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How to Make Weed Smell Better (and Stop Hay Smell!)

Introduction: How to Grow Cannabis That Smells Great

Do you want to improve the smell of your cannabis? Ready to defeat “hay smell” for good? When it comes to homegrown cannabis, the smell of your buds contributes greatly to the overall perceived quality. Just like how food tastes better when it smells great, producing buds with a great smell can greatly improve the overall experience. In addition to strains with “common” weed smells like diesel and skunk, there are also strains that produce exotic fruity and sweet smells like pineapple, blueberry, or chocolate. We’re even learning that certain combinations of terpenes (which cause the smell of cannabis) can change or increase the perceived potency.

This tutorial will teach you how to grow buds that smell incredible

Unfortunately, many marijuana growers, new and experienced, are unintentionally making mistakes that prevent buds from smelling their best. The most common reason is growers accidentally giving their buds a bad smell through some kind of mistake. The next most common reason is poor growing practices that prevent buds from living up to their potential. Lastly, some strains just produce low smells or bad smells due to their genetics.

3 Main Reasons for Low or Bad Cannabis Smell

  • Grower mistakes that directly cause a bad smell
  • Poor growing practices that prevent buds from reaching their full potential
  • Genetics that produce either a low or unpleasant smell (many strains smell like a skunk and some even have tinges of cat pee)

This tutorial will teach you how to stop bad smells and increase the natural smell of your buds. We’ll also show you how to achieve a more complex and appealing smell overall. You’ll learn not only what to do, but just as importantly you’ll learn what not to do!

Each cannabis strain has its own unique smell. Learn how to stop bad smells and increase their natural scent using the tips below

How to Fix 5 Common Problems that Ruin Buds

Proper Drying Technique: How to Prevent “Hay Smell” or “Chlorophyll Smell”

What causes the dreaded cannabis “hay smell”? This is one of the biggest complaints new growers have when they start growing their own weed. Typically their plants smell like normal weed during the flowering stage, but buds lose their “weed smell” during or after the drying process. The resulting buds often smell like hay, fresh-cut grass, or may simply be described as “Chlorophyll Smell”.

“Why does my cannabis smell like hay?” is one of the most common beginner growing questions. The problem typically appears during the bud drying process.

What Causes Hay Smell

  • Mold or Mildew – visible or invisible mold is a common cause of hay smell (think about why hay smells the way it does). In fact, mold and mildew can cause hay smell even while buds are still on the plant.
  • Buds Drying Unevenly – Buds almost always smell like hay, chlorophyll, or fresh cut grass when dried too fast. Buds smell much better when dried evenly. You don’t want the outsides of buds to be completely dry while insides are still wet. Another cause is when a fan or air current dries parts of buds while unexposed parts are still moist. When entire plants are hung upside down, the insides rarely dry at the same rate as the outsides of the plant and can occasionally cause hay smell (though if you’re drying in low-humidity conditions, sometimes you need that extra moisture to prevent buds from drying too fast). Commercial growers get the best of both worlds – they typically cut branches and hang them individually, then use a mixture of AC, air circulation, and dehumidifiers/humidifiers to maintain the perfect conditions on every single bud during drying.
  • Heat + Unmoving Air During Drying – Buds tend to smell like hay or be harsh to smoke or vape when they are exposed to warm temperatures along with stagnant, unmoving air during the drying process. This causes uneven drying conditions and invites invisible or visible mold to grow. In more extreme cases, growers might try drying buds over heat, in the sun, or in the oven. All of these drying techniques can cause buds to smell bad and be harsh to smoke/vape.
  • Buds Drying Too Close Together – This is kind of the result of the above factors, but you can get hay smell from drying too many buds in a small space, drying buds on their sides so they create wet spots against a surface, and/or stacking buds on top of each other. The issue has to do with putting your buds in an environment that can cause the above factors.
  • Trimming Buds Before Drying – There’s controversy about whether to trim your buds (remove the leaves and make them pretty) before or after they dry. For growers trying to air-dry in a cool or humid climate, buds that are enveloped by leaves may stay too wet during the dry process. Some strains produce extremely leafy buds and buds will physically feel soaked during drying if at least some of the leaves aren’t trimmed off. However, in a hot or low-humidity climate, trimming off the leaves before drying can cause the outsides of the buds to dry too quickly. Some plants don’t produce a lot of leaves near the buds so there’s no benefit to trimming them. In that kind of environment, a little bit of protection from the air can help even out moisture as buds dry. Conclusion: If it’s dry and hot, trim after drying. If it’s humid, consider trimming before drying (especially if you’re having a hard time getting buds to dry).

