Harvest Stage

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Sometime in mid-flowering, you’ll start to notice that the “pistils” start turning orange and curl in on themselves. You should see trichomes on your buds and they will most likely look quite clear with maybe a few cloudy ones.

Trichomes go through three stages: clean, cloudy, and amber. You want to harvest when the majority of your trichomes are cloudy. You’ll also probably have an even mix of clear and amber trichomes as well. You’ll need a magnifier and have to get up and personal to see this.

I strongly advise, no I completely believe, that you should not harvest off pistil color alone. Some growers harvest when they have a plant whose hairs are about 50-70% orange. But different strains waver on their amount of gingery-ness.

So don’t judge off pistil color alone, and don’t worry you can find a jeweler’s loupe off amazon for less than $10 bucks that will easily allow you to see your trichomes. Make sure to buy one with a light and has a magnification of at least 30-60X.

Trichomes are those shiny and sticky crystals that wash over your plant with potency goodness. Or in plainer words; they are the resin that contains that majority of the cannabinoids (THC, CBD, CBN, etc.). Your THC cannabinoids are at the highest when the trichome is cloudy, hence why we want to harvest then. When the trichomes turn amber the THC is converted to CBN. 

Important note: So many people confuse CBN (cannabinol) with CBD (cannabidiol). They are both cannabinoids that have relaxing effects, but CBD has a much larger effect on our bodies compared to CBN. Many growers think they can alter their THC and CBD ratio by harvesting earlier, or later when the trichomes have changed to amber, but this is not true. There are hundreds of different cannabinoids in cannabis and they all contribute in some way to the plant whether it’s the high or aroma. Do a quick google search for the term “cannabinoid chart” if you’re interested. 

know I overly stressed the importance of having a magnifying tool, but it’s so crucial to have because you don’t want to harvest too soon and it’s just cool seeing your trichomes up close! Cannabis plants love building a lot of flowers in the last two weeks. Even just one week can make a significant difference, especially for some strains.

To flush or not to flush...

Ok, I will preference with the notion that I hate this topic, but it must be addressed. A lot of growers recommend only feeding clean water with no nutrients the last two weeks before harvest. The thought is that this creates a smoother, natural flavor when smoking because there isn’t nutrient chemicals or chlorophyll in the smoke. I say show me the proof! I’m not sure where this idea came from, but farmers of non-cannabis plants absolutely don’t do this.

Some will scream “But they are growing outside it’s different!” How? And yes I know about salt buildup (this shouldn’t be a thing if you flushed right before flowering), and yes I know that it supposedly breaks down chlorophyll. I will agree that chlorophyll creates a harsh smoke, but I also know that it breaks down anyways with a good cure. Tobacco growers cure for this reason as well.

It's very common for cannabis plants to put on a lot of weight near harvest. I just don’t think it’s a good idea to withhold “food” during a period when they need a good amount of energy. Flushing will do nothing to rid the nutrients that the plant already has in tissue. And again no gardener of any other plant flushes before harvest.

Even if you can come up with a scientific argument that shows flushing is good, you still have no peer-reviewed studies to back it up. I’d much rather wait an extra week when curing to completely break down all the chlorophyll than jeopardize my yield by starting the process early in flowering.

This is similar to flushing. Supposedly, cannabis plants should get 48 hours of darkness before harvest as it freaks them out and they throw on a lot of weight and trichomes thinking they are going to die. That makes no sense whatsoever and does not adhere to our past dogma. I know I told you that slightly hurting your plant makes it stronger, but that’s in the long run, not two days. The second you hurt your plant it will slow down to recover, and won’t recover and become stronger until it stops.

I will say that I did both flush and give 48 hours of darkness for my first few grows. Honestly, I never saw a difference in taste or potency. It’s hard to say if I saw a difference in yield as well because while I got bigger yields with future grows, I was also just a better farmer and made better moves and less mistakes.

