trimming, talk about long-term storage, and let you in on how we use our cannabis. Basically, everything you need to know.
If you’re new to growing, or simply want to learn more about how we grow and tend to our cannabis plants, be sure to check out these articles too:
Now on with the show, shall we?
How to Determine When To Harvest Cannabis Your Plants
Numerous indicators will signal when your cannabis is nearly ready to harvest. Each plant and strain is unique, so these signs can vary, but here are some general things to look for:
- The leaves will begin to yellow, curl, and some will probably fall off
- Buds will be plump and developed, and no longer appear to be growing larger
- As the buds swell, the branches will become heavy and hang more
The colas on some of our big Maui Wowie girl, getting close to harvest time. You can see the branches are starting to sprawl under their own weight, and some of the fan leaves are dying. The girls in the distance were started a couple months later, and are just starting to plump up. Yep, this photo was taken from the roof!
Time is not the best indicator, because this will vary depending on the strain, your location, growing conditions, and the type of plant. For example, sativa cannabis plants typically have a longer flowering period and later finish than indica strains do. We typically grow sativa-dominant plants, starting seed in late April to May and typically harvest the cannabis in October. Autoflowering cannabis plants live and grow in a timing universe of their own… We’ll talk more about them in a moment.
Personally, the most reliable indicator that we pay attention to is the cannabis trichomes.
What are Trichomes?
You know all those shiny, sticky, wonderful-smelling crystals you can find all over your cannabis flowers? Those are trichomes. They play an important role in the plants natural defense mechanisms, and also contain the thing we’re all after here – cannabinoids.
The actual definition of trichome is “fine outgrowths or appendages on plants, algae, lichens, and certain protists.” Originating from the Greek word “Tríchōma,” meaning “growth of hair,” these tiny microscopic mushroom-looking protuberances look like something out of a science fiction novel. But they are actually the very factories that produce the hundreds of known cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids that make our favorite cannabis strains potent, unique, and effective.
Monitoring Your Trichomes to Signal When to Harvest Cannabis
While it requires a little closer look, the appearance of the trichomes is the best way to determine the stage and condition of your cannabis plant. More specifically, pay attention to trichome color and opacity. Because they’re so tiny, you’ll want to use a jewelers loupe as a magnifying glass to examine them. Aaron starts keeping an eye on them even before the aforementioned signs begin. Throughout the growing cycle, the trichomes will change from clear to milky and cloudy, and eventually to amber.
As a general rule of thumb, when the trichomes are very clear, the cannabis plant is still immature and the THC is less developed. Harvesting cannabis at this stage may result in a more speedy, racy, less smooth and comfortable user experience. When the trichomes change from clear to fully cloudy, that is when we like to harvest cannabis. Or even a tad later, as described in the “when in doubt” bit below. This is when the buds are now at a very well-balanced stage of development.
On the other end of the spectrum, if you let the cannabis continue to grow too long and the trichomes turn all the way amber, the result is often a more lethargic, heavy body high. I don’t know about you, but I am not a fan of “couch lock”! Some people prefer a more sedate and sleepy vibe. If that is the case, I suggest you grow strains that are known for those attributes in the first place, rather than trying to push your cannabis plant to an overly mature state by prolonging the harvest.
When in doubt, harvest cannabis when the plants trichomes are primarily cloudy and a little amber, rather than a mixture of clear and cloudy. More growers have the regret of harvesting their plants too early as opposed to too late.
Determining When to Harvest an Autoflower Cannabis Plant
Figuring out when an autoflower plant is ready for harvest is a bit more tricky. They don’t always lose their leaves. Their trichomes change from clear to cloudy and amber, but not always as obvious or evenly. Yet some oddball strains never turn amber at all! It isn’t as easy to confidently say “Yep, you’re ready to go!” as you would with a regular plant, so you have to simply do your best to judge.
