The nights have become cool, and the morning dew is heavy. We have watered, fed, nurtured, and protected the plants as much as we could have, and the diligence continues.
Rain and morning dew is the challenge now. Searching out mold on the swollen, sticky buds needs to addressed daily. Inspect each cola for brown leaves and any fuzzy looking spots that seem slightly abnormal when compared to a known healthy bud site. Cutting these individual buds off the branch as early as possible can save the rest of the cola as mold has not made it to the branch. This can also help with keeping the rest of the plant healthy, by limiting the spread of the mold spores. Be very careful and delicate when removing the moldy buds to reduce the spread to other plants in the area.
Using a 40x jewellers loop, or other magnification, and look at the Trichomes that are on the flower itself to gauge the ripeness of the plant. These tiny little trich’s are our indicators for the effect to be expected after curing, since they will not ripen any further once the branch has been harvested. Clear trichomes are present throughout the flowering phase and should be plentiful as the flowers grow fat. In a fairly short window, these clear trichomes will become milky white, and one may be tempted to chop it down. This is the point where decisions need to be made. You can harvest at this point, with the effects being predominantly psychoactive (heady, head high). Keep watching the trichomes and they will change again, to a warm amber colour. With a 50/50 mix of milky and amber trichomes, the flowers have reached maximum ripeness for psychoactive and physical effect. Personally, this is where I like to harvest sativas and hybrids, while the indicas can stay out until they reach 75% amber. The couchiness of the flower is most prominent at this point, to full 100% amber for maximum physical (body stone/couch-lock) effect. Beyond this, the flowers will quickly start to degrade as the plant’s life is complete and has come to an end, so let’s get harvesting, hanging, and trimming.
The following is how I harvest my plants to get maximum yield, potency, and nug appeal.
Starting with the top largest Colas, the whole branch is removed from the main stalk as close to the stalk as possible. Then remove all the fan leaves outside and closely inspect for hidden mold, and remove it. When satisfied there is no mold present and large fan leaves are off, the cut end of the branch gets a 1/8th inch hole drilled in it and 8-inch steel wire is secured through the hole. Bending the other end of the wire into a hook, allows the branch to be hung from rigging in the ceiling (I used 1×3 strapping with wire fence nails as the hang site, spaced out 8-10-inches for airspace between branches). This procedure is done with every branch, even the small ones.
Due to the sheer volume of branches and limited time before it dries out, wet trimming begins immediately of the best buds, leaving the sugar leaves and any other small fan leaves that cannot be clipped at the base. By the time the last branches get trimmed, they will possibly be ready to go right into the curing jars, so dry trimming these to perfection is ideal. Returning to the first branches harvested, the buds are now dry and the small fan leaf bases are exposed allowing for amazingly close dry trim. The sugar leaves are also dry now and mostly flake off when bent backwards with the scissors.
Testing a bud in the middle of the branch, bend it in the opposite direction it grew, if it snaps, time to jar and cure. If it bends without breaking – still too wet, and try again tomorrow.
The bud stem snapped off the branch, time to break down those branches into jars, containers, buckets, or boxes for curing (pre planning jarring is definitely a good idea).
Start by popping off the decent size nuggets closest to the top colas, then cut the top to the size that looks best. If the bud is drying out too much, leave more of the branch stem attached (or use a thicker branch piece in the jar to introduce controlled moisture). 1L wide mouth mason jars work the best for curing and hold about an ounce.
Curing time! This is where all the hard work pays off, and patience can be hard to control. The jars need to be opened, known as burping, daily for about 10 minutes. Natural chemical processes are taking place at this time, that will enhance the smell, taste and potency of the bud. After 2 weeks of burping the cannabis will have reached the point that the smoke is smoother, the terpenes and cannabinoids have matured into a rich flavour profile, and carries a creamier scent that can be just heavenly.
If you’re looking for a better end product you can continue to burp the jars every few days for another 2 weeks. If your jars are at 60% relative humidity (humidipacks help) then seal the jars tightly and put in a dry dark place where the temperature is 18-21C. Burping once a week for an additional 4 weeks is good way to keep an eye for mold. Now the final product is at its absolute best and should maintain in that state for 2 years… if it lasts that long!
By Dave Markle – Budtender and amateur grower