One harvest technique is to cut entire plants off at the base. Alternately, single branches can be removed. (Courtesy of Jorge Cervantes)

How to harvest cannabis: Planning ahead is critical for success

Renowned grower Jorge Cervantes will answer readers’ questions and give advice on all things related to the cannabis plant. Got a question for Jorge? Email him at

Editor’s Note: Laws for cultivating cannabis vary from state to state and city to city — before germinating any seeds or planting any clones, take care to learn what your local laws are.


Question: How do I get ready for harvest time, and what’s the best way to take down the plants?

Answer: Harvesting your cannabis crop is the reward for all the fun you had growing it! Here is the basic information you need on how to harvest cannabis.

Remember, resin glands found on cannabis flowers and foliage are where the bulk of cannabinoids are found. Once harvested they are easily bruised by rough handling and can be damaged by bright light. Cannabinoids stay put in resin glands until they are ruptured and start to degrade. Please treat harvested plants with tender loving care.

Plan for harvest a month beforehand. Here are a few guidelines and points to keep in mind:

1. Stop spraying plants with organic and synthetic controls 30 days prior to harvest.

2. Spray plants heavily with plain water two weeks beforehand to wash away contaminants.

3. Stop fertilizing one week before harvest.

4. For plants in containers, leach grow mediums heavily with water to remove salt-based fertilizers.

5. Outdoor and organic soils have much more volume, making it more complex and difficult to leach.

6. Harvest large “fan” leaves on live plants a day or two before main harvest to speed drying. When large leaves are removed, you can concentrate on the fun part, flower buds! Toss leaves in a cardboard box or paper sack to dry. Turn leaves every few days to aerate.

7. Harvest first thing in the morning when plants are not yet warmed up; cannabinoid content is at peak level.

8. No need to do anything with the root ball, roots contain no interesting cannabinoids.

To harvest, cut the main stem of an entire plant with pruners or a saw. Or prune off single branches. Individual branches are easiest to handle.

Submerge freshly harvested branches in a 30-second bath of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) diluted to a concentration of 5 percent to wash away contaminants and disinfect flowers and foliage. Remove branches from bath, rinse and carefully shake off excess water. Hang in front of a fan for 10-20 minutes; it is now ready for trimming and drying.

There are two ways to handle the next step, and it’s a matter of personal preference:

Manicure first, then Dry: Trim leafy growth away from flower buds when foliage is supple. Snip flower buds from branches and dry on a screen or net shelf. Turn buds daily. They will be dry in less than a week contingent upon humidity, temperature and airflow.

Dry & Manicure: Wait to trim leafy growth around flower buds until after foliage is dry. Hang entire plants or individual branches on a line in a dark room. Buds are dry and usually ready to manicure in 1-3 weeks depending upon humidity, temperature and size of plants.

Flowers are dry enough for storage when 75 percent of their moisture content has dissipated. At harvest, weigh a single flower bud on an accurate scale. Let’s say it weighs 10 grams. When the same bud weighs 2.5 grams, it is dry.

For more info on how to harvest weed, see my YouTube channel or check out the series below.

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