Part 1 - Intro
The end is approaching, and hopefully I have helped contribute to your gardens being filled with many wonderfully green babes. In any case, all of you now have the ability to grow top quality cannabis, even if as a beginner your first time will contain some mistakes which will inevitably impact the size and to some extent the quality of your harvest. If things have gone really tits up along the way, learn from your mistake(s) and try to eliminate them next time.
At the end of the day it is usually stupid mistakes that are made, so keep getting your hands on as much information as you can; information is power! If everything has gone pretty smoothly for the last 8-10 weeks of blooming, which most varieties need to properly finish their blossoming, so it's now harvest time. As long as you have not managed to give an overdose of nutrients, then some cracking good buds should be visible on all your plants.
Overdoing things can cause damage, and it is better to give too little than too much. The closer and closer you get to the end of the blooming period, the more you can reduce the strength of your feed water, and even stop feeding completely for the last week(s). It can't do any damage to your crop if the plants turn a nice yellow, in fact it is a good sign. The plants are sucking out every last drop of nutrient from their own leaves, which means that there will less nutrient residue left in your buds. The result is a nicer smoke.
Part 2 - Trimming Wet
There are various methods by which you can harvest your beloved plants. Which one you use depends largely on the number of plants you have and the size of them. The most common method and the one that gets my nod is "wet" trimming the buds. We proceed by immediately trimming the plants one by one the moment they finish ripening. We take a ripened plant and cut off the branches one by one and remove the leaves around the buds.
This leafage contains a lot of THC and so we keep this to one side so that later we can make water hash or 'skuff' out of it. In order to improve the eventual quality of your hash, try to avoid mixing in large leaves with little or no THC crystals visible on them with the leaf trim. The large cover leaves can actually be removed 2-3 days before you start the actual trimming, or even earlier.
By doing this you will make the trimming a bit easier and also quicker, since you would only have to remove the big leaves during the trimming anyway. You can decide for yourself if you want to do this or not. One advantage of removing the large leaves a little earlier, like a week before the harvest, is that the lower-most buds on your plant will be far smaller than the top buds thanks to having been deprived of light. With the sudden increase in available light these can shoot up in size quite a bit in this last week, and ripen more fully.
By trimming the plants wet you can trim much shorter and neater than you can with dried buds, and this will present the buds to their best. The first time does take a bit of getting used to as you figure out the best way to trim them. But after ten minutes or so you will have usually found the technique that is quickest and at the same time neatest. In itself, trimming is not hard, but the best technique will give you the loveliest end results.
Women's hands are more suitable for trimming since they are slimmer and can work with more refinement. Make sure too that you always have some reserve sheers handy when you start the job for real. There are various types of trimming sheers on the market, and I would say it's best to try out several of them since everyone has their own preferences. Once you have decided which your favourite is then in future trimming sessions you can start straight away with this model.
Cheap sheers and scissors that are not sharp enough or are soon knackered are less suitable if you want to get really stuck in. These just cause more trouble than they are worth in the long run - as well as making the trimming longer. After just a short while trimming you will get a huge quantity of THC sticking all over your sheers. If you don't have some sort of product with you that removes the sticky hairs it can be pretty difficult to get the sheers clean again.
A poor set will quickly break if the hinge is impeded by too much THC. So if you're working with cheap sheers, then it is especially important to have a spare to hand so you can switch over as soon as a problem with the first pair rears its head.
Part 3 - Dry trimming
A second method you can use is trimming the plants dry. In this technique, you first let the plants dry out before actually getting down to trimming them. The branches are snipped off and hung or placed in the drying room. Drying the plants out first in this way does take a bit longer than when your buds have been trimmed wet. It's a method used mainly when there is a larger number of plants and a shortage of time.
Dried buds are less easy to trim and end up less neat. There is a relatively larger loss of THC since this is more easily shaken off by movement when dry. This is very relative; there is still a huge amount present on both the buds and plant material. The drier this plant material, the easier it shakes free. This method is also mainly used on outdoorgrown cannabis.
The enormous outdoor plants are hung upside down in a drying space and then systematically harvested. When growing a large number of smaller plants indoors this method - hanging whole plants upside down - is also used. There is no bad way of trimming, it just depends on the growing system which method suits you more than another.
Part 4 - Trimming Space
Try and get a room that is suitably ventilated when you're choosing where to harvest. If your growing space is big enough, you're best off doing it in here while you run the ventilator continuously. If you have to do it in a different room you will find that the plants give off quite a bit of odour, and you might find keeping the door shut and only opening it to go get the next plant for trimming helps.
