Right after plants, branches, or buds have been harvested, the first thing to do is cut off large leaves and manicure the buds. This is done to separate the more potent buds from the less potent leaf material and stems.
The larger leaves, called fan or sun leaves, produce very little THC. Manicuring is simply cutting off the smaller leaves and their stems, that were growing from the buds.
Small leaves growing from the buds usually have a fairly large concentration of THC, often displayed in a glossy or frosted appearance, when compared with fan leaves.
When manicuring marijuana, it is best to do so in a way that allows you to easily gather what has been manicured for further processing.
Material collected from manicuring is often called trim or bud trim. Trim is not good smoke, in comparison with buds from the same plant, but it is not garbage.
Harvesting, Cutting Leaves, Manicuring
Setting up work areas and having a routine to follow is an important part of preparation. You will need space to put material after it has been cut off plants.
In addition you will need space to cut off large leaves and manicure. Finally you will need space to dry the buds and trim.
Have the spaces you select to work in, the tools and accessories you need, and a routine to follow ready before you start working.
For this harvest all the branches were cut off the stalk of the plant, also called stem or main stem, with pruning shears.
You might find that removing buds one at a time or cutting down the entire plant, just above where the stalk meets the hydroponic media or soil, is better suited to your circumstances.
After being cut off, the branches were placed in a container. When a container was filled it was transported to the storage area.
When all plants were harvested, the containers with the harvested marijuana were brought to the cutting area, one at a time. Each container was processed until empty before another container was brought in to work on.
Branches were held upside-down while being worked on, that's why some of the pictures on this page are upside-down from your perspective.
After all the large leaves were cut off, the buds were cut away from the branches they grew on. The buds were then put in a cardboard box to hold them.
This was continued until all the buds were removed from the branches they grew on. Then the buds were manicured, making sure to remove as much of the remaining leaf and stem as possible.
And finally when all the buds had been manicured, the buds and bud trim were brought to the drying room and set up to dry.
The same buds could have been manicured while still on the branch, then allowed to dry while hung from the branch. The buds would be cut from branches after drying.
You will have to decide on the order you want to do things in, and an overall method that helps you to get things done efficiently.
Cutting off the leaves and manicuring are probably the hardest parts of growing marijuana, and the effort you put in will show in the final product.
Be sure to save the bud trim after manicuring. It can be made into hash oil or some other form of cannabis. It can also be made into marijuana butter.
Allocate enough time, even a small indoor or outdoor garden with a couple of plants will take the better part of a work-day to harvest, cut off large leaves, manicure, and set up the buds for drying.
You can judge the time it will take to harvest an entire crop by the time it takes to process a single plant, and multiplying that by the number of plants you have.
The curing or drying marijuana must have some air blowing over it at all times. A gentle breeze that circulates over all the plants is necessary.
Prior to drying the marijuana you can cure it first. Curing is not essential but it will help make sure the taste of the herb is as good as it can be.
For 3-5 days after harvest when you set up the herb to dry, keep the temperature between 55-70°F/13-21°C and the relative humidity between 45%-55%.
Light reaching the plants at this time should be minimal to nill. That's it, after 3-5 days cut off all light and dry under the same conditions, or to speed the drying process you can raise the temperature to 65-75°F/18-24°C.
The area where the drying is done should be dark. Light will cause some cannabinoids to break down into less desirable chemicals. This can alter the medicinal properties and lower the potency of the finished product.
An herb drying rack is a very good way to dry a small crop. For larger amounts, buds or branches can be hung upside-down by the stem, from string, wire, steel drying racks, or something else that will do a similar job.
A fan or two will aid in drying the plants evenly, and reducing the chances of mold. If mold starts and is allowed to grow, it might ruin all of your crop. Mold looks like white fuzz and has an odor that is unpleasant.
For optimal results, you will have to keep the temperature and humidity constantly somewhere within the following ranges, temperature should be between 55-70°F/13-21°C, relative humidity should be between 45%-55%.
Most growers aim for drying temperatures between 65-75°F/18-24°C. At temperatures between 55-70°F/13-21°C, drying time will be lengthened, but the taste will improve.
At temperatures higher than 70°F/21°C, the heat will cause terpenes to evaporate and the outer portion of the bud will dry quicker than the inner part, the taste will suffer.
At humidity levels lower than 45%, the marijuana will dry too fast and the taste will suffer. At humidity levels higher than 55%, the marijuana will take a long time to dry, and it will be prone to mold.
Keep a hygrometer to measure the relative humidity and a thermometer to measure temperature, in the drying area close to the plants. Some hygrometers have built in thermometers, so you can measure the temperature and humidity together.
The curing and drying process will take 2-4 weeks to complete. You will know when the marijuana is dry if the stems snap or break, rather than fold when they are bent.
