You believe you’ve grown a closet full of gorgeous Christmas gifts…only to realize that you ended up with some grassy weed? You’re definitely not alone. There are hundreds of books on how-to grow cannabis each one making its own promises. You’ll often find numerous chapters dedicated to cultivating and one tacked on to the end that speaks to harvesting, drying and curing. Your beautiful chunky nugs now harvested resemble field hay? How could this happen!?
Just like making wine, you’ve only survived half the battle when you pull the fruits down. All the energy, time and money you invested needs to be tenderly cared for as it goes through the most vulnerable state. The plant is no longer alive to protect itself, so now that job has landed in your hands.
During harvest, there’s no lack of excitement. And thank goodness, because you’ve got a lot of work ahead! And planning is key.
Your first step should always be to remove the fan leaves. This takes time. Whether you plan on trimming and smoking your flower or turning it into extracts, fan leaves only gunk up the process leaving extra waste which can lead to mold as well as other issues. I suggest fan leafing the plants the day or evening before harvest to ensure a speedy harvest the next morning.
Harvest just before your lights come on. It’s not a must, it won’t ruin the quality if you don’t, but you’ll appreciate the benefits if you do. Cannabis produces hundreds of terpenes and most of them are volatile at room temperature. This is why we can smell them! The intensity and heat that comes from an HID bulb will destroy the terpenes, and your high, at a quicker rate. Just before the lights come on, the plant has maximized its recovery period and should be pumped up for harvest.
If you’re going to hang dry, cut the branches so that once hung there are no overlapping buds or stems. Air flow is key. I hang branches less than a foot in length because the thick center stems carry too much water and slow the drying process.
For wet trimming, separate the larger dense buds from the lower duff that lacks weight. You’ll only want to trim the flowers larger than a quarter. It may seem worth keeping but you’ll realize when it dries, all you’ve done is trim shake.
Drying is more than rapidly removing moisture; it is not that simple. I’m sure you’ve had a nice looking sack that shockingly smelled like grass or nothing at all. This can often be contributed to a too-quick dry time or improper storage.
Drying sounds simple but it’s crucial to understand the theory behind it before diving in. When drying cannabis, whether whole plant or in dry racks, you want to pull the moisture out of the plant at a pace that allows moisture from the dense center to slowly and evenly escape to the outer edges. If you dry it too quickly, the outer edges will become hydrophobic trapping inner moisture. Drying too slow can allow for increased mold or mildew. Both lead to a subpar product.
If you can set up shop in a cool, dark and moderately dry space, you’ll preserve more of the flavors and smells while slowly allowing the residual nitrogen to escape. I like to keep my dry room at roughly 65-70°F and 45-55 percent relative humidity. Just like in your grow room, air circulation is of the utmost importance! As we all know, mold and mildews thrive in dark and cool environments and your wet buds provide plenty of moisture. A quality dehumidifier is a must, even if you live in an arid environment. Remember that you lose 70-80 percent of your total weight during the drying process. That means if you anticipate two pounds dry, you had to pull as much as 8.34 pounds of water out of the air, a full gallon!
Here’s where you’ve got to pay careful attention. Full branch drying can take as long as 14 days because you are also waiting for the moisture to escape from the dense tough stalks. Check on the buds daily, gently touching buds and bending stems When stems bend easily but don’t snap and buds feel firm and dry to the touch but still give, you’ve reached a good point to begin trimming and curing.
Net drying can be much faster but must be transitioned to paper bags or jars more attentively because they lack the protection of the hanging outer foliage. As soon as 4-7 days after harvest you can move the buds over to paper sacks to slow the moisture release. Once bud have lost 65-75 percent of their moisture, they can be transitioned to glass.
I’ve had a lot of friends say they have no problem growing healthy dank plants, and I can attest, but they can’t get the cure down. Curing gets people because there is no exact temperature, humidity or length of time that will give you the perfect bud. With every strain being different in density, structure and chemical make-up, on top of the variations from your growth style, every bud will cure to its own beat, so to speak. As with drying, you’re attempting to pull the last bit of moisture from the center of the bud at a pace that ensures flavor and prevents rot.
Curing is moving the trimmed dried bud to glass jars and allowing the moisture and flavors to both even out and develop. The key is touching and squeezing the buds daily. No part of the bud should get so crispy it crumbles when being squeezed. Similarly, it shouldn’t feel firm and dry on the outside but collapse from inner moisture when pinched. Until the bud begins to feel more dry, open daily and rotate buds. Once your ideal texture is reached, leave it shut to maintain it. Paying attention is ultimately what will pay back.
Cup winning cures come from years of practice but you have to start sometime. With an eye for detail and a passion for pot, your product will begin to separate itself from the pack. Maybe next year you can proudly pass out some celebratory gifts that announce themselves before they’re even opened!
HANG DRY BY BRANCH OR DRY AS NUGS IN A NET?
Everything is a style choice and what works for your space. If you have a large climate controlled drying space but little help, branch drying is a faster option for a lone wolf and can be slowly dry trimmed over time. If you’ve got plenty of help to separate the flowers from the stems and wet trim, but little time or little space, nets are the way to go.