How to harvest, dry and cure indoor cannabis

Knowing when to harvest indoor cannabis is vital. Harvest too early and you may be missing out on some valuable last-minute THC production and yield. Harvest indoor cannabis too late and you may find the effects of the cannabis are a little too ‘heavy’. Knowing how to correctly dry and cure your cannabis will ensure you retain the best taste from the terpenes. With a well timed harvest, dry and cure you will find the quality and satisfaction from your cannabis crop will increase significantly. Read on for more info.

Indoor cannabis crop harvest basics

In an ideal world, before you harvest your cannabis plant you will already have an idea of your own personal preferences. Do you prefer early harvested or late harvested cannabis? Or do you prefer it somewhere in the middle? You also need to make sure you are growing the type of cannabis seeds that will give you the most pleasure. Even if you have been growing a long time, it can still be worth the effort to spend a few moments considering the best cannabis seeds for you.

harvest indoor cannabis based on trichomes (amber, clear, milky)

Early harvested indoor cannabis

Some people prefer the lively energetic buzz that comes from an early harvested crop. You may ask ‘what happens if I harvest indoor cannabis too early?’. The answer is that you may lose out a little in terms of harvest weight and THC/cannabinoid production. But you may prefer the overall effect.

Those that prefer early harvested indoor cannabis may not be too worried that THC levels haven’t yet peaked. The different ratio’s of cannabinoids present in early harvested weed seem to suit some people who are not concerned that they are sacrificing some potential yield by harvesting early. Early harvested cannabis often has white hairs/pistils with clear and colourless trichomes. To the experienced eye, early harvested cannabis simply don’t look quite yet ripe, but for some growers it’s just perfect!

For some people, cannabis that has been harvested a week or so early really is the best for medical use or recreational enjoyment. What’s more, it you prefer early harvested indoor cannabis then the typical indoor cannabis ‘time to harvest’ can be shortened by a week or two. The indoor cannabis harvest is faster, but it should be personal preference which compels the early harvest rather than commercial pressures.

Mid-harvested cannabis

Perhaps the majority of growers harvest indoor cannabis when the trichomes are mostly cloudy. The trichomes may not yet be showing much amber/red colouration and many of the pistils (hairs) will now be red/orange rather than white. At this point THC levels are approaching their peak and so is the overall yield. For many growers, this stage of ripeness is regarded as optimum. The high offers a good balance, not too heavy, not too energetic.

Late harvested cannabis

Some growers very much prefer to leave their cannabis for a longer flowering phase. This means that significant numbers of trichomes have transitioned to a red/amber state. This indicates that the trichomes have done as much cannabinoid/terpene production as they can  and are starting to break down.

The pistils are now amber/red and the buds look fully ripe, or even slightly ‘over ripe’ to the experienced eye. The cannabis leaves may be yellowing and looking well past their best. Yield is as heavy as it can get. At this point the buds tend to give a heavy ‘stony’ feeling, often with strong body effects.  For some medical marijuana cannabis growers, this is perfect.

Related:
What are cannabis trichomes and what does their appearance indicate?

Related:
Understanding and using cannabis leaves

When is indoor cannabis ready to harvest? Knowing your own preferences when it comes to the type of high you want is a key starting point. If you are growing your own cannabis seeds, you should be harvesting cannabis at the ideal time to give you maximum pleasure.

This is one of the great benefits of growing your own cannabis, you decide which genetics you are going to enjoy and when you are going to harvest indoor cannabis, not someone else. You can grow cannabis with anything from 0% THC to 25%+ THC. The average amount of THC in most weed is actually around 15%.

Related:
Whats a high amount of THC for cannabis?

For some people, the stronger the cannabis the better. Other cannabis users can dislike strains which are too powerful, they prefer medium or even low-THC strains, perhaps with some CBD in them.

Kerosene Krash early, normal and late harvest

Typical time to harvest your indoor cannabis crop

Flowering typeAverage harvest timeMin.Max.
Feminised9 weeks7 weeks14 weeks
Autoflower10 weeks10 weeks15 weeks

For photoperiod feminised cannabis seeds, an indoor bloom time of around 9 weeks is about average for a typical hybrid strain. Fast indica strains can be ready to harvest in as little as 7-8 weeks of bloom. Slower sativa strains or Haze strains can take 11-14 weeks in bloom. Assuming a 5 week veg time, and a 9 week bloom time for a ‘typical’ hybrid strain an average length of time between cannabis seed germination and harvest of indoor cannabis is around 14 weeks. Harvest quantities of several hundred grams per plant is possible.