How to Prevent Hay Smell

Traditional Air-Drying – There are many ways to dry cannabis buds but this is the most common and time-tested way to ensure perfect drying conditions every time. If you follow the directions below, you will not get hay smell from drying.

Air-drying branches upside down is the most common cannabis drying method.

  1. Cut Branches Off the Plant
    • If there are lots of leaves, remove the biggest ones before drying (unless it’s extremely dry and you’re trying to help buds dry more slowly).
    • If it’s very humid or you’re having trouble getting buds to dry, you might consider trimming the buds before drying.
  2. Hang branches upside down to dry
    • Hang branches upside down and try to space them evenly
    • Don’t let buds touch but hang them within a few inches of each other to maintain a stable microclimate around each bud.
    • If humidity is less than 40%, hang branches from inside a cardboard box or in paper bags. Being surrounded by a paper product helps buds dry evenly and more slowly.
    • If humidity is over 60%, consider increasing air circulation and keep buds a bit further apart from each other. In extreme cases over 70 or 80% RH, you may need to remove the buds off the branches and dry them in a mesh drying rack or even use a food dehydrator (always at the lowest temperature, and it’s even better if you can open it and disconnect the heating element so buds are dried without any heat at all). This Presto dehydrator is one of the cheapest dehydrators on Amazon, but it doesn’t let you set the heat (always operates at way-too-high 165°F). However, I’ve got one and it’s easy to open the unit and disconnect the heating element by snipping the wire (there’s really nothing else inside so it’s hard to miss), which gives you a no-heat dehydrator for under $50.
  3. Perfect Drying Environment for 4-10 Days (big buds take longer, small buds dry quickly)
    • Cool temperature: 60-65°F is ideal. Warmer temperatures invite mold and can burn off terpenes/potency if it gets too hot
    • 50-60% RH – 50% RH if it’s hot (this helps prevent mold growth) and 60% if it’s cool (this helps prevent smell/potency loss, and won’t grow mold as long as it’s cool)
    • Slight air movement – There should be air circulation to prevent moist pockets but no air blowing directly on buds. It’s common to hang branches in a tent with the exhaust fan on low, or in a room with a fan pointed at a wall.
  4. Jar Buds
    • Bud are done once small stems snap, and buds pop off the branches without strings
    • At this point remove the buds from branches and put in jars
  5. Cure Buds
    • Open jars at least daily for 2-4 weeks
    • Use a hygrometer to try to maintain humidity between 55-62% RH in the jars (lower humidity for bigger buds to help them dry thoroughly, higher humidity for smaller buds to prevent them from getting too dry)
    • Consider using Boveda or Integra Boost humidity packs to automatically maintain the desired humidity in jars (58% and 62% are most common for curing weed)
    • The curing process magnifies the “weed smell” and slowly reduces the smell of hay, grass, or chlorophyll
    • Wet buds can cause bacteria and mold growth, so ensure buds always feel dry on the outside before closing the jar

The most important factors for air-drying buds are: temperature (cool), humidity (middling), and air circulation (gentle but even air movement)

Cannabis buds curing in jars. The little black devices are hygrometers to measure the humidity in the jars.

