Curing your homegrown cannabis

It’s almost Halloween, and that means that my cannabis is almost cured.  I harvested my first cannabis this year on September 5, finishing on October 1. For those of you growing in the northern latitudes, with later harvesting, your cannabis may just be starting to cure.  So, just what does it mean to cure our bud and why do we do it?  What’s the difference between drying and curing cannabis? 

For most home growers, drying is the primary method by which we preserve and store our amazing cannabis bud. As I outline in The Cannabis Gardener, drying is a simple process. Time consuming, but simple! After your cannabis plant is mature, and the buds are sparkly with resin, clip the branches, strip off all or most of the leaves allowing the bud to remain attached to the stem. Hang the branches in a dark room with good airflow and allow the bud to dry for a week or so. Monitor humidity and temperatures for evenly based drying. When the branches snap rather than bend, your bud is ready to store for the cure. For more detail, read The Cannabis Gardener.

Curing the cannabis is the next phase in preparing your dried cannabis bud for long term storage. Curing is an important step for creating the best quality bud with the longest storage time, and ensuring a smooth, tasty smoke or vape experience. Caveat: you don’t need to cure fresh or frozen cannabis intended for preparations that utilize fresh or frozen weed.  Curing is just for dried bud.

Dried cannabis bud is dead, but still biologically active. There are all sorts of enzymatic processes at play as this plant material changes over time. The curing process creates a stable, oxygenated environment in which starches and sugars remaining in the bud are allowed to be used up by naturally present aerobic bacteria. Chlorophyll is also given time to break down. During the curing process, moisture is allowed to slowly and evenly distribute throughout the whole of the dense dried bud, helping to stave off future mold growth. The ideal moisture content for your dried but is between 10% – 15% of total weight, BTW.  Dry, but not totally desiccated.

How to cure:

After packing your dried cannabis bud into appropriate containers, you’ll need to provide air to the packages on a regular basis during the curing stage. For most of us home growers, we’ll pack the dried cannabis into sealable, airtight glass jars or mylar bags. These are great for long term storage, but you’ll need to burp the containers during the curing stage to allow for oxygenation. For the first week, open every container each day. Take the time to smell your weed each day!  Not only is this fun and delicious smelling, this is also an opportunity to determine whether or not there is mold growing in your weed.  Don’t underestimate the power of your nose — we walk around every day with an exquisitely sensitive chemical detector right in front of us.  If you get a whiff of mildew, or mold, or something just smells weird about one of your bags of weed, then take it right out of the package and visually inspect the bud. Maybe you’ll need to allow the bud to dry some more before placing it back into the jar or bag.  And certainly if you see any moisture condensing inside the container, whip that bud out and allow it to dry before repacking. Honestly, I’ve never had a problem with mold/moisture – but that’s probably because I grow weed in a dry climate — not because I’m particularly meticulous.  If you live in a humid environment, be especially vigilant about moisture levels in your bud, especially at the beginning of the curing stage. 

After the first week, you can move to burping your containers every three days for the next couple of weeks. Then after a month, your bud is cured and ready for long term storage — or smoking, vaping, and using in tinctures and oils.  Congratulations!  You just completed the harvest.

Penny’s homegrown bud, ready for packing and curing

Male Cannabis plant

Male cannabis plants look just like female cannabis plants when they are young. But as they enter sexual maturity the differences become obvious. The photo below is of a mature male cannabis plant. It is vital that you remove the male plants from your female plants as soon as the males begin to shed pollen, or you’ll end up with poor quality, seedy bud. Cannabis flowers are wind pollinated, and the male cannabis plant produces abundant pollen. Be kind to your neighbors, and their female cannabis plants! I’ve heard that cannabis pollen can travel up to a mile if the winds are brisk. If you want to do some selective pollination of your female plants – you can! This is covered in The Cannabis Gardener, p. 96.

Cannabis Seeds – it’s planting time!

Cannabis Seeds from my 2020 harvest – my cross

It’s early March, and that means Spring is coming — at least for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. For the cannabis gardener, that means getting your seed game on. You may have heard “Time to pop your seeds” or “Let’s crack some seeds”. What’s up with that? These are just different words for sprouting your seeds. I just LOVE this time of year. It’s all about potential – and seeds are the embodiment of potential. A seed is a tiny nascent genetically unique plant folded between two food sources, covered by a protective seed coat. Seeds are alive, and are quite aware of their surroundings. They will stay put in their little seed coats until they sense that conditions are right for them to sprout — they’re waiting for just the right combo of warmth, soil and moisture. The sprouting process could hardly be simpler! Just place your seeds into a small pot of seedling mix, cover 1/4 inch deep with soil, water, and set in a windowsill (keep the temp around 70° f). The seeds should all sprout within a week. Then give them nice, strong light, temps around 70° f and they’re off to a good start. I cover this in detail in The Cannabis Gardener.

One common question I receive is “Where can I get good cannabis seeds?” followed quickly by “Why are cannabis seeds so expensive?” The answer is that because cannabis is still (ridiculously!!) Federally illegal in the US and in much of the world, seeds can be scarce and tricky to find. You’ll need to buy your seeds either online or – my preferred way – at a local dispensary. A couple of things to consider:

  1. Standard or Feminized: Both are good, but standard seeds will contain both female and male seeds — generally, you want to grow just the girls.
  2. Harvest date: Good growers will list the date that the seed was harvested. Make sure your seeds are fresh — especially because they are expensive (like $10 per seed expensive)
  3. Call before you go to a dispensary! Be sure you know what’s in stock before arriving to avoid disappointment.
  4. Genetics matters – sort of. If you’re not too picky about your cannabis, and someone has free seeds — go for it! I’ve had great results from unknown crosses. If you’re interested in more particular weed, it’s a good idea to do your research before purchasing seed. My go-to is Humboldt Seed Company. They are an excellent source for quality genetics and healthy seeds, sold at many dispensaries.
  5. Trade! Most seeds are sold in packs of 10. But few home gardeners need that many of one cultivar. I recommend that you and a couple friends go in on a couple of varieties and then trade. You’ll be able to grow a couple different sorts and save cost overall.

The Cannabis Gardener is almost here!

I am delighted to announce that The Cannabis Gardener is hitting the shelves! This beautiful book is the culmination of years of learning, growing, enjoying, and cooking with my home grown cannabis. I’ve taught about cannabis as I’ve explored this plant’s amazing healing properties through the company I co-founded, Let’s Sesh for the Cannacurious. And now? Let’s Sesh co-founder & friend Kaisha-Dyan McMillan will interview me on IG Live @letsseshworkshops101 on February 2, 2021, 4:00 pm to 4:30 pm PST. Everyone is invited to join in the fun! I hope to see you on IG live this Tuesday, 4:00 pm PST.

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Wintering

The sun sets early now, and the seeds of my cannabis plants are safely tucked away in jars. They, like me, are waiting for Spring. Welcome to the beginning of the 2021 Growing season! I hope you’ll grow your own cannabis victory garden this Spring.