Harvesting cannabis is one of the most exciting times for growers when you can see the results of your hard work and loving care you’ve given to your plants since they were seedlings. Drying your plants is a critical stage that gets you closer to taste-testing your beautiful buds. Drying and curing does not make your cannabis more potent, but it can preserve terpenes, aromas, and flavors of quality plants when dried properly. Improper drying, however, can ruin a crop entirely.
Post-Harvest Drying Strategies
Growers on any scale, whether growing large crops or home growing for personal medicinal or recreational use, must have a strategy in place for drying post-harvest, even before crops are planted. The space required for drying and curing is usually more than originally expected and depends on the chosen drying method. Growers that “wing-it” post-harvest risk losing crops or experiencing terpene loss from improper drying techniques.
Some things to consider include:
- Never dry your cannabis plants in the same room as growing plants – growing plants and drying plants require very different humidity levels to thrive. Think “low and slow” for drying cannabis flower with low temperatures and patience, both a requirement. Drying cannabis requires low temperatures as terpenes can evaporate at or slightly below room temperature. If you smell pungent flower odors, the buds are losing their terpenes. Growing plants require more humidity and proper lighting to thrive, which is not ideal for drying plants and can actually cause many problems.
- Avoid bright lights in your drying space – you can use a constant dim light but avoid ultraviolet (UV) lights which will degrade terpenes and cannabinoids. Drying buds should be left in low light to total darkness.
- Use an oscillating fan – keep the air flowing with an oscillating fan.
It is important to dry your plants slowly to remove the massive amount of moisture in the buds while preserving the terpenes. This also helps your buds maintain potency and aroma during storage and reduces the risks of mold occurring during storage.
There are several different methods used to dry weed, but some of the most popular include hanging and using drying racks.
Hanging Weed to Dry
Hanging cannabis plants upside down is one of the easiest and most common ways to dry your weed. Big commercial cultivators may hang an entire plant at once, but most often, growers will snip the large cola and hang each big branch individually. The few items you’ll need are:
- A rack or bar to hang your plants from
- String or clothespins
Be sure to trim your plants well before hanging and keep the humidity level less than 30%. You should wear gloves when trimming and handle your colas with care, do not directly touch the buds to avoid damaging terpenes on the buds. Nicely trimmed colas will dry and cure more evenly.
Hang them upside down individually with enough breathing room in between to allow air circulation. Maintain a low humidity level of less than 30%, checking the buds daily. The drying process generally takes about 7 to 12 days but can be longer.
Drying racks are another popular method and can save space if you do not have room to hang a lot of branches. Using drying racks is one of the preferred methods to dry cannabis because it is fairly fast. Simply rest your colas on a drying rack and wait for up to seven days, checking the buds daily. You still want to maintain humidity of less than 30% and give your branches a good trimming. For this method, the only supplies you need are:
- Drying rack
When drying your weed on racks, be sure to flip your branches or buds regularly to be sure they don’t flatten on one side.
In addition to the very few supplies needed to dry your weed, don’t forget an oscillating fan and a dim light no matter which method you go with.
When is My Weed Done Drying?
Gently squeeze a few of the largest colas until you notice the outer buds feel dry and crunchy, but the inside remains pliable. Try to bend the stem on a bud, if it bends, it is still too moist and needs more drying. If the bud stem breaks, it is ready for the next stage of curing. You’ll get familiar with these tried and true methods to check your weed to see if it’s done drying. You can also roll up a thin joint, and if it stays lit without going out in between puffs, it is ready for curing.
Common Mistakes When Drying Weed
Harvest time and drying your plants is a most exciting and rewarding time for growers, but you should know that not waiting long enough is one of the biggest mistakes people make during the drying stage. Not trimming enough cannabis leaves, allowing high humidity levels, and not maintaining proper air circulation are other common mistakes that can be downright fatal. Check your hanging buds daily for signs of a fungi known as botrytis, or a powdery mildew, as this can spread to all your colas and ruin a full crop.
This might be the most exciting time, but your work is not finished quite yet. Practice proper drying and curing techniques to take the quality plant you grew and nurtured from a seedling all the way to a premium, smokable bud.
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