Harvest time is extremely exciting for all hemp farmers. After a year’s worth of planning and hard work, you finally get to realize the fruits of your labor. While a good harvest is a cause for celebration, there are still several steps you need to take to get your hemp flowers ready for market. Properly drying and curing your flowers is critical for preserving delicate cannabinoids, trichomes, and terpenes.

It’s wise to think about your harvest plans early on in the growing season. Far too many growers put hemp crops in the ground without even considering how they will dry and cure their flowers. This lack of foresight can have dire financial consequences.

To help you get ahead of the curve this harvest season, we’re here to explore the process and importance of drying and curing flowers in more detail.

Drying Hemp Flowers and Curing Overview

There are several reasons why properly drying and curing your hemp flowers is important. For starters, following the best practices for drying and curing will protect flowers against mold. These critical steps also protect the aesthetic “bag appeal” of your flowers. Similarly, correct drying and curing will ensure your flowers have the right moisture consistency for trimming and processing.

Consider the Whole Harvest Process

Drying and curing are two important steps in the harvest process. Importantly, every step must happen in a specific order so you can get your hemp flowers ready for market. After hemp plants are harvested, they are dried, bucked, trimmed, and finally cured. Skipping any of these critical steps can ruin a crop or greatly inflate labor expenses.

Facilities for Drying Hemp Flowers

You need the right type of infrastructure to properly dry and cure your hemp harvest. Commercial operations generally have dedicated “drying facilities” where they can carefully control heat, humidity, and airflow. These buildings should also be completely dark on the interior.

Environmental Requirements

To dry hemp flowers correctly, you must create the right environmental conditions. Experts feel hemp flowers dry best at temperatures between 60-70 deg Fahrenheit and at humidity levels between 50-60%. This careful balance will ensure flowers dry at just the right speed.

How to Dry Hemp

The process of drying hemp flowers is focused on getting them to the right moisture consistency. In doing so, you create the best consistency for trimming, while also protecting the integrity of trichomes, terpenes, and pistils.

We advise our clients to aim for moisture consistency between 10-15% when drying. This amount of water will ensure flowers retain their structure, while also not molding in the bag.

When harvesting, most hemp flower producers choose to cut entire plants, then hang them upside down for drying. If you have the correct environment in your drying facility, you can pack plants tightly on a line to maximize square footage. If your humidity levels are high, packing them too tightly could cause mold issues.


Proper airflow is critical when drying hemp flowers. Throughout drying, you should keep air moving in your facility with wall fans, industrial blowers, and inline fans. Even more, you should exchange the air in your drying room with fresh air from outside with vent fans, booster fans, or HVAC systems.


Producers use a variety of equipment for drying hemp flowers. Hemp drying technology includes dehumidifiers, heaters, blower fans, carbon filters, inline fans, and commercial HVAC systems. Your chosen equipment will largely be dictated by the environmental constraints of your geography.

Importance of Curing Flowers

Inexperienced farmers often fail to recognize the importance of curing hemp flowers. However, curing is the last critical step in the harvest process to get your flowers ready for the market. Not only does proper curing protect the structural integrity of your flowers, but it also brings out the very best terpene expression of your hemp crop.

Proper curing practices help you avoid leaving your hemp flowers too dry or too wet. There are a number of reasons why the incorrect moisture content in hemp flowers can do serious damage to a harvest.

If you put damp hemp flowers directly into a plastic bag without curing them, you are inviting disaster. Not only can excess water in flowers cause your harvest to mold, but it can also wreak havoc on your crop’s terpene profile. Importantly, proper curing allows bacteria to break down chlorophyll in hemp flowers. If you skip this step, your harvest will likely smell like hay instead of delicious terpenes.

Having the right moisture consistency in hemp flowers is also critical for retaining their structural integrity. If you don’t cure your flowers, you risk drying them out too far. When this happens, flowers are easily destroyed during transport through the hemp product supply chain.

The Best Way to Cure Hemp Flowers

The process of curing hemp is aimed at keeping flowers looking and smelling fresh long after harvest. By rotating your flowers between sealed and open containers, you allow chlorophyll to break down, while also ensuring the uniform distribution of water throughout flowers.

For most commercial hemp producers, curing often takes several days. The best way to cure hemp on a commercial scale is to place flowers in air-tight bins or barrels after they are dried, bucked, and trimmed. At the outset, you should seal the container tight for 12 hours, then open the container and “burp” the flowers for another 12 hours. Repeat this process over several days while continuously lessening the time that the container is open for burping.

