How to harvest, trim, dry and cure your weed
Copy article link to clipboard.
Link copied to clipboard.
A lot can happen to a cannabis crop if it isn’t properly harvested, dried, and cured. When overexposed to air, light, or heat, terpenes can vaporize or evaporate and cannabinoids can decarboxylate, which can lead to a significant drop in the potency and flavor of your harvest. The cannabis plant’s trichomes, which are responsible for producing the protective, therapeutic, psychoactive, and intoxicating properties — are at their most vulnerable come harvest time. Without proper drying and curing, your harvest can also develop mold and fungus. Knowing how to properly harvest, dry, trim, cure, and store your cannabis will go a long way in ensuring the best possible results.
Step one in reaping the rewards of your cannabis plants is knowing when they are ripe and ready for harvest. Harvesting too early will reduce your overall yield and potency, as the last two weeks of harvest are the peak time for cannabinoid production. Yet harvesting too late can cause the trichomes to become extra-brittle when they are dried and cured, making them break off easily. Harvesting at the optimal time is crucial in ensuring you get the largest possible, highest-quality yield.
What are the signs to look for when harvesting?
As the plant completes its growth cycle, there will be many physical changes that occur. The biggest are, arguably, changing colors in the large fan leaves, a tightening of the bracts that form the colas, and a change in the color of the trichome glands. These signs can help you know when to harvest your plants:
Color change on fan leaves: During the middle of the flowering stages, the plant will naturally consume most, if not all, of the nitrogen available in the grow medium. As nitrogen is responsible for the plant’s green color, the plant’s leaves will turn into hues of purple, and ultimately a haylike yellow, after it’s consumed most of the available nitrogen. Changing colors on fan leaves aren’t enough to determine when a plant is ready to harvest, but it is the first sign that you are getting close. Once the fan leaves start to change color, start looking out for the next visible signs.
Cola morphology: When observing the size, shape, and overall look of your buds, remember that this alone is not a very reliable method for judging if your crop is ready for harvest. However, ripe buds are typically tight and firm. If your buds look overly lanky or fluffy, it could be a sign that it’s too early to harvest.
Trichome gland clarity: The most reliable method for determining if your plant is ready for harvest. Most often, harvest time comes when trichomes are milky white and a few are amber. If trichomes are still clear, it’s too early. Trichome clarity is a direct sign of how much resin is stored in the gland. Clear trichomes mean there hasn’t been enough resin production. If the majority of trichomes are amber, the buds have overripened.
When your plant starts showing signs that it is close to harvest, it is important to flush the plant of any unused nutrients. Ideally, flushing begins two weeks before harvest.
To flush your plants, flood your grow medium with water. Wait a few minutes for the water to dissolve nutrient buildup, then add more water to flush it all out. Without added nutrients, the plant will begin to feed on what’s available in the grow medium leading up to harvest. Once you’ve flushed your plants, you will likely see the fan leaves change color as a sign of nitrogen deficiency. Finally, give your plants one last flush the day before harvest.
Properly and evenly drying your bud will help preserve it’s potency, vibrancy, and color. When dried improperly or unevenly, buds can develop mold, burn unevenly, and lose fragrance or flavor. Hang-drying is the simplest and most efficient way to make sure it dries evenly, and at an optimal pace. For the best drying results, follow theese steps:
- Cut the plant, either at the base or into large branches.
- Hang the plant upside down in a room with the temperature set at 70 degrees Fahrenheit, or 21 degrees Celsius, and a dehumidifier set at 50%. Check and maintain the temperature and humidity daily.
- Once the stems are dry enough to snap slightly when bent, remove them from the lines and cut them into smaller sections.
- Place those sections inside of a large tote and close it with a lid. It isn’t necessary for the lid to be completely closed or sealed.
- For the first couple of days, turn over and rotate the cannabis in the totes to ensure even drying.
- Also “burp” the totes in the first couple of days by opening it and allowing fresh air to filter out the damp air inside.
It’s important to avoid losing trichomes during the drying process by not letting your branches hit any surfaces while hang-drying. Contact with a surface can damage trichomes and break them off of the plant. Depending on environmental conditions, the initial drying process usually takes three to seven days.
