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Harvest, Trim, And Cure 101

The basics on how to properly prep your buds for consumption

Harvest time: should be the most rewarding part of your grow and is relatively easy. Knowing when to harvest is a crucial part in the process of producing excellent ganja. All strains of marijuana have specifically timed flowering cycles. Indicas seem to have shorter flower cycles and range anywhere from 7-9 weeks while sativas can go from 9-12 weeks. But when you are unsure of the appropriate time your plant needs to spend in flowering just check for a couple of key factors. Your buds and resin glands should be swollen and the majority of those white pistils (hairs) should have turned a dark orangeish color.  Do not wait for every last hair to turn before you harvest. You can generally tell if it's ready when roughly 75% of the hairs are no longer white.

When you chop down the plant I find it's best to work from the bottom up. Every marijuana plant and strain is different so it's hard to tell you exactly how to start chopping but I can explain what you should be looking for to help you trim and cure your bud in the simplest manner while keeping the integrity and quality of the bud intact. When you chop you want to leave sections of the branch intact for ease of handling and trimming. Branches that are easiest to trim should be roughly 10 inches long and definitely not too much longer than 12-14 inches. Using wire clothes hangers seems to be the most practical way to let your buds air dry. You'll want to leave your buds on the branch while you trim them and while they dry so you can use as little space as possible for drying.

I find that it is best to 'wet trim' your buds. Some people like to leave some leaves on the bud but if you're trying to make your bud as pretty as possible then wet trimming will be the way to go. When the bud is fresh off the stalk it's a lot more resistant to handling. Take this opportunity to take out your shears and get rid of all of those leaves but be careful to not over handle the bud and always handle it by the stem whenever possible.  The more buds that you split apart while they are fresh the smaller the nuggets will be after it has dried. So keep that in mind and treat your bud with the same respect you treated it with while it was alive.  The manner in which I trim my bud leaves you with the fewest amount of stems and leaves as possible. If you are doing large quantities and do not have extra help for harvest this might not be the method for you but regardless of who might get ahold of your finished product they will always appreciate a tightly trimmed bud. Trimmed wet weed can essentially be done in a two-step process.
Power Trimming
: Power trimming is the first step in this process. Power trimming should be a quick and breezy process and the idea of the power trim is to prep the bud for your scissors so you have more consistency in your trim. Power trimming is done with your hands and fingers and not so much your scissors so set them down for now but keep them close by. When power trimming you're looking for 3 different types of leaves on the branch to eliminate. These three leaves are designated by their size and position on the bud itself and consist of 'fan leaves', 'bottom-two' leaves and 'thirds'. Keep in mind that when you remove larger leaves without much resin you should keep them in a 'big-leaf' pile. Anything else that might be covered in those beautiful trichomes and don't have an excessive amount of stem should be left in a separate pile. This pile will be used to trim all of your smaller sugar-coated leaves into. The big leaf can be dried and stored but it's not as useful as your sugar-leaf and trim pile. Fan leaves are pretty self-explanatory. Before you start be aware that any leaves removed by your fingers should be pulled directly downward from the stalk that they are growing out of. If you pinch the leaves with your fingers and pull straight down it should strip the stem in its entirety from the stalk without leaving any stubble. Fan leaves are never attached to bud and are usually out and away so removing these should be quick.  Work your way from the bottom to the top and remember to pull directly downward. If your fan leaf is successfully removed but it starts to tear down the stalk like a 'string cheese' effect be sure to stop and pull out your scissors and cut it from the stalk as this could be detrimental to buds that might be below any leaf you are removing. There shouldn't be many fan leaves per branch and once you've removed the 5 or 6 that are on there then you'll be ready to move on to the bottom-twos. The bottom-twos are the leaves that are underneath every single bud on the branch. Usually on the lower end of the branch your buds will be separated more and be more distinguishable from the other buds on the branch. When you get to the upper half of your branch they are usually stacked on top of each other. When the bottom-twos are no longer visible in the stacked buds at the top of the branch then it's an okay stopping point. Once again use the same tactic for removal of the bottom-twos as you do for the fans leaves. I find that it's easier to pinch as many of the leaves as you can with your thumb and middle finger and use you index to to slightly brace the bud so you do not yank down on any buds. This is to keep you from separating any buds from each other to preserve their size. The last step in power trimming is to remove the 'thirds'. Thirds are a little more tricky to identify to the untrained eye as they are randomly place through out the middle of the buds. Thirds do not need to be cleared out as much as the fans or bottom-two. When looking for your thirds just look for any more sizable leaves that might be sticking out of your bud. You can usually recognize the need to remove these because they will have a little extra stem sticking out of the bud similar to the fan leaves. In order to remove these properly you need to be diligent and careful. Sometimes you can remove thirds with your fingers and as you become more accustomed to the process this will be true but for now it's best to attack thirds with our scissors. The idea is to cut the third's stem as close to the actual branch as possible. This way there is very little amount of stem left poking out of your buds which can be an eye-sore. There should only be just a few thirds per branch that are worth getting in this process. Do not forget that this process mainly serves to remove the majority of stem-leaves from the bud itself so when you take your scissors to the bud there aren't any of these pesky stems left on the bottoms of the buds or sticking out of the middle of a bud. Once you have power trimmed your bud you are ready for the trim. Note: If you prefer to dry trim your buds this is still a very essential process and this would be your stopping point as the only leaves that are left on your bud should be relatively small and will flake off with ease after it is dried.  Those of you who want a dry trim can skip down over the next paragraph and go straight to drying your buds.

