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The Rough Guide To Harvesting And Curing

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#1 Kafka


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Posted 05 April 2005 - 09:33 AM



Welcome to "The rough guide to harvesting and curing". The object of this document is to provide easy answers to common questions which have been posted on this forum. It's by no means definitive but should provide answers or a link to the information you are looking for.

I plan to update this document from time to time and welcome constructive criticism or personal experiences which you might have to add. Feel free to PM me. If you have any other questions remember to use the search facility at the top of the forum.

You have spent months preparing for this day. The anxiety, the anticipation, the excitement has all been leading towards this day. The day of the chop, a glorious day for any grower whether it's the first time or the hundredth. The job won't end here though. Take a step back for a moment and consider this : You're half way through the process of having a finished product which is ready to be smoked. You still have to dry what you have and hopefully cure it for a better taste and high.
You're going to need to have a few things sorted out before chopping anything down. This should prepare you a little.

When to harvest

Length of flowering is strain dependant, and even then you can't be sure that the seeds will do what they say on the pack. Any reputable breeder will give guidelines as to the length of time that the strain will take to mature. Most Indica dominant strains mature in 8 to 9 weeks as opposed to Sativas which can take anywhere from 13 or more. Try looking in the Strain Talk Forum or checking other users diaries for a rough idea.

As cannabis matures; the flowers - 'calyxes' - swell and grow. Pistils wither and brown but are overtaken by new growth which in turn does the same. Peak maturity is reached when about 90% of the plant calyxes are fully swollen as well as over 80%-90% of the plants pistils being browned with little in the way of new growth.

The following example shows the progress of a flowering plant from day 50 to day 71. Shown in order from left to right.

Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

Notice the lack of new growth (white pistils) in the last two pictures. Lower sections of the plant may not mature at the same rate as higher sections and the entire plant should be taken into consideration when judging if it's ripe for harvest.

Plant tip day 73.jpg

Once a grower is able to determine if a plant is ready to be harvested they can use additional methods to determine if it's ready to their taste. This is done by looking at the colour of the trichomes (trichs). Trichome FAQ here by OT1 and here

Trichome colouring

Summed up best by VRG and oldtimer1:

If you have a pocket microscope, or jewellers loupe, you can examine the trichomes (trichs). They start out as just little sticks, and as your bud ripens they grow bobbles on the tops of those sticks. As soon as your trichs have bobbles on, and appear to be ready to burst, you can harvest.

If you leave them on, and keep an eye on the trichs with your magnifier, you can taylor the stone to what you require. They will firstly go a milky white colour, this is the process of THC degrading to CBN, THC gives you the heady "up" high, whereas the CBN gives you the body stone. Going on the pistils, gives you a rough idea of when to chop, but if you get a magnifier, you can chop different buds, at different stages to see what you like the best

Most people chop when the trichs are mainly milky white. If you leave them a bit longer, you will see the trichs turn an amber colour, this is when the buds are at their most potent in terms of couch-lock, and is the best time to harvest if the smoke is to be used for medi purposes.


High psychoactive varieties produce clear or transparent capitate heads then they turn transparent amber then slowly oxidise to brown, none translucent. This type is most psychoactive at the early amber translucent stage.

Most varieties do not have a translucent amber stage. What you get is transparent then the milky none translucent that develops over time to the oxidised none translucent brown stage. This type is most psychoactive at the early milky stage.

- oldtimer1

A quick note about psychoactivity by oldtimer1

The thing about amber trichomes, is that true amber trichomes only develop in some phenotypes and only with very high potency types!

The way to define it, is that high potency or should I say the type of plant that develops what I call complex psychoactivity, only develop with clear trichome stages, they go from glass clear to very light yellow to amber to red amber as they develop. The onset of the first red amber just showing is when the potency is at its peak.

At all these stages the trichomes are crystal clear like cut jewels! Its only as they start to degrade that they start to go brown and start to cloud ie: become none translucent this finally degrades to a dark muddy colour.

