Cannabis Harvesting Stage
The cannabis harvesting stage is the final step in the process of growing your own cannabis. To complete the harvesting stage, growers must determine if the plants are fully mature, cut the buds from the branches, trim the buds, and place them into jars to cure them.
It is essential to harvest the plants when they are fully mature. Doing so will ensure optimal yield, potency, and flavor. Most Indica-dominant strains complete the flowering cycle within seven to ten weeks, while some Sativa-dominant varieties can take up to 14 weeks to fully mature.
Growers can determine if the plants are ripe by using a microscope, jeweler’s loupe, or magnifying glass to observe the trichomes on the buds. If most of the resin glands are transparent in color, the plants likely need more time to ripen. The plants are fully mature when the majority of the trichomes become cloudy, with some of them starting to turn amber.
Another (slightly less effective) method of determining ripeness is to observe the pistils on the buds. When approximately 70 to 90 percent of the pistils have turned from white to orange, red, or brown, the plants are likely ready for harvest.
Harvesting the plants when the trichomes are still transparent may yield buds that deliver a most uplifting and energetic effect. On the other hand, harvesting them when the glands have turned mostly amber will typically produce buds that provide a more narcotic stone. This is because, as the plants age, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) degrades into a more sedating phytocannabinoid known as cannabinol (CBN). Buds that have some amber trichomes and some milky ones will generally produce a well-balanced effect that most cannabis users prefer.
Approximately one to two weeks before harvest, some growers stop fertilizing their plants and flush them with distilled water. This may help enhance the aroma and flavor of the buds by removing excess fertilizer stored within the flowers; however, whether this practice is necessary is debatable.
Harvesting the Plants
Once you have determined that the plants are fully mature, the harvesting process can begin. Start by checking the plants for any pests or diseases and remove any parts that have been contaminated. Next, cut down the colas and remove the large fan leaves attached to the branches.
After removing the fan leaves, hang the branches by a node or place them on a drying rack to dry out the buds. Growers in arid climates often drape the fan leaves over buds to prevent them from drying too quickly. The buds typically dry out after three to six days; however, this process may take longer in humid environments. You will know that the buds have fully dried when they feel light and airy, and the stems snap rather than bend.
Trimming the Buds
After drying the buds, the next step in the cannabis harvesting stage is to manicure them; however, some growers prefer to manicure the flowers before drying them. A proper trim will help to enhance the appearance of the buds and make them smoother and more flavorful to smoke.
Use trimming scissors to cut away the sugar leaves that surround the flowers. Make sure to save the trim, as you can use it to make a variety of THC-rich products such as hash, edibles, and tinctures.
Curing the Buds
After drying and manicuring the buds, the final step in the cannabis harvesting stage is to cure them. Curing is a vital step to preserve the terpenes and cannabinoids within the trichomes on the buds. This will help to maximize the aroma, flavor, and potency of your harvest.
To cure the buds, place them in sealable glass jars and store the jars in an area that is cool, dark, and dry. This is important because heat and light can degrade the cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds within the flowers. Open, or “burp,” the jars twice a day for the three days. This will ensure the buds dry out evenly and don’t become moldy. After a few days, you can slow the burping routine down to once a day. After two weeks of burping, the cannabis harvesting stage will be complete, and the buds will be fully cured and ready to be enjoyed!
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