If you are growing autoflowering cannabis seeds the average length of time between germination and harvest of indoor cannabis is around 10-11 weeks. Some heavy yielding autoflower strains such as Auto Ultimate can take 12-15 weeks, but the extra few weeks ensure genuinely huge yields of several hundred grams per plant. Conversely, some autoflower strains such as Auto Blueberry or Auto Blackberry Kush can have an indoor cannabis life time from autoflowering seed to flower/harvest of 9 weeks if you get the fast phenotypes.

If you want a really fast harvest with a quick grow cycle, autoflower seeds are a great choice. The best autoflower seeds can produce some truly exceptional quality cannabis too.

Related:
With over 25% THC is Auto Cinderella Jack the strongest autoflower in the world?

How to tell if your indoor cannabis plant is ready for harvest

How to tell when indoor cannabis is ready to harvest ? Many indoor cannabis growers base their harvest date on a few factors. The recommended bloom time given by the cannabis seed company is a good starting point. Often that is regarded as an earliest harvest time when grown under optimum conditions.

Some people would rather allow an extra week or so, based on their own preference. But individual phenotypes, grow system and grow conditions can all affect the growth rate and the subsequent timing of the harvest. Knowing and understanding the different ways to assess the optimum harvest point depends on a few factors. The following pictures may be helpful.

Related:
Optimising your indoor grow room conditions

Pictures of indoor cannabis plants ready for harvest

Experienced growers decide the precise harvest point for their cannabis plants after inspecting the general appearance, the leaves, trichomes, bud development and pistil (hair) colour. These pictures may be useful reference points when deciding to harvest your own plants. Especially for the less experienced growers, a ‘when to harvest cannabis picture’ can be worth a thousand words!

trichomes ready to harvest cannabis
Four Dutch Passion cannabis trichomes ready for harvest

Tips for harvesting, curing and drying indoor cannabis

There are several steps involved in the harvest, dry and cure of your cannabis plant. Perhaps the first choice is whether you are going to wet-trim or dry-trim your plant. Many growers tend to think that wet-trimming is slightly easier. However, your own personal preference is important. Both wet trimming and dry trimming work fine. It may be worth trying both methods at least once and see which one works best for you.

Wet trimming your cannabis plant.

Hopefully you will have timed the chop date for your cannabis plant to perfection. Some gloves are a good way to stop your hands getting too sticky/smelly. Trimming your plant before it is dry (‘wet trimming’) may seem easier to some growers. The leaves still have enough moisture to retain their shape, pointing out (away) from the buds. This can make it easier to manicure and wet trim the buds.

Trimming Auto Mazar after harvest

When wet-trimming your plant there will be a strong odour produced, especially if there are several people involved in the process with lots of buds. Many people use an air extraction/filtration system in the trimming room to minimise the smell. And, although expensive, professional clippers are a good investment if you have a lot of trimming to do.

The first step is to remove the larger fan leaves by hand and following up with scissors/clippers to gradually remove smaller leaves around the buds. It is a slow process, but many find it very satisfying. The manicured buds can be removed and placed on a drying rack/net for around 7-10 days to dry. Some growers prefer to leave the manicured buds on a branch, and hang that from some cable or coat hangers. The manicured buds are clipped off the branch once dry.

During the time on the drying rack/net, the buds shrink and lose weight as they dry. The precise amount of time taken to dry depends on a few factors, including bud size, ambient temperature and ambient humidity. During the drying stage the buds slowly lose their water. Drying cannabis quickly at high temperatures is regarded as bad practice and removes a lot of your tasty terpenes.

One advantage of wet trimming is that the buds can be removed from the drying rack/net and placed straight in your curing jars. The ‘waste’ leaves and trim are often saved and used for production of hash or cannabis concentrates. Many growers prefer wet trimming, feeling that ‘dry trimming’ shakes off too many dried trichomes – reducing the potency of the buds.

Dry Trimming your cannabis plant

The other option for your cannabis plant harvest is known as dry trimming. Some people prefer this approach. Usually the complete plant is hung upside down, or the largest branches are cut off and hung upside down. Some people remove only the fan leaves, others leave the fan leaves in place. The idea is to allow the remaining plant sugars and juices to flow to the buds.

cannabis bud before and after drying

One advantage of dry trimming is that the entire plant can be removed from the grow room into a separate drying room if available. This could be important e.g. to growers that want to start another crop immediately.

