A note on withering pistils
Many times you'll read from new marijuana growers; "My hairs are 50% changed to brown or red, looks like its ready to come down." Calyx hairs turning color is one thing, calyx hairs withering, is another. When they have withered, they are for the most part, as ripe as they will get. But just turning red or brown does not necessarily mean the marijuana plant is ready. Calyx hairs are just an indicator that the marijuana plant is ripening, not necessarily ripe yet. We have taken full Indica strains with 60% hairs turned and sativa's when 90% hairs have turned, and they were all at peak ripeness. The trichome color is the only true indicator!
The harvesting process from flush to cure
A personal tip we would give to anyone prior to harvesting their cannabis would be to have the marijuana plant flushed with distilled or Reverse Osmosis filtered water two weeks prior to harvesting. If the filtered water isn't available, use a clearing aid and tap water. Any leftover chemicals and fertilizers will be flushed from the soil, given at least 10 days.
Plant moisture prior to cutting
Prior to cutting down, it is a good idea to let the soil get fairly dry. Not so dry as to hurt the marijuana plant, but more like it is just ready for another watering. We find that this speeds drying time rather than harvesting a freshly watered marijuana plant.
24 hour dark period
When the marijuana plants are ready to harvest, We like to give them 24 hours of darkness to promote more resin. Since potency is lowest in the middle of the day period under full heat, the darkness should let the marijuana plant come to it's full potential. Some cannabis plants, especially the White family (White Queen and White Widow) really seem to like this, and we can't see it causing any damage either way; just another way to maximize the potential of the marijuana plant in some circumstances. The frosting on the cake, so to say.
Cut down, trim and drying 101
Now comes the fun part! Time to get those scissors sticky. For this part of the procedure, you will need a good pair of trimming scissors. Many garden nurseries and hardware stores carry appropriate models with small enough blades to get the marijuana bud leaves and comfortable handles for hours of work [We prefer a bonsai scissor]. A small closet or room is all you will need for drying a personal harvest. Larger grows may need more though. But for just a few marijuana plants, a small closet will work fine. Enough clothesline or rope to wire across your small room is all that you will need to hang your branches, but make sure its attached well on each end. You don't want to come in and find your precious stash on the floor!
Temperature in the space should be between 70°F and 80°F | 21°C and 26.5°C, with the lower to mid-range preferable.The closet should also be able dark. At this point, heat and UV rays are the two main enemies of THC, the active ingredient in your marijuana buds. A small oscillating fan is a must as well. Also advisable is a gauge to measure the humidity in the room. This is especially important in areas such as a basement or tropical climates, as too much humidity will extend the drying time and perhaps bring on mold in the marijuana buds.
Depending on your method of growing, natural, topped, trimmed etc. you can cut down differently. Some people cut down the whole marijuana plant and just trim up the larger leaves. Others cut individual branches, some cut off the whole top part, trim and do the same to the bottom. We prefer to cut off individual branches if its just a small grow, though sometimes we'll do the top half bottom half thing as well. Cutting off the individual branches from the main stem, and trimming off the smaller leaf will result in a quicker drying time if time is of the essence. After the branch has been cut, we then go in and remove all the leaf we want to trim right away. Some people prefer to leave the leaf on, either as a protectant for the trichomes underneath, or because they'd rather make trimming a two-step job. We prefer to do it all at once, especially when dealing with low marijuana plant numbers to trim. It also gets a bit messy trying to trim marijuana bud leafs after they have dried. Did this once, and will never do it again! Makes our life a little easier and once again, makes it a little easier to dry as well.
You can hang your cola's and branches by just using simple clothespins, or running a paperclip straight thru the stem, and curling it to hang on the clothesline. Just make sure the branches and rope are secure enough to hold the weight of the marijuana buds.
As long as the humidity in the room does not go over 50%, we generally let the marijuana buds hang for one day without any air movement. We do this just as a measure against drying too fast. Too dry of humidity (30% or lower), can sometimes cause the cannabis buds to dry too fast, and make them crispy and crunchy.On the second day, we put our fan on low making sure that the breeze doesn't hit too directly on the marijuana buds and branches. Too much of this will cause certain marijuana buds to dry out faster than others. Try to position your fan in such a way that all marijuana buds get some air movement on them, just not directly from the fan. Humidity readings of 45 to 55% are ideal. Sometimes we will flip the marijuana buds around from day to day, just to make sure they all get good air movement around them.
Drying before curing
To get to the next stage, curing, the marijuana buds must be dry. Too much moisture in the marijuana buds after putting in the jars can result in moldy marijuana buds, and then everything you have achieved up to this point will have been in vain. So how do you know when the marijuana buds are really dry? In general, five to seven days seems to be the norm for marijuana buds to be ready to put in curing jars, given the above parameters. For the marijuana buds to be ready for the next step, try this: gently, but firmly try to snap the stem that the marijuana buds are on. If you get a crisp snap, the marijuana buds should be ready. Also check the marijuana bud itself by gently squeezing it. We would recommend this after a few days of drying, and then every day after to get a "feel" for the marijuana bud drying.When the marijuana buds have hardened a bit, and the stem cracks crisply, your marijuana buds are ready for the next step: the curing jars.
The curing process
To cure your marijuana buds for short term weed storage [up to a year], we would recommend using glass mason jars and canning lids, which are available at most department stores and supermarkets around the world. Cut off the marijuana buds from the main stem using a pair of scissors, and place inside the jars. Try to handle the cannabis buds gently, you don't want to lose too many precious glands! Gently pack the marijuana buds in the jars, don't stuff them in too tightly. Store your jars in cool dark place, with temperatures around 65°F to 75°F | 18°C to 24°C. Remember, light and heat are your two worst enemies! Each day for the next five, we like to open the jars completely for 15 minutes a day to get rid of any extra moisture. After this, the marijuana buds remain in the jars for the duration, until they are ready to smoke. You can smoke them now, but they will not be at their ideal potency, flavour, or smokability. In our personal experience we have found that certain varieties will take longer to smooth out, but after about two months, most strains should be quite ready to smoke. Potency, flavour and smoothness all improve in good time, and keeping the away from high heat, light, and air will enable them to remain at optimum smokability.