Let’s Nip Harvest in the Bud!
I know you are on the edge of your seats, dying to hear tips 4 & 5 right!?! I am dying to share them with you!!
I have spent years figuring out what works best for me, to maintain the parameters necessary to properly dry, cure & store my cannabis flowers, for different uses, for many months to come. Hopefully at least until the next harvest right?!
Although the healthful benefits of gardening & growing your own cannabis are miraculous alone, the main drive behind all of this hard work is to supply your own, bomb-ass cannabis for months beyond harvest, to save money on buying your cannabis, to know where your clean, organic medicine comes from & to create healing remedies suited just for you or your loved ones. We want these flowers, once harvested, to maintain the high quality, medicinal components we desire for as long as possible until use.
Once harvested, the medicinal components, the oils, within the flower continue to age – like wine does over years while in a bottle – evolving, evolving & evolving…until ultimately degrading. Our goal is to slow this natural degradation as much as possible, to ensure the freshest, brightest, most vibrant medicine for as long as possible. And, like a fine wine, there are moments within this slow aging process, that done just right, allows your cannabis to hit peaks of utmost perfection.
Everyone who enjoys cannabis in one form or another has a personal idea of when their flower is “best” to enjoy. Some will say after aging for only 4 weeks, some will say after two months… or like me, some may find their sweetest spot is within the fourth – sixth month of curing. Again, like wine, everyone has an opinion of what they like best & why, not one of them being wrong.
Think of your flower being a living human being… starting out young, energetic & lively at harvest…then maturing & becoming more balanced while curing…evolving yet, becoming even smoother, softer with more wisdom over time…until finally much older, more relaxed & needing lots of naps!
Your flower ages in a similar way, it’s physical effects also evolving in a similar way.
Planning for the harvest of cannabis flowers, for me, begins as soon as I see the flowers begin to form. 8-12 weeks can sneak up on you super fast & you do not want to be caught unprepared. Not being prepared can mean the difference between having potent cannabis flowers to enjoy for many months to come… or not. I have witnessed so much tragedy at this final precipice, even for those who thought they were ready to roll. I’ll just put it out there, straight up – shit happens, shit breaks, the weather can turn to shit… get what you need in place NOW, have a back up plan & then make a back up plan for your back up plan!!
For those growing your own cannabis for the very first time, you got this!! It’s time to think outside the box & get creative depending on the space & bank roll you have to work with. You may have noticed me say that I am ALL about inexpensive & easy!! My methods have encapsulated this for me. However, for the optimal results at harvest, there are a few things to consider & you may need to make a few investments. Planning ahead now will have you prepared for whatever may come & sitting high on amazing flower for months to follow!
So, let’s dig in to steps 4 & 5…
- Drying Room
- Curing & Storage
For me, not only does the maturity of the trichomes play a role in when I harvest, but the weather & my schedule are important, real life factors as well! I mark on my calendar when each strain begins to flower. Then, I note on that same calendar where the 8-12 week points are, for each strain. If the flowering period of the strain is unknown, I mark both the 8 & 12 week mark, giving me a window to be ready for.
By AT THE LATEST, at the 2 week count down to my first 8 week mark, I make sure my harvest & drying space are ready to roll!! Yes, “set up drying room & get suppplies” is definitely on the calendar!
WHY do we dry our cannabis flowers at harvest?
Drying & curing your flowers allows the cannabinoids & terpenes to fully mature, mesh properly & come to the fore-front. As a living thing, the internal nuances of the plant don’t stop the second you cut it down, but continue to evolve slowly, still gaining potency. The non-psychoactive cannabinoids continue to convert to THCA for 3-5 days & the cells are still converting carbohydrates back to simple sugars.
Chlorophyll is the green proteins in a plant that use the sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into plant energy during photosynthesis. Chlorophyll allows the plant leaves to act as energy deriving solar panels. Any residual chlorophyll in the flower when consumed will give way to a super harsh, burning taste and/or a funky grassy/hay aroma. No bueno.