Around 14 days (or so) after hanging the plant upside down it will be dry enough to trim. Some people use ‘trimming trays’ to catch any resin coated sugar leaves or plant material that falls off. This can be used for making hash, cannabis oil or other types of cannabis concentrate.

With dry trimming, many of the leaves may have curled slightly inwards as they dried.  This can make trimming perhaps a little more time consuming/tricky compared to wet trimming, especially for less experienced people. But it does depend on the variety you have harvested.

Foxtailed sativa buds with long thin blooms may be slightly easier to trim wet while their long thin leaves are pointing outwards and are easy to remove. Indica buds may be slightly easier to trim when dry. The small sugar leaves are often completely coated in resin and some growers simply leave them in/on the buds.

Curing buds from your indoor cannabis crop

With the bulk of the moisture removed the dry buds now need to be ‘cured’. Curing is the process of preparing the buds so that they can be preserved for the long term. Foods are often cured by drying, sometimes with the help of preserving additives such as salt. In the case of cannabis we want to preserve the flavour and potency and ensure it won’t become mouldy, but without the addition of any preservatives.

auto blackberry kush curing in a jar after harvest

Many people find a good way to cure cannabis buds is to put the dry, trimmed buds into glass jars for a month or two. During this time the jars should have their lids opened for a few seconds each day to allow any residual moisture to slowly escape. This process, known as ‘burping the jars’ can become less frequent as the curing process progresses.

Many growers will check humidity in their curing jars with a hygrometer, aiming for around 52-62% humidity (around 55% is ideal). Humidity control bags (e.g. Boveda or Integra Boost) are a good addition to your curing jars, they help to stabilise the perfect humidity to cure your buds.

During the curing process the buds may slowly lose some of their bright green colour from harvest as well as the distinctive ‘chlorophyll’ taste which comes from fresh weed. Curing can often accentuate any red or blue hues in the buds, increasing the ‘bag appeal’. The buds reach a state of dryness where they can last for many months, or even years in a cool dry place, without getting mouldy. The cannabis trichomes sparkle and glisten on the cured buds, gently reminding/exciting you at the pleasure they will soon bring.

Related:
How do cannabis trichomes they affect your smoke?

Many connoisseurs feel that the cannabis terpene aroma is significantly enhanced by a good curing process. Two months is considered a good curing time by many serious growers. During curing the jars should be kept away from heat and light.

Storing your cured and dried buds safely

Many growers like to preserve the quality as much as possible by storing their cured buds in a cool place (around 16-20 degrees is great). A basement or cool spot in the house is also ideal to store your cured buds. Some growers store their buds in a freezer, where they will remain potent for many years. The worst place to store your buds is a warm place, such as a hot loft. You will lose your delicious terpenes and see the cannabinoids degrade at an accelerated rate, meaning your buds lose potency and aroma profile quickly.

What happens if you harvest indoor cannabis too early?

An early harvest may be preferred by a minority of growers, but it comes at a cost. Yield and potency both increase as normal harvest date approaches. By harvesting early, you accept that you will miss out on some potential buds/yield. You will also be harvesting before the cannabis trichomes have had chance to maximise their production of THC and other cannabinoids. But that may not matter too much to you if you have a strong personal/medical preference for early harvested indoor cannabis.

Growing cannabis seeds in greenhouses and harvesting early

One common question from greenhouse growers is ‘how many times can you harvest cannabis in a greenhouse?’. If you use autoflower seeds, the average European grower should be able to get 2 successive crops per year. Those with better climates may manage 3 successive crops.

What if you don’t dry the cannabis well enough?

If you put slightly damp cannabis buds in jars you risk mould. Some indoor cannabis growers occasionally ask whether using a preventive fungicide before harvest is a good idea. The answer is that no-one should be spraying chemicals on the crop which people will be smoking/vaping in a few weeks. It’s better to take extra care when drying and curing your buds to prevent mould/mold in the first instance.

How to maximise indoor cannabis harvest yield

The typical harvest size for indoor cannabis is notoriously hard to define. There are many variables which can affect the indoor cannabis grower. Autoflowers may yield around an ‘average’ of 25-40g when grown in smallish 6 litre containers by a less experienced grower. But the same strain could yield several hundred grams in the hands of an experienced pro with a deep water culture hydro system and good nutrient management skills/equipment.

