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It's time to harvest your first crop. I understand the excitement. The sweet scent of the plants makes you eager and impatient to try them, but they're not ready yet! Remember, patience is key.
The most crucial steps after harvesting are drying and curing. Removing moisture from the buds is a lengthy process. To achieve the best results, ensure these processes take place in a controlled environment.
Bear in mind, proper marijuana drying and curing enhances potency. This process is thought to convert non-psychoactive precursors into other compounds that become active upon decarboxylation. Essentially, curing prepares the molecules for smoking, cooking, or other forms of heating before consumption to ensure effectiveness. Moreover, cannabis buds that are compromised by excessive heat, moisture, light, or other unfavorable conditions typically exhibit increased CBN levels and reduced THC and CBD levels. Consequently, high CBN content is often indicative of the degradation of active compounds.
Related article: What Is THCA and What Are the Benefits of This Cannabinoid?
- When it comes to flavor and smoke quality, a proper cure for your harvest enhances the smoking experience. Proper curing also gives your cannabis a greater shelf-life, meaning it can be stored longer without degradation or mold issues. Well-cured buds, with appropriate storage conditions, are believed to retain their potency for up to two years.
The first and simplest step in the harvest is cutting down the plant. If you've bought clippers, you likely have a suitable pair for the job. If not, you'll need to find some pliers, an axe, or a similar tool.
The initial drying phase may last from 5 to 15 days. During this stage, your plants should hang in a dark space with relative humidity (RH) around 45-55%, a temperature of about 65°F, and some air circulation or ventilation.
A common drying method involves cutting branches from the marijuana plants, removing large fan leaves, and then hanging the branches. When using this method, I hang clothes hangers from a shower curtain rod or string and tie the branches to the hangers with thick rubber-coated garden ties.
Some growers prefer to cut and hang the entire plant. However, note that hanging the whole plant without cutting any branches might result in uneven drying.
Others trim the buds directly from the branches and place them in a drying area. There are products designed for this method, like herb drying rack.
It's up to each grower to decide whether to trim the buds before or after drying. Regardless of your choice for the bulk of the work, the large fan leaves and other leaves without sugar should be trimmed on the day the plant is cut down.
Some growers opt for a "wet trim," which is done before drying. I find that trimming wet buds leads to a more aesthetically pleasing final product. It also allows me to collect my trim earlier for extraction purposes.
The majority of growers prefer to trim their buds post-drying. At this stage, the leaves flake off easily, and sometimes you may find yourself doing more "brushing" than actual trimming.
Here are the ideal conditions for drying your crop:
These conditions are thought to preserve the fragrance and flavor of your final product while effectively removing moisture. Depending on your specific needs, you can use a heater, air conditioning unit, humidifier, or dehumidifier to maintain a stable environment within the outlined parameters.
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As previously mentioned, the drying process may take 10-15 days. However, it's advisable to start checking your buds daily after the 5th day. When the branches snap upon bending and the flowers feel firm on the outside, it's time to proceed to the next step.
Many growers do this process before drying the plant, others do it after. This is when I personally prefer to trim and manicure my buds. Learn more about How to Trim Your Marijuana Bud here.
Store your dry and trimmed buds in a wide-mouth airtight container, like a glass jar. Mason Mouth Quart Jars are often recommended.
Fill your airtight jar with buds to the top, being careful not to crush them. Pack them gently and loosely, and ensure you have enough jars to accommodate your expected harvest. Once packed, seal the jars and store them in a dark, dry, and cool place.
Within 24 hours, you'll notice the "dry" flowers seem less dry or firm than before. This change occurs as the moisture remaining inside the buds rehydrates the exterior. If you don't observe this, your weed may be over-dried. While it's still smokable, take this as a learning experience for your next harvest.
During the first week, open the jar lids for at least 5 minutes twice a day to let the jars breathe. This practice, known as “burping” your jars, refreshes the air inside.
After the initial couple of weeks, opening the jars is only necessary when removing nugs for use. Your weed will be cured and ready for smoking after about 2 to 3 weeks. However, the quality of your bud may improve if left for 4 to 8 weeks, or in some cases, up to 6 months.
I suggest separating some nugs into different jars and noting the date you open them for consumption. This not only allows for more consistent curing but also lets you sample your crop before it's fully cured without compromising the rest. Many growers are eager to try their new crop; it’s understandable to sample some early, but ensure you keep the bulk of your harvest in separate jars until they've had enough time to cure properly.
Consider using products like Bodeva humidity packs to control the humidity inside the jar. These help maintain a specific relative humidity level, with around 62% being recommended for most growers.
Extracts encompass a range of products from hash to edibles to concentrates. Everyone has their own preferences, and many enjoy a variety of these options. Each type of extract has its own pros and cons, including the effort required for preparation, yield, potency, and other factors. Each extract is unique and would warrant its own detailed article to fully explore its characteristics.
As you trim your plants, gather your sugar leaves in sealable bags. Sugar leaves are those with a significant number of trichomes on their surface. For most extraction processes, it's recommended to freeze your trim. This makes the material more brittle, allowing trichomes to detach easily and completely from the plant. Frozen cannabis is less sticky and typically simpler to extract cannabinoids from, depending on the method used. Ensure your trim is stored in a bag that can be sealed and placed in your freezer to prevent moisture accumulation.
Consider using smaller nugs, or even your entire harvest, for extracts like hash and edibles. Another extraction technique gaining popularity is “live” extraction, which uses freshly harvested plants instead of cured buds. Extracting from plants that are fresh, ideally within hours of harvest, can more effectively preserve aroma and fragrance through most extraction processes.
Place the sugar leaves and small, live buds from the lower part of the plant into an extraction machine (find our recommended THC extractors here and contact me for a discount on your preferred model) to create your favorite marijuana edibles.
More about What To Do With Your Cannabis Fan Leaves here.