Try to make sure that whatever you do, don't annoy the neighbours. Even though the smell of fresh cannabis smells divine to smokers, many civilians think the strong stench revolting. Using a small vacuum pump fitted with a carbon filter will help keep the smell down during trimming, or else do it in a place where there is no danger of causing a nuisance. Mostly you'll find that you pretty soon don't notice the penetrating cannabis smell yourself because you get used to it. This underestimation of just how big an impact you're making can end in tears.
Part 5 - Drying Room
It is very important to bring the harvest to a good conclusion because after so many months of work it would be a crying shame to watch your buds turn mouldy. The ideal place in which to leave your buds to dry is in a cool and dark room kept somewhere between 15-22 degrees.
It is not important to ensure that the room is very warm because the active ingredients need a bit of time to mature properly so that you get a decent effect when you smoke the cannabis. It is better to dry the buds slowly over two weeks then stick them in a warm room to get them into a smokeable condition as soon as possible.
This certainly does not improve the quality. Trying to quickly dry out your buds by sticking them in the microwave or in an oven because you happen to be temporarily out of smoke makes no sense at all. Not only will it taste very sharp and bad, you only get a weak high that's not particularly enjoyable. Cannabis needs time to come to its full strength, shall we say. It is not just because it is dry that it is ready for consumption.
When you lay out your buds to dry in their room make sure that they have a good circulation of air under and over them. Laying them down on newspaper or something else that is not aerated is not advisable. There are special drying racks you can buy and I recommend them highly for drying your cannabis on. These are racks with tensioned threads across them thanks to which the buds get plenty of air from underneath. When you just stick your buds on a piece of cardboard then the side of the bud that comes into contact with the cardboard loses its moisture with more difficulty, which increases the chances of it developing mould considerably.
You are better off laying harvested buds next to each other rather than piling them on top of each other. If mould does take hold it will spread less easily from bud to bud. A good 75% of the harvested bud is made up of water that has to be removed. When this moisture has trouble being removed is when we get the risk of mould. If you start with 500 grams of wet buds then you will end up about 125 grams of dry smokeables.
Too low a temperature can also mean that the buds spend too long damp, and again this increases your mould risk. There are always mould spores floating in the air, but only when you create the poor conditions they like do they get a foothold on your buds. Insufficient ventilation thanks to putting the harvested buds in too small or to closed off a space, or by leaving them to dry on a hard surface rather than on an aerated surface is one of the most common causes of mould. The fear of mould is pretty unwarranted so long as you bear these factors in mind.
Part 6 - Ripening
There is a big difference between ripening and drying cannabis. After just one week the small buds are usually dry, while the medium to large buds will need two weeks. If you have some really huge buggers in your garden, they could use a few more days than that even. You can always choose whether to dry any enormous buds as a whole or to break them up first, because the structure of huge buds is made up of smaller ones that have grown together.
Smaller buds dry out quicker so if time is an important factor you're better off breaking them up. The trick to telling whether your cannabis is indeed good and dry is to take a large bud and try to break its twig. When the twig snaps easily the bud is good and dry. Don't try and convince yourself they're ready by taking a small bud twig and breaking that. All your buds need to be properly dry before you can ripen them. The dried buds will be nicely smokeable after two weeks. They are not yet at their absolute peak, but they will do the business.
Finally it is time to test them out, in the knowledge that they will only get better in the future. Once your buds are well and truly dry we can take care of the storage. In order to keep the quality of your cannabis high you will need to store it in a cool, dark space. So just put it in a light- proof plastic container or glass beaker in a dark place. Light destroys THC. If a few of your buds aren't dry enough and you store them with others, then they will all end up damp again, even the ones that were actually dry.
Now you have to leave the buds where they are for another two weeks to ripen, which will put us a month on from the harvest. Thanks to the ripening process the buds will taste better, and the high will be better. As I said, cannabis needs time. After this month the taste will be fairly well developed, although some varieties do need a little more time than others in order to become a top smoke. Naturally, the buds will be good, but they can still be just a tad better...
So all's well that ends well, now we're left with a large volume of leaf trim over, dripping with THC, with which we have plans to make something wonderful out of. So not only do we have a good supply of smoking material but we can yet make a good water hash or hash oil, try out cannabis recipes when we cook, and more....
No cannabis seeds