If the cannabis flower is dried too quickly, the chlorophyll will not have enough time to sufficiently break down. If also drying in temperatures too warm, you will lose potent terpenes, as they will evaporate between 70-85 degrees!
Drying & curing your cannabis flower right, will allow any grassy, hay-like aroma & harsh taste to dissipate, giving way to the glorious, danky, gassy, floral, lemon (or whatever genetic terpene profile your strain naturally exhibits) & smooth as smooth can be smoke.
Even if you may not be vaporizing your flower, you will want it to be in its most terpene rich, mature, potent state to work with. Your oils will be better, your edibles better, your topicals better… everything will be better.
Allowing the moisture, chlorophyll & the residual minerals & sugars to dissipate, will enhance the naturally occurring medicinal compounds, aromas & flavors of your strain.
And once your flowers are properly dried? They are ready to be stored in a way that contributes to the overall cure, without worry of mold, for up to 1-2 years without loss of potency! Yeee! That’s what all of these months of hard work have been for right?!
The Drying Room
The first year I harvested cannabis, I thought I was prepared. In all honesty, I supremely, totally, completely lucked the fuck out. There’s really no other way to express how completely.
Growing in Northern California, the weather tends to stay warm, hot & dry until late September – early October, when anything can happen. Anything meaning cold, rain, storms, hail, wind… we’ve had it all at once. After keeping track for a few years, the broad fluctuation is so common I now expect it. I am READY for it.
During this particular year it became rainy & cool at the end of September & into the first few weeks in October. So cool in fact, we sat by warm fire pits while harvesting each day! Friends with bigger farms were rallying the troops, trying to beat the powdery mildew coming in fast. At least I had the wits to watch the weather, so I knew it was coming & was prepared to harvest… but my preparation & plan was to hang everything to dry in a garage! An unstable, usually sweltering hot, dusty, dirty garage. I had seen what friends had done & hadn’t done enough of my own research – DOH! Many of us have been there & I hope to save you from making my same mistake.
I had strung up strong wires about 10 ft. up in the headspace of the garage to hang dry my cannabis. This was a concrete floor, non-insulated space with multiple access doors. The rain caused moisture to gather in the concrete floors & kept the air heavy with humidity. Nothing dries out well in overly humid weather. Add tons of freshly cut, moist greenery to the space & the humidity was HEAVY. The possibility of mold became a real, last minute fear.
So what did I do?!
I managed to save my harvest during the drying phase by adding multiple oscillating fans to my space to keep the air moving. I spaced the drying branches a little further from one another, with more air space between them, on the line. I trimmed off more of the leaves than I was going to initially, prior to hanging, to help the heavy buds dry a little more quickly & uniformly with less moisture being retained.
I added a small space heater. Let’s just say, it was a stressful extension cord scramble on the fly!! Luckily, I was able to use found objects such as fans & a space heater without spending a butt load of money, because I sure as heck didn’t have any extra at the time… & it worked! (Thank you little, tiny, baby Jesus!) My harvest ultimately dried slowly & perfectly.
It could have so easily gone so wrong & I could have lost my entire crop to mold. I’ve seen it happen to others, year after year & it is just devestating.
The cool weather stayed & even colder weather crept in, actually making the very same garage a great environment for storage of the dry branches in a cold, dark corner, inside dark, stacking bins.
But can you imagine, if instead of being cool – which posed it’s own issues – what if it had been a few weeks of 100+ degree, dry, hot days at that harvest?! It could have easily been so! I would have had a completely different problem! I had no way to cool the space. No way to slow the drying & nowhere else prepared to hang the branches! My entire harvest likely would have fried up within a day & disintegrated, ruined before I even had a chance to enjoy the fruit of my labors.
The idea of how close I came to losing it all, either way, blew my mind. And the following season, you bet I had done my homework & had a proper drying space ready!
What you’ll need:
- A clean space, free of dust, pets & debris
- A sealed, safe space, secure from children
- Complete darkness
- Stable temperature of 65-70 degrees F
- Stable humidity 60%
- Fans for air circulation
- Air conditioning
- Line, wire or 6″ trellis netting
- Time: 7-14 days from cut to dry
- A thermometer/hygrometer
- Carbon air filter
- Labels & log
Now, given your location, your weather at the time of harvest & what space you have to work with, what you need will be very specific to your environment. You may not need everything listed & you can get creative! The idea is to create the most optimal, consistent environment possible, however you manage it. With so many important variables, you will want to figure it out NOW.
