How to

29 July 2022

Planning for the perfect Cannabis Harvest

“Plans are nothing; planning is everything.”

Whether you’re a budding (forgive the pun) first-time grower, an experienced cannabis cultivator or even a commercial grower, having the correct plans in place is essential if you’re looking to maximise your returns at harvest time.

Indeed, the importance of making the correct plans in cannabis cultivation cannot be understated, as the most important steps you can take are made well before the moment your plants are ready to be cut down.

In today’s article, we consider the most important aspects to ensure that when the time comes to harvest cannabis, your operation runs both smoothly and successfully.

Pre-Harvest Logistics

With a period of two to three months required for your plants to develop and mature, you’ve got plenty of time to organise and create the perfect drying area with the necessary equipment at the ready for that glorious day of harvest.

It is, of course, important to remember that cannabis flowers quickly lose their potency, flavour and overall quality if not harvested in the correct manner. Indeed, there is a very specific timeline in which your plants must be harvested, dried, and cured.

Indeed, we like to embrace a proactive, preemptive mindset in order to stay one step ahead of the upcoming harvest. That way, if something goes wrong – and it very often might – – you will be operating from a position of strength rather than reacting from a position of weakness.

With forward planning, indoor and outdoor growers can boost their chances of a successful harvest by considering the following tips when growing marijuana:

  • Have a plan to test crops to determine cannabinoid content and when to cut them down.
  • Know that defoliating marijuana plants early can mean less plant handling later.
  • Determine whether flushing out nutrients a couple of weeks ahead of time is necessary.
  • Prepare a clean, climate-controlled space for storing material.

Product Management and the Stages of Moisture Removal

Perhaps the most important aspect of the harvest process is drying and curing the flowers. This process is commonly referred to as product management. Trichomes (and the cannabinoids like THC as well as the terpenes they contain) are extremely delicate and prone to deterioration in the wrong environment.

As such, your harvest space should be as dark as possible to prevent any light from damaging the flowers as they dry.

Furthermore, one of the most valuable pieces of equipment a cultivator can boast in their dry space are fans and dehumidifiers. These tools are able to remove moisture as well as providing consistent airflow. If used together with temperature and humidity gauges, all the cultivator will need is the right preemptive mindset to dry their buds successfully.

Harvested cannabis flowers will undergo three stages of moisture removal: hang or flat dry, bucking, and burping/curing. If these terms are unknown to you, read on to find out what they are and why they are essential.

Strings for Hang-Drying, Trays for a Flat-Dry

Cannabis flowers can be dried using various methods, as long as there are pockets of air between the buds to let moisture evaporate. If you are planning to dry a large volume of flowers on a budget, consider using string structures (think clotheslines) to hang dry. These can be constructed relatively simply and consist of strings installed across wooden frames. Cultivators with smaller volumes of product can use collapsible mesh racks easily available online.

Flowers can also be laid flat along a mesh surface or on trays. Going vertical using trays and a drying rack is a great way to save space. Flowers broken down into smaller nugs and buds will dry quicker on these racks. Regardless of the method, airflow in between the buds is crucial to dry them as evenly as possible.

Moisture Removal – Stage One: Monitor Your Dry Room Conditions

The drying battle isn’t over once your buds are situated properly and ready to dry for some days. The environmental conditions need to be monitored regularly and modified if necessary as humidity will fluctuate as flowers dry slowly. Fans and dehumidifiers will do the bulk of the work during this period, so switch them on and ensure their power source remains consistent. If checked consistently, cultivators will be able to monitor any changes to the conditions of the space.

The state of mind a cultivator must have to approach drying harvested buds is to be proactive rather than reactive. It is much easier to make minor adjustments to the conditions of a drying room regularly than it is to make significant changes when they are desperately needed. There is a marked difference between monitoring the conditions regularly in case any adjustments need to be made versus leaving it too late and potentially causing delicate terpenes and cannabinoids to deteriorate or flowers to mould due to heat or excess moisture.

The ideal conditions for drying cannabis flowers are a temperature of 15-21 degrees Celsius and humidity of 45-55% to ensure they don’t dry too quickly or slowly. This is the road to high-grade, dense buds that will practically scream from the bag as they’re so loud.

Moisture Removal – Stage Two: Bucking

When cannabis buds are drying, extra moisture can be found in superfluous plant material such as fan leaves. One step cultivators use in between the drying and curing stages to minimise this is to “buck” the buds off the main stem. When this is done after the drying period of four to seven days, the bucked buds can then cure with a minimal amount of moisture.

If left on the stalks during the curing stage, there is a chance the flowers won’t cure properly, which can lead to mould or the flavour being affected. In addition, improperly cured buds will taste “harsh” at the back of the throat due to too much moisture and chlorophyll. This can lead to coughing and headaches.

The main consideration for this stage of the harvest process is space and containers such as buckets and bags. Remember, there are going to be buds flying off stems, and they need to be kept in appropriate containers. One way to stay on top of this is to use roasting bags or mason jars that can be opened or closed. These containers will keep buds from absorbing moisture from their surroundings.

Moisture Removal – Stage Three: Burping and Curing

When the cannabis buds are bucked from their stems and situated in their jars or bags, moisture will continue to draw out from the centre of the bud to the leaves on the outside. As this process is taking place inside the jar or bag, you will need to introduce airflow by “burping” the sealed containers – opening them for some time to cycle the air and reduce moisture.

Burping is best approached with the same consistency and rigour as the hang-dry (or flat dry) stage of the process. This means monitoring temperature and humidity levels inside the jars and keeping an eye on whether they increase (which they inevitably will). This can be accomplished with small hygrometers placed inside the jars. Set alarms to check conditions regularly.

When cured properly, a slight squeeze of the nug will show a dense, rock-hard centre. Any remaining moisture outside of this centre will feel slightly spongey. This process can take anywhere from two weeks after the initial drying stage to several months, depending on the cultivator.

Final thoughts…

It’s worth repeating, but surely the best advice for any cultivator looking for a successful and stressful harvest is to plan ahead.

Harvesting cannabis plants is a highly involved and sometimes painstaking operation consisting of several processes that need to be carried out at a specific time as cannabis flowers may deteriorate if they are cut down with nowhere to dry. A cultivator who understands these different stages of harvest and who takes the time to plan their space, organise equipment, and check their product regularly throughout the drying process, will be suitably prepared to deal with even the most tricky and unexpected of occurrences.

Start your cultivation journey by stopping by Marijuana Grow Shop. MGS carries a world-class selection of vigorous feminised seeds, on-schedule autoflower seeds, and rare high-quality exotics that grow into some of the most spectacular cannabis strains available today.

Browse our selection by medical condition, desired effect, or variety and enjoy a first-class sativa, indica and hybrid seeds chosen from the world’s leading seedbanks and most passionate cannabis growers.

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