Cannabis enthusiast and student of the art of solventless extraction
After months of careful cultivation, harvest time is finally here! You've grown some lovely ladies to full maturity, now it's time to reap the rewards of a beautiful bounty. But just like growing the plants, harvesting them requires careful planning and attention to detail. A haphazard process or impatience in letting the plants dry can ruin months of hard work. Proper harvesting techniques not only maintain the levels of quality your flowers achieved, they actually enhance them. Harvesting is that final step that a farmer takes in bringing good medicine to market, and there are right ways and wrong ways to do it.
Let's look at the top tips to help make your harvest as successful as your grow.
#1 Harvest at Peak Ripeness
Especially for new growers, there’s a tendency to chop plants too early. Harvesting before trichomes are at peak maturity means the potency will be lacking in the final product. Be sure to wait until the trichome heads are showing an amber tint before harvesting. It’s not so much about the look of the flowers as a whole, but in the individual trichomes that will signal harvest time.
To learn more about how to tell when flowers are at peak ripeness, check out our article How To Harvest Cannabis for Peak Trichome Ripeness.
#2 Handle the Flowers Delicately
Speaking of trichomes, when flowers are grown to full maturity, the trichome heads become swollen and bulging at the very top of their stalks and can easily separate at that point. The trichome heads contain all the therapeutic ingredients of the cannabis plant, so it’s vital to preserve them. Being rough or overly aggressive in handling the flowers can cause trichomes to shake off, which diminishes the efficacy of the medicine.
Handle the flowers with care, touch only the stems and branches when possible, and don’t shake them around.
#3 Remove Only Larger Fan Leaves Before Hanging to Dry
Removing large fan leaves to allow for air circulation around the dense flowers helps facilitate an even and consistent drying process. Leaving the smaller leaves, known as trim leaves, that grow directly out of the flowers is preferable. These can be trimmed away after the buds are dry, before they go into jars for curing.
#4 Avoid High Humidity in the Drying Room
The risk of mold and mildew growing on the freshly-cut flowers is higher in rooms with relative humidity over 60%. The sweet spot for humidity in the drying environment is closer to 50%. Learn more about the right variables for drying in our article What Is The Best Environment for Hang Drying Cannabis Flowers?
#5 Maintain Good Airflow
Stagnant air is another thing to avoid, because it can invite mold and mildew growth. Air circulation along with introducing fresh air into the drying space reduces the chances of microbial growth which can ruin your harvest. Good airflow also helps the plants to dry evenly and consistently throughout. An exhaust system and fans to help with circulation is ideal.
#6 Don’t Blow Air Directly into the Flowers
While good airflow is a benefit after harvest, blowing air directly onto flowers can dry them out too quickly, leaving them brittle on the outside while there’s still a lot of moisture on the inside. Blowing air directly on the flowers can also make the very volatile terpenes evaporate from the trichomes. Aim the fans strategically in your drying room to keep air flowing without creating a strong wind current against the flowers.
#7 Chop in the Early Morning Hours
Terpene production is at its peak in the early morning hours, right before the sun comes up. During the daytime the plants are soaking in the sunlight, and at night they’re working hard to produce all the therapeutic compounds we enjoy. The early hours before the sun comes up are generally cooler, and lower temperatures are also extremely beneficial when it comes to terpene preservation.
#8 Keep Drying Flowers away from Light
Light degrades cannabinoids and can speed up terpene loss, so there shouldn’t be any lights on in your drying room. Also, block any windows that may let in sunlight. UV light waves are very detrimental to your drying flowers, so make all efforts to keep the flowers in darkness after they’re harvested.
#9 Hang Dry until Stems are Brittle
After harvest, the first phase is drying. Once the flowers are mostly dry, they go into jars for curing. Exactly when to end the drying process, trim the buds, and put them in jars for the cure, is an important decision to make. The flowers should still contain some moisture which will continue to evaporate slowly over the coming weeks during the cure.
When the stems are brittle enough to snap when bent over, rather than remaining soft and supple enough to fold over between your fingers, then the flowers are probably ready for trimming and curing. This normally happens after a week or two of drying.
Read more about the different phases of post-harvest preparation in our article The Difference Between Drying, Curing, Storing, and Aging Cannabis.
#10 Try Not To Harvest the Flowers Right after a Rain
It’s not a good idea to put wet flowers into the drying room, as they’ll be much slower to dry and also maintain the right environment to harbor microbial growth. If the plants need to be harvested after a rain, gently shake off the excess water from the flowers before hanging them upside down in the room to dry.
It can be tempting to rush through harvesting and final preparations to finally appreciate the rewards of your hard work. But improper harvesting and drying techniques can undo much of the good you've done in the months prior. Be certain to give the plants the time they need to dry slowly and evenly, handling them with care throughout the process. Keep these top harvesting tips in mind to be sure your flowers manifest their full potential after a successful growing season.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Why is high humidity bad for drying cannabis?
High humidity over 60% creates ideal conditions for microbial growth. 50% relative humidity is best.
How do you know when the cannabis is dry enough to begin curing?
When the stems are brittle enough to snap when bent, that's generally a good sign that the flowers are dry enough to start curing.
Can you blow a fan on cannabis flowers to dry them more quickly?
No, that's not a good idea. It will dry them too quickly on the outside and make them crunchy, while also potentially leading to excessive terpene loss.
Should you harvest cannabis during the day or night?
Harvesting cannabis flowers at night is better. The final hours of darkness right before the light begins is ideal.
Why is light bad for drying cannabis?
UV light can degrade the flowers, damaging the cannabinoids and terpenes.