Once your bud has been properly dried, it’s time for trimming and curing. The goal with trimming is to remove the excess sugar leaves that, while consumable and excellent for making edibles or concentrates, have a lower trichome concentration than flower, and typically make for a harsher smoke.
To trim your buds, hold them by a stem and gently cut away the sugar leaves and stems surrounding them. Trim over a screen to collect trichomes that break off the plant, and handle your bud with extreme care. Try to trim the crow’s feet — the leaves around the bottom of a bud — as closely as possible without doing damage. All contact with the bud can cause trichome loss or damage. Hold your plants and branches by the stem whenever possible.
Wet Trim vs. Dry Trim
Most cultivators prefer to trim their cannabis after drying. Trimming immediately after harvest is the easier method, as sugar leaves haven’t dried up and closed in on the buds. Unfortunately, wet trimming also allows for more chlorophyll in the leaves, which may lead to a lingering grasslike aroma. Though more time- and labor-intensive, dry trimming is generally considered the better approach.
Curing is the final stage in the drying process, allowing for a controlled breakdown of residual chlorophyll in the colas so they are neither too moist nor too dry.
To cure your bud, place it in glass jars or a tote for about 4-8 weeks. During the first two weeks, open the containers daily and allow fresh oxygen to filter through the air in the container. Open the containers every 2-3 days in the last two weeks of curing. The curing process should be gradual to ensure a proper balance of air and moisture that will preserve fragrance and flavor.
In order to maintain the chemical profile of cannabis, the buds must be kept as close to their final condition as possible. Improper storage can lead to cannabinoid degradation, loss of terpenes, a harsh smoke, loss of trichomes when flower is brittle, and development of mold or fungus if cured flowers are overexposed to moisture. Proper storage after the trimming, drying, and curing process is crucial in maintaining the chemical integrity of your final product. Temperature, moisture, oxygen, and ultraviolet (UV) light can all have a negative effect on a bud’s chemical profile.
Cannabis should be kept in a cool, dark place, preferably at room temperature or slightly below. High temperature can lead to mold and mildew, dry out your flower, and turn sensitive terpenes into vapor, which will ultimately change the effects of the flower. This is why some cultivators skip drying and make live resin extracts to preserve all the monoterpenes lost during the drying process.
If the temperature is too low, THCA would be harder to decarboxylate into THC, thereby reducing the potency of the flowers when they are smoked. It can also make the trichomes brittle on the plant, which could cause them to break off when removed from the cold environment. This isn’t necessarily a huge issue, though, as those trichomes can be collected as kief and smoked.
To limit your bud’s exposure to high or low temperatures, keep it inside, away from windows, and in a cool place. If you’re traveling outside with your bud, consider storing it in a vacuum-insulated bottle.
Moisture is the amount of weight, as a percentage of the total weight, that is lost if the material is completely dried out. Water activity is the amount of water on the surface of the plant. Both are important factors in preserving the integrity of your bud. According to ASTM Internationals cannabis subcommittee , the amount of water activity on cannabis flowers should be in the range of 0.55 to 0.65.
The most precious cannabinoids in your bud will degrade if overexposed to heat or oxygen. THCA, for example, will decarboxylate into THC prematurely when exposed to heat, and therefore reduce bud potency. When exposed to oxygen, THC will degrade into CBN , a compound estimated to be one-fourth the potency of THC. Oxygen can also oxidize essential terpenes, leaving behind a grassy, sometimes haylike aroma.
To reduce exposure to oxygen, make sure to avoid air pockets in your container whenever possible. For example, don’t use a container that holds an ounce (28.35 grams) to hold a gram of flower. Vacuum-seal your flower for long-term storage, and consider getting a hand-held vacuum pump for short-term storage. Glass jars, ideally opaque and airtight for ample cannabinoid and terpene preservation, will also make adequate short-term storage.
UV light is the biggest factor in the degradation of cannabinoids, and ultimately the shelf life of cannabis. UV light will always degrade your cannabis, so that’s why cultivators are now using opaque packaging instead of clear glass. UV light is another sizable contributor to THCA degradation into THC and CBN, significantly decreasing potency before it reaches the end user. UV light will also degrade CBD .
