As the legalization of marijuana continues in America, more and more people are trying their hand at home grow operations.
Figuring out how to harvest marijuana is probably the most rewarding and potentially stressful part of the cannabis life cycle.
It is the culmination of months of hard work plus plenty of hard-earned money, and a good harvest can make or break even the best-laid plans.
A Helpful Guide on How to Harvest Marijuana
When it comes time to tackle that all-important gathering, there are some simple steps to follow that ensure a seamless harvest and ample yield.
Harvesting marijuana is not the same as harvesting herbs, flowers, or vegetables from your garden. You will need to be extra careful and follow these steps as closely as possible.
This guide will show you exactly how to harvest marijuana grown in the comfort of your home in an easy-to-follow step-by-step process.
Here is a quick overview of the steps covered in this handy guide.
- Prep Plants For Harvest
- Get Your Drying Space Ready
- Cutting The Plants
- Washing Your Buds
- The Drying Process
- The Curing Process
- Storing Your Marijuana
Read on to learn about these easy steps and how to harvest the stickiest, dankest, highest-quality marijuana possible.
You will learn when to harvest, how to harvest, and what you should do with your crops once the harvest is complete.
Step 1: Prepare Plants For Harvest
When your marijuana plants are ready to harvest, you want to start the process by giving them a thorough inspection. Check the plants for damaged parts, fungi growth, and insect infestations. Cut away any large fan leaves, especially if you find pests on the plants.
You could also try flushing your cannabis plants before harvesting as well. Flushing refers to running large amounts of water through the soil before harvest to remove excess minerals and salts.
It forces cannabis plants to use all these nutrients to produce buds with more pungent aromas and better flavors. Too much fertilizer can affect the taste of your buds, and flushing ensures the excess fertilizer gets washed away.
It works best when you start flushing about two weeks before harvest time.
Discontinue using any fertilizers and begin watering your plants with 20 percent more water than usual. Place a large container beneath the plant to collect the excess water and avoid a big mess.
Flushing is a matter of personal choice and is up to each grower. Growers should evaluate each plant type, growing conditions, and nutrient schedules before trying to flush.
Step 2: Get Your Drying Space Ready
Before you start harvesting, it is a good idea to prepare a drying space first so you can be ready to go as soon as the harvesting is complete.
It is best to have a darkened room or tent for your drying area at around 68 degrees Fahrenheit. It should have a relative humidity level of about 50% and plenty of airflow for the plants.
As the buds dry out, the evaporation will quickly raise humidity levels in your drying space. When the humidity reaches 100%, the buds stop evaporation and drying. That can lead to mold development and bud rot.
With a horticultural dehumidifier, you can ensure humidity levels stay low during the drying process. A dehumidifier cuts back on excess humidity in drying rooms. While a dehumidifier is not a necessity, there are some other tools you should definitely have ready before you begin the harvesting process.
Be sure to have a set of sharp shears or scissors nearby, plus isopropyl alcohol to disinfect them. You will also need plastic gloves and a tray to collect your discarded branches.
Lastly, be sure you have a drying rack set up and ready. You can also use a drying box or tent. Maybe even hang your plants upside down from the ceiling.
Step 3: Cutting The Plants
While harvesting the smokable buds of your marijuana plants is the end goal, you will need to cut away some unnecessary plant matter first and get to the buds so you can dry them out properly.
Depending on how big the plant is, you can choose to cut all the branches off and collect them or cut the plant at the base before cutting them off. Once the harvest has finished, you should cut off any large fan leaves to get them out of the way.
Now divide your branches by size and then collect the individual buds.
Depending on the humidity of your drying space and the size of your buds, you can judge whether to leave the buds bigger or make them smaller for optimum drying speed.
When collecting the buds, you might notice tiny, crystal-covered leaves wrapped around them. Growers call these leaves sugar leaves because of all the grains of sugar (trichomes) sprinkled over them. When the plant is alive, these leaves protect it from dehydration.
These sugar leaves are not ideal for smoking, but you can use them to make cannabis oil. Trim the sugar leaves carefully and store them separately from the buds, or throw the leaves out if you do not want to use them.
As you remove the sugar leaves, try not to touch the buds as much as possible and keep your fingers on the branches instead.
Step 4: Washing Your Buds
It might surprise you to learn that many growers choose to wash their cannabis buds after cutting and before the normal drying process begins.
Washing buds is not a mandatory step, and some growers might even scoff at the idea of washing their buds. Still, it is a good idea either way.
You wouldn’t balk at washing produce you bring home from the store, so why hesitate to wash your marijuana crop?
While you might have already flushed your plants during the preparation steps, bud washing involves cleaning the cannabis buds to get rid of dust, pollen, dirt, insects, bird poop, and anything else you can imagine.
You shouldn’t inhale or ingest any of that stuff, so you will want to remove it first. If you want to avoid it, wash the buds to get them nice and clean before drying.
We all know the best buds are super sticky, so naturally, cannabis is a magnet for dirt, debris, and all sorts of unsavory hangers-on. Simply rinsing it off in water will not work well, mainly because of the sticky element.
Remember that washing your bud does add extra time to the drying process, but if you use baking soda and lemon juice, it could kill mold spores and prevent mold growth during drying and curing.
Step 5: The Drying Process
The buds from your new harvest are still made up of about 80 percent water. This water needs to be removed through the drying process before the buds can be smoked or sold.
While they are drying, the buds of the cannabis plant begin to convert THC from a non-psychoactive state into a psychoactive one. So it’s essential to dry them thoroughly for the most potency.
Be careful, though. If you rush the drying process, THC will degrade faster and decompose faster as well. Always let the cannabis dry at a reasonable pace.