Humidity packs like these Boveda 58% humidipaks automatically maintain the humidity around 58% (as long as buds aren’t too dry or wet)

Conclusion: The most important factors for air-drying buds are: temperature (cool), humidity (middling), and air circulation (gentle but even air movement). After that, curing buds properly in jars will make an enormous difference by increasing smell, removing harshness, removing hay smell, and increasing perceived bud potency.

Mold: Avoid Harsh Buds that Taste Bad

We kind of touched on mold when it comes to drying/curing, but let’s explore how mold can hurt your bud quality in the flowering stage. The fact is, a lot of people aren’t thinking about mold around harvest time, but it can be a huge harvest killer if you accidentally set up conditions that favor mold. If your buds get moldy, they become incredibly harsh and are not safe to smoke, meaning moldy buds should always be tossed It’s very common to get mold right around harvest time.

Bud rot can destroy fat buds in the flowering stage if the humidity is too high

As sort of a cruel joke, the more successful your grow is (the bigger and denser the buds), the more likely it is you’ll be hit by mold. There are different types of mold and too many growers have lost buds to this nasty killer.

While buds are forming in the flowering stage, your environment has a huge effect on their smell, taste, and harshness.

  • In flowering stage, keep humidity around 45-50% once buds start fattening. Lower humidity not only causes buds to produce more trichomes, it is the number one thing you can do to prevent bud rot. If your humidity gets too high, make sure there is plenty of airflow and a strong exhaust fan to remove humid air from the grow space. Every leaf is constantly adding moisture to the air so removing some of the leaves can help bring down the humidity in desperate cases.
  • Bigger buds or colas should always have airflow around them, especially as harvest approaches. If the buds are surrounded by too many leaves, or if there’s no air circulation from fans in the grow space, it creates a breeding ground for many different types of mold. As an added bonus of strategic defoliation, buds that are exposed to plenty of light and air tend to fatten up. I highly recommend defoliating any leafy plants near harvest, to make sure there’s airflow actually going through the plant. It’s especially helpful to remove leaves that are in the bottom or middle of the plant which don’t get any light, or fan leaves that are covering the buds from getting light and air. Note: It’s helpful to read a defoliation tutorial before removing leaves so you know what to do.
  • Keep flowering stage temperatures in the 70-80°F range as best you can. Below 70°F while buds are flowering can trigger bud rot and loose buds, especially if it’s humid. Temperatures above 80°F increase the chance of white powdery mold, fuzzy mold, and mildew. Heat also lowers smell and potency, can make buds less dense, or cause them to become discolored/crunchy. Avoid heat when buds are forming for the best bud quality.

If you see any visible mold whatsoever, the buds are not safe to smoke or vape

Bacteria: Ammonia, Sweet, and Rotting Smells

Bacteria growth is most common during the curing process if buds are too wet after being jarred. It’s the result of wet, low-oxygen conditions.

Why do my buds feel wet after sitting in jars? It’s common for buds that felt dry on the outside to slowly start feeling moist as the moisture from inside the buds works its way to the outside. That’s why it’s important to check buds and make sure they’re dry during your daily “burping” of jars. If buds ever feel moist on the outside, or smell musty / ammonia / sickly sweet / rotting, you need to remove buds from the jars and dry them a bit more before putting back in. If they’re only a little moist, or feel dry but the humidity seems high, just keep the lids off jars for a few hours and close them back up. However, the humidity of your air has a big effect. Humid air isn’t good at drying, while dry air may dry buds quickly. Using a hygrometer plus a Boveda humidity pack makes it a lot easier to maintain the perfect moisture in the jars during curing.

If you smell ammonia or other bacterial stank when opening jars, it means there is too much moisture and buds need to be dried more before getting sealed back in

Heat: Invisible Killer of Smell, Taste, & Potency

Heat may be the most common culprit for poor-smelling buds. That’s because heat can kill bud smell and make them harsh from when they first start forming all the way until they’ve been fully cured in jars. When it comes to great bud quality, it’s important to keep buds from ever getting hot (over 85°F quickly reduces bud quality) at any point once they start forming.