You may already have some of the items needed to create your space, but do they work? Has your dehumidifier been sitting in the garage for 10 years & not been used since it was put there? You don’t want to find out what works & what doesn’t the day of harvest! Think about this… the whole world near you will harvest their outdoor crop at around the same time & the stores won’t necessarily have what you need. Plan ahead for it all! Every part you need, get it now, make sure it all works & create a backup plan – whether that’s having extra cash on hand for something unexpected or an entire back up space.
Here is what worked for me & why:
I moved the drying space from an outdoor garage to inside a home. The home had the secure, safe space & stays 70 degrees max all summer with air conditioning.
My first year drying indoors I used an empty bedroom, closed off from the rest of the house, the main living quarters & safe from any children. You will not want your kids smelling of cannabis when they go off to school or anywhere else! (I actually have a really funny story about that!) The world isn’t that cool with it yet. So, it needs to be sealed off & safe from kids. I don’t want any animals in mine either, not a fan of pet hair on the buds.
If the potent smell of your drying cannabis is an issue for you, you can purchase a carbon filter, ducting, & a duct fan to scrub the air & vent it out of your space. This entails some contractor type, putting a hole in the wall type work, which may be easy for the handy, but luckily, I didn’t have to do all that. My location is private, the smell only temporary. But do know this – if it is your first time harvesting & you plan on drying in or near your living quarters, the aroma does indeed permeate & you will smell like weed everywhere you go for a few weeks. I personally enjoy random people telling me how great I smell with a smiling wink, (I’ve made new friends this way!) but it may not go over well for you at the office.
In setting up my room, I lined the floor with thick, black contractor’s plastic (for easy clean up later) & wedged a few 2 X 4’s in from floor to ceiling, creating a temporary wall-like frame. Try to add something as a barrier, such as a piece of fabric, between the wood & painted ceiling or you could tear off some ceiling paint when taking this down – lesson learned.
Within this wood frame I stapled snugly, my favorite 6” square trellis netting with which to hang the individual branches. I LOVE using the netting, for I can hang stacked rows without taking up major square footage!
The window was closed & blacked out with thick drapes for complete darkness, the A/C was on 69 degrees.
I added a few 6” clip on oscillating fans to maintain soft air movement in all directions, high & low. I added a $10, basic analog thermometer/hygrometer to monitor the temperature & humidity. Actually, I have a few of these & keep them in my drying area, storage area & also in my jar cabinet.
Again, I am super thrifty, so using the A/C that was already running to cool the home worked. Also, I could use the A/C to drop the temperature a few degrees, say from 69 down to 66, & bring down the humidity quickly if I needed to. If you are drying in a space without insulation, that is not temperature controlled & doesn’t stay cool, you will want to consider purchasing an A/C unit. Whether a wall unit or heavy duty unit, the investment can mean the difference between your flower making it post harvest or not.
Another very important item, that can be quite costly & hard to find in a desperate moments notice, is a good dehumidifier. If you are not able to decrease the moisture in your space enough, mold or mildew can ruin your flowers. Because I was able to use my A/C to lower the temperature & hence lower the humidity, I found I did not need one for my size space. However, the less stable the temperature is in the space you are using & in considering the quantity of wet flower your are drying, you may want to purchase one adequate for your square footage. If you have never purchased a quality dehumidifier before, a little homework goes a long way! Some work best in conjunction with the room temperature, the room temperature pivotal in how much moisture can be removed from the air. Read that again. I can’t tell you how many smaller dehumidifiers sold are brought back to be returned because they “don’t work & aren’t taking enough moisture out”, when really, it was environment & user mis-understanding. Also, when you just harvest & first fill a room with wet flower, the humidity will climb higher than preferred – at first. I’ve noticed an initial 2-3 day plateau, until it begins to drop. With the right temperature & air movement in place, the humidity should decrease, slowly but steadily, beginning within the first 2-3 days as the flower begins to dry. As long as this is happening & you can feel the flowers are subtly drier with each passing day, you’ll be good. If the humidity stays up there & your flowers are 2 days in & hanging fresh as the day they were harvested, adjustments must be made to the environment to get things moving in the right direction – whether that means lowering the overall temperature, adding some air flow, or integrating a dehumidifier.