Autoflower breeders will usually provide a timeframe, such as 12 weeks from seed to harvest. This can help provide you a general idea of when the plant will be ready, but it isn’t set in stone. We have found that our autoflower cannabis plants almost always take a couple weeks longer than predicted. But if the breeder says “this plant takes 11 weeks”, if you hit the 14th week, it is likely time. Chances are, if the buds are nice and swollen, and some of the trichomes are looking cloudy for at least a week, you can pull it then.
See? Unlike the autoflower Aaron was examining above, this auto plant was turning only slightly yellow (and this photo was taken on a foggy day, increasing that look) but otherwise wasn’t losing leaves or turning brown – yet it was definitely ready!
How to Harvest Cannabis
It is best to harvest cannabis plants in the early morning hours or before your lights turn on. When the time is right, many cannabis growers simply chop the entire plant down at once. That is certainly one option, and something we do with autoflower plants for sure! When it comes to our big girls, sometimes we harvest cannabis plants in sections instead. Why? Well, for a couple of reasons…
In our experience, the buds on the upper branches become ripe and ready for harvest faster. Therefore, we may choose to cut the main stalk about halfway up – in order to remove the top portion of the plant only – or cut off individual upper branches first. This will provide more time and sun to reach the lower flowers, and allow them to fatten up for another week or so.
Taking the plant in sections also spaces out the timing, effort, and room required for drying and trimming too. This helps make the next steps a bit more manageable, especially if we are harvesting several large plants.
When we finally harvest the lower portion, we cut the stalk with a small hand saw down at the soil level or just below. Following a “no till” and recycled organic living soil practice, we leave the roots in place inside the grow bag! The root ball will decompose, feeding the worms and soil over the next several months until the following growing season.
An example of a partially harvested plant. The top portion of this Cookie Wreck was ready to go, but the bottom limbs needed a little more time. So we only cut off the top portion of the plant to hang dry inside. The lower limbs were cut about a week later, and the stem/roots left in place in the grow bag.
What About Flushing?
If you read other websites instructions on how to harvest cannabis, you will often see a section about flushing the plants prior to harvest. We don’t flush our plants because the way we organically grow cannabis does not require it. In contrast, flushing living organic soil essentially strips it of the complex ecosystem you worked so hard to build in your soil! It defeats the purpose.
However, many home growers and most commercial growers use chemical fertilizers and pesticides that get absorbed into into the plants vascular system, and in to the buds. Those plants will require a “flushing” period. This is where the plants root ball and soil is repeatedly flushed with water for about two weeks prior to harvesting, to help rid the plant of built up chemicals and salts. If not flushed, the bud will burns really harsh and tastes unpleasant. Hmm… I wonder why? If you need instructions on flushing, see this article.
When to Trim Cannabis
I could have put this trimming section either here, or after the “How to Dry” section to follow, because you can do either! Some ganja farmers insist on trimming their finished plants before they dry – also called a “wet trim” or ‘trimming wet”. On the other hand, many cannabis growers prefer to wait until they’re dry. Others periodically trim in the middle of the drying process, or do a little of both. It really all depends on your schedule and personal preference, which you’ll develop with time.
Trimming can be really tedious and time-consuming, so we go after it whenever we have a chance! And by “we”… I mean Aaron. He has more free time in the afternoon than I do (which is still limited) so he’ll usually grab a semi-dry hanging branch to work on here and there whenever he can, hoping to get it all taken care of before it is time to cure.
We always remove at least the largest fan leaves while the plant is still fairly wet and hanging dry. This aids in air flow and drying, and also reduces the amount you have to trim off later.
How to Trim Cannabis
We find it easiest to trim off at least some of the larger, prominent fan leaves while they’re still fairly wet. Removing bulky leaves helps promote drying. Additionally, as the leaves dry they will curl around themselves and the buds, which makes it more difficult to slip the trimming snips in there. On the other hand, after the cannabis has dried, the leftover leaves can become so brittle and loose that they are easy to flick off with the end of your snips or even a toothpick.
