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When Are Marijuana Buds Ready to Harvest?

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This harvest tutorial is part of our “how to harvest cannabis” series:

Intro: When to Harvest Cannabis (for highest potency)

When should we harvest the buds from a cannabis plant? That is the eternal question… I’m sure the answer we’re all thinking is “Not soon enough!”

(How far are your plants in the flowering stage? Check out the flowering stage timeline!)

Unfortunately for us impatient growers, harvesting at the right time is just as important as how you grow the plant. Harvest too soon and you lose potency and cannabis yields; too late and you can end up making a batch of sleep medicine.

These 6 buds are in the harvest window. Buds are ready to harvest when most of the “hairs” have darkened and curled in and you can see the solid bud underneath.

Choose the most precise harvest time by looking at glittery trichomes under a magnifier. Trichome heads start out clear and glassy. At this point, buds are not very potent.

As buds mature, trichome heads turn milky white. They kind of look like plastic. These white trichome heads indicate the highest level of THC and CBD.

If given more time, white trichome heads turn amber/golden (for most strains). Amber trichomes have less THC but produce more of a relaxing/body/anti-anxiety effect.

Quick Summary: Buds are ready to harvest when hairs have darkened and curled in, revealing the solid bud underneath. Harvest buds on the early side for more of an “up” mental/psychoactive effect (trichome heads appear milky white under a magnifier). If buds are allowed to continue maturing, the white trichomes begin to turn amber/golden. The greater the number of amber trichomes, the more buds produce a “down” body/couchlock effect.

This bud with all-white trichomes has reached the highest level of THC/CBD. Wait another week or two for trichome heads to turn amber/golden for more of a relaxing effect.

You only need 3 things to determine the best marijuana harvest time:

  1. The knowledge of when to harvest – You get that today!
  2. Eyes for visual inspection – You’ve probably had these for a while!
  3. A magnifying tool (optional but recommended) – Makes the glittery, resin-filled trichomes on your buds easier to see; although not 100% necessary, this lets you time your harvest perfectly to get the exact effects you’re looking for. See reviews of different magnifiers.

When it comes to magnifying tools for growing, the 3 most popular options are…

  • Jeweler’s Loupe – This is the cheapest and most low tech way to get the job done. Unfortunately, it is still difficult to get the best insight into how your buds are doing unless you have really great eyes, though the one I linked to is the best that I’ve tried. Will definitely get the job done in a pinch!
  • Your Camera Phone – Many modern smartphones have excellent cameras that can take clear pictures of trichomes. Try to use lots of natural light, hold the phone very still, and zoom in for the best images.
  • Digital Microscope– A digital microscope is one of the best tools to determine the right harvest time. A digital microscope costs a bit more than a loupe and many models need a connecting laptop, but they will get you face-to-face with your trichomes and allow you to take video to re-examine afterward or get a second opinion. You’ll be almost uncomfortably close to your trichomes!

Use a magnifier to see trichomes clearly

This harvest tutorial will fully cover the two main techniques growers use to identify the right time to harvest marijuana plants.

Note: It’s recommended you flush your cannabis plants in the last week or two leading up to harvest time if growing in soil or coco, and for at least a few days in hydro. Click the following link to get more info on flushing before harvest: https://www.growweedeasy.com/flushing

First, we’ll show you how to identify harvest time by checking the pistils (the ‘hairs’ on your buds). The pistil method isn’t nearly as accurate as checking the trichomes (the ‘glitter’ on your buds), but it’s definitely a good place to start since you can just look at the buds and get a general idea. Then we’ll get into trichomes.

The following marijuana harvest pictures will guide you, so you know when to harvest your marijuana buds using ‘The Pistil Method’.

1st Method to Identify Harvest Time: Pistil Method

Not Ready for Harvest Pictures

When the vast majority of pistils (hairs) are still white and sticking out straight, this plant is not ready to harvest.

Way too early to harvest

These buds still have many weeks to go!

Both potency and yields are extremely low at this stage

Still Not Ready for Harvest Pictures

We’re waiting for most of the white hairs to darken and curl in. S ome of the pistils are starting to turn color on the following buds, but there are still too many white pistils. These buds have at least a few weeks to go before they’ll reach their highest levels of THC. The good news is your buds will get bigger and denser in that time!

