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  GROW GUIDE: HARVESTING AND DRYING
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How Long to Harvest
Most commercial cannabis strains take between 8 and 12 weeks of a flowering light cycle to finish flowering properly. Some are a week or two quicker while some take longer, mainly Sativa strains can take up to 16 weeks to finish. Plants will continue living well after they have reached their correct harvest time but their potency may begin to drop if you wait too long. Getting your harvest time just right will help you produce stronger, tastier buds.

Brown stigmas and clear mushroom shape THC glands are good signs a plant is ready to harvestFlowering Times
Flowering times given by seed companies refer to the time taken to flower when grown from seed. Cuttings can take a week or so longer to finish flowering, so can plants that are bent or trained during growth. You should also remember that unless you are using clones even plants of the same strain may finish at slightly different times.

Watch for Bud Rot
During the last week or two of flowering you should stop feeding your plants and give them just pH balanced water instead. This helps to 'flush' the plant of nutrients to improve flavour and burning. Once you start to 'flush' you should be extra vigilant for bud rot. This is grey mould that can turn plants to useless sludge very, very quickly. It usually starts inside the biggest buds where there is less air circulation. Removing any dead or dying material from the plant helps prevent bud rot so does decreasing humidity and increasing ventilation. There are also safe anti fungal sprays available from growshops that help. If you do find grey mould trim off that part of the plant well above and below the effected area and remove it from the growroom.

Checking for Ripeness
A good sign of ripeness is the colour of the stigmas. These usually white hairs stick out all over the buds. As each flower ripens the stigmas shrivel and turn brown. When 80% of the plants stigmas are brown it is about ready to crop. You can also use a strong magnifier to look at the THC glands growing on the buds. As they mature they elongate into crystal clear mushroom like growths. When they have past peak ripeness they turn milky white and then gradually brown and "loose their heads" as they deteriorate. Be patient though, a lot of cannabis varieties produce the bulk of their buds in their last few weeks of growth. When you think your buds look done wait another week to be sure you are not missing out on a growth spurt at the end of flowering. Stigma Ripeness

Timing the Harvest
The timing of a harvest indoors is not as crucial as the timing of a harvest outdoors. Indoor plants do not have nature attacking them with wind, rain, mist and killer frosts. An extra week or two indoors will not noticeable effect potency. Outdoors things are different. Unless you have forced your plants to flower early the weather usually starts to deteriorate just when you don`t want it to. You really need to keep an eye on the weather forecasts and harvest or protect outdoor plants if frosts or really bad weather are due.

Trimming Plants
It can take around an hour to trim what will end up as an ounce (28g) of dried cannabis. To avoid getting sore hands get yourself a comfy pair of large handled sharp pointed scissors. Remove all the large fan leaves and trim smaller leaves close to the buds. It helps to hold what you are trimming upside-down so the leaves hang down. You can cut off individual branches or buds and trim them, or do the whole plant as one. Cannabis is easier to trim when it`s freshly cut and its leaves are rigid with water so try not to cut down more than you can trim in a few hours. If you have no choice you can put the plants or branches in vases or buckets of water until you are ready for them.

Branches hung out to dryDrying the Harvest
To be sure your cannabis reaches its full potential you should make sure that you dry it properly. Chemical changes occur during drying that will increase the active ingredients and improve flavour and smell. Bad drying however will decrease the active ingredients and leave you with nasty tasting buds.

Drying Environment
Ideally the drying area should be around room temperature (low 70`s F) and in darkness. About 75% - 85% of the weight of fresh cut cannabis is water so ventilation and air circulation are also important to avoid any problems with mould.

Drying Methods
There are many ways to dry your cannabis. Some growers trim off individual buds or branches and dry them on horizontal screens or mesh. Others just use boxes lined with newspaper. One of the simplest methods is to hang trimmed plants in the air from a string or even a clothes horse. This allows air circulation and keeps the buds from touching anything. Whatever you do remember sticky THC laden glands are easily dislodged so avoid unnecessary contact with your buds while they are drying. Don`t be afraid to open up the buds to check for rot however.

Drying Times
The first 3 or 4 days are the most crucial. Cannabis dried any quicker than this will often be harsh, brittle and of inferior quality to the same bud dried a bit more slowly. After 3 or 4 days you can speed up the drying if you really need to but waiting a least a week or two will give you a smoother taste. Drying Times at Room Temperature Graph

Even Drying
Sometimes large colas are still damp in the middle whilst brittle dry on the outside. Placing these buds in plastic bags over night will help even out the moisture content. Dried cannabis should be firm, springy and should not crumble to dust when handled.

Storing the Harvest
When your cannabis has dried to an acceptable level it can be stored in dark air tight containers. Many people freeze their cannabis or keep it in the refrigerator, this helps prolong the freshness the same way it does with other herbs.

Curing
Curing is a longer more drawn out drying period. The chemical changes that occur during drying are allowed to continue further so that the taste, the 'high' and the appearance of the cannabis is altered even more. Curing can help improve the flavour of 'green' or bad tasting cannabis but will not increase actual potency. It can alter the high as it allows the plants THC to degrade to other active cannabinoids but this can be both a good or a bad thing depending on personal taste.

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