Traditionally drying involved hanging cannabis plants upside down from the ceiling in a dark room, but there are quite a few acceptable methods for drying that don’t involve this step. You can use boxes or drying racks just as easily.
First, make sure whatever drying space you’re using is dark. Turn on a far to ensure adequate airflow if you need to, but try not to point it directly at the plants unless you’re in a very humid climate.
Make sure the humidity remains around 45 to 50 percent and that the room is 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Always check your buds at least once a day to make sure there’s no mold growth.
If you do ever find mold in your harvest, be sure to cut it out quickly to avoid it infecting more buds.
Step 6: The Curing Process
You might think that once drying is finished that the buds are ready to go, but there’s more work left to do in the harvesting process. Before cannabis can reach its full potential, the buds have to cure for a little bit.
Curing your buds is a continuation of the drying process, only its slower and should be done in a more controlled environment than the drying stage.
Feel free to sample your harvest before curing, but cured buds will be a lot more satisfying than freshly dried buds. Curing halts the degradation of terpenes and cannabinoids in marijuana and continues the process of cannabinoid synthesis well after harvest.
Once the drying process ends, you want to store your buds in sealed jars to get the curing process started.
During the first two weeks, be sure to open the jars once a day for at least 60 minutes and then seal them back up afterward. It can also be helpful to label your curing jars with strain names and harvesting dates for quick reference.
While curing, you should aim for a humidity level of about 58 to 65 percent and a temperature of 68 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure the room is dark, just like in the drying process.
Step 7: Storing Your Marijuana
After the curing phase is finished, you will need to have a long-term storage plan for your cannabis harvest. It’s no use learning how to harvest marijuana if you don’t know how to store it properly once the process is finished.
You can store your marijuana in the same jars you use to cure them. Just be sure to stash the buds in a location that’s not too hot and keep them out of direct sunlight.
Some growers swear by the practice of burping their jars once a month, basically opening the lid for a while to let the buds breathe. You can do this, or you can simply keep the lids on and store them in a cool, dry place.
Don’t store your buds in plastic, as this can break them down faster. Avoid the Tupperware storage method as much as possible. Try to use glass or ceramic containers to keep your buds fresh.
Some people opt to vacuum seal their weed or even freeze it instead, so you could also try that for a storage option if you need to be a little more discreet, perhaps.
Just remember that vacuum sealing might crush or warp the buds a bit.
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Frequently Asked Questions on How to Harvest Marijuana
If you still have some questions about how to harvest marijuana, here are some of the most popular searches on cannabis harvesting from internet sleuths just like you.
How to know when to harvest marijuana?
You can figure out the best time to harvest your cannabis when you observe some telling visual cues.
The plants have a few foolproof ways of letting you know it’s time to start harvesting; you just have to be sure to pay careful attention. None of these clues are too hard to find.
Trichomes are the tiny resin glands found on flowers, and this is one of the most reliable ways to tell that it’s harvest time for your buds.
When the plant is perfectly ripe, half of its trichomes will look milky white, and the other half will be a deep amber color.
If the trichomes are clear, you should probably wait a bit longer to start harvesting. While you should be able to tell the difference without one, feel free to use a magnifying glass if you are not quite sure.
For many cannabis plants, maturity turns their pistils brown. When half of the plant’s pistils are brown, then you know it’s the best time to commence harvesting.
Keep a magnifying glass handy if you can’t tell with your naked eye, but in the right lighting conditions, most people should be able to spy brown pistils just fine.
While this is not as reliable as the method mentioned above, checking the bud shape can provide valuable hints as to when you should harvest them.
For the most part, firmer, tighter buds will indicate that it’s time to harvest the marijuana. This varies from plant to plant, however.
When a marijuana plant is ready for harvest, you can tell by the changing colors of its fan leaves.
The flowering stage produces green leaves, but at harvest times, the green fades to yellow as nitrogen levels begin to decrease.
The leaves might also dry up and curl tightly due to lack of moisture, indicating that harvest time is here.
How long does it take to harvest marijuana?
Each timeline will change depending on what kind of marijuana you’re growing and many other factors. In general, you can look at this timetable for an idea of how long everything will take.
- Preparation and Cutting Stage: 1-2 Days
- Dry Time After Washing (Optional): 2 Days
- Full Drying Stage: 5-7 Days (May Take 10-14)
- Curing Process: 21-60 Days
All of these factors can change based on the humidity level of your area, the drying and curing spaces you have prepared, the strains you’re growing, and whether or not you choose to wash the buds before drying.
When should you stop watering before harvest?
This answer will change depending on who you ask. Some growers say 3 days before harvest while others say a full week.
Withholding water from your plants might sound counterintuitive, but it can help in the long run. The lack of water creates a stress reaction, just like it would if there was a naturally occurring drought in the wild.
This stress reaction causes the plant to divert its resources to reproducing, creating fatter buds for a bigger yield. You can bump up your bud density using this technique and anywhere in the 3-day to the 1-week timeframe should work just fine.
What if you wait too long to harvest?
It might not seem like it, but getting the right timing is essential to a successful marijuana harvest.
When you harvest a little earlier, you usually get a more cerebral, euphoric high from the buds.
When your harvest comes too late, the weed will have a higher cannabinol content, making you sleepier and inducing a more body-centric high.
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Wrap-up of How To Harvest Marijuana
Timing and technique can make all the difference when it comes to harvesting your marijuana crop. Get them wrong, and you could end up with some average cannabis, get them right, and you could have some great product on your hands.
With plenty of patience, an eye for details, and the proper equipment, you could be harvesting more gorgeous buds than you know what to do with.
Then you can kick back and celebrate your success as a marijuana farmer with your brand new homegrown cannabis, proudly harvested with your own two hands.
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