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Tips on harvesting, and when to harvest cannabis

Xlr8

Member of the Year: 2012 - Nug of the Year: 2012 - Member of the Month: May 2011, Mar 2012 - Nug of the Month: Sept, Dec 2012
Tips on harvesting, and when to harvest cannabis


This is just how I do things, and there are bound to be other opinions from other growers on these topics (there are many ways to skin a cat or grow/harvest a plant!). I realize this is quite wordy, but I thought I'd just run through the process of how we do it.

Slow and steady is great with drying, so I'm careful to not let this process happen too quickly. Bud dried too quickly will have a vastly inferior flavor and will be weaker than properly dried/cured bud. Properly dried and cured, MMJ potency and flavor will be maximized.

As far as harvesting, and when to harvest, I look at and consider a number of things... mostly:

Seed companies recommendation for when to harvest: Some are better and seem more accurate than others. I tend to just expect it will take "at least" that long. Here's a tip for Subcool strains -- he claims his flowering times are based on going right from 18/6 to 12/12. Plants vegged under 24/0 might take a little longer (not much though if any in my experience) and plants that were vegged using the 12-1 technique (Gas Lantern Routine) might be a little quicker, for example. I also look up grow journals from other people to see what their experience was and when they harvested. Due to variations in phenotype and other growing factors that affect finishing time I use the breeders recommendation and other peoples experiences only as a starting point.

Trichome maturation: A small microscope or magnifying glass (I prefer the microscope) can be used to check the trichome development. Trichomes look like little mushrooms under a microscope, and they look clear to begin with. Over time, they typically turn milky, then eventually the head of it will start to turn "amber" colored signifying they have peaked in development and are starting to decline. Many people like to harvest their plants when these trichomes are about 50% milky, and 50% amber. The more amber, the more "stoned" or "couchlock" the effect will be. Less amber, more milky or clear, and your effect will be a little "racier" or "high" (think giggly) and you won't have as much of a narcotic effect. Personally, I prefer to harvest (generally speaking) when they are about 10-25% amber, mostly milky (I don't like to feel such strong narcotic effect). You may have multiple plants with different windows of harvest time, so you'll have to keep an eye on them individually as far as best window if you do. Plants are at their peak maturity just before the trichomes start ambering. Once they start ambering, they are dying and will start a gradual decline in potency. Individual budsites might mature faster than others, so I harvest based on what is happening at the height of the majority of the canopy for each plant, if that makes sense. When I check the trichomes, I sample from 3-4 places on each plant to get a fuller picture of what's happening.

Pistil/Calyx maturation: The pistils will turn reddish brown (color depends on the plant, but usually reddish brown) and start to recede into the false seed-pod as they mature. Basically, the calyx (where the seed would be if there were seeds) swells larger and larger until it almost looks like there really is a seed in it, and the pistils will begin to shrivel up almost receding back into the calyx. This is another sign of peek maturity. If the calyx doesn't look very swollen and the pistils are still really hanging out there on their own, you probably need more time. I also look for the majority of the pistils to have changed colors before it's ready.




Once I decide they are ready to harvest, I make sure I have everything ready in advance. I wear rubber gloves to keep my hands less sticky. The ones I buy personally are usually "purple nitrile" exam gloves that can be found at a drug store, etc. Additionally, I make sure we have our trimming scissors. There are many different types of trimmers that work for this. I prefer a good pair of small scissors with sharp pointed tip, but it's all personal preference. Lastly, we use pant hangers to hang our branches with, so I make sure we have enough of these to harvest our plants.

This is from my Deadhead Ripper plant, and it's ready for harvest. You can tell by how swollen the calyx's are, and how the pistils are almost completely receded:


Harvest time: I start by cutting off individual branches and separating them into different "piles" on our trimming tables by strain/plant. We immediately trim the large fans off of them, and any non "bud" leaf. Usually my wife is already working on this while I remove branches from the plants. Once we have all the branches plucked and separated, we start trimming the bud leaves and buds while they are on the branch. Personally, I try to trim them very close and thoroughly - (they dry faster with a good trim, so be careful not to overdry them too fast).

