How to harvest, trim, dry and cure your weed
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A lot can happen to a cannabis crop if it isn’t properly harvested, dried, and cured. When overexposed to air, light, or heat, terpenes can vaporize or evaporate and cannabinoids can decarboxylate, which can lead to a significant drop in the potency and flavor of your harvest. The cannabis plant’s trichomes, which are responsible for producing the protective, therapeutic, psychoactive, and intoxicating properties — are at their most vulnerable come harvest time. Without proper drying and curing, your harvest can also develop mold and fungus. Knowing how to properly harvest, dry, trim, cure, and store your cannabis will go a long way in ensuring the best possible results.
Step one in reaping the rewards of your cannabis plants is knowing when they are ripe and ready for harvest. Harvesting too early will reduce your overall yield and potency, as the last two weeks of harvest are the peak time for cannabinoid production. Yet harvesting too late can cause the trichomes to become extra-brittle when they are dried and cured, making them break off easily. Harvesting at the optimal time is crucial in ensuring you get the largest possible, highest-quality yield.
What are the signs to look for when harvesting?
As the plant completes its growth cycle, there will be many physical changes that occur. The biggest are, arguably, changing colors in the large fan leaves, a tightening of the bracts that form the colas, and a change in the color of the trichome glands. These signs can help you know when to harvest your plants:
Color change on fan leaves: During the middle of the flowering stages, the plant will naturally consume most, if not all, of the nitrogen available in the grow medium. As nitrogen is responsible for the plant’s green color, the plant’s leaves will turn into hues of purple, and ultimately a haylike yellow, after it’s consumed most of the available nitrogen. Changing colors on fan leaves aren’t enough to determine when a plant is ready to harvest, but it is the first sign that you are getting close. Once the fan leaves start to change color, start looking out for the next visible signs.
Cola morphology: When observing the size, shape, and overall look of your buds, remember that this alone is not a very reliable method for judging if your crop is ready for harvest. However, ripe buds are typically tight and firm. If your buds look overly lanky or fluffy, it could be a sign that it’s too early to harvest.
Trichome gland clarity: The most reliable method for determining if your plant is ready for harvest. Most often, harvest time comes when trichomes are milky white and a few are amber. If trichomes are still clear, it’s too early. Trichome clarity is a direct sign of how much resin is stored in the gland. Clear trichomes mean there hasn’t been enough resin production. If the majority of trichomes are amber, the buds have overripened.
When your plant starts showing signs that it is close to harvest, it is important to flush the plant of any unused nutrients. Ideally, flushing begins two weeks before harvest.
To flush your plants, flood your grow medium with water. Wait a few minutes for the water to dissolve nutrient buildup, then add more water to flush it all out. Without added nutrients, the plant will begin to feed on what’s available in the grow medium leading up to harvest. Once you’ve flushed your plants, you will likely see the fan leaves change color as a sign of nitrogen deficiency. Finally, give your plants one last flush the day before harvest.
Properly and evenly drying your bud will help preserve it’s potency, vibrancy, and color. When dried improperly or unevenly, buds can develop mold, burn unevenly, and lose fragrance or flavor. Hang-drying is the simplest and most efficient way to make sure it dries evenly, and at an optimal pace. For the best drying results, follow theese steps:
- Cut the plant, either at the base or into large branches.
- Hang the plant upside down in a room with the temperature set at 70 degrees Fahrenheit, or 21 degrees Celsius, and a dehumidifier set at 50%. Check and maintain the temperature and humidity daily.
- Once the stems are dry enough to snap slightly when bent, remove them from the lines and cut them into smaller sections.
- Place those sections inside of a large tote and close it with a lid. It isn’t necessary for the lid to be completely closed or sealed.
- For the first couple of days, turn over and rotate the cannabis in the totes to ensure even drying.
- Also “burp” the totes in the first couple of days by opening it and allowing fresh air to filter out the damp air inside.
It’s important to avoid losing trichomes during the drying process by not letting your branches hit any surfaces while hang-drying. Contact with a surface can damage trichomes and break them off of the plant. Depending on environmental conditions, the initial drying process usually takes three to seven days.
Once your bud has been properly dried, it’s time for trimming and curing. The goal with trimming is to remove the excess sugar leaves that, while consumable and excellent for making edibles or concentrates, have a lower trichome concentration than flower, and typically make for a harsher smoke.
