What It Takes
Sharp scissors (banzai scissors)
Microscope (70x to 100x)
Paper grocery bags
Thin rope or twine
Wide mouthed canning jars
Dowel (anything to hang the drying buds from)
Herb drying rack (if you are laying the buds down to dry instead od hanging)
When to harvest
Despite what some people may say about harvesting when most of the hairs on the buds have dried and changed color,or harvesting after a certain amount of time,the only consistent way to judge when it is time to harvest your medical marijuana is by watching the trichomes (also known as crystals). Trichomes are also known as the “crystals”on the buds due to their shiny clear to white look and mainly accumulate directly on the buds and on the flower bracts (small leaves around the buds). Trichomes contain the vast majority of THC and other psychoactive chemicals that the marijuana plant is known for,point being,when it comes to the potency of your plants it is the trichomes that make that potency.
There are three types of trichomes.
1. Bulbous trichomes (yellow arrow) –Very small bud high in numbers,they are so small they almost look like moisture on the buds.
2. Capitate-sessile (blue arrow) - These look like clear crystal balls directly on the buds. They have a stalk but it is so short you usually cant see it.
3. Capitate-stalked (green arrow) - These are the ones we are looking for when it comes to determining ripeness of the buds. These look like number #2 on top of a stalk. So they consist of a clear stalk,at the top of the stalk is a round ball. The color of the ball on top of the stalk is how to determine ripeness of the bud. There are hundreds of capitate-stalked trichomes on an individual bud so when it comes to determining potency you have to go by the majority of trichomes. When the ball on the trichome is clear the trichome hasn’t reached full potency yet,so if the majority of trichomes have a clear ball on top of the stalk the buds have not yet reached full potency. After the tops of the trichomes are clear they then turn miky white,this means that the individual trichome which have turned milky white have reached their full potency of THC. When the majority of trichomes,are a milky white,than that bud has its maximum amount of THC. Since THC produces that clear uplifting cerebral feeling which most people are looking for,most people harvest when about 70% of the trichomes are milky white. The last stage after after the trichomes are white they then turn amber or brown. A brown trichome means that the THC has started to break down and turn into CBD or cannabidiol. CBD produces a heavy lazy feeling that is more like a heavy body high rather than a energetic cerebral high. Most people harvest before the majority of trichomes turn brown. What I prefer,as well as most other growers,is to harvest when about 50% of the trichomes are amber and 50% are milky white in color. Doing so will produce a strong head high that is intense but not lazy,light but still strong.
Checking the trichomes
To check the trichomes you will need the microscope and small sharp scissors listed at the top of the page in the materials section. Since you are most likely only going to use the microscope for checking trichomes a small portable microscope that magnifies 70x to 1oox with a light,like the one at the bottom of the page,will do fine. Go about halfway down the main cola and snip off one of the bracts (small leaves surrrounding the buds covered in crystals). Make sure to snip it off close to the bud,getting as much of the leaf as possible. Flip the leaf over so the bottom of the leaf is now facing up. You should notice that the end of the leaf that was attached to the stem (opposite of the tip) should have more crystals than the other end. So with your magnifying glass look at these crystals on the bottom side of the leaf. Once again if you want a heavy,lazy high than harvest when he majority of trichomes are brown. If you want a light cerebral high harvest when the majority of trichomes are milky white. If you want a heavy,cerebral,energetic high with charcteristics of both,which most people do,than harvest with 50% amber and 50% white.
Once you have determined at what stage you want to harvest your buds at,now it is time for the harvest. Keep in mind that the buds on top and toward the center of the plant will most likely mature first. So if you have only a few plants and you are more concerned with getting quality product,than I recommend harvesting individual buds as they ripen. This will assure that every bud has maximum potency. However,if you are harvesting many plants,then harvesting the individual buds as they ripen simply isn’t efficient,so you should probably harvest your whole crop at once. To ensure you get the maximum potency out of your yield simply harvest the plants when the majority of the buds have the trichomes the way you want them to be. Of course you will get some buds pre-mature and some post-mature,but most of the buds will be just right.
I have heard some funny things that people do to maximize potency in their harvest. Stress causes trichome production so people drive nails through the stems of their plants or put them in horrendous wind conditions days before harvest to stress the plants out,I heave heard of people snapping the main stem of their plants before harvest to increast potency and I know quite a few people who swear that you have to dry the whole plant with roots still attached if you want primo bud. Do to my curiosity and love for all things potent,I have tried these methods. I can’t say that they don’t work. I also cant say that they do. I can say that if they do increase potency, the results were so subtle I didn’t notice any difference. Bottom line,if you want results,then buy primo seeds or clones,make sure your plant is getting enough light,air and water,harvest by watching the trichomes and properly cure your buds. If you do all of those things properly and pay proper attention to your plants, you will get what you want. There are a thousand other things you can do that might or might not increase potency,
Drying Stage 1
Once you have harvested the buds from the plant and cut off all the sun leaves,now its time to dry. Some people lay the buds down on special ventilated drying trays to dry the buds. If you lay the buds down to dry,make sure that you use rack that have good ventilation and make sure that you turn them over frequently,especially if you are in an area with high humidity. I prefer to hang dry. Whether you rack or hang dry drying stage 1 is still the same. If you do hang dry,simply tie a string to the bottom end of a branch and hang the buds upside down in a cool,dark dry place about 70 degrees fahrenheit. Ventilation is very important. use an oscillating fan on low. Have the fan blow in the direction of the buds but not directly on them. You want to be able to feel the air moving around the buds,but not so much it is blowing the buds around. If the fan is moving the buds around more than a very little bit,the buds are getting too much direct wind,either turn the fan down,move it further away,or point it a little to the left or right until you get desired results. It is important that it is in a cool,dark dry place,too much heat or light will compromise the potency and too much humidity can cause your buds to mold. Depending on the humidity and temperature,remove buds from hanging after a few days. As soon as the small leaves are try,as soon as the tips of the leaves are crisp,pull them down. You want the buds to be dryer but still moist.