Ready for Harvest Pictures

Harvest when 70-90% of hairs have darkened for highest levels of THC.
Harvest when 90-100% of hairs have darkened for a more calming,
anti-anxiety effect as some THC turns to the more relaxing CBN.

With some strains, you may see a bunch of new pistils appear right when you think you’re getting close. This is normal, but it happens more than 3 times you’ve eventually got to just make the decision and chop. Learn how to speed up the time to harvest. You may also be interested in what’s causing buds to take forever to mature?

Ready to Harvest – On the Early Side (more “up” effects, lower yields)

This purple bud is on the early side of the harvest window. Although the pistils / hairs have darkened, they are mostly sticking straight out. In this case, wait a little longer until hairs curl in more and reveal the solid bud underneath. Also look to the color of hairs on the lower buds as they’ll likely be a better indicator of harvest readiness.

Ready to Harvest – Middle of Harvest Window (only a few white hairs)

Ready to Harvest – On the Late Side (more of a “down” or body effect)

Ready to Harvest – Special Cases (when to harvest even with lots of white pistils left)

If all the leaves on a plant die (for example if it gets sick or stressed), the yellowing and discoloration starts spreading to the flowers. If this goes on too long, it can damage the overall quality, potency, smell, and appearance of buds. If you have a sick plant in the late flowering stage that keeps getting worse, keep a close eye on buds and harvest before they get too damaged.

Even though there are still plenty of white pistils on the following bud, the plant is dying (and keeps getting worse) so it’s a good idea to harvest soon.

Heat or light stressed plants may keep growing lots of new white hairs on top of mature, older buds. In that case, look at the older parts of the bud to determine when to harvest.

Too much heat and light can cause other problems. Notice the yellow “banana” sticking out of the top middle bud in the next picture. This is a stress response. The plant is making a last-ditch effort to pollinate itself and make seeds before the plant dies. If your buds start popping up with bananas everywhere, it’s time to harvest. Otherwise, you start losing potency/smell and buds may get seedy.

This plant suffered from extreme heat and light burn and should be harvested.

With some strains, it is much harder to tell when the time is right. Different strains can look different ways at harvest. For example, some strains can keep most of their pistils white even when they’re ready to be harvested.

You can get some good information by talking to someone who has grown your strain before, such as the breeder. The breeder or growers who’ve grown your strain before can often provide extra insight into what to look for at harvest. You can also search online for pictures of what your strain should look like when it’s fully ripened.

Next, we’re going to go over the 2nd (and MUCH more accurate) method of checking your cannabis plants to see if they’re harvest-ready…

2nd Method to Identify Harvest Time: Trichome Method

(how to harvest cannabis using the accurate method)

This harvest method tends to be more precise than looking at the pistils of your cannabis plant.

Look at trichomes under a magnifier to harvest cannabis buds with the desired THC levels

With this method, you look at the glandular stalked trichomes on the buds under a magnifying glass. Trichomes are the mushroom-looking growths on cannabis that are responsible for it being so popular!

In some places, these trichomes are called resin glands. These trichomes are the ‘crystals’, or ‘frosty stuff’ you see accumulating on your bud/leaves. They’re also what makes weed so sticky.

The trichomes you’re trying to see look like little mushrooms. You may also see tiny, clear hair-like trichomes without the mushroom head but these don’t affect potency so you can ignore them. You are interested in the trichomes that have a little ball on top. This is where a lot of the THC and other good stuff in cannabis is located. Since these trichomes are what contribute the most to bud potency, being able to tell when they’ve reached their highest levels of THC will help you be able to choose the exact right time to harvest your marijuana.

Cannabis trichomes are difficult to see with the naked eye, so you’ll need a jeweler’s loupe or other way to magnify the image in order to use the “trichome method” for determining harvest time. Conversely, some cameras can take ‘macro’ shots that are clear enough to see what stage the trichomes are in but they can be pricey…

Jeweler’s loupes are relatively cheap to buy online, at a hardware store, or sometimes a jewelry store.

