One of the best things about growing your own cannabis is watching the plants move through each phase of the lifecycle. And if you’ve ever grown pot you know that the most exciting part is when your baby plant is all grown up and starting to produce flowers. When your plants reach this stage, it might seem like all the hard work is done. But you have to know how to harvest marijuana properly if you want to end up with the smokeable herb you’re looking for.
If you follow the five steps outlined below you’ll get the most out of your plants, and you’ll end up with a pretty sweet little stash of homegrown ganja.
Step 1: Knowing When To Harvest
Harvesting is a crucial step. And it takes a little familiarity with trichomes to get it right. A couple of weeks after flowers first show up on your plants they’ll start producing short hair looking things. These are called trichomes, and they contain a lot of the resins, chemicals, and compounds that make cannabis such a potent plant.
The key to harvesting your buds at the right time is to watch the growth of the trichomes. They’ll go through 3 main stages:
- The trichomes will swell, and the tips will sort of flatten out into a mushroom looking shape.
- The trichomes will change from clear to milky white.
- The trichomes will turn from milky white to amber or brown.
Most people like to harvest when the trichomes are all white. At that point, the flowers have essentially maximized their THC production. If you’re looking to get buds for recreational uses, harvest when the trichomes are white.
But if you’re looking to produce cannabis for medical purposes, you may want to wait until the trichomes are amber or brown. At that point, some of the THC has degraded, but the CBD will be peaking. And in general, CBD is the stuff you’re looking for in medical cannabis.
Step 2: Flush Your Plants
As cannabis plants grow, they can sometimes get build ups of nutrients, salts, and other minerals. Most growers like to flush all these build-ups out of the plant’s system shortly before harvesting.
If you’re growing in soil, run clean water with a pH around 6.2 through the plants. Let it completely drain, then run more water through it.
If you’re growing in a hydroponics system, simply run clean water through the system for a few days. Be sure the pH is right around 5.8.
Step 3: Cut Off The Flowers
The key here is to be gentle. The less you disturb the flowers, the more you’ll preserve the trichomes. Begin the cutting process by trimming away all the big leaves around the flowers.
Leave the smaller leaves that are packed in closer to the buds. You’ll get rid of them later. For now, get rid of the biggest leaves first. Then use sharp garden scissors or shears to cut each branch away from the plant.
Cut well below the flowers so there’s no risk of accidentally damaging them. When you handle your cuttings, be sure you don’t bang them into each other or harm the flowers in any way.
Step 4: Dry The Flowers
Hang each branch upside down in your drying space. Be sure they don’t touch each other or bang into each other.
Your drying space should be relatively dark and should have a good supply of circulating fresh air. For the best final product go for a slow dry. Let the buds hang where they are until you can easily crack small stems and branches in your fingers.
At that point, everything should be dried out enough to move on to the final step.
Step 5: Cure Your Bud
As soon as your flowers are dried, you can smoke them. But if you want to maximize flavors and potency, you need to cure them first.
Use sharp, clean scissors to cut out any remaining small leaves carefully. Don’t throw this trim away! There’re tons of trichomes all over them so save them and use them to make edibles, oils, or extracts.
Now carefully pull apart each nug. Place them in a clean glass jar. Store the jars in a dark and dry location and just let them sit. Open the jars twice a day for 15 minutes to let them air out, then re-seal them. After a week or two of this, the buds will be dried, cured, and ready for the best smoke of your life.