The aim of what you are doing is slowly and evenly dry the herb, so that it won't rot and mold will not grow when the buds are stored long term, it tastes as good as possible, the smoke is smooth.
When a marijuana plant is harvested, most of the THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the primary active cannabinoid in marijuana) is in its acidic form. This is called THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid). THCA is not psychoactive to humans.
The time it takes to dry marijuana will convert some of the non-psychoactive acidic compounds into psychoactive THC, and ensure stronger potency of the marijuana you have grown.
The marijuana can be consumed after drying, but storing it for at least 6 months will convert more of the THCA into THC. This will result in a more potent product.
In addition, storing the dry marijuana for at least 6 months will improve the taste. Store in airtight containers, in a dark area at cool temperatures (like in a fridge).
Following these directions, most people will find the resulting product has reached a point of maximum potency and best taste from about 6 until about 24 months after it has been dried.
Depending on the time of year and your location, a heater or an air conditioner may be necessary to adjust the temperature.
To control humidity, a dehumidifier can lower humidity levels and a humidifier can raise humidity levels. There are warm mist humidifiers and cool mist humidifiers.
After curing/drying the marijuana for 2-4 weeks it will be ready to consume or be stored. For short term storage, most people store marijuana in some form of plastic, but glass and wood containers do a good job.
If the marijuana is to be stored for more than a month or two, something that provides an air seal like plastic, metal, or glass is recommended.
For long term storage you can use a vacuum sealer, designed for storing food, to seal the marijuana in an airtight environment.
After drying, if stored in a dark area that is below 50°F/10°C, the marijuana in vacuum sealed plastic will retain most of the medical properties, potency, and taste for up to 2 years, or slightly longer.
A refrigerator is a good place to store marijuana, unless strong food odors that will be absorbed by the marijuana are present. Fridges are in the right temperature range but they tend to be humid, unless you can control the humidity.
If stored in an area of high humidity for months or years, even vacuum sealed marijuana can eventually become as humid as the surrounding air.
This will necessitate drying it again before smoking. But unless mold develops, humidity itself will not degrade the THC and other cannabinoids, or terpenes.
To store marijuana for long periods of time, dry herb can be stored in a frost-free freezer, but some of the trichomes on the outer part of the buds may be damaged when frozen.
Light will degrade some cannabinoids, so dark containers can be used for storage. If you place the marijuana in a see through container, it will have to be covered or placed in a dark area that is not exposed to light or high temperatures.
Make sure to properly dry your marijuana prior to storage, if you grow your own or if the stuff you have is very moist.
Remember that to preserve the medical properties, potency, taste of marijuana, keep any exposure to air (oxygen) and light at a minimum, while storing at temperatures under 50°F/10°C.
Always be gentle with buds. Trichomes are fairly fragile to begin with, they get more brittle with age, and as they and the buds dry. If treated roughly they can easily snap off and be lost forever.
List Of Materials
optional latex gloves
optional vacuum sealer
optional humidifier or dehumidifier
*** fans: A fan or two will aid in drying the plants evenly, and reducing the chances of mold. If mold starts and is allowed to grow, it might ruin all of your crop. Mold looks like white fuzz and has an odor that is unpleasant.
*** lighting: You will need an overhead light and one or two smaller portable lights to illuminate the plant when making cuts. It is all to easy to get lost in the shadows. Small moveable lights will help you make accurate cuts, especially when manicuring.
*** drying rack: An herb drying rack is a very good way to dry a small crop. A model with similar dimensions to this one will hold an amount of buds that will equal roughly 1 pound, when they dry. The dimensions are 66 inches/168 cm tall with 8 shelves. Each shelf is 24 inches/61 cm in diameter.
For larger amounts, buds or branches can be hung upside-down by the stem, from string, wire, steel drying racks, or something else that will do a similar job.
*** hygrometer: A hygrometer is an instrument that measures the relative humidity, in the area it is located. Some hygrometers have built in thermometers, so you can measure the temperature and humidity together.
*** cutting tools: To cut the main stem and large branches, some kind of a tool like pruning shears might be needed. Grown indoors, most marijuana plants will have a main stem that is at least 1/2 to 3/4 inches (1-2 cm) thick, outdoors it will probably be larger.
For removing large leaves, your hands, a pair of scissors, snips, or another similar cutting tool will work. For manicuring, micro snips, a bonsai pruner, or a cutting tool with small sharp blades is essential.
The blades have to be small in order to be able to fit into tight areas to cut away leaf and stem in hard to access places. You will be manicuring for a while, be sure to get something that is comfortable on your hands.