I am all about a slow & steady dry, it generally taking 10-14 days to get to stem snapping dryness while still maintaining a subtle, soft smoosh when squeezing the light & evenly crisp flowers. I know it’s hard to wait & some people want to rush that first sample… but I implore you, patience will win at this stage in your game! Just remember, slow & steady wins the race my friend. If your flower dries too hot or too fast, you’ll end up with sad, hay scented crumbles instead of dank, aromatic, potent buds.
When harvesting my flowers from the plant I leave them on branches about 1 foot long, cutting it in such a way an angle is left at one end of the branch to hang it by on the trellis. Or, I hang it from a strong end nug. If a smaller plant, I’ll just cut & hang the entire plant as is! I choose to leave the leaves on through cure until I trim. I find that leaving the leaves intact slows the cure just right for me & I enjoy how the branches store & cure this way until I am ready to trim them. The remaining leaves form a “cocoon” around the flowers, protecting the trichomes & oils while maintaining a lovely moisture balance. If you are working within a space that you just can’t get cool enough, dry enough, or has too much stagnant air, I would remove as many of the leaves as possible to ensure the flowers are able to dry more efficiently. The more wet plant matter, the longer it will take to dry!
Something else to consider… you may wish to harvest your plants in sections, removing the top, more mature branches first while leaving the lowers to mature for a bit longer. Be aware, if you add moist, wet greenery to a room of almost completely dry flowers, the moisture in the room will soar back up for a couple days, adding moisture back into the flowers that were already mostly dry, setting them back a few days. Because I can keep my room cool, with enough air flow, this has not posed an issue for me in a negative way. A few days longer on a slow but steady dry allows more time for internal plant processes to come to an end & the chlorophyl & carbohydrates to fully dissipate. However, if you are having trouble removing moisture already & face the possibility of mold, you will want to hold off on adding any fresh cut to the room until after you’ve pulled the already dry flowers out.
I label each row, using sticker labels, as I hang the branches with the strain type & harvest date. I also keep a small notepad in the room, logging the temperature & humidity 2-3 times per day, noting the changes as the cannabis cures. The more you know, the more you know! If this is your first time, keeping a log is so important! It will help you best manage these processes and make smart improvements for next time.
In the last couple years, I’ve made a few key changes for the better. I have moved my drying area to another, more secure part of a home, building a room within a room for even better A/C control (better vent spacing) & more electrical outlets. This has proven to be my best set up yet! I have removed all fans even, as I was finding certain areas drying too quickly for my taste. Keeping with the 60/60 rule (60ish degrees & 60% humidity) by controlling the A/C has kept the entire environment consistent for an even, slow but steady dry. I have even figured out how to masterfully & super cleanly, take everything down post harvest, tucking it away for easy use again the following year. Me saving money again of course! Take good care of your equipment & it will serve you for a long time to come!
Once the cannabis has reached desired dryness – the stems almost snap (but aren’t brittle) & the flower is evenly crisp on the outside, while still maintaining a delightful, danky smoosh factor – the branches can be removed from the drying area & either bucked down & trimmed into glass jars – OR – stored as is on the branch, inside bins, in a cool, dark, humidity controlled place until it is trimmed.
Curing & Storage
What you’ll need:
- A dark & secure space
- Dark storage bins with lids
- Cool temperature 65 F (Or cooler)
- Controlled humidity 60%
- 1 quart, glass, wide mouth canning jars
- Trim Bin – 2 layer with screen
- Nitrile gloves
- Comfortable shears
- Rubbing alcohol
Cannabis flowers begin to cure when they are harvested & start to dry, but the real cure in my eyes happens while they sit in a cool, dark, place with optimal humidity for a bit of time. 2-4 weeks in a sealed glass jar is a minimal, appreciated rule, but I prefer 1-6 months. Think of wine, again, if you’re a wine lover. Or of keeping fine cigars if you are familiar!