If you put the loupe right up to your buds, you’ll get a better view of the trichomes, letting you better determine their color and shape.

Although a jeweler’s loupe can make trichomes appear bigger, sometimes it’s not big enough. I know I end up squinting a lot when I’m trying to use one, but they are a heck of a lot better than nothing!

Get a Jeweler’s Loupe on Amazon.com
Although it’s cheap, this is one of the best-rated jeweler’s loupes in the under $20 price range. It’s the one I use. However, please note that although it says you get 40x magnification, you don’t get nearly as much as that. However, I’ve found that with just about every jeweler’s loupe; they advertise more magnification than what you get. That being said, for a lot of growers this will get the job done!

A digital microscope typically takes video and produce bigger and more clear pictures of trichomes than a jeweler’s loupe or other small magnifiers. Not only can you see the trichomes better, but you can record video of them to look over after the fact. These are still pretty cheap, costing $30-50, and they will give you better results than most other methods for determining harvest.

A digital microscope lets you see the trichomes up close and personal. You must hook it up to a device with a screen to see the pictures, such as a laptop or computer. A USB microscope can also be attached to most Android smartphones with an OTG adapter (if OTG is supported, and you probably need an OTG-compatible camera app). Some Apple products support OTG adapters, but not all. Luckily, most iPhones have a nice enough camera you won’t need it. It’s really nice to be able to see the trichomes on a screen and take pictures or video to examine afterward. It can be difficult to really evaluate the trichomes when you’re thinking about getting everything in focus.

Here’s a guide breaking down when to harvest marijuana buds based on color of trichomes.

(note: the trichomes of some strains turn purple or pink instead of amber/gold/yellow)

Clear trichomes look kind of like glass – Not ready to harvest. At this point, buds are not very potent.

The trichomes in the next picture are also mostly clear, but it can be difficult to tell the difference between clear and cloudy if you haven’t really looked at trichomes before. However, in this example, I don’t even really need to look at the trichomes to know these buds aren’t ready yet. I can clearly see several white pistils sticking straight out in the photo. The only two darkened pistils haven’t even curled in yet.

What if you can’t tell the difference between clear and cloudy trichomes? (these ones are all clear)

Here’s that bud from further away. Nearly all the pistils are white and you can’t really see the solid bud underneath. From just looking at the bud, you can tell there’s still several weeks to go. So don’t worry about trichome color just yet. Assume they’re clear for now until buds start looking closer to harvest.

As buds mature, trichome heads turn milky white. They kind of look like plastic. These white trichome heads indicate the highest level of THC and CBD.

Cloudy trichomes indicate the highest levels of THC and CBD

This bud with all-white trichomes has reached peak potency. Wait another week or two for trichome heads to turn amber/golden for more of a relaxing effect.

If given more time, white trichome heads turn amber/golden (for most strains). Amber trichomes have less THC but produce more of a down/body/anti-anxiety effect.

I can’t tell the difference between clear and cloudy trichomes.

It can be hard to tell the difference between clear and cloudy trichomes. Especially if you don’t see both types of trichomes at the same time. This is completely normal, and it takes a little experience before it becomes easy.

However, when in doubt, look at this picture gallery of buds that are ready to harvest to compare against the trichomes. If you combine both methods you’ll get the best results. Although looking at your buds isn’t the most precise way to know when to harvest, it does give you a really good idea. Try to take everything together. If your buds just have white pistils sticking out, you know for sure that it’s nowhere close to ready, so you also know that the trichomes on the buds aren’t all cloudy yet. It’s only when your buds are getting close to looking harvest-ready that trichomes are going to have something to tell you.

When you’re not sure, use a combination of looking at the pistils and trichomes!

Note: It’s usually a good sign to see lots of trichomes, but trichome production doesn’t always indicate quality. Many classic strains give you outstandingly potent buds even though buds aren’t dripping in trichomes. On the flip side, there are some strains that grow frosty buds yet have low potency. Trichome-encrusted strains are extremely popular these days, especially in the USA, but many of my favorite strains (like Liberty Haze or LSD) produce incredible effects even though you only see a moderate amount of trichomes. It’s tempting to want to grow the “prettiest” strains, but I highly recommend choosing strains for effects rather than appearance!