Once a branch is thoroughly trimmed up (there should be nothing but the branch and trimmed budsites) we hang it upside down either in a small separate room we have, or in our grow tent if there is room (no other plants in there still growing!). I use the little clamps on the pants hangers to "pinch" the fat end of the branch. I don't like it to be pinched shut (sealing moisture in) so I'm careful to monitor that. One great tip related to this: We found little add-on clips that can be put on hangers so that instead of (2) clips on the pant hangers, there are several. I think we found these at the local grocery or drug store somewhere, but they are handy! Otherwise we make sure we have enough hangers or use rubberbands to tie branches to the hangers. Our ceiling is easy to hang hangers from, but you can makeshift a clothesline or something (which is what we do in our tent).



As we trim, any loose buds that fall off (or get cut off by accident) go into a little dish that we use to quick-dry/sample what we are trimming. It's fun to be feeling the high from what we are working on, so I usually am vaping/smoking these little accident nuggets along the way. We save goo balls from our scissors and make larger goo balls as the night goes on. These get added to a bowl and smoked for fun! I keep a supply of 72% alcohol "wet-wipes", which work great for cleaning off the excess stickyness of scissors, etc. (I don't drink much, but Jandre had a cool idea about cleaning the scissors with 151 rum and drinking the shot!)

Once all branches are trimmed and hung, we usuallly place a small fan in the room blowing under (NOT on) the plants. Just to keep circulation in the room. You don't want them to dry too fast. We usually let them hang 3-4 days, depending on humidity. We check them periodically for signs that they are ready with this phase. We err on the side of still moist vs. too dry. When the branches feel more prone to "snap" and the buds feel somewhat dry on the outside, we take the branches down and clip the buds off. They go into jars right away, and sealed up for about 24 hours depending on how dry they seemed when put in the jar.

After about 24 hours, I open the jars. I'm looking for the buds to seem a bit damp/moist again. Basically, when you hang them, the outside drys first. Jarring them brings the moisture to the outer parts of the bud, too, again. At this point, I typically give them periods of airing out by putting each jar into it's own small brown paper bag for a period of time, looking for the outside to start to feel a bit "dry" again (don't overdry!!). Then, they go back into jars again. I keep repeating this process until I feel like they are "close" without being too dry.

Once they are close, I put them in jars and burp daily until I feel they are where I want them (one to two weeks usually?). TIP: Finally, I put these in each wide-mouth Mason style jar:

62% Humidipak

These "humidipaks" will help keep your bud at roughly 62% humidity, which is fairly ideal for MMJ. If your jar starts to get too dry, it adds humidity. If it gets too humid, it removes it. This is an awesome product from what I can tell so far (just started using this with my last harvest, and this product is fairly new (at least at a cannabis friendly humidity level). The 62% humidipaks were created specifically for MMJ as I understand it. These are working great so far for me! One tip on the humidipaks: They won't be a substitute for a proper drying process, but once you are there, they seem to do a great job of keeping things just right! :)

Lastly, for long term storage we use a "FoodSaver" food sealer, with the mason jar attachment. You have to buy the Mason Jar attachment separately from the machine, but it allows you to vacuum pack Mason style jars. For all bud that we are storing, once cured, we vacuum pack it. Vacuum packing can extend the freshness period for your bud by months for medicine that you won't be using right away. This can be extremely beneficial, and for a total investment of less than $100, it's a bargain in that sense.

Did I miss anything or leave any other questions? Again, this is just how we do it - many other great ways to do this, too! :)

 

Tejas

New Member
Thanks!

Well written and exactly what I needed to know.

I rushed my first harvest. Second harvest, the timing is good and I'm taking my time with it.
 

Xlr8

Member of the Year: 2012 - Nug of the Year: 2012 - Member of the Month: May 2011, Mar 2012 - Nug of the Month: Sept, Dec 2012

tomatofarmer

New Member
What up guy. Im on my first grow from bag seeds, Im 35 days in flowering but i still want to be prepared for the harvest when it comes.

Ive posted questions about the vacuum seal bag for curing on this site with no real definite answers on it. Ive seen videos on after hanging and trimming you can cure straight from the vacuum seal bag. I was looking into this to save time on the curing process.

Have you ever tried anything like this with just the vacuum bag?
 

Xlr8

Member of the Year: 2012 - Nug of the Year: 2012 - Member of the Month: May 2011, Mar 2012 - Nug of the Month: Sept, Dec 2012
What up guy. Im on my first grow from bag seeds, Im 35 days in flowering but i still want to be prepared for the harvest when it comes.

Ive posted questions about the vacuum seal bag for curing on this site with no real definite answers on it. Ive seen videos on after hanging and trimming you can cure straight from the vacuum seal bag. I was looking into this to save time on the curing process.