Types that go from glass clear to milky [like frosted glass]. With this type when you get 40 to 60% milky trichomes, new thc production is being produced at a lower rate than it is slowly degrading, this is the most psychoactive point for this type or variety, it will never produce true amber, instead when you get the oxidised thc starting to show, which is more of an amber brown but cloudy. With this type of var as soon as brown trichomes start appearing you know thc production is way over the top and declining rapidly, at this stage psychoactivity is also declining and the effect becomes more and more narcotic. You see this much more with genes that come from hash making type genetics or so called indicas. Its the same thing as fresh lightly pressed hash has a nice medium honey coloured look, but this very quickly starts to darken, becomes brown then black over time as the surface thc oil oxidises.

Real Amber trichomes only happen on a very few varieties (mainly sativa dominant), the order is clear, clear slightly pale yellow, ie [going amber], to clear red amber. [at all stages they remain jewel clear]

With most varieties (indica dominant) you get clear trichomes then slightly cloudy finally milky.

What happens to both types (sativa and indica) is that eventually both milky and amber trichomes will finally degrade to brown, people often confuse this brown with amber, true amber trichome types remain crystal clear until they finally degrade, they are not the same, the final brown is cloudy/muddy in both types, when trichomes are getting to this stage potency is declining rapidly and the buds well over the top.

With sativa domís time means little, as soon as you see the first sign of trichome changes ie milky/clear straw, you start cutting a bud every week, then choose the stone you like best, sats take longer to mature especially real amber types, also longer to degrade to the brown oxidised stage.

Pictures of Trichomes

Some pictures of trichome maturation courtesy of Tricky knome and OT1. Shown here are pictures of trichomes which have turned milky in colour.

1.jpg close_milky_3.jpg close_milky_2.jpg

Few shots of trichomes ready for harvest. Shot on the left is of an indica dominant strain. Shot on the right is a sativa variety:

Ready.jpg amber4.jpg

Finally you can clearly see the amber coloured trichomes on this leaf. This is about a month over ripe.


If you're having problems getting hold of a loupe try here or ebay You're looking for at least a x10 and at the most a x30.

Location, Location, Location

It's worth taking a little time to consider where you are going to dry your bud. This may be an easy decision for some people and difficult for others. Ideally you're looking for an environment which is :

 15 - 18 degrees C and has low air exchange.
 Humidity should be kept below 50.
 Dark.

Whilst drying it is difficult to maintain a low humidity level in the drying area simply because you have wet plant material giving up moisture into the surrouding air. Once the material starts drying out the humidity level in the drying box will lower.

It is important to maintain good extraction from the drying area in order to remove moisture heavy air away from the plants

When the drying temperature is too low then the buds may contract fungus which will ruin your crop. Cooler temps will allow a crop to dry very slowly.

With high drying temperatures there is potential to flash dry the material which will result in a harsh taste and lower quality smoke. The total drying time should be between 10 and 28 days. Stems should snap easily when completely dry and the main floral clusters should not have a direct breeze blowing on them from fans during the drying process.

Not everyone is able to have ideal drying conditions. However; assuming conditions are not extreme. There should be no real negative factors associated with doing so as long as extraction is provided. Moisture rich air must be removed from the drying area at all times.

Some people opt to use their existing flowering room to dry their crop. Keeping the light off and the desired temperature pretty much ensures an even dry. The added bonus is that the flowering room will usually have a carbon filter attached to the extraction line, so you won't have any problems with potential smells. Using your flowering room is by no means a bad idea. For some people however it may not be practical simply because they always have plants in the flowering room being flowered or grow outdoors.

Use what's available to you; be it be an airing cupboard, loft, outhouse, garage or spare room. Just remember that security is a real risk when harvesting a crop so don't take any chances.

Edited by Kafka, 05 September 2011 - 04:31 PM.
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#2 Kafka


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Posted 24 December 2005 - 08:53 PM



There are several ways to harvest your plants. You may have single stem plants which are easily hung as they are or on the other hand you may be dealing with a large, multiple stem plant which can't be hung as a single unit and needs cut into smaller sections.

Multiple stem harvesting is the most time consuming method and also requires more space as opposed to single plants which can be kept whole, hung and handled as a single piece.

Plants can be harvested and trimmed wet or dry. It's down to your circumstances and choice. Just be aware that if you are storing wet trim the only real place to do it is in a freezer. Dry trim and plant material can be stored in air tight containers in a cool, dry place or freezer.

Time of harvest

It makes no real difference what time you harvest. Be it lights on or lights off. You may find it better to harvest at night when there's less activity in your area or less chance of people coming to the door.

