Medical cannabis is legal in 38 states nationwide, with more on track to join the list in the coming years. In most places, medical cannabis patients can grow their own medical cannabis at home, and many take advantage of the outdoor cannabis growing season. There’s just one season for harvesting cannabis outdoors, but when it’s done right, it can be very plentiful.
In contrast, indoor cannabis crops take an average of three to four months to grow from seed to harvest, meaning patients who grow indoors can have three to four harvests a year. Outdoor growing has its own advantages, though, and for those who partake, harvest time comes just once a year in October, or, as it’s colloquially known, Croptober.
Tips for Harvesting Cannabis Plants
When you decide to harvest, whether it be indoors or outdoors, here are some tips you can keep in mind to get the best results possible.
Pre-harvest prep will make harvest time a whole lot easier. It also stands to help growers preserve the natural cannabinoids and terpenes in those last few crucial days before it’s time to chop their crop.
Understand your plants
To maximize yield and potency, it’s essential to base your harvest strategy on what cannabis strain you’re growing, whether that’s indica vs sativa vs hybrid.
Sativa strains, known for their energizing high, have a lengthier cultivation period. In contrast, Indica plants yield larger buds and a more relaxing, couch-lock-type high. Hybrid plants combine traits from both Indica and Sativa, resulting in a balanced effect.
Broadly speaking, Indica plants typically require 8-10 weeks to flower, while Sativa and autoflower plants can take anywhere from 10 to 16 weeks. Hybrid plants fall within this range. Nevertheless, these flowering times can be influenced by environmental elements like day length and temperature.
For medicinal cannabis growth, harvesting at peak cannabinoid content is crucial. On the other hand, if you’re cultivating cannabis for recreational purposes, it’s advisable to wait until the plant reaches full maturity to achieve the desired effects.
Flush your plants
Water them heavily daily to help flush out nutrients that may be in the buds from cultivation.
Remove all excess leaves from your plants
Trim your plants as they grow, leaving only a small amount of leaves on your buds to help with freshness and flavor during the drying process.
Split the stems
Though this step is optional, many home growers swear by this technique as a way to increase their yield. Start 7-10 days before your harvest, and gently make an incision below the lowest branches of your cannabis plant.
When harvest time arrives, and it’s finally time to chop that crop of cannabis you’ve been carefully cultivating, follow these tips to maximize yield and potency. Read our guide to dry trimming vs. wet trimming your cannabis plants for more information on this step.
Cut your cannabis plants toward the bottom of the stem, leaving a small nub behind.
When performing this step, be careful not to pull the branch out of the soil. This mistake can damage the plant and lead to a decreased yield of cannabis flowers.
Remove any excess big leaves you may have missed during your pre-harvest prep.
Removing the fan leaves and sugar leaves on the outside of the cannabis plant’s buds will speed up your drying time and help prevent mold and mildew from growing on the flower.
Hang them upside down to dry.
Hang-drying is an essential step in harvesting cannabis. After you’ve trimmed all of your plants, place them upside down on whatever hanger is easiest for you. Make sure they’re in a cool, dark, and properly ventilated space, as humidity levels and airflow are crucial for successful curing.
You’ve spent weeks flowering your cannabis crop to perfection. Now, you have bushy buds covered in the trichomes that produce terpenes and cannabinoids like THC and CBD. It’s time to dry your cannabis—but be careful. Many growers misstep in this part of the process. Here’s some tips on how to dry your cannabis for maximum potential.
Don’t rush the drying process
Don’t rush the drying process or let your plants become overly dry. Nothing is worse than growing a beautiful crop only to have your cannabis buds get all funky and moldy a few days after you chop it down. Dry your cannabis for at least one week, and don’t put pressure on yourself (or your plants) to produce a fast yield.
Dry your trimmed buds in a controlled environment.
The ideal drying room is essential for harvesting cannabis: a cool, dark place with low humidity and good air circulation. Good airflow and a dark environment will help prevent your cannabis buds from growing mold. Investing in a hygrometer can help you maintain the perfect humidity levels and ideal room temperature.
Keep fans from blowing directly on your drying rack
Fan-drying your cannabis flower directly can cause them to lose flavor and potency by drying them too fast. It takes about eight to 10 days for most plants to dry before it’s time to trim them and prepare them to be cured.
If you can put a dehumidifier in the room where you are drying your cannabis plants, you can better avoid issues like molding. You can tell your buds are ready to be trimmed and cured when the branches on your plants snap instead of bend. A good snap means it’s time to trim and cure your cannabis crop.
A proper cure breaks down the cannabis plant’s primary metabolites, including sugar and chlorophyll, essential for a smooth smoking experience. However, curing cannabis takes time to perfect. Nevertheless, there are some golden rules for curing cannabis that everyone should follow to prevent spoiling their harvest.
Cure your cannabis in an airtight container
Any airtight glass jars, such as mason jars, should do the trick.
Keep your airtight containers out of direct sunlight
Preferably, your glass jars containing your dry buds should be placed in a cool, dark place—such as the drying space you created in the last step.
Burp the jars
Open the jars once daily for 5 to 30 minutes to let them exchange air and help prevent mold. This process is called burping your cannabis. Place clean buds back in the jar and toss them to make sure the flower cures evenly. Alternatively, if the buds are too dry, toss in a humidity pack—like a Boveda pack—to rehydrate them.
Reap the benefits
After about 14 to 28 days, your freshly cured buds will be ready to consume or used to make cannabutter for edibles. Some people run their cure time for several months. For long-term storage options, view our guide to storing cannabis flower and increasing shelf life.
Final Takeaways: Tips for Harvesting Cannabis
If you integrate these practices, you will end up with flourishing cannabis plants. Do you have any tried-and-true pointers for harvesting cannabis or cannabis cultivation? Drop them in the comments.
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