As with wine, the intricate flavors & aromas, even the characteristics of where the plant is grown (the terroir) are more apparent, full bodied & most enjoyable across the palate after some proper aging. And as with wine, where & how it is stored is very important to maintain these characteristics over time.
After my cannabis branches & flowers have dried, I gently lay them as is, inside thick, black storage bins, stacking the branches gently until the bin is ¾ full. I use the coordinating, fastening lids & label each bin (strain name, harvest date, bin date) & stack them conveniently, in a very cool, dark, humidity controlled place until I am ready to trim.
Where I live, I really luck out with my weather patterns post harvest. By the time my flower is dry, our climate has cooled for Fall & my outdoor, locked storage area is dark & very cool, generally 60 degrees at the warmest, getting even cooler – down to 50 – through February. Between 60-70 is optimal for storing your flower, but I appreciate the extra cool temps through the winter. It seems to slow the natural aging process even more, preserving the flower even longer.
I store my bins with a temperature/humidity gauge to manage environment stability & often add a few Boveda (humidity) packs to the bins to balance the humidity inside.
I check the bins every day, especially in the first few weeks, to let in some fresh air & to make sure there aren’t any issues with any retained moisture. I’ll feel in, around & under the branches carefully, making sure things are staying dry down below. If too much moisture is remaining in the flowers at the time they are put into bins, it can cause mold!
The flowers can cure in these bins for a few months if I prefer, given the cold climate, dark environment & well managed humidity, but it is nice to have an assortment trimmed & ready for immediate use, or for my most favorite – donations & gifts!! Giving cannabis is truly one of my most favorite things to do!!
The holidays are my favorite time of year for gifting cannabis! I love sneaking it into a white elephant gift at a Christmas party! Everyone fights over it! Give it as a tip, to someone who works with you, to a neighbor, or someone you know who is ill & in need. It feels SO GOOD! It’s also an amazing time for cannabis education, for the questions begin & a beautiful, open conversation starts.
Dang, just gave myself goosebumps!!
So, you now have this mass of amazing flower, dry & ready to be trimmed. Suddenly, you realize just how much you have & the process can be daunting. How to get it all done?!
Some of us don’t have the time to manage it all ourselves. Some are physically unable to do it. Hiring someone to trim is more legitimately available now than it ever was… but who do you call?? Not every person has the connections. And, trimmers have received a bad rap in the past. Who can you trust? What are the legalities? Do they come to you? Where can you go? Is it even legal for you to drive it somewhere to be processed?? (Not likely, check your local regulations.) How much does it cost?
Here’s what I recommend:
- Hire Someone
- Trim Party with Friends & Family
- Trimming Machine
- Trim Yourself
This is where it gets, well, sticky. (haha)
To hire some help, I’d start first with trusted people you already know. Got a retired Mom kicking it a home, looking for something to do? A neighbor friend out on disability looking to make an extra buck? Have an – at least – 21 year old buddy wanting to make some extra holiday funds? Have a few stay at home Mom friends who could use some adult convo for a few hours & some extra cash?? Start there!! You may not have to look any further.
You can try your local grow shop & ask for legit recommendations. I had many trimmers come through the shop I worked for, letting us know they were available, dropping their numbers for us to pass along & legit trimming services are on the rise. Generally, trimmers will come to your location, so you’ll want to be wary & vet the service with caution. Payment of $125 per pound is a common average in my area & some will appreciate trade in product. Make sure you have a warm, clean environment, drinking water, coffee, a clean bathroom, some music, extra shears, trim bins & some rubbing alcohol on hand, unless they supply their own.