To trim your buds, hold them by a stem and gently cut away the sugar leaves and stems surrounding them. Trim over a screen to collect trichomes that break off the plant, and handle your bud with extreme care. Try to trim the crow’s feet — the leaves around the bottom of a bud — as closely as possible without doing damage. All contact with the bud can cause trichome loss or damage. Hold your plants and branches by the stem whenever possible.
Wet Trim vs. Dry Trim
Most cultivators prefer to trim their cannabis after drying. Trimming immediately after harvest is the easier method, as sugar leaves haven’t dried up and closed in on the buds. Unfortunately, wet trimming also allows for more chlorophyll in the leaves, which may lead to a lingering grasslike aroma. Though more time- and labor-intensive, dry trimming is generally considered the better approach.
Curing is the final stage in the drying process, allowing for a controlled breakdown of residual chlorophyll in the colas so they are neither too moist nor too dry.
To cure your bud, place it in glass jars or a tote for about 4-8 weeks. During the first two weeks, open the containers daily and allow fresh oxygen to filter through the air in the container. Open the containers every 2-3 days in the last two weeks of curing. The curing process should be gradual to ensure a proper balance of air and moisture that will preserve fragrance and flavor.
In order to maintain the chemical profile of cannabis, the buds must be kept as close to their final condition as possible. Improper storage can lead to cannabinoid degradation, loss of terpenes, a harsh smoke, loss of trichomes when flower is brittle, and development of mold or fungus if cured flowers are overexposed to moisture. Proper storage after the trimming, drying, and curing process is crucial in maintaining the chemical integrity of your final product. Temperature, moisture, oxygen, and ultraviolet (UV) light can all have a negative effect on a bud’s chemical profile.
Cannabis should be kept in a cool, dark place, preferably at room temperature or slightly below. High temperature can lead to mold and mildew, dry out your flower, and turn sensitive terpenes into vapor, which will ultimately change the effects of the flower. This is why some cultivators skip drying and make live resin extracts to preserve all the monoterpenes lost during the drying process.
If the temperature is too low, THCA would be harder to decarboxylate into THC, thereby reducing the potency of the flowers when they are smoked. It can also make the trichomes brittle on the plant, which could cause them to break off when removed from the cold environment. This isn’t necessarily a huge issue, though, as those trichomes can be collected as kief and smoked.
To limit your bud’s exposure to high or low temperatures, keep it inside, away from windows, and in a cool place. If you’re traveling outside with your bud, consider storing it in a vacuum-insulated bottle.
Moisture is the amount of weight, as a percentage of the total weight, that is lost if the material is completely dried out. Water activity is the amount of water on the surface of the plant. Both are important factors in preserving the integrity of your bud. According to ASTM Internationals cannabis subcommittee , the amount of water activity on cannabis flowers should be in the range of 0.55 to 0.65.
The most precious cannabinoids in your bud will degrade if overexposed to heat or oxygen. THCA, for example, will decarboxylate into THC prematurely when exposed to heat, and therefore reduce bud potency. When exposed to oxygen, THC will degrade into CBN , a compound estimated to be one-fourth the potency of THC. Oxygen can also oxidize essential terpenes, leaving behind a grassy, sometimes haylike aroma.
To reduce exposure to oxygen, make sure to avoid air pockets in your container whenever possible. For example, don’t use a container that holds an ounce (28.35 grams) to hold a gram of flower. Vacuum-seal your flower for long-term storage, and consider getting a hand-held vacuum pump for short-term storage. Glass jars, ideally opaque and airtight for ample cannabinoid and terpene preservation, will also make adequate short-term storage.
UV light is the biggest factor in the degradation of cannabinoids, and ultimately the shelf life of cannabis. UV light will always degrade your cannabis, so that’s why cultivators are now using opaque packaging instead of clear glass. UV light is another sizable contributor to THCA degradation into THC and CBN, significantly decreasing potency before it reaches the end user. UV light will also degrade CBD .
To avoid cannabis degradation from UV light altogether, use opaque packaging or brown glass bottles to store your weed. Brown bottles allow 30% of UV light to pass through, as opposed to green and clear bottles which allow 70% and 100%, respectively.
Properly harvesting, drying, and curing cannabis is a dedicated practice that takes trial and error for home growers and professional cultivators alike. But the extra care is worth the time it takes to master these steps and preserve the integrity of your flower.
How to harvest, trim, dry and cure your weed Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents Harvest Flushing Drying Trimming Curing
Wet vs Dry Trimming Cannabis: Which Should You Choose?