When it comes to trimming, perfection is not the goal. Not in our opinion at least! We grow for personal use, family, and friends. We don’t need perfectly manicured buds, nor do we have the patience for it. Plus, there are trichomes and THC on some of the leaves! Therefore, we hardly bother with trying to remove the “sugar leaves” – the smallest ones coming out from the center of the buds. Yet we do trim away the larger, non-sugary leaves that are attached to the main stem around the buds.
Before, during, and after trim. We remove all larger leaves (attached to the main stem within) but only roughly trim off the smaller leaves that are coming out from the middle of the buds themselves. After trimming up a large COLA or branch, Aaron usually breaks them down further – off the main stem into individual nugs for curing and storage.
Cannabis Trimming Tools
In regards to tools, I highly recommend these precision trimming snips. They make the job much easier! We have several pairs, and use them extensively both for cannabis and in the garden – like for thinning seedlings. They even come in a non-stick option.
I also suggest investing in a “trim bin” to trim your cannabis over. It is ergonomic, with dips for your arms. The bin has two parts: a screened upper section to catch all the leaf debris that you’ll likely discard, and a lower compartment that collects trichomes/keef that falls through the screen. Keep that! Sprinkle it on top of your bowls, or use it to infuse homemade canna oil! (Post coming on that soon)
We compost our excess leaf debris, both in a passive compost pile and in our worm bin. Yep, the worms love it! Smart little buggers.
Our favorite trimming snips, and trim bin. Look at all that keef and crystal that gets collected under the screen!
How to Dry Your Cannabis
After they are cut down, cannabis plants are traditionally hung upside down to dry. As the cannabis dries, the THC converts from a non-psychoactive state to one that is psychoactive. However, you don’t want to rush the drying process! THC also slightly degrades with drying, and buds that are dried too quickly will experience a more significant decomposition of THC than those that are allowed to dry more slowly.
An ideal time to dry cannabis is around 5-7 days. However, the time it takes to reach the ideal dryness (explained below) will vary depending on your climate and drying location. Also, the condition of your plant will play a role, such as how fat the buds are, how many fan leaves are still attached, and so on.
One plant broken down into individual branches, hanging to dry from a “clothes line” in our spare room. Note that we keep the window covered with a dark sheet to block most of the light. The top image is just to show the set-up. We also use an herb drying rack to set any loose buds or smaller branches on. Yes, it does smell quite strong in the room! Yet with the door closed and a towel stuffed below the door, it prevents the whole house from smelling.
Ideal Cannabis Drying Conditions
It is best to dry cannabis in a temperate, relatively dark location. Light also degrades THC, so keep those drying plants out of direct sunlight! Good air flow is also very important. You’ll want to provide a fan to increase air circulation in the room and create a constant light breeze, but avoid pointing the fan directly at your plants – unless you’re in a very hot and humid climate. Even then, keep the breeze on the light side.
The ideal humidity level for drying cannabis is about 45-55%. If your humidity is lower than that, keep the fan extra low or omit it altogether to avoid overdrying your buds. We’ll talk more about how to measure humidity in just a moment. Serious growers, or those in particularly challenging climates, may use the assistance of humidifiers, dehumidifiers, heaters, or air conditioners to achieve that sweet spot.
Excessive heat can also dry out cannabis more quickly. If possible, hang your cannabis to dry in a climate-controlled location – not in an outdoor shed, garage, or other spot that is prone to extreme temperature swings. A temperature right around 70°F is ideal, though anything from 60-80°F is adequate.
We dry our cannabis in a spare room in our house along a clothes line, or in the spare shower. It is easiest to break the plant down into branches and spread them out a bit, as opposed to hanging the whole damn thing like a dying Christmas tree. We use this combo thermometer/hygrometer in our drying room to assess the conditions.
How to Tell When Your Cannabis is Dry Enough
If you are able to dry your cannabis in an environment with the ideal conditions described above, it will likely be done in the suggested time frame of 5-7 days. To assess if your cannabis is dry enough to move on to the curing process, test the humidity level of the buds themselves! You’ll need a humidity meter, also known as a hygrometer, to do this. The hygrometer will be used during curing as well. For inside jars, we use these cigar hygrometers.