When your hemp flowers are “springy” to the touch, and stems “crack” when bent with force, your flowers are cured and ready for final packaging. To remove the guesswork, we recommend you track moisture levels throughout the curing process with a hygrometer.

Contact High Grade Hemp Seed

Not only do we provide the best hemp CBD genetics on the market, but we also employ some of the top growers in the industry. Contact us today to learn more about properly drying industrial hemp and CBD hemp harvests.

The success of your hemp CBD or CBG crop will depend on the efficiency of your harvest processes. Harvesting a commercial hemp crop is a carefully choreographed process where scheduling, labor, equipment, and facilities must be accounted for. As the hemp industry continues to mature, hemp farmers and equipment manufacturers have been working together to develop effective harvest techniques.

Today, hemp harvest practices borrow from both commercial agriculture and cannabis cultivation. To illustrate, farmers who grow hemp for bulk biomass get many of their harvest methods from industrial farming. Conversely, hemp producers who grow boutique flowers follow many of the careful harvest parameters of craft cannabis production. In this article, we’ll look specifically at how to harvest both hemp biomass and hemp flowers.

The harvesting process can be broken up into three broad phases:

  • Choosing the right harvest time
  • Harvesting your hemp
  • Drying and curing your hemp

Part 1: Choosing the Right Time to Harvest Your Hemp

As a rule of thumb, full-term hemp requires 100 to 120 days to mature. Nonetheless, different geographies present both opportunities and challenges when it comes to timing a hemp harvest. In colder climates, you will want to choose hemp strains that finish by late September.

Choosing the right time to harvest your hemp will impact your ROI. If you harvest too early, your plants may not reach their full resin potential. Harvest too late, and your flowers could lose their potency. (Yes, CBD and CBG potency drops quickly after hemp plants reach maturity.) Even more, harvesting late in certain regions of the country like Colorado will put your crop at risk with early season frost and snow.

To hammer home how important good timing is, consider that harvesting 1,000 pounds of hemp biomass with 7% CBD instead of 8% CBD will mean a loss of approximately 10 pounds of CBD oil. With CBD oil selling at roughly $5 per gram, losing just 1% of CBD potency will result in a loss of $20,000 per 1,000 pounds of biomass.

As if finding this balance wasn’t difficult enough, farmers must also keep in mind that THC rates rise quickly as hemp plants reach maturation. According to the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp farmers must keep their hemp crop below a 0.3% THC threshold. If you wait too long to harvest and your crop’s THC potency rises above 0.3%, you’ll have to throw away your entire crop.

How to Decide When to Harvest

In most regions of North America, hemp crops are ready for harvest between mid-August and early October. Farmers with a small hemp crop used to be able to use visual cues to determine the ideal time to harvest their crop. Looking closely, farmers could spot a plant’s trichomes (small, mushroom-like glands on hemp flowers). When the trichomes turn from clear to a milky white color, the plants are ready for harvest. Nowadays, even small farmers need to test to stay in compliance with regulations so going on visual clues is not recommended for beginners.

Industrial hemp farmers are better off determining the right harvest time by regularly testing their plants with a laboratory. While testing hemp crops might be expensive, it offers a great way to get exact readings on cannabinoid levels in your plants. By taking the guesswork out of harvesting, you will ensure your hemp crop remains compliant according to state and federal guidelines. As some states require testing before harvest, you might have to undertake this step at your hemp farm anyway.

Weather May Dictate Your Harvest

Farmers also need to keep an eye on the sky when choosing the right time to harvest their hemp crop. Farmers in the north of the country or at high altitudes must watch for an early cold snap. Hemp is a robust plant, but it can’t survive a hard frost. Additionally, harvest season also coincides with hurricane season, so farmers on the East Coast and Gulf Coast need to track hurricanes and tropical storms.

Rain can cause serious issues for hemp growers. Not only will excessive rain during harvest season contribute to broken branches on plants, but excessive moisture can help propagate mold. Large flowers are particularly susceptible to botrytis or “bud rot” in wet conditions.


Part 2: How to Harvest Hemp at Your Farm

Your harvest processes will be dictated by the type of CBD or CBG hemp you are growing. If you are growing hemp for CBD or CBG biomass, you can use industrial hemp farming equipment to harvest your crop. However, if you are growing hemp for smokable flowers, you will have to cut down plants individually by hand.

