Determining peak ripeness is essential to harvesting. Once you cut your plants down, there's still work to be done before they become that primo victory smoke you've been waiting three months for. Don't blow it at the last minute. Read on to learn the dos and don't of harvesting.
Curing and storing your sacred medicine is as important as getting your crop growing correctly. It's amazing the number of people out there growing cannabis who don't know how to cure their weed. If done correctly, your harvest can last a year or more, and still taste superb.
Having been around cannabis growers for many years now, I have seen some bad mistakes made in this department. The most common problem with harvesting and drying marijuana is that people pick it too early. They become impatient, have bills to pay, get paranoid or run out of smoke. They go to their growroom, look at their plants, and justify picking them early. That is the first no-no in growing: Don't harvest early. My motto is, "When it looks like it's ready, wait a week."
Cannabis is ruined if it's picked too early. Learn to observe your plants very closely, noticing exactly when the calyxes are swollen with crystals to where it will not get any riper. Don't just wait until the white pistils turn red. It's not the red hairs that get you high; it's the trichomes on the calyxes. A 30x microscope with a light will help you to see if the trichomes are almost halfway amber. Some people pick before they turn color at all, but that's when I like to harvest.
Sometimes you have to harvest early for reasons beyond your control. I was growing a beautiful crop here in Amsterdam when I found out my landlord was selling the property. I had to move out and pick it 2 1/2 weeks early. Waiting until the last possible moment, I then organized a good team of friends to help. With three days left before I had to be completely out of the space, I cut the plants down and hung them in the growroom with a charcoal filter.
I let them dry for two days, then sealed them in sealing bags to stop the smell and quickly brought them to my new space. There I took them out of the sealing bags, hung them up in a cool, dry space and let them dry for another 10 days. My friends and I completely dismantled the growroom, making it look like it never existed. I and the crop were history. This particular crop wasn't up to snuff; life is what happens in between plans. Sealing bags and a sealing machine are essential tools of the trade.
CURE ALL - page 2
When you are down to your last two weeks of flowering, you should begin to think of where you are going to dry your smelly harvest. Many a garden has been lost to the stinky smell wafting out in the wrong direction. I suggest a charcoal exhaust filter in the space where the cannabis will dry--better safe than sorry. Depending on the quantity you are working with, you will want to hang several strong lines going from one wall to the opposite wall, in the room with the filter. A good-quality circulating fan is needed to move the air around the room, to gently help the moisture evaporate off the plants. What you want is the moisture evaporating at a slow rate; you do not want to dry it quickly.
I use a sharp gardener's pruning shears to cut the plant. I then take all the large fan leaves off, using my thumbnail (and the thumbnails of my friends). I take no more off the plants. The sacred medicine is then hung upside down, using the strong crooks on the plant. When the herb is hung in this way, the buds form into a nice teardrop shape. The temperature in the room is about 65°-75°F, so it stays dry, but not too dry. I give the room seven days, and check a bud to see if the stem snaps. If I think it's getting close, I start manicuring. If it's not dry enough, I wait.
The next item you need is a large table with a clean, shiny surface. With it, you need a few pairs of sharp scissors and some good lighting. I then take a T-55 silkscreen that's slightly smaller than the table, and attach it with duct tape. The tape stops it from moving. The purpose of the silkscreen is to catch the large resin glands that are heavy and fall off first. If the quantity is large enough, I have a friend sitting on each side of the table, in their own station, so to speak.
With scissors in hand, we start clipping the small branches off the main trunk of the plant, and lay them on the screen. Pleasant music and some fine smoke are essential here, because you need to have a good buzz to sit there for a few hours. My manicuring team and I then start to take all of the extra leaf off the buds. We use our fingers to take the leaf off, and use the scissors to cut the stems. After a while sticky, smelly resin starts to stick to our fingers, and every couple of plants we have to rub it off into a bowl. This hash is priceless; no one ever sells it. The only way to get it is to grow it.
When the buds are cleaned of all leaf, they are placed on screens and allowed to dry a little bit more. All the leaf trim is saved to make water hash. After the cleaned buds have sat out on the screen for a few hours, they are ready to be placed in Mason jars. I leave them closed overnight and then open them again for an hour. This process helps the moisture trapped inside the stem to rehydrate the drier leaves on the outside of the bud. This gives a homogenous dry to the plants. I keep opening the jars and checking them for about a week. It is imperative that your stems snap before you put your herb away for any length of time. If they don't snap and you put it away, your stash will go sour, ruining the perfume of the sacred herb. Marijuana changes with time. If you smoke it as soon as it is dried, you can really taste the chlorophyll. In a month, it tastes better, and in a year, it gets a golden color and a deep, rich smell.
If you treat your harvest in this way, you can have your own connoisseur's stash to smoke all year long. I for one don't like to smoke buds that aren't at least three months old, as time has a gentle way of making the chlorophyll taste fade away. Once you have it just right, it can be placed in a freezer for very long-term storage, and will be good literally years from now.