To avoid cannabis degradation from UV light altogether, use opaque packaging or brown glass bottles to store your weed. Brown bottles allow 30% of UV light to pass through, as opposed to green and clear bottles which allow 70% and 100%, respectively.
Properly harvesting, drying, and curing cannabis is a dedicated practice that takes trial and error for home growers and professional cultivators alike. But the extra care is worth the time it takes to master these steps and preserve the integrity of your flower.
How to harvest, trim, dry and cure your weed Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents Harvest Flushing Drying Trimming Curing
How to Prevent and Treat Dry and Crispy Cannabis Leaves
Nothing warms a grower’s heart more than seeing their plants flourish. The opposite is true when they encounter dry and crispy leaves. Such a sight causes worry and concern. Are your plants ill? Will this damage your yield? Could they be dying? We created this guide to put your mind at ease. Learn about the causes and exactly how to treat it.
How to fix dry and crispy cannabis leaves.
Healthy and vibrant cannabis specimens dominate social media feeds. These thriving plants display firm, dark green fan leaves with a waxy shine protruding from robust and sturdy stems. Every grower strives to achieve plants that look half as healthy. However, things don’t always go to plan.
Have you ever walked into your grow space to see dry, crispy leaves hanging on for dear life? It’s disheartening, and far from the luscious foliage depicted on Instagram. If your leaves are looking a little worse for wear, check out the guide below. We’ll cover every possible cause for the condition, and how to fix it.
What Causes Dry, Crispy Cannabis Leaves?
A problem-solver lies at the heart of every cannabis grower. A large part of harvesting a canopy of healthy buds involves a fair amount of troubleshooting along the way, from nutrient deficiencies to pest invasions. Dry, crispy leaves are one of these potential problems. This occurs when plants lose their moisture content, curl up, and feel fragile and crunchy to the touch. Several environmental factors give rise to this issue—nutrient problems, too much water, and excess heat are just a few of the common culprits.
Fortunately, we’ve identified solutions to all of them. Use the guide below to learn what exactly causes cannabis leaves to turn dry, and what you can do to rescue your plants.
Cannabis plants don’t stay young forever. Dry, crispy leaves occur naturally towards the end of a plant’s life cycle. During the late flowering stage, as plants divert most of their resources towards forming resinous buds, you’ll notice some fan leaves start to dry and discolour.
Old age largely affects the lower leaves, but those higher up might also begin to lose their moisture content and luscious green appearance. If your plants are otherwise healthy, pest-free, and enjoying ideal temperatures, chances are they are simply getting old.
Fan leaves will appear particularly dry and frail during flushing—the act of restricting feeding around two weeks before harvest to improve the flavour of the buds. An intentional lack of key nutrients will take a toll on the foliage and often cause many fan leaves to fall to the ground.
As a natural phenomenon, you have nothing to worry about. Let nature play its course. Take a clean pair of pruning shears and defoliate the dried and dying leaves to improve canopy aeration and clean up the aesthetics of your plants.
Cannabis plants require a balance of key nutrients to survive and thrive. These natural compounds play vital roles in cannabis physiology, from assisting with photosynthesis to facilitating tissue growth and flowering.
Plants require two key groups of nutrients: macronutrients and micronutrients. As their names suggest, plants require the former in larger quantities and the latter in smaller amounts. Most growers manage to supply their plants with adequate nutrients using either high-quality compost or supplements.
Despite this, plants can still exhibit deficiency symptoms due to pH fluctuations. If the pH of the growing medium becomes too low or too high, plants lose the ability to absorb nutrients. Low levels of molecules such as iron and magnesium—important for chlorophyll formation and enzyme synthesis—can lead to crispy, dry leaves.
A nutrient surplus can also cause dry and damaged fan leaves. Excess nitrogen can burn roots, causing the fan leaves to become extremely dark green and crispy.
Adjust the pH of your growing medium to restore a healthy balance. Cannabis plants thrive in a pH of between 6.0–7.0, whereas hydroponic plants prefer a pH of 5.5–6.5. Use a pH tester to determine the status of your soil. First, attempt to flush out the growing medium with pH-balanced water and test the growing medium again. If the pH level is still out of whack, apply pH correction products available at any growing store.
