Tips for harvesting curing and processing marijuana plants

Published May 12, 2019 10:47 a.m. ET
Canadian Press, Graeme Roy

When to harvest weed

Weed strains come with varying lifespans, and it’s important to know the expected growth period of your particular plant before deciding when to harvest. However, that is only a portion of what should be taken into consideration when choosing a date to begin chopping down a crop. For the highest quality crop follow the three suggestions below.

  1. Grow cycle - The growth cycle of any weed strain should be properly displayed on other the package or the vendor's website. This is a good day to mark on the calendar and watch out for, but not a definitive calculation of time your cannabis plant might need to finish.

  2. Trichomes - You can visually inspect the trichomes using a 100x microscope to assess how ready your plants may be, and the effects that can be expected from them after the curing process. A clear trichome is the least mature and will provide a light and airy buzz. A semi translucent or opaque colored trichome represents the halfway point. This is where many growers prefer to harvest since the cannabinoids will offer the best of both worlds, including a more potent while still manageable buzz. One the trichomes turn amber the plant is in its final stages of life and has reached its maximum potency and maturity which will provide more sedative and couch locking effects.

  3. Visual assessment - If you don’t have a microscope handy, then the next best thing is a quick once over visually to check the state of the plant. If you start to notice any kind of dye off, browning, or any other concerning symptoms than it’s probably a good idea to harvest now before the cannabinoids begin to degrade.

How to harvest marijuana

Cannabis plants can be harvested by pulling them straight out of the ground, cutting each one off at the base, or removing large sections of branches. There is no right or wrong way to harvest, and the method chosen is typically influenced by the curing method chosen. In the case of hanging full plants are easy, but for layering removing any excess plant material not only cuts down on space, but it also helps to keep an airflow between layers.

How to cure marijuana

Curing weed can be done any number of ways, but there are a few sure-fire methods out there that have been used for years with the most success. Below you will find three different ways to cure cannabis plants which will remove all the moisture from the marijuana buds to prepare them for consumption.

  1. Hanging whole plants.
    This one is easiest and will cure the marijuana buds the fastest. Simply hang each plant upside down by resting it on a hanger or bar and let sit in a cool dark room for 2-4 weeks.

  2. Layering with newspaper.
    This method is a bit trickier and requires the removal of all the fan leaves to reduce the chance of mold growing. Cut all of the excess leaves and stems as close to the marijuana buds as possible than layer the colas in rows with layers of newspaper between them. Let them cure for 4-8 weeks in a cool dark room.

  3. Rows with paper.
    If you don’t have many cannabis plants to harvest, then you might be able to ge away with trimming away everything but the bud flowers and placing them on a surface lined with brown or newspaper to draw the moisture out. Leave them for 2-4 weeks, rotating daily.

How to process marijuana

Processing is also a matter of personal preference and generally dictated by the amount of space you have available for storage. The most common way to process cannabis for storage is to gently cut the colas away from the branches using scissors to remove as much of the excess plant material as possible.

How to store marijuana

One of the biggest mistakes marijuana growers will often make is to store their harvest in a freezer. While the cold doesn’t immediately harm the product inside, it will loosen the THC crystals which will eventually fall like snow to the bottom of the bag. This can effectively decrease the potency of the product and is not recommended. Instead, a sealed glass or metal container that is kept in a cool dark place is most effective for storing marijuana long term without hindering the quality.

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