Harvesting cannabis is not that difficult, if you know how to go about the job. You’ve just spent weeks spoiling your plants with everything they could possibly want. Now, the time has come to reap the rewards. Once your weed plants are ready to harvest, a good preparation can ensure you make the most out of every plant. You do that by flushing, cutting, and drying your cannabis. After that, it’s time for pleasure. Here, you’ll find out how to harvest cannabis as fast and as clever as possible.
How To Harvest Cannabis In Five Easy Steps
Your cannabis harvesting technique ultimately determines the quality, the taste, and the punch of your future homegrown stash. In a previous blog, we explained how to determine the perfect timing for harvesting your weed plants. Once you’ve found that perfect moment, the explanation provided below will tell you just how to harvest cannabis for maximum effects.
Step 1: Flushing
Once the weed is almost ready to harvest, you can begin flushing your crops. One or two weeks before harvesting, you need to shut down the nutrient supply to your plants. Flushing boils down to just watering your plants without any added nutrients. This causes all the accumulated nutrients left in the plant and soil to wash away. You can do this with ordinary tap water, and the flavour of your weed will improve. Furthermore, it makes for a healthier harvest, because any excess fertilizers are carried off before you smoke those buds. Do make sure, however, that your plants are in well-drained soil before flushing them, so that they can dry properly before you start harvesting your cannabis.
Step 2: How To Harvest – Prepping
Before the breeder starts the actual harvesting process, you need the following equipment handy:
- Gloves (latex): these prevent the resin from sticking to your hands. It also keeps your fingers from smelling for days to come, but most importantly, it works against contaminating your buds through dirty fingers;
- Shears: these are necessary to cut the branches and leaves. Regular garden shears will do nicely for the stem, the bigger branches, and the fan leaves. For the fine pruning of the buds themselves, using special-purpose clippers is preferable;
- A tray: ideal for collecting your cuttings, covered with non-stick paper to catch off any sticky plant remains;
- Lines/drying rack: make sure you have your drying lines or rack good to go before you start harvesting. If at all possible, pick a dark or near-dark room. Make sure the drying space is well-ventilated. That will minimize fungal hazards. If you plan to use a fan, never point it directly at the drying cuttings; always choose a different spot in the room for indirect ventilation.
Always make sure that your drying area is clean and ready for use. If you plan to cut indoors, open a window for air circulation and make sure you’re comfortable, with some good music playing in the background. Depending on the yield of your plants, you’re not going anywhere anytime soon…
Step 3: How To Harvest Cannabis – Trimming
Learning how to harvest cannabis means investing some time in the process. Even advanced growers need time for that perfect cut, and don’t worry: all the time you invest now will pay back tenfold in a while. The more accurately you work, the better your harvest is going to be. What you want is to start up a drying process that doesn’t proceed too fast, while not running too slow either. Your goal is to gradually bring out the moisture, most of which is still contained on the inside of the buds. Many growers call the whole process of dehydrating and preparing the harvest ‘curing’. Others feel that drying and curing are two distinct steps, but in truth, curing starts as soon as you cut off that first branch and hang it out to dry. This curing process will benefit from removing the tiny leaves wrapped around the actual flower buds. While the plant lives, these leaves actually protect it from dehydrating, but now, they’re no longer necessary.
Are learning how to harvest cannabis for the first time? Then go easy on yourself and start with a single branch to practice your trimming on. Cut one side branch and perform Step 3. Hang your clipped harvest out to dry and then repeat Step 3 for the rest of your plant(s). This prevents you from repeating beginner’s mistakes, and you’ll probably end up with more harvest to enjoy.
If you want, you can divide trimming up into several sessions. Start out by pruning away all the large fan leaves. You can do this while the plant is still rooted. Now, cut away the larger branches at the stem, and space them out on a tray covered in no-stick paper. You can use this to collect the small sugar leaf clippings. You can use these at a later stage if you like. Be careful in handling the buds, to prevent precious trichomes from getting away.
One Or Two Trimming Sessions?
At this point, you have cut off all the side branches and the main cola of your plant. You can now proceed in two ways. Either you hang out your cut branches to start the drying process, smaller leaves and all, or you go over every individual branch and carefully trim away the smaller ‘sugar leaves’ wrapped around the actual colas. If you continue trimming, you’ll speed up the drying process. If you decide to leave them on for now, you can continue trimming after about a week of drying and use the clippings for making cannabis tea, cannabutter, or other edibles and extracts.
As you see, you can postpone this step until your buds make it through their first round of drying. If you decide to do so, proceed to Step 4. If you’re really getting the hang of it and want to keep on trimming, get comfortable – this is going to take some time.
