How to harvest marijuana correctly
The harvest is the most welcome and joyous time for any grower. It is what the whole event is all about. The fragrant cannabis inflorescences are all grown up and covered in trichome crystals which shine in the sunlight. They are ready to delight the grower with a high THC content, a pleasant taste and a magical aroma. All the hard work is done, so now the bushes just need to be cut and sent off for drying, manicuring and treatment.
To get the best out of your product you need to know a thing or two about cannabis harvests. Did you know that the timing of your harvest influences the effect? That a harvest that is not harvested in time loses its psychoactive properties over time? That improperly dried harvests can ruin a grower’s efforts? This article is about the best time to harvest your cannabis, how to tell if the crop is ripe, an overview of harvesting techniques and why you have to weed it.
What’s the best time to harvest?
Cannabis plants are polymorphic, which means that they can differ a lot from each other in size, flowering (photoperiodic and autoflowering), cannabinoid and terpene profile. When deciding when to harvest, you should be sure to know the genetic characteristics of the variety in question. An indica, for example, takes 6-10 weeks to flower. This is enough time for it to reach its maximum bud weight and resin content.
Sativa, on the other hand, doesn’t like to be rushed. Sativa takes 10 to 15 weeks to mature, sometimes even longer. Sativa is native to the hot tropics where it does not suffer from frost and therefore does not need to flower very quickly. In this regard, it is best to consult the Seedbank’s variety guide, which always states the approximate date of harvest on the data sheet.
So you can conclude that there is no definite answer to the question of when to harvest. – There is no definitive answer to the question: when to harvest? But there are certain things in common that a grower can tell when they are ready to harvest. We will look at them in more detail.
The most obvious way to tell if a plant is mature is by looking at the trichomes and stigmas. Stigmas are the hairs that cover the inflorescence. As the plant matures, they change colour from pale green to yellow, orange and even brown. Their darkening is one of the indicators that the plantation is ready for harvesting.
White and yellow stigmas
But all growers agree that the most telling sign of maturity is the coloration of the trichomes. These glandular hairs are responsible for producing cannabinoids and terpenes which are key to the taste and potency of the final product. If you are equipped with a magnifying glass or handheld microscope, you can see that the trichomes of young buds are translucent.
As the plant develops, the trichomes cloud over, becoming milky white and then amber. This process is caused by the oxidation of cannabinoids. The concentration of THC in the inflorescences reaches its peak in those 5-7 days when the trichomes change their colour from white to amber. It is this period that is considered ideal for cannabis harvests.
Transparent, cloudy and amber trichomes
I would like to point out that lovers of euphoric and invigorating effects do not wait for the majority of trichomes to show their final maturity. Here, the ideal ratio of milky to amber is about 70 to 30. Once the majority of the trichomes have turned amber, the cannabis strains will have a more relaxing effect, which is characteristic of indica. By choosing the right time to harvest your cannabis, you can tweak the effect a bit.
Preparing cannabis for Harvesting
Knowing when to harvest is not always enough to get you to the highest quality product. This chapter is going to share with you some of the techniques that growers around the world use to harvest cannabis.
Whether you grow your cannabis in a pot or outdoors, some way or other growers also fertilise their plants. This helps to optimise plant nutrition and achieve vigorous growth and flowering. Regardless of the fertiliser used, the plants should be rinsed before harvesting. Nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium compounds can build up in the inflorescences of the cannabis plants and ruin the taste of the finished product (and this is not healthy).
If only organic fertilisers have been used for the grovelling process, a week of washing will be enough, but in the case of mineral additives, it’s better to start this process ten days or two weeks before the harvests. Once flushing has been started, no fertiliser will be added. The irrigation regime and the amount of water used should not be changed. In this way, any excess nutrients will be flushed out of the plants and the crop will be cleaner and more flavourful.
Flushing the bushes with mineral and organic fertilizers
With the indor cultivation method, about 20% of the water used to irrigate the hemp should flow out through the drainage holes. It is better to drain this water immediately, so that the leached compounds do not get back into the soil. If a hydroponic system is used, then instead of the nutrient solution, you will be given clear water for the last couple of weeks, possibly with the addition of Ripen or a similar compound. The water in the tank should be changed every few days in order to maintain its optimum composition.