Have you ever tried anything like this with just the vacuum bag?
Hi Tomatofarmer -

First, congrats on your first grow and upcoming harvest! How exciting! There's nothing like your first harvest, and sampling your own home-grown. :thumb:

Hmm, I haven't heard that one - sorry.

Is there a particular reason you want to do it that way? Mason Jars are nicely smell-proof, and are a great way to store them while they cure. Once they are cured, you can store them longer term by vacuum sealing the mason jars. This is what i do, and the vacuum stored mason jars are both smell proof and stay sealed nicely. Vacuum bags are problematic in that they can crush the buds and knock off the trichomes, assuming your are actually using the vacuum to seal them. The beauty of mason jars, is that they can be vacuum sealed without crushing the buds or knocking off the trichomes.

Sorry I couldn't help answer your question better, it's just not something I've heard of before. Let me know if you have any other questions about anything. Sure hope your harvest goes well! :goodluck:
 

clayhead

Well-Known Member
Hi Xlr8, First congrats on all of your 420 awards .....well deserved and being the humble guy that you are ...You give back to the community. Example is this very well written drying article ......Geez O' Pete it was as if I wrote it myself , exactly the way I do it. But I did learn (and it makes sense) not to crush the ends of stems and keep moisture in ! Good tip Thanks ! The only variation for me is that I use cardboard boxes with strings all in a row to hang from. The wife and I disagree on hanging tools ! She prefers the clips . I like using paper clips opened up so there is a hook at each end, that way I can reach into the box with one hand and hang my buds. I have one of the first food savers and am hoping that I can find a mason jar sealer attachment because ( I agree) I don't want to knock the thrics off. I also remember from Jorges book to NOT use plastic bins for storage because the buds will absorb that plastic smell. Maybe the same for plastic food bags. Just my Opinions .
 

clayhead

Well-Known Member
Hi Ya Xlr8 ...I've been looking for you .....I read a post that you made in OMM's journal and I wanted to comment on it and didn't want to step on the OMM journal (altho he's so cool he doesn't mind) Now I found you but can't remember what I was going to say ! Crap ! I'm getting old, brother ! I'll get back to ya ! :peace: :Namaste:
 

Xlr8

Member of the Year: 2012 - Nug of the Year: 2012 - Member of the Month: May 2011, Mar 2012 - Nug of the Month: Sept, Dec 2012
Thanks anyways i will probably end up using the mason jars.

But check this video out this is where my question stems from
Harvesting Medical Marijuana 2 Drying & Curing .mpg - YouTube

Hi Tomatofarmer -

Yikes, I just realized that I never got back to you on this. I have days where I peek in, with the idea of responding later, but I forgot to get back to you on this one. :sorry:

First, I really agree with almost everything he says. That's a really great video with excellent advice. The only part I'm unsure of (doesn't mean it's wrong) is that the vacuum speeds up the curing process. I also prefer not to squeeze the buds like that, but that may be more of a personal preference as I know a lot of good growers that will try to squeeze or shape their buds. Books like "Cannabis Cultivation" by Mel Thomas even give tips for how to squeeze and shape buds to make them look tighter, etc.

I AM a big believer in vacuum packing, but I prefer to do it with Mason Jars as I mentioned earlier. I have a machine similar to the one in the video, and there is a pretty affordable attachment that allows for vacuum sealing Mason jars. I haven't tried "curing" that way yet, though, as I usually vacuum seal the jars after they are cured. Maybe something to try though in the future - sounds like it speeds things up perhaps!

Thanks for sharing the video, and sorry for the botched reply. Great video!
 

Xlr8

Member of the Year: 2012 - Nug of the Year: 2012 - Member of the Month: May 2011, Mar 2012 - Nug of the Month: Sept, Dec 2012
Hi Xlr8, First congrats on all of your 420 awards .....well deserved and being the humble guy that you are ...You give back to the community. Example is this very well written drying article ......Geez O' Pete it was as if I wrote it myself , exactly the way I do it. But I did learn (and it makes sense) not to crush the ends of stems and keep moisture in ! Good tip Thanks ! The only variation for me is that I use cardboard boxes with strings all in a row to hang from. The wife and I disagree on hanging tools ! She prefers the clips . I like using paper clips opened up so there is a hook at each end, that way I can reach into the box with one hand and hang my buds. I have one of the first food savers and am hoping that I can find a mason jar sealer attachment because ( I agree) I don't want to knock the thrics off. I also remember from Jorges book to NOT use plastic bins for storage because the buds will absorb that plastic smell. Maybe the same for plastic food bags. Just my Opinions .
Hi Clayhead - Yikes another missed reply. What was I smoking?! Oh yeah... ;)

I like the cardboard box thing - it works well for many. When I can, I also like using my tent as it's even got the smell part covered and I have the best control of environment there.