Published : Aug 25, 2020
Are your cannabis flowers looking ripe and ready? You’re one step closer to tasting the fruits of your labour. But first, you need to process your flowers. One step of this process is trimming—removing sugar leaves to enhance the flavour and overall smoking experience. Discover the pros and cons of the wet and dry trimming methods.
Growing cannabis involves seeing your plants through several stages of growth. While all of them are important to securing good yields, the late flowering stage and harvest period are by far the most exciting. In the middle of the hustle and bustle of preparing to harvest the impending botanical bounty, growers can often forget that more work needs to be done.
Before kicking your feet up with a well-deserved joint between your thumb and forefinger, you’ll need to process your flowers in the right way.
Cannabis Cultivation Doesn’t End After Harvest
The first job on the list? Trimming. This seemingly menial task might appear like it requires no thought at all—quite the opposite. Done right, trimming will elevate your hard-earned flowers to the next level of quality. They’ll look great, taste great, and create buttery smooth smoke with each toke.
When it comes to trimming buds, growers have two options: wet trimming and dry trimming. Each of these methods offers its own advantages, depending on the amount of flower and the grower’s own preferences.
Discover the pros and cons of each processing technique below to see which one will work best for your situation. Before we jump into the nitty-gritty of cannabis trimming, let’s go over why you should trim in the first place.
What Is Trimming, Exactly?
Trimming cannabis flowers involves cutting away sugar leaves, branches, and stems. Removing this material from the cannabis cola creates manicured, nugget-shaped flowers that look and taste awesome.
Growers perform this all-important task at some point after harvesting and before curing. But why do so at all? Wouldn’t it just be easier to skip all the hassle and smoke more rugged buds? Don’t the sugar leaves also contain cannabinoids? Keep reading to find out why you should trim every time you harvest.
Why Should You Trim Your Buds?
Tidying up your cannabis flowers offers a wide range of benefits. The trade-off between performing this simple act and receiving an enhanced smoking experience really is a no-brainer. These are the top reasons you should trim your cannabis flowers.
Higher THC Concentration
Trimming your buds will remove most of the sugar leaves—small structures found on cannabis colas. Although these smaller leaves are an essential aspect of flower formation, they reduce the THC concentration of each bud. Sugar leaves contain less THC than flower tissue, so processing and smoking them alongside your flowers means less THC with each hit.
Reduce Instances of Mould
Fungal pathogens can strike at any time between the flowering stage and the end of curing. If left unchecked, these hungry microbes can ruin an entire harvest. They thrive in a moist environment with stagnant airflow and slowly spread across the surface of cannabis flowers. Leaves can provide pockets of trapped air and moisture—the ideal conditions for mould to gain a foothold.
They Look Better
Have you ever bought buds from a reputable dispensary or coffeeshop? You probably stopped to appreciate how good they looked. Properly manicured flowers boast a compact, jewel-like appearance that looks almost good enough to eat! But don’t do that; just impress your smoking buddies with buds that look top-shelf.
Taste, Aroma, and Smoking Experience
Removing all of those sugar leaves ditches a bunch of chlorophyll that feels harsh when inhaled. After snipping them away, the delicious terpene profile of your flowers will become more pronounced, and the smoke much more smooth.
Now that you know the impressive benefits of trimming, you’re almost ready to select your preferred technique. Before we jump into it, we’ll show you what tools you’ll need to get the job done.
Tools for Trimming
In truth, you don’t need many tools. After all, trimming only consists of snipping away excess foliage. However, there are a few specific bits of gear that make the job much easier.
Your trusty weapon of choice. These small but effective tools feature sharp blades that make easy work of sugar leaves, branches, and stems. The narrow, pointed tips enable growers to hone in and remove leaves without damaging flowers. Curved trimming scissors make the job even easier and allow you to work around the natural shape of the buds.
Trim your flowers over a collection tray. You can use products specifically designed for the job, or simply grab a bowl or dinner plate. Although sugar leaves aren’t as desired as the flower itself, they still contain enough cannabinoids and terpenes to craft some nice hash or concentrates.
Although not essential, gloves make trimming a whole lot easier. Ripe cannabis flowers are fountains of resin. Handling them with bare hands means this viscous substance will soon build up on your palms and fingertips. Use tight-fitting gloves to maintain your dexterity.
All About Wet Trimming
As the name suggests, wet trimming involves manicuring buds fresh off the plant. During this time, the moisture content in the flowers remains high. Trimming immediately after harvest makes logical and linear sense, but some growers choose the other method. Check out the advantages and disadvantages of wet trimming below.