Learn everything you could possibly want to know about cannabinoid levels in your marijuana, and what you need to do as a grower to control the potency of the buds you grow.

Summary: Tips & Hints

Here are some general rules about harvesting marijuana based on trichomes and the color of the hairs / pistils. If you follow these rules, you’ll know how to harvest weed perfectly every time!

  1. If white “hairs” are almost all sticking straight out and trichomes are all still translucent (clear) then your plant is too young and not ready for harvest. Harvesting now will result in low yield and non-potent harvests.
  2. The beginning of the harvest window opens when your plant has mostly stopped growing new white “hairs” or pistils and at least 40% of the white hairs have darkened and curled in.
  3. The highest level of THC is when many/most of the trichomes have turned milky white / cloudy (when viewed under a magnifier). Trichomes that are milky have the highest levels of THC are “ready to harvest” and contribute to more euphoric and psychoactive effects. At this point, 50-70% of the pistils have darkened.
  4. Some Sativa & Haze strains have trichomes that never really turn amber. If they’ve turned mostly white and don’t seem to be progressing further, it may be time to harvest!
  5. The most “couchlock” or sedating effect happens towards the end of the pot harvest window, when the trichomes have become a darker color (usually amber/gold). The best results from amber trichomes come from indica strains. The amber/yellow trichomes contribute to a ‘body high’. Some of the THC has converted into less psychoactive CBN, which has calming and anti-anxiety effects. With some strains, the trichomes will even turn red or purple! I like to harvest around when 20% have turned amber. At this point 70-90% of the pistils have darkened. Harvesting later will increase the sedating effects, but may also start reducing the psychoactive effects.
  6. When trichomes start looking grey or withered, the harvest window has passed, and buds will make you sleepy without many psychoactive effects. Usually it takes several weeks (4 or more) from the beginning of the harvest window for this to happen. It’s much easier to harvest too early than too late!

Want more of a speedy ‘in-your-head’ effect? Harvest your buds earlier, when only 40% of hairs have darkened and curled in and more than half of the trichomes are part clear/ part milky or mostly cloudy/milky.

For the “strongest” marijuana buds with the most psychoactive effects, and the highest levels of THC, harvest when almost all trichomes are cloudy/milky.

For more relaxing, anti-anxiety buds, wait until at least some of the milky / cloudy trichomes have darkened to amber. More amber = more relaxing, though the effects may be somewhat less psychoactive. Remember, curing your buds properly for at least 2 weeks to a month will also give them more of an anti-anxiety effect.

When growing your own marijuana plants, you can certainly sample buds off your plant at different stages to get an idea for what your preferences are. It’s okay to cut off pieces at a time!

The hardest part of growing cannabis for many new growers is waiting for the right time to harvest.

There is a strong tendency for new growers to harvest the plant early due to excitement.

Unfortunately, this often results in low yields and low-potency buds.

If you are feeling excited about harvesting your marijuana plant, pull buds off the plant that look the most done and dry them and check the potency for yourself.

Harvesting the buds in stages (starting off slowly with small batches) can really help abate the excitement.

When in doubt, listen to your gut. Using both methods together will help you pick the best time to harvest, but only YOU know how you want your buds to turn out. This means that even the best methods are just general guidelines. But hopefully, you’re now closer to getting your bud the way you want it.

This harvest tutorial is part of our “how to harvest cannabis” series:

Now you’re ready to harvest your own plants!

Harvesting cannabis at the right time is just as important as how you grow the plant. Harvest marijuana buds too soon and you lose potency and yields; too late and you can end up making a batch of sleep medicine. Learn how to harvest at the perfect time, every time! Here's what you need…

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?

HARVEST

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

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.

How to Harvest Cannabis

It best to harvest cannabis plants in the early morning hours. 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.

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.

TRIM

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.

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.

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.

DRY

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!

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.

STORE

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.

ENJOY

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 use in oils, edibles, and salves. Feel free to ask questions or leave feedback in the comments!

Come learn all the best practices to harvest, dry, cure, trim, and store your homegrown cannabis – so you can get the best end product from your efforts!