The goal is to get the humidity of the flowers down to about 60-65% by the time they’re ready for long term storage. Therefore, I recommend to start the curing process when your cannabis is in the range of 62-68% humidity. With humidity over 70%, the chances of mold developing in storage is far greater! Additionally, the buds will only get more dry with time.
When you think the cannabis is fairly dry, clip off a few sample buds. I suggest taking a nug from a couple locations on the plant to get a nice average. Place the buds inside a sealed jar with the hygrometer inside as well. Close up the jar and get a reading. If the humidity shoots to 70% or greater quickly, they’re definitely not ready to cure! On the other hand, if it is hovering right around the sweet spot, allow them to stay sealed in the jar for 24 hours to get a true reading. If after 24 hours, it is within the target range, proceed to curing. If you find the humidity has creeped up, allow the plants to continue to dry. Check back again in a day or two.
If you haven’t trimmed yet, do so before moving on to curing – keeping in mind that may take a few days too, and the weed won’t just stop drying for you in the meantime. Therefore, I suggest trimming in small batches and adding it to sealed jars as you go.
What is Curing Cannabis
Do not overlook the importance of curing! Have you ever noticed that some cannabis smokes really smooth and tastes absolutely amazing, while others are more harsh and flavorless? Sure, a little bit of that has to do with the strain or growing conditions… but the main factor that makes weed wonderful or woeful is: if it was cured properly! No, the crummier stuff isn’t just “old”. Old weed can still taste good and smooth too! In addition to the final flavor and experience, curing also ensures the cannabis will store well long-term and retain quality.
Curing is essentially a continuation of the drying process, but in a more slow, controlled environment – such as in sealed mason jars – and occurs for up to two months. Meaning, once the cannabis is dry, it isn’t necessarily ready to enjoy at its prime yet. Ideally, you should allow the cannabis to cure fully before enjoying it. Sure, you can sample some early here and there of course, but super fresh bud is not going to be the same as the stuff that has been allowed to cure.
Proper curing stops the degradation process before volatile compounds like terpenes and cannabinoids evaporate or transform into less favorable compounds. Additionally, cannabinoid synthesis (the process of creating those valuable chemicals) continues to take place even after harvest!
Colorado Pot Guide
I also recently learned that during the curing process, bacteria works to break down the chlorophyll in the plant material. Chlorophyll is what makes the plants nice and green in color, but also contributes to a harsh smoking experience. Therefore, less green finished nugs isn’t necessarily a bad thing!
How to Cure Cannabis
Once you are able to obtain a humidity level of about 62-68%, put the trimmed buds in airtight containers, such as in a sealed mason jar. We use these half gallon jars. Store the containers in a dark, temperate place. Now, over the following weeks, periodically burp the jars. By “burping the jars”, I don’t mean a quick open-and-close of the lid. Leave the lid off for 10 to 15 minutes, and then re-seal the jar. The purpose is to allow some air exchange – to introduce oxygen and release moisture or other off-gassing substances.
How often should I burp the jars while curing, you ask? Some growers burp their jars one to two times per day during the first week or two. It is especially important to burp frequently if your cannabis is on the higher end of that humidity range, and leave the lids open even longer – up to an hour. On the other hand, we usually get our nugs down to around 63%, so we burp a little less frequently. We aim for once per day, but sometimes miss a few days. It isn’t the end of the world.
After the first couple of weeks, a burp just once per week is great – for the following month. After a full 6 to 8 weeks of curing, you can reduce the burping frequency to once per month. At that time, you also don’t need to worry as much about the length of time the lids are off. A shorter burp is fine.
There are a few things you’ll want to pay attention to during the curing process:
Keep a hygrometer inside at least one of your containers. You can rotate it amongst jars if needed, or use a few of them. Try to position it in a way that is visible through the sides of the container. If the humidity inside the jars begins to climb to 70% or over, take the buds back out of the jar for a day or two. Spread them out somewhere with good airflow, such as on an herb drying rack, screen, or even on cardboard.