Pros of Wet Trimming
Sugar leaves create pockets of humidity against the surface of the flower. Removing them will eliminate potential hotspots for mould. Considering such fungi can compromise your entire crop, trimming the leaves before drying is extremely appealing to many growers, especially those in humid climates.
• Preserves the good stuff
You’ve probably noticed those shiny, crystal-like dots on your cannabis flowers. As it happens, a greater number of these sparkly substances, known as trichomes, means a higher volume of cannabinoids and terpenes.
When wet trimming, the trichomes remain firmly intact and locked in place, removing the risk of dislodging these important structures while cleaning up your flowers. Enjoy the full genetic expression of your buds!
• Keeps things easy
Wet trimming saves a lot of fiddling. Both beginners and more advanced growers will find it much easier to remove the leaves while they are wet and still structurally sound. When leaves dry up, they curl and lay against the flowers. Removing them before this happens saves a considerable amount of time and effort.
• Maximises drying space
You’ll find you can fit a lot of flowers on your drying rack by wet trimming first. After removing sugar leaves, branches, and stems, you’ll recover the horizontal surface area on your drying rack. Subsequently, you’ll be able to dry more flowers at one time and ramp up processing efficiency.
• Linear and logical
Wet trimming maintains an easier and more simplistic workflow. Growers harvest their flowers, trim them, dry them, and then cure them in an efficient pattern. Going from point A to B helps cultivators simplify the process and keep things moving.
Cons of Wet Trimming
• Sticky, sticky work
The high water content of wet buds makes their psychoactive resin all the more sticky. Although you should celebrate sticky buds, they swiftly become a pain when trying to remove intricate sugar leaves. Wet trimming will leave your hands and trimmers coated in resin—awesome for hash, but a pain in the ass.
Removing sugar leaves minimises mould by getting rid of moisture pockets, but this is a double-edged sword. The lack of moisture also leads to flowers drying out faster. This saves time in the long-run, but you need to be careful that your buds don’t become too dry and lose their flavour.
All About Dry Trimming
Dry trimming involves—you guessed it—removing a large amount of moisture from your buds before snipping away at them. Growers typically cut their mature plants at the base and hang them in a drying room. Removing individual branches from larger plants makes them easier to manage.
After around ten days of drying the plants at a low temperature, they’ll be ready for a trim. At this point, the sugar leaves become shrivelled and slightly discoloured. They are much less sticky, but also take more dexterity and precision to remove. Find out if dry trimming will help you optimise your growing operation.
Pros of Dry Trimming
Waiting ten days for your buds to dry might seem excessive, but the reward outweighs the wait. The presence of sugar leaves and the resulting trapped moisture means your buds will take longer to lose their water content. However, this longer drying period helps to maintain the terpene profile. You won’t lose any of the unique taste or aroma of your favourite strain.
A longer drying period becomes particularly useful in climates with low humidity, preventing buds from drying too fast and becoming harsh.
Cannabis flowers lose a large portion of their water content during drying. The viscous resin and sticky trichomes harden off and become a lot less sticky, making flowers far easier to trim. The ability to handle flowers without them sticking to every fingertip enables experienced growers to trim a lot faster.
Cons of Dry Trimming
Hard trichomes are susceptible to becoming dislodged during trimming. They make the process less sticky, but you’ll likely lose a few in the process. But look on the bright side—you can make some killer hash out of anything that falls into your collection tray.
• You’ll need more space
Hanging up entire plants or large branches requires more space than a drying rack, especially if you’re processing a lot of plant material. Most growers elect to hang their branches from wire or string. Ideally, you’ll need to set up a spare room or large closet to get the job done.
Dry-trimmed buds tend to lose their luscious green colour and develop more of a brown-yellow appearance. Although they still taste great, the loss of aesthetics reduces the immediate visual appeal of your flowers.
Dry vs Wet Trimming: Which Way Should You Go?
Both dry and wet trimming reach the same end goal. They remove excess plant material from cannabis flowers and prepare them for the curing process. Overall, wet trimming serves as an efficient and easy way to process smaller homegrown batches and keep things flowing.
In contrast, dry trimming comes to the fore when dealing with a large number of plants. Plus, the longer drying time really helps lock in those unique flavours.
Which one should you choose? It’s entirely up to you! Weigh up the pros and cons of each method to decide how you want to process your plants.
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Trimming removes sugar leaves from cannabis flowers, improving their flavour and smoothness. Click to find out if you should wet trim or dry trim your buds.