Tools for the job

You'll find the following bits and pieces of use when harvesting :

 Spare growing room with carbon filter
 String
 Cloths pegs
 A tray
 Scissors
 Air tight containers to hold trim / air bud
 Paper bags
 Glass jars
 Bin bags

An Example Harvest

The following will take you through a standard harvest - from chopping the plant to jarring the final bud for curing. The princples of harvesting are quite standard and the following methods can be adapted to suit your own needs.

I found it easiest to cut the entire plant and hang it upside down until dry. Once dry or in the process of drying, remove larger leaves / fan leaves which have no trichomes.

After 14 days or so drying i cut the main stems into sections small enough for moving into brown bags. The final manicuring of the material can be done over the course of a few days or weeks depending on how restricted you are for time.

Hanging the plant / buds enables you to keep it off the ground and allows air to get at all of the surface area evenly. There's no drying spots from areas being left on the ground and nothing is disturbed.

Posted Image

The 11 harvested plants shown above have not had any foliage removed and were cropped 4 days prior. Each plant was cut at the base of the main stem and hung using one of the lower small branchs as a hanger.

A week later the larger leaves and non-trichome plant material has been removed and binned. The picture below shows the hung plants drying after a quick clean up.

Posted Image

Each plant will be cut down into smaller sections about 12 inchs in size and moved into brown bags over the course of the next week. In order to make things easier when manicuring later; try to keep the individual buds on the stems. Doing so allows you to touch only the stems whilst doing the final manicure later which means no sticky fingers.

Below you can see some of the harvest has been cut into sections and placed in brown bags.

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There is nothing stopping you from placing your buds on screens, trays, pieces of cardboard or similar; but you'll end up with a 'flat' section on the bud and possibly disturb the trichomes on that side. You may also need to turn the bud to allow for even drying and end up with a few flat spots.

Hanging methods

 String hung across two points.
 Coat hangers.
 Cloths hangers / horse.
 Screws / nails /string.
 Tights.
 Drying Nets.

Example here shows screws being used to hang a freshly cropped harvest in a bare attic. Each large growing branch was removed and hung by a smaller branch via the main stem on each. Try to allow for some space between plants and if possible not to touch one another.

Posted Image

Brown Bagging

Brown bagging is a method used for the final drying period of the plant material. After the buds are dry but before they go into the jars, some people like to place the buds in brown paper bags. The bag is then loosely closed up at the opening and left for a few days to a few weeks. This draws out the remaining moisture before going into the jars. Brown paper bags are advisable as they don't contain any colouring agents.


Sorting the nuggets from the trim

This is the time consuming part.

Shown below is a single plant which is dry and has been brown bagged. Ideally different strains or pheno types should be kept in different bags to avoid confusion later. The material below will be sorted into two piles depending on bud density.

Posted Image

Stems and branchs with the largest, denser flowers from the top and middle sections of the plant are put to one side. Lighter "airy" and lower sections of the plant are put to another. Leave the large nuggets on the stems / branchs for now as you'll need them in order to manicure later. Check for lower quality flowers on the main stems and place them in the lower quality pile.

You now have two piles of plant material.

Pile one contains stems and branchs of plant material which is worth storing in a jar for curing. This is usually the top and middle sections of the plant as these would have been getting the majority of the light during growth. Shown below :

Posted Image

The other pile will consist of smaller 'airy' flowers and plant material which is trichome covered but sparse in bulk. This is excellent source material for making bubble hash or for using in other methods of THC extraction.

Remove ALL stem and branch from the lower quality material and store as required. Once finished throw the stems and branchs away. Here's the resulting pile from a single plant after a quick removal of stem and branch. All this will go into storage along with the rest of the collected trichome covered material for extraction later.

Posted Image

Airy material and trim can be stored in food containers and kept in the freezer for use later if freshly cropped and still wet. Other wise it can be stored as usual cannabis is.

Posted Image

If you're interested in bubble hash or other methods of extraction then these can be found here in the Hash and Oil making forum along with The Rough Guide to Hash and Hash Making.

Final Manicure

When doing the final manicure individual nuggets can be bent away from the stem a little using scissors to allow access. Give the nugget a quick going over with the scissors. Take your time and try to remove only leaf material.