Trimming Buds: Cannabis Manicure
After all the branches carrying buds have been cut away, it’s time to get your fine pruning shears out. In the international grower scene, this step is called ‘manicure’, similar to what you’d visit a nail salon for.
Manicuring cannabis buds goes as follows: ever so gently, prune away the little leaves curled around the buds. Turn the bud around by rolling the stem over between your fingertips. This gives you a 360-degree view of any leftover leaf matter. You’ll usually notice little white ‘crystals’ on the tiny leaves hugging the buds. These leaves are lovingly called ‘sugar leaves’ by growers, because they’re covered in tiny grains of ‘sugar’. Just like your buds, these sugar leaves are the trichomes containing cannabinoids.
As you know, cannabinoids are the active ingredients of cannabis, such THC and CBD, or their precursors, to be precise. Although you don’t want to smoke sugar leaves because they contain too much chlorophyll and other plant matter, you could use them for cooking or to make cannabis oil. Trim them away carefully, as close to the cola as you can, and store them separately. As you manicure, try to minimize touching the buds; use latex gloves to hold the branches.
How much of these final leaves you trim away is entirely up to your own preferences. At any rate, trim away the larger, protruding leaves, especially the brown and yellow ones. These don’t look pretty, but more importantly, they can negatively affect flavors. Leaves contain more chlorophyll than the buds, which extends an acrid taste to your smoke without adding anything to its effects. Trimming them away may seem like a waste, but in the end, it’s for your own good.
Step 4: How To Harvest Cannabis – Drying
After clipping, it is time to start drying your weed. As explained above, you can start drying before you manicure your buds or after. The main difference it will make for drying is the time required to get to the next step, because remaining leaves can block the airflow around the buds. You can dry your weed by hanging it out on wires, or by spreading it out on a drying rack. Many grower prefer hanging cannabis out to dry. This allows air circulation all around the buds. It also prevents moisture accumulating on the bottom side of buds, with all its associated fungal risks.
This first round of drying is no matter of hours: it will take about a week. Maybe four days will suffice, or maybe it takes ten days; much depends on the conditions in your drying area and on the level of moisture in your original clippings. Your harvest gets tastier if you allow it to dry slowly in the dark, with good ventilation and low to regular air humidity.
From Drying To Curing
There is a simple way to check whether your buds are dry enough to proceed to the next step. Check on your drying buds at least once every day. After a few days, if you try to break a small side branch supporting a bud, the branch should snap rather than bend. This is a sign that enough moisture has evaporated from the plant matter to start ‘actual curing’. Don’t worry about sticky buds. This is in fact a good sign: they stick because of the resinous substance containing all those yummy cannabinoids; not because of moisture.
Step 5: How To Harvest Cannabis – Curing Buds
This step is another important one on the road to properly harvested cannabis. After your buds have finished drying, cut the buds from the branches supporting them. If you haven’t manicured them yet, now is the time. If you’ve done it already, you can now give your buds a nice spot to continue the slow process of curing. You need some glass mason jars to do this. Collect all your individually manicured buds and place them in the jars. Be sure to leave plenty of space in the jars: filling them to about 80% is fine. Put them way in a dark place, allowing them time to mature and cure in optimum conditions. Give the jars a gentle shake every day to keep the buds from sticking together. Most importantly, take the jars out every day and open the lid to let your harvest ‘burp’. Burping means letting the old air out and taking in fresh air. It only takes a minute or two and prevents the stale air in the jar becoming hospitable for mold.
Curing Takes Time
In principle, this curing process could continue for months. Slowly but surely, your harvest acquires its full taste and potency. Many strains keep on building in the power of their effects as they are cured in jars over extended periods. Then again, you may not want to wait any longer because you’re too anxious to get a taste of all that goodness. Luckily, you can do just that. How long you keep curing your cannabis is entirely up to you, because it is mainly a matter of taste. You can also treat yourself to a bit of the good stuff just to test. After all, great chefs also sample their top secret sauces every now and then, to check whether they’re cooked to perfection yet…
Once you’re fully satisfied with the results of the curing process, you’ve made it: now you know just how to harvest cannabis! This is the point at which you can invite your mates for a harvest party, share out your harvest among fellow cannabis lovers, or prepare your weed for long-term storage. Whatever you choose to do though, remember to enjoy your very own cannabis harvest. Perhaps now is a great time to roll up, light up, and visit our webstore to get some new Amsterdam Genetics seeds for your next growing adventure!
Disclaimer: Local laws and legislation on cannabis cultivation and germination of seeds vary between countries and states. Amsterdam Genetics products and information are exclusively intended for use in areas where such use is fully legal. Check your local rules; do not act in conflict with the law!