Harvesting Your Cannabis Plants

close up of trichrome

With all the Christmas decorations in the stores these days, we’re reminded that its just about time to start trimming the trees…. but we’re not talking about Christmas trees….

Its time to start evaluating your cannabis plants to see if you’re ready to begin harvesting. How do you know when it’s time to harvest? Here’s some simple info to get you on the right track:

Trichomes and Pistillate Hairs

Different strains experience different flowering cycles. It’s important to keep your eye on the trichomes on your buds – the small, crystalline, hair-like structures on your plants. These little guys are key to your flower maturity, and will give you the signals you need to start your prep for harvesting. Initially the trichomes will be clear in appearance – almost like glass. These trichomes are not yet mature enough. Once you see them start to turn cloudy, like plastic, and their “heads” are becoming more bulbous, its a good time to start flushing your plants. As trichomes continue to mature, they will become amber in appearance. Left too long when they are amber, the trichomes will begin to degrade. Ideal harvest occurs when you have a 50/50 mix of milky and amber trichomes.

Cannabis pistils, or their pistillate hairs, start off white in appearance and change to red or brown as your plant matures. Watching these hairs age, and eventually become red/brown and dried or curled will be another indicator of your plant’s maturity,

Pre-Harvest Flushing Your Plants

Flushing your plants is also an integral part of your harvest prep. Throughout a plant’s life, if it has been fed nutrients and supplements, a build up of excess salts in the plant and root system can occur. Flushing removes these excess salts and encourages the plant to metabolize any unconverted salts and use them up. This makes for a much cleaner and better tasting product. There is also a fantastic product on the market – House & Garden Drip Clean – which can be administered at every feeding to help remove salt particles and dirt from the root structure during the plant’s growth. It is food-grade and assists in preventing salt build-up and nutrient lockout. Flushing for indoor plants should start approximately 10-14 days prior to harvest. Give your plant lots of water, and then refrain from watering the last day or two. This will dry the soil and help you in the drying process. Grotek’s Final Flush is a product we recommend for flushing your plants pre-harvest.

Now that you’ve flushed your plants (2 weeks for soil, 1 week for soiless), your trichomes are a 50/50 mix of cloudy and amber, and your pistillate hairs have become red/brown and curled, your plant is ready to harvest!

Trimming Cannabis Plants

You can beginning by cutting branches off of your plants and removing the fan leaves. There are many great hand trimmers made for this purpose available, or bowl trimmers/motorized trimmers for larger amounts of plants. Your kitchen scissors can work too if they’re sharp and heavy duty, but they probably won’t make it back to your kitchen drawer. Wearing gloves will help as resinous matter is pretty difficult to get off your fingers and hands! Remember to save all your left over plant matter! (more on this next blog….)

Hang your flowers to dry in a dark, cool area (light degrades THC) until the outside feels dry to the touch and the smaller stems snap instead of bending – this can take from 3-7 days. Drying your cannabis slowly is ideal – don’t rush the process! Optimal drying temperature is room temperature – about 70F, in 50% relative humidity.

Curing Your Cannabis

Once dry to the touch, place your buds into curing jars such as wide-mouth mason jars, and only fill the jars ¾ of the way. This allows some room to move the buds around and prevent wet pockets. If your buds feel damp or stick together then they are still too wet to cure. For the first few days, open the jars to check them several times a day. You can gently shake the jar to move the buds around, helping the curing process and preventing wet pockets. 60-65% relative humidity is the ideal zone for curing. More humidity can start mold or bacterial processes, and low humidity will result in brittle buds. Boveda 62% Humidifying Packs can help maintain ideal humidity. After the first week, make sure to open the jars for a few minutes one time per day. Once you have been in the ideal “cure zone” for several weeks, you can reduce your “burping” to once a month, and can cure your buds for as long as 6 months. Curing time should last about 3 weeks at a minimum.

Do you wanna store those buds long-term? Move them into a vacuum sealed bag, or pack those jars full and put them in the freezer for ideal long-term storage!

You can find the products discussed in the blog in-store at The Altered Native.

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