Drying Stage 2
Once you have done drying stage 1,cut the stems down and better trim the buds. Cut off all the main stems that dont need to be attached,cut all the stems about 1/2 inch away from the buds. Now place the buds loosely at the bottom of a paper grocery bag. Try and make it so the buds are not touching and do not stack buds on top of each other. Close the top of the bag and staple or tape shut. The bags will allow the buds to dry slower by allowing humidity to escape while keeping some in. Leave the buds in the paper bags anywhere from 2 days to a week. This is one of those things you just kind of have to do yourself and get the feel for it. I can’t give you a definite amount of time to allow the buds to dry because it will vary depending on the temperature and humidity of the environment they are in. I can tell you the buds will be significantly lighter than when they were wet. The buds should feel and look dry on the outside but still have retained just a little moisture inside the buds. A good rule of thumb is,you want the buds to look and appear dry,but you dont want the stem to snap when you bend it ,you want it to bend a little. If it bends rather than snaps,this means it has moisture in it. Do not let the buds get so dry that they will crumble. The goal is to try the buds as slowly as possible,but not so slow that they mold. Once you have dried the buds to the point where they are dry but the stem still bends it is time for the curing process.
Before you start the curing process now is the time to make sure the buds are trimmed to perfection. Clip off all undesirable leaves and trim off the tips of the remaining leaves as much as possible without damaging the buds. Be gentle,it is real easy to accidentally clip off hairs or buds. Once you have trimmed the buds to your desire,place some of the buds in a 1 quart wide mouthed canning jar until the jar is filled about 1/3 of the way. Do not pack the buds in the jars,make sure they are loosely in the jars with space in between the buds. You want there to be airflow between the buds. For the first week you are going to keep the lid loosely on the top of the jar and take the lid of completely once a day for 15 to 30 minutes to air out the jar. The second week put the lid on tight and air out the jar by taking off the lid for 30 minutes every other day. The third and fourth weeks in the jar keep the lid on tight and do not open the jars up at all. After the fourth week the buds should be dry and cured. Trim and bag them accordingly. During the whole period where the buds are in the jars watch them closely and make sure there is no condensation building on the inside of the jar or mold growing on the buds. If either one happens the buds are not yet dry enough,remove from the jars and let them bag dry for another day or two. If there was any mold you should really throw the buds away but if you insist on keeping them,cut off all part of the buds with mold. When you put wet things in an airtight container many many bad things can grow as a result of this.
1. Do not harvest to soon –It is real easy to get impatient,you have spent a lot of time and effort watching your little girls grow up. If you have to have a smoke take small buds more towards the bottom,but it would be a shame if you ended up with swag buds simply because you couldn’t wait a few weeks.
2. Make sure to cure –Especially if you are a first time grower,it is real easy to say to yourself “I have a great strain,there is plenty of trichomes,the buds looks good,I don’t need to cure.”Curing your buds makes them more potent,smoother smoke and ads to aroma. If you care about quality at all then spent the extra few weeks and cure them. Once again,if you are impatient than dry ooout a few small buds for the meantime and cure the rest. Remember,the goal is to produce someething better than you can get at the dispensaries.
3. Invest in quality scizzors and clean them –When you are trimming your buds the scizzors make all the difference in the world. The trimming process is a pain in the butt,especially if you are trimming a lot of buds,nothing will make this task more misreable than scizzors that sre uncomforatable,too big or too dull. Invest in some bonzai trimming scizzors or at least some nice ones with a grip. Also,keep some alcohol with a towel around to clean them. When trimming they will get covered with resin and make them haard to use.
4. Drying buds smells a lot –If you don’t want your neighbors,family members or friends to know than you need to take pre-cautions. If you are using a fan that blows in or out of the room,make sure it doesn’t blow towards a place where people will smell it. If you don’t have a choice,there are smell reducers you can attach to your fan on this page. Ionizers and HEPA air filters also help a lot. If have more than a few plants a air filter/ionizer is a must have. Marijuana still has a stigma attached to it. When I dry my buds,it is not the police or my family I am concerned with,but people I don’t know. Because of the illegal element that was perviously associates with growing marijuana,thieves feel that it is something that they can get away with stealing. Regardless,I don’t want to attract that element to my house putting my family in danger,it is better to be safe than sorry.
5. Mold kills crops –Nothing is worse than spending months,money and effort only to have your buds mold when curing. Make sure to watch them daily when drying and curing. If you live in a very humid area,incvest in de-humidifier. Once again make sure they not visibly wet once you start curing.
6. Be gentle –Trichomes are what contain most of the THC. They can also fall of the buds without much force. When you are trimming,dring and curing be gentle with the buds. Besides what have they ever done to you?
7. Hang dry or lay dry –I prefer to hang dry. Remember,if you are laying the buds down to dry,don’t forgett to flip them every day or two. Also,if you are not using an herb rack to dry,make sure that whatever you are laying them on is porous and allows air to reach both sides of the buds. The part that is facing up and the part that is facing down.
8. Save scraps –The small leaves covered in trichomes can be used to make keif with or even hash. So keep the leaves you trimmed and get some hash or keif making equipment to maximize your harvest. To the left there are bubble bags you can buy (listed as herbal extract) which is the best way to make fine hash.