When you open the jars to burp them, take a sniff! A slight ammonia aroma is a sign that the cannabis is too wet and is starting to spoil. A strong ammonia odor or visible mold are indications that the cannabis was much too wet, and is probably now ruined. Yet if you are using a hygrometer, you shouldn’t run into this issue.
On the flip side, if your cannabis has become too dry (less than 60%), you may be able to help it – with the assistance of these Boveda packets! Originally designed for the cigar industry, Boveda packets can be used to re-introduce moisture to overly dry cannabis. You can also keep them with your buds during long-term storage to regulate humidity, which may be particularly helpful in hot, arid climates. They come in various target humidity levels that they help to achieve or maintain, for example a 65% packet, 63% packet, and so on.
How to Store Cannabis Long Term
Once your cannabis has finished curing, you can shift to long term storage. For us, this looks no different than the curing stage – except that we aren’t opening the jars as often. We store our cannabis in the same half-gallon jars they were cured in. Choose any air-tight container, and store it in a temperate, dark location. It is recommended to quickly burp the jars about once a month, but we don’t stress that part too much. If you’re getting into your stash to use it, the jars are being burped plenty then.
You have probably seen that some people do vacuum/seal and even freeze their weed. We don’t find this necessary, or even preferable, Just how frozen and defrosted food doesn’t taste as good as fresh food, we’d rather keep the buds out – more fresh, and easy to monitor. We also aren’t huge fans of the idea of plastic touching the buds the whole time. On the other hand, if you are giving weed away, that is a different story. We do sometimes use plastic then. Either way, I don’t suggest fully vacuum sealing. Sucking all the air out of the package totally crushes the buds! If anything, use the seal feature only.
In summary, when cannabis is properly harvested, dried, cured, and stored, it can stay fresh, tasty, and potent for up to a year – just in time for the next growing season! Check out the photo above! That is our cannabis harvest from last fall, and it is still measuring 65% humidity. The color and chlorophyll will naturally fade, and THC may degrade slightly, but it still smokes and feels quite wonderful.
Using Your Homegrown Cannabis Harvest
To clarify, we don’t actually “smoke” our cannabis. At least not in the traditional sense. We use a high-quality vaporizer. It heats and delivers the desired cannabinoids and terpenes without actual combustion of the flower. Combustion (burning) the cannabis is more harsh on your throat and lungs, and it simply doesn’t do your bud justice. It totally destroys the flavor, and overheats the cannabinoids and terps to a far less efficient and effective temperature. We also make canna oil and capsules, but that is a whole different post for another day!
Here is an article all about vaporizing, which goes over the science and safety behind vaporizing cannabis. It also explores the differences between smoking and vaping, between using whole flower and concentrates, and how to make the most efficient, effective, safe use of your herb.
In short, the Firefly 2+ vaporizer is pretty much the best thing on the market. We used the Firefly 2 for many years, and just upgraded to the 2+ when it came out a couple of months ago. It is the safest for your lungs and body (no heavy metals, like other vapes!), can be used for flowers or concentrates, and exudes a controlled and wide-range convection heat on every draw – to get the most out of our your bud. No other vape uses that technology. It is efficient, effective, sexy, and the flavor is insanely good – because you are actually tasting your cannabis at its full potential!
How you choose to consume your cannabis harvest is ultimately a personal decision. Our thought is: after all that hard work to grow beautiful organic homegrown cannabis, why turn around and burn the hell out of it?
That wraps up our Ultimate Guide on processing your homegrown cannabis.
I hope you found this article interesting, informative and useful! If so, please pass it on to your friends – to the left of course. You may also like this article about how to activate (decarboxylate) raw cannabis to prepare for to make homemade cannabis-infused oil, edibles, homemade cannabis tinctures, or soothing topical salve. Feel free to ask questions or leave feedback in the comments!