Drying and Curing: The Essential Final Step
The path to indoor growing proficiency can be a daunting one to embark on, but after much consideration and perhaps some back and forth, you’re ready. You’ve designated space in your basement as a grow room; you’ve researched the minutiae of hydroponics and invested in some essential equipment like water pumps, reservoirs, and chillers; you’ve purchased strains of the plants you’d like to grow, and placed them under the best LED hydroponic grow lighting; you’ve begun thinking in terms of air filtration systems, fans, and ducting. After much toiling, you’ve finally started to see stalks, and then buds.
After so many articles read, emails to the experts, and phone calls to equipment manufacturers, your grow tent full of tall green plants is a testament to your tenacity. But one question yet remains: how to harvest it? Of course, one could always just cut the buds from the stalk and call it a day, but improperly drying the yield is akin to tripping at the finish line﹘you’ve come too far for that now.
The Final Step
Depending on the goals you have for your freshly grown plants (not everyone means to put their new greens in a vase), you will likely be considering how to properly dry your harvest. Drying is the crucial final step to enjoying all your hard work and is even more important if you used a hydroponics system. Even with perfect grow room climate control, drying remains an art to be mastered.
The benefits of drying are numerous, but the technique must be observed strictly. You may be surprised to learn that the same adherence to climate regulations within the grow room must be followed in the drying room as well. This is because the act of drying is not in itself the end goal; leaving the plant out in the sun or turning the room’s temperature up to 90℉ can dry anything. Instead, proper drying can help unlock the true potential of your plant-based products. Some of these benefits include:
- Creating Acidity: Helping to draw out the development process for plants that produce certain helpful acids, such as THC. By drying too quickly in harsher environments, these acids won’t get a chance to emerge, which would dull the desirable properties of the buds. There are also the aromatic byproducts of the plants to consider. These compounds, called terpenes, can be as volatile as alcohol in some cases and need a safe place to evaporate.
- Breaking Down Sugar: Giving enzymes and bacteria a chance to break down the natural minerals and sugars that saturate the plant. The existence of these sugars will spoil the effectiveness of the aforementioned helpful acidity.
- Avoiding Harmful Byproducts: Wet plants that aren’t treated properly can develop harmful strains of mold that are dangerous to inhale or digest.
It’s clear that while drying and curing your harvest yields certain desirable outcomes, achieving those results requires some discipline in adhering to the best techniques.
Drying Like a Pro
Before we can talk in-depth about curing the plants, we need to talk about how to actually extract the moisture safely from the buds without spoiling the yield. When attempting to dry your product, you’ll find that it quickly becomes a game of percentages. By investing in good LED grow lights and a robust climate control system, you can manipulate the humidity in the air to being between 45-55%, which will help drop the plant’s moisture content to within 30-40% in the first three days.
These first three days from the time they’ve been clipped is key because that’s when most of the drying should take place. Once that 30-40% moisture is achieved, dropping the temperature a few degrees is ideal to help the more stubborn byproducts like chlorophyll to decompose.
Some helpful tips:
- No matter what type of plant you’re growing, keeping the clipped stalks separate (that is, NOT piled on top of each other in a cluster) is ideal for avoiding the growth of harmful fungi.
- Whether you’re drying inside or outside, shield your plants from direct sunlight as much as possible.
- You will want to research the exact moisture level that is ideal for your particular plant. Often professional arborists will shoot for a specific percentage, typically between 8-10% of saturation.
- This is not a quick process. In fact, trying to “game the system” by lowering the humidity to sub-50%, or keeping the temperature high in order to speed up the process will result in dry leaves infused with undesirable qualities that weren’t given a chance to mature. Typically, good drying can often take up to two weeks.
Whether you decide to hang the stalks up to dry on a rack or extract the bulbs to dry on a perforated screen, having the plants stored in a room with plenty of airflow (and good ventilation) is critical.
You remember the old adage from the days of learning shapes in elementary school: “every square is a rectangle, but not every rectangle is a square.” So too is this the case with plants; every cured plant is dried, but not every dried plant is cured. The act of curing is often likened to an art form within the growing community, because of how those who are dedicated to it develop a sort of “sixth sense” about knowing how and when the plant is ready.
Curing is only as successful as the drying process that went on before it. By allowing some moisture to remain on the buds (the aforementioned 8-10%), the terpenes can infuse the yield without giving way to fungus. As you begin to cure your plants, it’s important to know a few things upfront:
- Proper curing takes time. Some professionals can spend anywhere from 4-6 weeks letting the harvest mature.
- Curing is best done in an enclosed, tight space, where the plants can infuse themselves with all the naturally occurring aromas and flavors. Like storing wine in barrels where it ferments and even takes on some of the properties of the wood, storing plants in a wooden box is often ideal. Wherever you store them, the container must be airtight.
- The plants should be kept in complete darkness and checked up on every so often to ensure that the moisture hasn’t given way to mold. If that does occur, taking the plants out of the case to air for a few hours will be good enough before putting them back into storage.
Once the curing process is complete, your plants will be ready to enjoy. From conception to planting the seeds, harvesting the stock, drying, to curing, you and your plants have been on a journey and you can feel chuffed at having accomplished something wonderful. All that’s left is to sell or otherwise enjoy your product. For more information on drying/curing products for your grow room, visit our website. We are your tried and trusted online grow store.