: Now that you have removed all of those fan leaves and other stem-leaves on your branch you're ready to glide over and around your bud with your shears. This next step should be self-explanatory but I will give you some tips for those of you who want to clean up your bud in the most presentable fashion. Start from the bottom and work your way to the top. I like to leave little to no leaves left on the bud. Some people prefer to leave smaller sugar-coated leaves and that is okay but a leaf is still a leaf and not bud. It might look okay on the nugget itself but should not be desired by a weed connoisseur. Don't worry if you feel like you are chopping seemingly good product off the bud you can save your trim and use it to make different types of hash. When we trim with our shears we like to give the bud an overall nice, well-rounded shape. Be sure to be careful and not cut into any part of the bud. Remember that we are just aiming for leaves here. Make sure you start with the bottom of the bud that you are working on and clean it up nice and tight all the way to the tip of the bud. If the bud you are trimming is hugging the branch don't be afraid to gently push it aside so you can get any leaves that might be folded up on the inside of the bud closest to the stem. When you go to remove the bud from the branch after it's dried this will save you time and hassle. After you work your way through the more distinguished buds on the lower end of the branch and you get to the top colas you'll notice that these buds are stacked on top of one another. This is where you probably don't want to move buds around or split them apart. While the bud is fresh and wet splitting them just even a tiny bit may not seem like a lot but by the time it's dried they will be very distinct and you will be able to tell exactly where you over-handled the bud and will result in smaller nuggets. Now this isn't necessarily a bad thing as it is good to have as little stem as possible in your final product but who doesn't like a big behemoth of a bud every now and then? But when you are on the colas you'll just want to make sure you get all of the cracks where the buds are touching each other and still give the buds their own definition even though they may seem to be connected. Once you have given your buds a nice silhouette and don't have any pesky stems sticking out or on the bottoms of any of the buds you're ready for the drying process.

Drying: your buds will call for wire-metal hangers. Use the lower bud attached to the branch to clip on to the main part of the hanger and hang the branch upside down. You don't want to over crowd your hangers with branches as this could result in uneven drying and if you get too many buds stacked on top of each other you could end up with some bud-rot on the inside of your buds. Once you have loaded your hangers, which can usually fit roughly 10-15 branches on without overlapping, you'll want to hang your hangers in an open, well ventilated area. It doesn't hurt to have some good air flow like maybe a fan or two circulating in the room but just be sure not to have anything pointed directly on the buds. Temperature should not be above 85 degrees F. Anything from 70-80 degrees F is ideal. The overall humidity level should be anywhere from 25%-35%. You definitely do not want anything under 15% or over 40%. Buy a dehumidifier if you need to and place it in the room that your buds are hanging in. Be sure not to over do it with the dehumidifier and remember that drier is not always better. If you stick your dehumidifier too close to your buds or leave it on continuously without monitoring  your humidity levels your buds will dry out on the outside and the inside will stay damp. This will create a hard shell that locks in moisture in the inside of your buds instead of allowing it to escape. If done improperly you run the risk of encouraging mold or 'bud-rot' to form on the inside of your buds. After about 6-8 days in this environment your buds should be ready to be 'shucked' off the branch they've been residing on through out this ordeal. If you did it right about one week is optimal for your weed to go into a jar for curing but if you are unsure you can test your bud to make sure.  Test it by snapping the main parts of the stem in a few different places. You'll want to make sure that they just barely give off a snap and do not bend or just fold. You can also test it by squeezing one of the bigger buds on the top part of the branch. What you are looking for is the bud to be somewhat soft still. It will give way to the pressure you apply without crumbling and falling apart. After firmly squeezing for 2 seconds you should hear the very inside stem snap. Try it out on a few different branches and make sure you go for the bigger buds to test. If the bud is soft and spongy but does not ever produce one distinct snapping sound from the middle of the bud where the main stem is then it isn't quite ready and you should wait another day or two and repeat this process again. Once you hear the stem snap and it seems pretty consistent throughout your buds then you're ready to shuck the buds off the stem.