About 3-4 days before the cannabis harvester, the last watering is done with a small amount of water. This will make the plants last until pruning, but it will let the moisture out of the inflorescences themselves, which will make drying and pruning easier. Note that watering should be kept to a minimum, but not abolished altogether. If the weather is hot, the plants may start to wilt and dry out, which is not a good idea. In this case, water the plants again with a little water.
Harvest during the day or at night?
Experienced growers say that it’s better for cannabis plants to spend the last couple of days in complete darkness before harvesting. Prolonged exposure to darkness adds a certain amount of stress to the plants and triggers defence mechanisms, one of which is the active production of resin. While the plant is in darkness, chlorophyll degradation begins. It negatively affects the taste of the product and gives it a harsh taste of burnt grass. In the morning, as soon as the lights come back on, you can start harvests.
Pruning and manicuring
When all the preparations are done, the cannabis plants can be pruned. Some people prefer to cut the whole thing off and dry it. In doing so, the sugar leaves are cut off (manicured) when the buds are already dry. Other growers find it easier to manicure and trim off all the foliage from the inflorescences and leave them to dry in this state. It all depends on the grower’s preferences.
The best place to cut the branches is at the bottom of the bush so as not to damage the lower branches in the process. The THC crystals are very brittle and any active shaking or banging on the branch will cause them to fall off. Work very carefully and slowly.
There are several variations of manicuring:
- where all the leaves on the buds are cut to zero;
- when the part of the leaves that protrudes over the edges of the inflorescences is cut off;
- when only the tips of the sugar leaves, which are practically devoid of trichomes, are cut off.
The quality of the finished product is not much affected by these techniques, the only thing that will depend on them is the drying speed. The more leaves on the buds, the longer the crop needs to dry.
Before manicuring, the place to work should be prepared. To do this, cover the table with a plastic board or glass. And prepare the tools: scissors, blade, knife, etc. From the glass or smooth plastic, you can collect the remains of the trichomes for the initial tasting after the work. Resin will adhere to the blade of the scissors or knife during the manicuring process, which can be scraped off with the blade. You should wear gloves on your hands and after working, you can put them in the freezer and then collect the precious hash off them as well.
The finer points of drying cannabis
For drying, grow boxes are ideal. It’s easy to maintain optimum conditions there while ensuring adequate ventilation. A well ventilated backroom or a breeze bent shed is also good. If a suitable darkroom is not available, a normal cardboard box can be used. Ventilation holes are made in it, and the box is placed in a room with the right temperature and humidity.
The drying process itself takes between a week and 10 days. During this time, the inflorescences lose about 75 % of their weight by removing water. The most impatient growers after drying cannabis will start tasting it, but it is the buds that will help you to get the maximum flavour and aroma out of the cannabis.
Temperature and humidity for drying
For better drying it’s best to leave the stem, or at least a part of it, out. That way you have something to hang the shoots upside down. In addition, even after being trimmed you can get metabolism going in the plant tissue and the inflorescence will be able to draw every last drop out of the stems. After drying, these parts will be removed anyway and will be of no use.
The oven is not suitable for drying the inflorescences. The process of removing any residual moisture should be slow and even. You will need a dark room with a stable temperature of approximately 18-22 degrees, a humidity factor of 45-55% and good ventilation because the air must not become stagnant in the drying room. If it’s too dry and too hot, the inflorescences will dry out, and cool and damp conditions promote the growth of mould.
What is hemp pruning and why is it necessary?
The main purpose of harvest weeding is to break down the chlorophyll residue that gives the finished product a burnt hay taste. It also removes any moisture that was not lost in the drying process. It’s a simple procedure that allows you to keep the buds for a lot longer while making them taste and feel even better.
The whole process takes a couple of weeks to a month. During this time, the buds are placed in a glass jar, leaving about a third of the space empty. The jar is then sealed tightly with a lid and placed in a cool and dark place. A fridge door is ideal. Next, condensation will form on the walls of the jar. Once or twice a day, open the jar and let it “air out” for 5-10 minutes to let it evaporate. After airing it out, close the jar again and place it in the refrigerator.
In a couple of weeks, the cones will become even more dense and fragrant. Afterwards, you can also store the harvest in these same closed jars. The place should also be cool and dark. In this way, the cones can be stored for as long as possible and retain their excellent, effective qualities.