Being a master gardener you have managed to grow a crop of plants that have not only survived their growth stage but have also flowered, producing fragrant and crystalline buds on all of your plants.  The difficult time has come and gone.  Your plants made it to harvest.  It is almost time to enjoy the fruits of your labor.  Just one final question regarding your plants:  How to produce a final product that is sticky, fragrant, potent, smooth and ready to smoke?

Many gardeners new to the game find that they have trouble getting an end result that matches the quality of the dispensary-grade bud that originally inspired their venture.  The process that occurs from harvest to final product is the major factor that separates midgrade buds from high quality award winning chronic.

Half of the journey to producing high quality cannabis is growing plants with great  genes. But even the best hindu kush seeds will only produce mediocre bud if the gardener does not properly dry and cure his harvest.

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Due to variables concerning temperature and humidity, as well as those concerning flower size and density, the harvest process can not offer a straightforward recipe for success.  Rather the final quality, fragrance, and potency of your bud depends critically on the awareness and skills of the individual gardener.

Fortunately there are both guidelines and specific tools that if utilized can offer a path to fragrant and potent buds.  For success driven growers producing a consistent high quality product not only increases their income potential, but also establishes them as an expert in their industry.  

Harvest

Because of variables surrounding growing outdoors in natural sunlight versus growing indoors under lights, every garden is unique and there are no specific time frames for harvesting your plants.  Typically cannabis will begin to flower in late summer and will develop flowers over a 60 to 90 day period before ready to harvest.  Additionally there are different thoughts about when is the best time to pull your plants.  

Some growers harvest when the flower is in its prime:  the THC crystals begin to elongate and the flower is most fragrant. Others choose to wait until the flower begins to change a purple color and the THC crystals have pulled back close to the flower.  

Whatever your preference, a high level of awareness as well as commitment is required by all master gardeners.  Tending to your garden on a daily basis while paying close attention to detail are ideal traits for any serious gardener determined to succeed.

At that right moment on that right day your plants are ready to harvest.  Harvesting your plants requires cutting down your plants, trimming off all large water leaves, and preparing the plants for drying by removing buds and colas as best suits your individual situation.

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Drying 

Marijuana flowers should dry slowly over the course of 4 to 10 days.  Leaving the buds attached to the stems will cause the buds to dry more slowly because stems contain high levels of water. Conversely separating the flowers on smaller branches will create an environment that will allow for faster drying, and removing the buds completely from the stems will dry the flowers the most quickly.

The main concerns when drying your buds are temperature and humidity,  In humid  climates you want to dry your flowers as slowly as possible without developing mold. Often in extremely humid conditions, gardeners will dry their flowers on trays with all the stems removed so that they achieve desired outcome before mold can grow.  In dry arid climates, gardeners will often trim the buds while leaving all of the flowers attached to the main plant.  Drying your buds in this manner retains moisture and prevents your flowers from becoming too dry and brittle.

The standard way in which marijuana flowers are dried is by separating the plants by individual branches and hanging the branches upside down in a cool dry area reserved for this purpose. The drying area should be readily accessible as you will need to be checking on your buds at least once a day. 

Ideally marijuana flowers should be dried in an environment that is dim,  70 degrees fahrenheit with 50% relative humidity.

No matter how anxious you might be to sample your buds, never dry your flowers in a food dehydrator, microwave, or other quick drying apparatus.  The taste, fragrance, potency, and smoothness will all be negatively affected and in my opinion completely ruined.

In the event you need to adjust your environment the following tools can be used:

A fan placed in your drying area pointed away from the buds will not affect temperature but will decrease humidity

Air conditioner – decrease temperature, decrease humidity

Swamp cooler – decrease temperature, increase humidity

Humidifier – increase temperature, increase humidity

Heater – increase temperature, decrease humidity

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Curing

After checking your buds on the daily to determine their drying progress, you want to begin the curing process when the buds are dry to the touch.  Additionally you want to be able to break a thin stem when applying pressure.   The break should be clean and not leave strings of stems  attached.

Depending on how well you trimmed your buds while wet will determine if additional trimming for final preparation is required.  The buds should be full without any leaves protruding from colas or from the base of the flowers.  Additionally all exposed stems should be removed. Large colas will obviously require keeping the stems attached underneath the flowers.  

Once manicured to perfection, the buds should be then stored in glass mason jars.  32 ounce jars are the standard size and work well for curing the flowers.  Fill each jar to 75% capacity and seal. Store the jars in a cool dry place.  The gardener should check the buds after a few hours from putting them in the jars to make sure the buds are still dry to the touch.

When bud is placed in the jars sometimes it is still too wet as the bud stores water deep in its core.  If still too wet the buds will become moist to the touch after a couple of hours due to the inner moisture wicking outward into the dry exteriors.  If this situation occurs simply remove the lids and allow the bud to air dry in the jars for another day or two.

For two to four weeks the gardener should check his bud everyday and should open each jar every day to allow for fresh air to enter the curing environment.  By storing your bud in glass jars and allowing fresh air into the jars everyday for at least two weeks, the potency, flavor, and fragrance of the flowers achieve their maximum potential, providing a final product that is truly top notch.

The major factor involved in a successful curing is being able to maintain consistent  60% to 65% humidity inside the mason jars.  In most climates the bud stored in the sealed jars produces an acceptable level of humidity naturally.  However, in very dry climates, the humidity can become too low and affect the final outcome of your buds. 

Fortunately, there is an easy fix for this issue. A company named Boveda makes humidity pouches called Boveda 62% Humidipaks, The pouches are inexpensive.  Simply throw one pouch inside the mason jar being used to cure the buds and problem solved.

For gardeners who need accurate measurements and precise data, hygrometers are available that fit inside the sealed mason jar alongside your bud and provide both the temperature and relative humidity of your curing environment.

A final note:  having extensive experience in the marijuana industry i don’t often have a new insight that totally blows my mind.  A few days ago a trusted friend and marijuana expert told me to think of buds as flowers and not fruits & vegetables.  In the past working at a grow-store we likened the buds to tomatoes and spoke in code to our clients.  And at harvest time it’s not about picking the buds at their ripest, rather it’s understanding the buds as flowers, like daffodils or tulips.  Flowers don’t reach an optimum ripeness rather live a consistent but time specific life, after budding and before withering.

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