The mason jar attachment is the best investment you can make - I think they're like 10-15$ or so. I've been experimenting, and I can say definitively that vacuum sealing the jars will add months of freshness to your bud. Months!

Want to do that one better? Check this out... I just pulled out and tested some vacuum sealed mason jars that I had stored in the freezer about 6 months ago. They were fresh like the day I put them in, though slightly dryer. Some 62% "humidipak"'s added a bit of moisture back, and voila! Fresh sticky bud that's 6 months old! I left some in, that I'll test at 1 year... Stay tuned! :)

One note on the freezer stored, vacuum packed bud: It's important to let the jar and contents equalize to room temperature before opening it. This prevents a dew-point issue that would cause your bud to get wet by opening the jars while still really cold. Also, when pulling the jars from the freezer, it's best to handle the jar delicately, as the frozen trichomes can be broken off of the buds pretty easily with any rough-handling of the jars.
 

Buckshot

Member of the Month: Nov 2013 - Nug of the Month: Mar 2013, Dec 2014 - Plant of the Month: Mar 2018
Sweet thread...
 

Hiker

Member of the Month: April 2013
Hey X. Is 62% ideal for long term storage/cure? I guess I never knew the right #, but my instinct thought it would have been lower than that. Is this a number you've settled on through experimentation, or something you read? I read a thread on another site that says 55-60% is ideal for long term storage.
 

Xlr8

Member of the Year: 2012 - Nug of the Year: 2012 - Member of the Month: May 2011, Mar 2012 - Nug of the Month: Sept, Dec 2012
Hey X. Is 62% ideal for long term storage/cure? I guess I never knew the right #, but my instinct thought it would have been lower than that. Is this a number you've settled on through experimentation, or something you read? I read a thread on another site that says 55-60% is ideal for long term storage.
The 62% humidipaks were designed specifically for storing medical marijuana and should be ideal. The company that makes them used to only make them in higher RH % for storing cigars, etc, but saw a new market possibility and developed the 62% for MMJ storage after some research. Definitely not too high, but it's important that bud is still dried properly so they are able to maintain that RH in the jars.

I do know of at least one skilled grower that uses the 67%, which is designed for tobacco I believe, and I think a bit high.

62% has worked great for me, and I've been using them after a few harvests now with zero complaints. I wouldn't go without them anymore, honestly. Hope that helps!
 

Hiker

Member of the Month: April 2013
The 62% humidipaks were designed specifically for storing medical marijuana and should be ideal. The company that makes them used to only make them in higher RH % for storing cigars, etc, but saw a new market possibility and developed the 62% for MMJ storage after some research. Definitely not too high, but it's important that bud is still dried properly so they are able to maintain that RH in the jars.

I do know of at least one skilled grower that uses the 67%, which is designed for tobacco I believe, and I think a bit high.

62% has worked great for me, and I've been using them after a few harvests now with zero complaints. I wouldn't go without them anymore, honestly. Hope that helps!
Thanks X. I'll have to pick some up and try them. I've never used a hygrometer either. I've always cured my bud, but I did it by 'feel' I guess. :)

Excellent tutorial dude, :Namaste:
After learning that the pot smell, when stored in plastic containers, is still detectable by k-9, I use only glass and make sure to wash the closed jar and to not touch with "dirty" hands.
Personal expeiance
:peace:
I'm very glad I live in WA. I considered sprinkling some MJ powder around my property so the dogs will not be usable anyway. They will be 'alerting' on everything and will have to be put away. I got the idea from some videos I saw. I think it was called "Never Get Busted". I can find a link if you want it. It's by an ex drug cop. He has a lot of obvious stuff, but there were several good ideas in there. I thought it was useful to hear what's in the cops' playbook.
 

WizHigh

Member of the Month: Dec 2012
Awesome thread you have here X. Im digging the pics and the info you provided. Help me for my upcoming harvest had to give reps!
 
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