*** optional latex gloves: You can wear a powder free latex glove on the hand that comes into contact with the plants when manicuring. The hand that holds the cutting tool does not have to be gloved. As you handle the plants with the gloved hand, trichome resin will stick to it.
When you are done, you will be able to collect resin from the glove and smoke it. The resulting collection of resin, called finger hash, is similar to the hashish produced by rubbing live marijuana plants. The latex gloves have to be powder free or the powder will get mixed into the resin.
The hand that is holding plants while you are cutting away leaf and stem from the buds will get sticky in a short amount of time, so a latex glove will keep your hand clean.
With one or two plants, the accumulation of hashish on the gloves can be small, but with larger crops it is well worth collecting. Resin will also accumulate on the cutting tool when manicuring.
*** optional vacuum sealer: If the marijuana is to be stored long term, you can use a vacuum sealer, designed for storing food, to seal the marijuana in an airtight environment.
*** optional humidifier or dehumidifier: Depending on the time of year and your location, a heater or an air conditioner may be necessary to adjust the temperature. To control humidity, a dehumidifier can lower humidity and a humidifier can raise humidity. There are warm mist humidifiers and cool mist humidifiers.
A warm mist humidifier will raise the temperature while a cool mist humidifier will not affect the temperature. There are also humidifiers that allow you to switch between warm or cool mist. If you are going to purchase a humidifier for this purpose, take your climate into consideration and buy an appropriate humidifier.
Warm mist models will actually heat the water and release warm humidity. Cool mist water isn't cooled, it just means that water is not heated. In most cases a cool mist will work best. To be safe you can get a humidifier that lets you switch between warm and cool mist.
1 --- If absolutely necessary, you can wait to cut off the leaves and manicure the buds. However, the job is harder and will take even more time if you wait. Manicuring right after the plants are harvested will also speed the drying process.
Just after harvest the buds are still wet. As they dry out, the trichomes get more brittle and they can easily snap off and be wasted if you are forced to manicure or handle them days after harvest. Always be gentle with buds, dry buds especially,
Marijuana grown for personal purposes can be finish manicured just prior to use. Instead of completely manicuring you can cushion the bud by letting a bit of leaf remain to surround it. It might look like you're too lazy, or don't know how, to manicure if you try to give the weed to anyone else though.
2 --- Instead of smoking marijuana directly after it is harvested and manicured, it is best to cure and dry it. Some new growers might be in such a rush to try the marijuana that they don't want to dry the crop.
If you are tempted to put buds in a microwave oven, or try another method of quick drying them out because you have nothing else to smoke, or you want to try the harvest out, do so with smaller buds and dry the larger premium ones.
Optional Slow Drying
After curing/drying the marijuana for 2-4 weeks you can slow dry. It is optional and not necessary, but if it will be stored for over a year before being consumed, this will help preserve a nice taste.
You will need one or more containers made out of glass or plastic. Some people say plastic can impart a taste to the marijuana.
Personally, plastic containers that some types of roll your own tobacco are sold in, have no negative effect on the taste.
Containers that have a rubber seal work best, but any type of container with a tight fitting lid will do. One quart canning jars do a very good job. They have a rubber seal and hold about 1 ounce of marijuana per one quart jar.
When slow drying large quantities in excess of a few ounces, large plastic storage boxes are recommended. They are not air tight, but will do the job when smaller air tight containers are not practical.
Gently place your marijuana in the containers, cut buds to size if the are too big to fit in the container, and put the top on. Store the containers in a dark area where the temperature is between 50-70°F/10-21°C and the humidity is between 40%-60%.
You will have to open the containers for a few minutes to replenish the air by fanning with your hand, book, or something similar. Do this preferably 1-2 times daily, at regular 12-24 hour intervals.
You can also re-arrange the buds by giving them a quarter-turn once a day. This will ensure that different parts of the buds are exposed to the air in the container. Keep up this routine for 7-14 days.
You can store the marijuana in the containers they were slow dried in, without having to keep opening them to release moisture.
Opening and fanning the containers once a month seems to improve the mellowness and taste of the smoke, if the mj is going to be stored for periods longer than a few months.
Marijuana Grower's Handbook
Very good book by Ed Rosenthal that encompasses indoor and outdoor marijuana cultivation with soil and hydroponics. A reference manual with over 500 pages and color images throughout.
Marijuana Grower's Handbook
The Cannabis Encyclopedia
Easy to read with comprehensive focus on growing and consuming for medical and recreational purposes. This will be of interest to growers, patients, caregivers, consumers, or anyone interested in consuming, growing, or producing cannabis products.
Over 2,000 color images on 596 pages. Loaded with recent information covering all aspects of marijuana. The grow section explains hydroponics and soil growing, growing indoors, outdoors, and in greenhouses.
The Cannabis Encyclopedia