10 Cannabis Harvesting and Post-Harvest Tips

Departments - Upfront | Quick Tips

Depending on the strain, it’s time to harvest when the pistils have turned amber and the trichomes are no longer translucent.

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Photo courtesy of Cresco Labs

Our cultivation team at Cresco Labs becomes excited as harvest draws near, like children counting the final days until Christmas. It takes months of hard work to prune and train plants before they are ready to be chopped and processed for flower or concentrates.

Depending on the strain, it’s time to harvest when the pistils have turned amber, and the trichomes are no longer translucent. Observe this color change with a microscope or hand lens. Timing is vital, but with knowledge of a strains’ characteristics and ample practice, gauging the proper time to harvest will lower the chances of cannabinoid degradation.

The number of days in flower will vary by strain. Typically, indica plants will be ready for harvest in approximately 50 days to 60 days. Sativa plants can stay in bloom longer, usually between 60 days and 70 days. Harvesting plants too early or too late can affect potency and yields, lessening the flower’s quality.

Here are a few pointers for the processing, drying and curing stages to help you achieve connoisseur-grade cannabis every crop cycle.

Processing

TIP 1: Processing for drying begins by removing the large fan leaves from the stem. Removing fan leaves can be completed manually with a gloved hand or scissors, and doing so will create better airflow around the flower. Leaving fan leaves attached can prevent buds from drying correctly, which is a recipe for mold.

TIP 2: Remove any trellis stuck in the plants before taking the plants to the drying room, so trellis remnants do not accidentally enter the final product.

TIP 3: Ensure each plant has an identifier that states the strain name to prevent it from being grouped with the other strains in the room.

Drying

TIP 4: Keep the dry room well-ventilated with proper and gentle air flow. Achieve this with floor- or wall-mounted fans and by having adequate ventilation set up before harvest.

TIP 5: The room will also need to be temperature- and humidity-controlled using humidifiers and dehumidifiers. Geography and outside climate will play a role in what equipment is required to manage humidity.

TIP 6: The plants can then be placed on hooks and hung from chain links or wires that are attached securely to the walls.

TIP 7: Keep the plants at 50-percent to 55-percent humidity with temperatures around 60 degrees to 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the first seven days. You can lower the humidity to between 43 percent and 48 percent after seven days at the same temperature. When a plant’s stem is no longer rubbery and doesn’t completely break when bent, the plant is dry. Depending on the strain, drying can take anywhere from seven days to 14 days before plants are ready for curing.

Curing

Curing begins after the flowers are dry enough to be cut from the stem, also known as “deboning.”

TIP 8: While cutting off the flowers, leave a small portion of the stem attached to the bud, so it doesn't fall apart.

TIP 9: Then the flower should be placed into an airtight container, preferably glass. Ideally, a good cure will take two weeks to three weeks, but curing longer maximizes terpene profiles.

TIP 10: The containers are “burped” several times a day (by removing the lid to the container for a short period of time) during the first week to release extra moisture that has escaped from the buds. Burping will only need to be performed a few times weekly once the flower has cured for seven days to 10 days.

After curing, the cannabis is ready for trimming and packaging.

So much time is spent on training and flowering plants that the post-harvest drying and curing process is often overlooked. Slighting the curing process is a mistake, as drying and curing are arguably the most critical steps of the post-harvest process. With proper humidity, temperature and patience, high-quality cannabis is obtainable every crop rotation.

Jessica Ryan is a cultivation manager at Cresco Labs’ facility in Joliet, Ill.