Harvest time, the most exciting time of the year. For all you lovely activists out there overgrowing the government, thank you! You have worked hard all year to assert your freedoms, and now it is time to reap the rewards. If this is your first time growing, or even if its not, there may be some final touches that you are unsure about. Hopefully we can help to clear up some of the problems and misconceptions.
“Will the rain hurt my plants?”
Yes, almost undoubtedly. Moisture late in the season can lead to mold inside the buds as well as visibly on the stalks or leaves. You never want to smoke moldy bud as it can lead to long-term issues for your lungs. The best thing to do is plant early enough in the spring for the plants to finish before the autumn rains come. On the coasts this can be as early as mid September although the prairies often are dry right up until freeze. If you got your plants in late this year, you can always try protecting them with a temporary greenhouse. You can also attempt to transplant them into a bucket, and bring them under shelter, although this may cause serious shock to your plant.
“Will the frost hurt my plants?”
Cannabis is a very hardy plant, and can withstand near freezing temperatures and perhaps even below. Extreme cold temperatures can cause dramatic colors to appear in your plants, and some people consider this desirable.
“How do I decide when to cut it down?”
This is a matter of preference, and is more an art than a science. My best sources say that you should look at the trichomes (mushroom like crystals that form on the buds) with a magnifying glass or jewelers’ lens to determine the color of the trichomes. Observe the trichomes over a period of several days when you think the plants are reaching harvest. When about half the trichomes have changed from clear to milky to amber colored, the bud is finished. Harvesting a couple of days earlier will produce a slightly more ‘heady’ effect whereas more mature cannabis has an increase in ‘body stone’ effects. Whether you cut the plant and leave the roots in the ground, or pull the whole plant up to dry is a matter of preference.
“How do I dry it?”
Once your plant has been cut, you should allow it to dry for up to several days depending on your climate. The plant should be hung upside down in a dry dark space. Don’t force the plant to dry quickly by placing it in an oven or dehydrator or it can negatively affect the quality of your final product. When the stalks crack when you bend them it is time to start curing.
“When do I trim it?”
You can trim the fan leaves as soon as you take the plant down or even while it is still standing. Some people prefer to leave some of the leaf on to protect the buds in the drying process while others insist on removing them immediately to reduce the potential for mold to develop. Make sure that you save all of that beautiful plant material to utilize in cooking or topical oils.
“What is ‘curing’ and why should I bother?”
Don’t smoke that quite yet. Truly fine cannabis goes through a lengthy curing process before it hits your lips. Anybody can grow pot; it grows like a weed. But the artisanal skill that goes into the perfect cure takes years to perfect. Basically, once the buds are dry enough that the stalks bend and break, but do not snap in half, it is time for the buds to go into glass jars. Leave a fair bit of air space in your jars with your trimmed buds and seal the lid. This ‘sweating’ process is to allow the moisture to be drawn away from the center of the buds and redistributed to the rest of the bud. Place the jars in a dark space and open them daily to allow excess moisture to be released. After a week or two you can begin sampling your flowers. Keep your jars in the dark until you are ready to use your cannabis, continuing to open and check the jars periodically. I found that my favorite was the jar that I forgot at the back of the cupboard for a couple months. When the cure is complete, your flowers should taste and smell incredible, and be super smooth to smoke or vape. The potency seems to increase with proper curing as well.
“What if I can’t smoke all the pot I grew?”
If you are feeling overwhelmed with the abundance of Cannabis in your life after growing all of this beautiful herb, you can always give some away to friends or patients in need. I’m sure they will be delighted.
Until next time, happy gardening.