Technically, curing starts the second the flowers stop taking in water, so the process soon starts after you cut them down. Curing is incredibly important and I know you’ll want to rush this process, but take the extra time. A decent amount of potency and aroma engenders in this process and as I talked about above, it gives a smoother smoke when the chlorophyll is broken down.

You can easily tell when the flowers are dry by bending the stems. If they snap or are about to then you’re done drying, but if they are still fairly bendy then this need to dry longer. Larger steam may still bend and that fine. Be careful to not overdry the buds as they break easily and crumble. You can re-moisten with humidipacks if needed, but it’s best to not have it come to that because some growers report lost of smell.

After the buds are dried, you’ll want to place them in mason jars and fill the jars to about 70-80% full. I leave enough room that my hydrometer easily fits in, which I recommend doing.

This isn’t needed, but I like stressing that you need a good cure, because I want the best flavor and most potent high. Even if you don’t use a meter still only fill the jars to only about 80%.

After you fill your jars with the soon to be marijuana, you’ll want to place them in a cool, dark area for about 24 hrs. After a day you’ll want to “burp” them, which simply means you open the jars for a few seconds to let out the built-up moisture. You will continue to burp each jar at least once a day for probably a week or two.Use your hydrometer, if it reads 60-65% or lower then there is no need to burp and you can leave the lids on. If that number goes higher then you can burp. That 60-65% humidity range is what you’re aiming for.

Spend the $10 buck it cost for a simple meter as it just makes the whole gardening experience way easier and takes out so much guesswork. You are going to kick yourself so much if you lose $100+ dollars of valuable bud to mold because you wanted to cut cost.

When you open your jars, go ahead and take in a big nose full. A lot of people judge whether the cure is done or not by the smell. Many say uncured marijuana smell like hay, straw, or fresh cut grass, and I can kinda see that. It has a unique smell for sure. Wet straw in the winter is the closest thing I can think it smells like.

If the curing bud smells funky, rotten, etc. immediately inspect for mold.

After a week or so you should only have to open the jars about once a week, and at this point it’s fine, if you want to go ahead and start smoking your weed. I recommend waiting at least another week or two to really lock in the flavor.

Curing will take place for up to 6 months. What I like to do cure for two weeks, then only smoke from one of the jars, that way the other jars can continue to cure.

When you harvest your plant I recommend cutting off each individual stem as it makes trimming way easier, but you can cut the whole thing at the base of the plant and hang the entire thing to dry if you want.

First, you’ll want to go ahead and remove the fan leaves as they contain little to no THC. Next, you’ll want to trim the sugar leaves. How much you trim them is up to you. You’ll notice that the majority of a sugar leaf is covered with trichomes. If selling or combusting the plant, go ahead and remove the majority of the sugar leaves, but save them as you can make them into edibles, vape them, etc.

Since I vape 90% of the time and don’t sell, I only remove the tips of my sugar leaves where I don’t see any trichomes. You can trim the leaves at any point in the drying process, but it’s easier sooner rather than later. It makes them look a bit sloppier and my hits aren’t as strong (concentrated), but that just means a second hit is in store and I have more hits available, so more trichomes = more high.

Your humidity levels will play a role in this as well. You want a preferred humidity of 60%, and if you’re drying in a dry area, then you’ll want to keep some leaves on the flowers so they don’t dry out too fast. You can cut farther down the stem as they hold a lot of water as well. You’ll want to aim for at least a week in drying. Since steams and leaves all hold a lot of water you'll want to use that to your advantage.

Hanging them upside down in a dark area is best and you’ll want a small fan moving air across them, but make sure it doesn’t dry the buds out too fast. You preferably don’t want the buds touching each other preventing air flow. You don’t want them to dry too fast, but you also don’t want mold so have your eyes out for that.

I simply hang my buds from coat hangers and place them in a closet. You can also place them on drying racks that work well for more humid environments.