Thats why questions such as ‘what is the average harvest amount for indoor grown cannabis?’ or ‘what are good indoor cannabis harvest/yields?’ are so hard to answer for a cannabis seed company.

Learning more about the cannabis plant and how to optimise growth is a process of continuous improvement. Even expert growers with many decades of experience are still learning. The following tips may help you maximise indoor cannabis harvests.

Banana blaze cannabis plant ready for harvest

Try to become an expert in one grow method

There are numerous ways to grow cannabis. It grows well in soil, coco fibre and soil-free hydroponic systems of various types. Many people start growing in soil or coco fibre and try to become a specialist. In general, a good grower can achieve slightly faster growth in coco fibre than in a heavy soil mix. However, soil growers may argue that they enjoy superior taste/aroma and ‘good enough’ yields.

In recent years soil (and coco) growers have found the use of airpots and porous felt/fibre containers a great assistance to soil growing. Many expert soil growers have found it hard to match their success when experimenting other methods. It’s better to be an expert in one cannabis grow method than to be average in many.

Those that use soil-free hydroponic systems such as deep water culture or nutrient film technique have found that they can grow plants faster than they can in either soil or coco fibre. However, the technical complexity of growing in hydroponics simply doesn’t suit everyone. Many growers struggle with the daily pH and EC (electrical conductivity) checks required by the more demanding grow methods.

One good way to maximise your indoor cannabis harvest yields is to try to steadily increase your experience and competence in a given grow method, crop by crop.

Related:
Your ultimate guide to growing cannabis indoors

Choose high yielding feminised cannabis seeds or high yielding autoflower seeds

Even the best growers won’t be able to achieve heavy cannabis yields with low yielding genetics. Certain specialist strains may be perfect for some growers even though they aren’t the heaviest yielders. But if you want to grow very heavy harvests then you need to select high yielding feminised cannabis seeds. If you choose the best cannabis seeds, you won’t be compromising quality. Dutch Passion’s top 5 highest yielding indoor feminised seeds and best yielding autoflower seeds may be a useful starting point. So may the following links.

Some of the recent USA cannabis seeds deliver a perfect combination of quality with high yield and delicious taste. You really can’t go wrong with some of the best USA cannabis seeds!

Planning a seed to harvest indoor organic grow

If you have never grown before, a good quality local grow shop is a valuable way to get the basics and perhaps some useful advice too. There are plenty of good online grow stores who provide well configured complete grow room packages for new growers.

As you gain in experience you can give yourself a pat on the back as you improve from being an average cannabis grower to a more experienced grower. As you do so, you will see your ‘average’ cannabis indoor harvest transition towards increasingly heavier harvests.

Experienced growers have the advantage of knowing exactly how to plan a seed to harvest indoor grow. They will understand the advantages (and costs!) of a good quality LED grow light as well as which grow method/nutrients to use. An indoor grow tent is a convenient option which can be packed up after use.

Many growers plan their indoor cannabis grow to avoid temperature extremes. In hot countries, experienced growers already know that avoiding the hottest part of the year will make their indoor grow easier to control, resulting in heavier yields and superior quality.

Planning a seed to harvest indoor organic cannabis grow?

With many connoisseur home growers preferring a quality-led approach (rather than a yield-focussed approach) interest in organic growing remains high. BioTabs are an organic nutrient company with a great reputation. The slow release organic nutrients take care of nutrition for pretty much the entire grow, apart from perhaps an occasional late top feed of liquid bloom nutrient for hungry plants in flowering.

Many people would say that the ‘average’ harvest for one indoor cannabis plant is probably around 30-80g of dry buds. But the best growers can routinely harvest several hundred grams of top quality buds from the same strain when grown in optimised conditions. Once you have successfully grown your own cannabis seeds you will realise the quality improvements that you can achieve over other sources. You can save cash too!

Related:
How to grow autoflower seeds

2 Comments. Leave new

  • Sandra Smith
    15/12/2021 16:17

    good afternoon. when talking about curring jars do they mean mason jars ? my plants are budding now and i have been reading all the information on harvesting and drying . i have two beautiful plants . about how many jars do i need?
    thank your website for my growing needs . Sandra Smith

    Reply
  • Sandra, it has been my experience that a one quart canning (mason) jar will hold just about one ounce, give or take.

    Reply

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