Shucking: your buds is the easiest part. Using two of those black plastic trays makes this process easier for clean-up. Use one solid tray and crated tray inside of that one. This is will keep your good buds on top and let any shake or trim or tiny buds fall through. This 'duff', as we call it, that collects at the bottom is great for rolling joints or using to blast some hash. This part is very open to interpretation and not everyone will want to break down buds as much but I personally like to reduce the amount of stem in the nuggets so breaking them down thoroughly is important to me. When you remove one bud off the stem you'll want to hold up the bud in the air and make sure there is no light shining through the bud and make sure you can't see much stem. If you can see through the bud chop off the bottom two buds where the holes are and repeat the process. I usually do this all the way to the top and rarely leave any cola larger than 2-3 inches. To me there is always just too much stem that is exposed but I know all you pot heads love your monster colas so feel free to keep your presentation buds intact. When you shuck it's important to clean up the bottoms of any buds that might have any leaves or 'crows feet' which is a stem-leaf that was trimmed but some of the leaf is still there along with the stem. It obviously gets its name from the way it looks which is a lot like a little birdie foot.  Also don't forget that when you remove the bud from the stem to check the back side of the bud for any leaves that might not have been accessible while it was fresh on the branch and folded up by the stalk.  If you have followed my steps and examples this far you should be left with what appears to be absolutely nothing but buds and hardly any stems or leaves. You're ready to start loading your buds up into jars.

Curing: After all the hard work is done comes the final step in harvesting. Your bud is ready to be loaded into jars. I find that mason jars work best. You'll want something that is air-tight and the wide-mouth makes the bud more accessible. Do what you can to NOT use bags for this process as they are not airtight and will dry out your buds excessively without giving them a proper cure. Load your bud up in the jar. You can fill it up as much as you like. When trying to pack as much as you can just be sure to leave about 1 inch of space in between the top of your buds and the jar lid. NEVER forcefully pack your buds into the jar. Let them fall in their proper place and let gravity do the work for you. Shaking your jar around a bit to make room doesn't hurt but you do not want to squeeze your bud in there by hand or tool. Now you can let your bud cure as long as you like. Let it sit in the jars in a dark, cool spot and only take it out once every 1-2 days to gently shake the jar around to break the buds apart from each other. Also this is the time to open the jar for a few seconds. Take a whiff of it and make sure nothing smells too musty or funky. This is called 'burping' and will help remove the slight excess of moisture. 2 weeks is usually a proper curing time but if done correctly and not over handled or burped it can be cured for a longer amount of time. You'll notice that after about a week of sitting in these jars your bud will start to emit that same smell that it did when it was fresh off the plant. This should also help with the taste of the bud and help get it to the perfect moisture content so it should smoke smoothly.

Remember through-out your whole process to keep an eye out for anything out of the ordinary.  Bud rot can happen at all stages and this means even while it is drying or curing. If you find anything that is grey or fuzzy do what you can to cut it out of your buds. You might have to actually cut into the bud itself to remove it all. But you'll never want to leave any of this in your final product and if you've kept your humidity levels proper this shouldn't be a issue.

I am in charge of the over sight of harvesting, curing and packaging of well of 100 pounds of medical marijuana every month for a particular company and it is prime bud as well. This is pretty much how I explain to all my trimmers how to handle and trim the bud although it is much easier to be able to show in person. I realize that this is also a pretty long and detailed article but this forum's harvest and cure page is pretty empty so I thought I'd leave nothing out.

I hope this helps anyone who is in doubt or who is new to this. I have a feeling as America starts legalizing pot more and more people will turn to this industry for jobs and there isn't anything that I can't stand more than to see buds that have been handled, trimmed, and cured improperly. Even if the bud itself is not the dankest it helps ten fold by the way you clean it up and present it. Nobody wants to pay for a bag that's 10%-25% stem and leaves. This is a beautiful plant and serves many recreational and medicinal purposes so let's treat it with respect. Thanks for reading and good luck on your harvest!
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