Also, consider adding mycorrhizal fungi to your soil. These beneficial fungi form a mutually beneficial relationship with plant roots, helping them mine for nutrients in return for sugars.
It’s no secret that cannabis needs water to survive. Plants use this precious resource during photosynthesis, to transport nutrients, and to keep them turgid and strong. Yet, as with everything, too much water does more harm than good.
Overwatering usually occurs when beginner growers take too much care of their plants—they see one speck of dry soil and begin to panic. A constant supply of water means fluid begins to pool in the soil. When plants take up too much water, cells within the leaves bulge and eventually rupture. This causes crusting at the tips and a crispy complexion. Not to mention, excess water creates a breeding ground for damaging fungi, and it flushes valuable nutrients from the soil.
Water your plants intelligently. A slight dryness in the soil is actually a good thing. As a rule of thumb, only water your plant again once the top five centimetres are dry. To keep better track of things, weigh your pots when they’re dry and again when fully watered. Wait for your pots to get close to their dry weight before watering again.
Pests and Fungi
Humans aren’t the only Earthbound creatures with a penchant for pot. Many different species of microbes, insects, and mould all enjoy savouring the taste of fresh cannabis plants. Aphids, caterpillars, and slugs all like to graze on cannabis leaves, whereas plant-parasitic nematodes prefer the taste of roots. Fungi will settle just about anywhere on the plant, as long as it provides them with their favourite conditions—dampness and humidity.
Cannabis plants can take a bit of pest damage, and the presence of a few insects indicates strong biodiversity within the garden. But prolonged and intense assaults can cause them a great deal of stress, possibly resulting in dry and crispy leaves.
Protect your plants! Different species require different tactics. Use predatory insects such as ladybugs, parasitic wasps, and praying mantis to keep pest species at bay. For a second line of defence, sow companion plants such as dill, sweet basil, sunflower, and lavender early in the season to repel and distract damaging insects.
Do you have a feeling your roots are under attack? Inoculate your soil with mycorrhizal fungi; their fine filaments—hyphae—tie down and trap gnawing nematodes. And what about that pesky mould? Simple. Keep your plants aerated with fans or a natural breeze. Avoid overwatering the soil and cover up your crop to protect it from downpours during flowering.
Heat has a tendency to make things crispy: bacon, toast, even our skin after too much time on the beach. Leave your cannabis plants exposed under the baking sun in a greenhouse or garden, and you’ll find their fan leaves take on this property, too. Intense heat will cause leaves to lose moisture, dry out, and shrivel up.
If you’re growing outdoors in a particularly hot region, be prepared to defend your plants from a heatwave. Keep some shade cloth and a few stakes on standby, and deploy a DIY setup if the sun beats down harshly for too long.
If you find your grow room becomes unbearably hot, use fans and air conditioning to bring the temperature down. You can even use a sensor and controller rigged up to an exhaust fan to automate this function.
Another pillar of plant life, light enables cannabis plants to create their own energy. Without light, you can say goodbye to cannabis buds altogether. Yet, too much light will burn the upper areas of your plant, causing leaves to crisp over and even damaging high-flying colas. If you let your canopy grow too tall, expect discolouration, dryness, and reduced yields.
Monitor your indoor grow closely. Move your light system up as your plant continues to work its way upwards. If you’re dealing with limited space, use LST and Sc rOG techniques to keep your canopy lower to the ground without sacrificing output.
LED lights are becoming more popular among cannabis growers. As well as being cheaper to run, these lights emit less heat and offer more room for error if your plants grow a tad out of control.
Treating Dry, Crispy Leaves on Weed Plants
If you notice fan leaves becoming crispy and dry, don’t panic! Take on the problem with a level head and remember what you’ve just learned. Revisit our guide, identify the prob lem, and utilise the correct treatment. If you act efficiently, you’ll rescue your plants, solve a horticultural problem, and become a better grower all at the same time.
Dry and crispy leaves don't just look bad, they can stir up quite a panic. But don't worry, check out our guide to discover every single cause and treatment.