***IMPORTANT- Wet tumbler drum must be used when  processing flowers wet with CenturionPro machines.

Get Ready for Harvest Season

Autumn is a great time of the year: seasonal produce, holiday gatherings and, of course, bringing in the harvest! Whether you are about to reap hundreds of massive outdoor trees or simply to cut down a few indoor plants, there are a few tasks that should be completed before the first branch is ever snipped.

Anywhere from a few weeks to a few days before cutting down your plants - depending upon the size of your crop and how much work you expect the harvest to be - do your best to predict exactly what you will need in terms of tools and equipment for clean and efficient processing, from cutting through curing stages. Arrange and thoroughly sanitize any space you may need, for activities such as drying, stripping fan leaves, actual trimming/manicuring, production of ice water hash or concentrates from the trim, etc. It is also a good idea to schedule some friends or workers in advance, if you have not already done so. Finally, run through a quick shopping list of supplies that may have required replacing after your previous crop, such as garbage bags, plastic drop cloths, packaging materials like zip-seal bags, etc.


The Big Chop

Before the light/dark cycle reaches its peak for flowering, check in on your outdoor plants at regular intervals, especially as they approach the flushing phase. Due to the wet, chilly climate that many growers must battle at this time of the year, it may be a good idea to inspect each plant for broken branches or any other low-hanging plant parts. If there is a break in the stem, this area will become extremely vulnerable to mold, mildew, insect infestations and other pathogens. Remove any severely damaged plant matter and make sure that no broken branches are touching the ground, as contact with the wet earth will hasten both infestation and illness.

If you are a large-scale or commercial grower, you probably have hundreds or even thousands of plants to process. Although sophisticated, expensive equipment is often used to trim such crops, an old-fashioned, heavy-duty bolt cutter is an efficient tool that will easily cut through even the thickest of pot plant stalks. A hand saw is a good alternative.

While cutting down large crops, it is best to temporarily arrange the harvested plants in loose piles on top of plastic tarpaulins or in a wheelbarrow - either approach may also allow for easier transportation of the crop from the field to your drying or trimming location. Try not to leave the plants piled up for too long or to compress them, as the vegetative material will begin to decompose (similar to the way that a compost pile heats up rather quickly). Likewise, make sure that you do not rely upon plastic garbage bags for permanent storage or long-haul transport.

At this point, some growers choose to remove the large fan leaves that do not contain any resin glands. One advantage of removing these large leaves is that more air will be able to penetrate the plant while it is hanging in the drying room, in addition to the time that will be saved during the trimming process. However, many old-school farmers prefer to leave the fan leaves intact in order to protect the delicate trichomes during transport, hanging and drying.

If you do decide to strip the plants of their less desirable foliage just after harvesting, you can join those growers who add the cast-off leaves to the root systems and other botanical evidence that either goes to the burn pile or to the compost heap.

Plants should be hung to dry in a cool, dry, dark place with a bit of airflow; you can fine-tune available space to suit this purpose


Drying Can Make or Break a Marijuana Crop

Four elements are essential when attempting to properly dry Cannabis: temperature, moisture, light and ventilation. Freshly-cut plants or branches, either with or without the large fan leaves, should be carefully hung on sturdy drying lines or racks in a cool, dry, dark location with a hint of air flow. Both light and heat will oxidize the resin in trichomes and anything above about thirty percent humidity will lead to mold or mildew issues and uneven or improper drying. Very gentle air circulation assists in exchanging the gases that are released from the drying plants, replacing it with fresh, clean air throughout the drying process - this also helps to prevent problems with mold and mildew.

Some folks string heavy-gauge fishing line or synthetic clothes cord from end to end of a bespoke room, which, as mentioned above, should have been thoroughly cleaned and prepared in advance of cutting your plants - each stage and location of the harvesting process should be ready to receive your crop. Hang the plants close enough together to maximize space, but with enough distance between each to encourage air flow. Avoid loosely-woven cordage or ropes or natural fibers, as these may absorb and store moisture, as well as collecting dust quite easily.

Rotate the plants every few days - at least once per week - in order to periodically inspect them and also to maximize even exposure of the plants throughout the drying space. Most weed will dry in about two weeks, although plants that have been saturated by heavy rainfall or hydroponically-cultivated crops may require an extra week to dry completely. Lots of old hippies insist that twenty-one days is the magic number for perfectly drying pot plants.

When the plants may be nearing the end of their drying cycle, try to snap a thick branch - did you feel it break cleanly; did you hear a distinct 'crack'? If so, then the plant is dry enough to smoke, although most professional growers will cure their weed for at least a short time after proper drying has been achieved. If the plant's stalk does not break but remains bendy, there is still too much moisture contained within the buds to allow for either consumption or curing.

It is possible to trim the plants when wet and dry the manicured buds on hanging laundry airing racks in a room full of dehumidifiers, but it is very common to over-dry the product when using this method, often preferred by commercial producers.


Curing Is Different than Drying

The purpose of curing marijuana, a separate step than simply drying it, is to achieve the most potential per strain with regards to effect and flavor. If you are using chemical nutrients, the effect of the weed will be altered by their presence; no amount of flushing and curing can remedy this. However, by utilizing natural and organic nutrients, supplements and pesticides, you can ensure that you will be tasting - and feeling - only the intrinsic effects of the Cannabis that you had so carefully tended.

Curing allows for chlorophyll, the green vegetative matter that photosynthesizes light into usable energy within the plant, to naturally degrade. When certain crops make an experienced smoker cough uncontrollably, chances are that either the weed was chemically fed, has been improperly dried, is still wet or was not cured. When the chlorophyll biodegrades, the natural flavor is enhanced and the smoke becomes far smoother. The effect imparted will be more 'true' to each strain.

Some growers like to put their just-dried buds into cardboard boxes or paper bags right before the curing process is begun. If the buds are a little too wet, leave the box or bag open; if your crop feels a bit 'crispy' from drying too quickly, close the bag or box to 'sweat' the buds and redistribute some moisture. Over-dried buds can also be left on the stalk for a little while longer (inside the box or bag) to achieve this same goal, while stubbornly damp buds can be snipped off of the stalk to encourage additional drying.

Manicured buds should be carefully packed into glass jars with lids - canning jars work perfectly for this purpose. The weed level should always be as close to the jar lid as possible, keeping out excess air, which will oxidize the trichomes, ruin the flavor and decrease the strength of the buds. Jars should be opened and emptied once per day, making sure not to disturb the fragile crystals through rough handling. Shake the jar to exchange bad air for good, then simply put the weed back into the jars. Store the packed jars in a cool, dry, dark place. Proper curing takes around a month, but you may tailor your curing methods and schedules to suit your needs or to cater to specific strains.

As the crop cures, even more moisture will be extracted. This proves that even 'dry' weed often contains residual moisture, resulting in a harsh smoke. As the remaining water evaporates, the buds will shrink a bit; you can make up for this change by topping up each jar to capacity as needed.

A little bit of extra time, planning and effort can ensure that well-grown Cannabis becomes a well-processed product. Conversely, if certain basic steps are not taken, weeks or months of effort can be ruined by improper harvesting, drying or curing techniques.