Posted ImagePosted Image

Once cleaned up cut the nugget as close to the base as possible - removing as much stem as possible. You won't be getting as much trim as before however the resulting nuggets are ready for curing and long term storage. Any trim collected can be added to the rest of your collection in containers. Get rid of any left over stems.

Posted Image

The picture above shows a half completed cola with nuggets ready to be put in jars for curing and long term storage. The rest of the cola will be clipped back to reveal the crown.

Posted Image

Doing so allows the minimum amount of stem and twig to be included as final smoking material. Note you can be as stringent as you wish with what goes into your jars; however only the best of your crop should really be included. It will also mean the return from extraction will be higher as you have more material to use :)

A note about dry weight

There appears to be a fixation among many growers with guessing the final dry weight of a crop by assuming a percentage of the wet weight. Just to note this is fruitless for one simple reason:

You're weighing the whole plant. Stems, branchs, trim and air bud. Not final jar material.

A true indication of weight can be taken from buds which have been dry for a month. It should be the best of your crop, no loose buds or stem included.

Harvesting Seeds

Seeds should be ready for harvest 3-5 weeks after pollination. 4 weeks being average. The seeds should be plump with good dark colouring when harvested. Remove undeveloped and pale seeds as well as any plant material before allowing drying to take place.

In order to make sure you have viable seeds which are gong to germinate you need a 2 month drying and curing period. Seeds should be removed from the seed pod and dried under the same conditions as sinsemilla. If possible store in a fridge or freezer to prolong viability once they have dried and been cured.

Curing cannabis and hash

What is curing and why bother ?

Drying is the removal of moisture from the plant material in order for it to be dry enough to burn where as curing is the slow process of partial decarboxilation of oxygen molecules from THC and plant material. Curing cannabis results in a clearer, stronger high as well as an improved taste, smell and burn.

Cannabis ready for curing and storage has about 10% water remaining within it - if moisture is entirely removed clusters will disintigrate and resins will loose potency.

In order to allow the material in each jar to cure it requires fresh air. Every few days or so to allow stale air out and fresh air in. Simply open each jar and shake the contents a little. Not hard; just enough to stir the buds. Replace the lid, maybe take a sample and leave it. To achieve a full cure it is necessary to leave the buds in the jars for a minimum of 4-6 weeks.

Once curing process is complete jars should be sealed until required as oxygen causes the slow breakdown of THC to CBN. It should be noted that hash / raw resin powder should be stored under the same conditions as cannabis.

Long term storage

Pickling and food storage jars are favoured for this job. Wire and clasp with a rubber seal are the ideal. These usually come in different sizes up to 5 litres and larger with the main brands being Kilner and Le Parfait. Seals and clips can be removed and replaced if need be and are a life time investment worthy of a little cash :yep:

Posted ImageEmpty Jars.jpg

"To avoid chipping the jars i gave the seal a good warm in hot water & worked it a bit before putting on. Don't rely on the wire & glass to do all the work - this applies for all these jars - but press down on the lid with ya hand before clipping on"

- Bish

The main factors in THC degradation are heat, light, oxygen and water. Bearing this in mind; find somewhere to store your jars of bud. The most important thing is the room / hiding spot is dark and cool.

Before you place any of your bud in the curing jars it has to be DRY. This is the most important thing you have to remember. Stems should snap cleanly between thumb and forefinger before going into the jars.

If you place damp buds in the jars then there is a good chance the whole jar will go mouldy. Don't take any chances and allow your hard grown weed to be wasted at this stage of the game. Buds should be placed in the jars and not packed in. Note the strain and date somewhere.

Below you can see the example harvest of 11 plants has been manicured, placed in jars for curing and long term storage. The aquired trim and trichome covered plant material has been run through bubble bags, dried and pressed ready for storage.

Posted Image

Cannabis can be stored in jars for years with little degredation when the conditions are correct. If you find the contents of a jar has dried out after a long period of time leave it in a cool room with the lid open or add a fan leaf into the jar for 12 hours or so. It'll add a little moisture. Enjoy the fruits of your labour ...

Tip Dry.jpg Ready for the jars.jpg

- Kafka

Edited by Kafka, 05 September 2011 - 04:51 PM.

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