How to Harvest Hemp Flowers by Hand

Harvesting hemp by hand protects the integrity of the flower. As CBD and CBG flowers are sold as smokable products, you must ensure that trichomes, terpenes, and pistils are not damaged during the harvest process. Mishandling these delicate flowers can greatly reduce their value on the open market.

Harvesting hemp by hand is labor-intensive. Workers typically use machetes, shears, or tobacco knives to cut the stalks and bring the hemp to a waiting wagon or trailer. Where to cut the hemp depends on how the farmer intends to dry it. If you plan on screen-drying your hemp, you’ll want to cut smaller sections, so it is easier to lay them on the screens. If you are going to hang dry, you can afford to cut larger sections of the hemp.

How to Harvest Hemp Biomass with Machines

Hemp biomass requires different harvest processes than hemp flowers. As hemp biomass is grown on an industrial scale for CBD and CBG extracts, it doesn’t require as much care as hemp flowers. As such, farmers use industrial agriculture equipment like combines to harvest hemp biomass. By using combines, you can harvest acres of hemp in quick order.

Understanding Your Labor Needs

One of the most common mistakes new farmers make is underestimating the labor requirements of the hemp harvesting process. Farmers who don’t bring on enough labor could face dire financial consequences if their harvest falls behind schedule and their mature hemp plants run hot.

Farmers need to hire enough workers to efficiently harvest their hemp. They also need to build the harvesting time into their overall hemp schedule to make sure their plants don’t over-mature while the laborers work. It’s a good idea for workers to start harvesting hemp with the largest and densest flowers. Workers may also want to start by cutting top flowers first, leaving lower flowers to mature a little more before a second pass. The ACS Laboratory suggests that 15 experienced workers can harvest five to six acres of hemp per day.

New Farmers Should Start Small

We strongly recommend that farmers plant only a few acres of hemp for their first season, or even just a single acre. Planting a small amount of acreage will help farmers understand how much labor they need per acre of hemp, so they can scale up appropriately when they plant more next year. Also, planting a single acre of hemp lets farmers experiment with growing techniques and helps them understand how hemp performs on their farm before making a large investment in the crop.

Part 3: Drying Your Hemp

Some farmers send their hemp biomass directly to a processor after harvesting, but many choose to dry and cure the hemp on their property before this step. Again, your choice for drying and curing hemp will largely be dictated by whether you are growing flowers or biomass. Drying the hemp helps lock in the hemp’s quality and potency. If a hemp plant isn’t cured properly, it could grow mold or lower the quality (and overall market value) of the product.

Drying is another part of the hemp harvesting process where farmers use different methods and are actively experimenting to improve their outcomes. All farmers will agree that drying requires a drying facility. This should be a roofed structure with good ventilation. Many farmers use a barn, shed, or warehouse to serve as their drying facility.

Ventilation Is Key

One of the most important factors in the drying and curing process is good ventilation. To achieve proper airflow, you should use wall fans, inline fans, and industrial blowers.

How to Dry Hemp

When it comes to drying hemp, methods vary. Some farmers use racks or screens. A common method is to hang hemp plants upside down from wires. If you plan to use this method, we recommend that you break off the branches of your hemp plants and hang them individually.

When Is Your Hemp Dry?

How dry does hemp need to be before a farmer can send it off to the processor? Typically, farmers will want to get below 15% moisture (below 12% is even better.)

Curing Your Hemp

Some processors will expect farmers to go beyond drying their hemp and cure the hemp as well, which means taking out even more moisture. Curing adds a lot of time to the drying process, but it also locks in the smell and taste the flowers.

Final Testing

During the drying and curing process, farmers will also want to test hemp plants one more time. The final test will let farmers know the CBD or CBG content of their crop and ensure the crop is under the THC limit. The test can also show any contamination that could affect the quality of the crop.

What’s Next?

The last step in the curing and drying process will depend on what the processor asks for. Some farmers send their dried hemp directly to the processors while others shuck the hemp and remove the stalk. Still, others will trim the hemp, cutting away the leaves and sending only the flowers. Trimming can be performed by hand or, for larger operations, with the help of a mechanical trimmer.

Have More Questions on How to Harvest Hemp?

Here at High Grade Hemp Seed, we get the question “how do you harvest hemp?” all the time. The answer really depends on your goals, budget, and personal preferences. If you still want to know how to harvest CBD strains or harvest industrial hemp, contact our representatives today and we would be glad to lend you our expertise.