Having a trim party with friends is my favorite, for by now it’s winter, it’s cold, & what else is there to do but hang out inside, laugh & trim?! I have a friend who loves to listen to movies while he trims. I love helping him out, sitting inside on a cold, gloomy day, away from my kids… It’s relaxing for me! Great conversation, maybe a glass of wine… I’m in, let’s trim! Get your girlfriends together & hash out life while you hash out the trimming & send them off with some cannabis when they’re finished – it’s a win-win-win!!
Another option is getting yourself a trim machine. This is a more costly option, but there are many different sizes & they do make trimming large quantities much faster. In my area, a decent machine runs $3,000 – $10,000+. Just make sure & do your homework & ensure the brand’s customer service suits you. A brand with close proximity to you for assistance & parts is ideal. Machines work best for tighter, more solid flower, with intense structural integrity. If the flower is fluffy, or too brittle, it may get tumbled straight to smithereens. A machine may not remove all of the leaves, some finding they have to follow up with a hand trim anyway. Some people, myself included, appreciate a hand trim over machine because it’s more gentle, maintaining the oil laden trichomes & structure of the flowers. It really depends on your needs, your time, money & what is most important to you in the final outcome. A couple brands I will recommend for my area – Twister & GreenBroz. Both have great, innovative machines & even more important – excellent customer care!! Between easy to order repair parts, training & personal assistance, these companies ROCK!
I personally prefer a hand trim, for I like to treat my flower gently & trim with intention. And when I trim, I like to get comfy. I use a double layer Trim Bin with a screen, to catch any kief (oil laden trichomes) that fall while I trim & nice, rounded out arm spaces. I can sit at a table, on the couch, outdoors, wherever. Some music, a movie to listen to or a great podcast & I am set. Add a beer or a glass of wine & I may as well be on vacation!
I prefer sharp, straight, spring shears – Hydrofarm work great – with a small jar of rubbing alcohol for cleaning the tips. I use more than one pair of shears so I can easily rotate them. My hands will get tired from the repetitive motion, so they need to be really light & easy. Many love the Chikamasa scissors, but my hands get oddly claustrophobic with something around the outside of my fingers. The type of snips used are very particular to everyone, be sure to get a pair comfortable for you & you’ll enjoy trimming so much more!
I like to wear an apron to keep my clothes clean & use nitrile gloves to keep the sticky off my finger tips.
I trim away any excess leaf, carefully working around the flower. If trimming just for myself, I leave a little crystally leaf without worry. Others may appreciate a super tight trim, displaying just the perfection of the flower itself. Trimming can be quite the art & does take some practice to become quick & adept.
After I manicure my flowers, I put them into 1 quart, wide mouth glass canning jars, labeled with the strain name, harvest date & jar date. I add a small Boveda, 62% humidity pack to each jar & store them in a very cool, dark, locked cabinet. Ideal temperature & darkness are key as both sunlight & heat will quickly degrade the oils & the flowers.
I have found no need to burp my jars, for by the time I trim, they have already cured long enough in my bins there is no worry of excess moisture. If you are trimming immediately after the initial drying & placing the flowers directly into glass jars, you will want to burp them daily for a couple weeks, making sure there is no condensation forming on the inside of the jar, or the smell of ammonia, indicating too much retained moisture!
Quick note on the Boveda humidity packs…. I’ve used them for the past few years & they are amazing! I have read internet reviews from others, stating the Boveda zapped all the flavor & aroma from their flowers. I have not found this to be true for me. If anything, they have helped my flowers maintain the most wonderful, dry softness, keeping them fresh & aromatic! I still have cannabis saved from last year’s harvest, still in impeccable condition having been stored with such care. As long as your cannabis is stored in sealed jars, in a dark, very cool area, with optimal humidity, they can last for over a year, staying as potent as ever.
For all of my growers out there, I wish you a most successful, abundant & super dank harvest! I say, no matter what happens, you always end up with something good, right?! Don’t let any challenges harsh your gig, don’t ever give up & where there is a will there is ALWAYS a way. The lessons you have learned this season will make you an even better grower for the next!
If you have any questions, or special harvest hacks of your own, please share them with me! If this article has helped you, please kindly leave me a review! Your feedback is so appreciated. Thank you so much for your support of The Garden Love!!
Happy harvest my friend,