Heat does terrible things to buds when they’re forming

It dramatically improves bud taste, smell, and potency if you prevent any exposure to high temperatures while buds are forming, drying, and/or curing

Stuff On (or In) Your Buds: Pesticides, Chemicals, Foliar Sprays, PGRs, Too Many Nutrients, and Artificial Fragrances

This may not need to be said, but generally when you put stuff “on” or “in” your buds, it has the possibility of affecting the taste, smell, or harshness.

  • Don’t spray anything on buds (foliar sprays, chemicals, pesticides, etc.). If you must kill bugs while buds are forming, use the safest options available.
  • Don’t use synthetic PGRs– Plant growth regulators (PGRs) are dangerous substances that can be deposited inside buds and harm both their taste/smell and make then unsafe for human consumption
  • Don’t overload with nutrients & supplements – Overloading plants with nutrients and supplements while buds are forming can discolor them with nutrient burn and may cause bud harshness or poor taste after harvest. Give cannabis plants just the right amount of nutrients for the best bud quality (not too much, not too little).
  • Use “bloom” nutrients in the flowering stage – Make sure you’re giving “bloom” nutrients after buds start forming. These are lower in Nitrogen and higher in Phosphorus and Potassium. All-purpose or “vegetative” nutrients contain a lot of Nitrogen that can make plants extra leafy and impart a “green” or chlorophyll taste to buds (especially if used in the second half of the flowering stage).
  • Avoid pests – Bugs can leave poop, webbing, and dead bodies on your buds, which can all contribute to poor taste and/or harshness even if you never use any chemicals
  • Avoid using artificial fragrances around buds – Never try to cover up the smell of weed using strong perfumes or fragrances around buds. When strong fragrances are used throughout the flowering stage, the smells can get deposited on buds and they may still have an artificial or perfume-like scent after harvest since the smells were essentially baked in as buds formed.

Protect your buds from outside influences while they’re forming

How to Improve & Strengthen the Smell of Buds

Now that you know how to prevent the most common problems, let’s get to the fun stuff. As a grower, you have the power to dramatically improve the taste and smell of your buds by increasing the levels of terpenes and terpenoids they contain.

Your plant produces essential oils with terpenes that change not just the scent but the perceived potency and effects of cannabis. By promoting terpene production in your buds during the growing process, you are encouraging your plants to produce the strongest scent possible so you can enjoy the complete effects of the strain.

Before You Get Started: Before you read this tutorial and start going crazy with new supplements or techniques, you should already be able to produce healthy plants without any bugs, mold, or other major problems in the flowering stage, as well as controlling temperature during the crucial second half of the flowering stage. Extreme plant stress can make buds harsher, and pesticides have the potential to get on buds and alter their taste/smell. Plus no one wants to smoke pesticides.

So as annoying as it probably is to hear, “Step 0” is to master the basics of growing!

1.) Use the Right Nutrients & Supplements

When it comes to nutrients and supplements, you have several choices that can help improve the overall scent of your buds. In fact, many products have been formulated specifically to increase and enhance the smell of cannabis buds.

A local hydroponics store contains shelves and shelves of nutrients and supplements designed for plants like cannabis. Which do you choose?

Here’s what you need to keep in mind when it comes to enhancing smells with cannabis nutrients and supplements…

Use “Bloom” (Low Nitrogen) Nutrients in the Flowering Stage

When using regular potting soil without adding any nutrients, growers often notice nutrient deficiencies during the budding stage because the plant has used up all the nutrients in the soil. Nutrient deficiencies will hurt bud quality if ignored and even if the plant seems healthy, adding extra Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K) can help enhance bud development.

If you do decide to give plants nutrients in the flowering stage, only use specially formulated “flowering” cannabis nutrients. These nutrients are designed for the budding stage and will have lower levels of Nitrogen and higher levels of Potassium and Phosphorous – exactly what your plant wants for optimal bud production. On the other hand, vegetative nutrients are high in Nitrogen and can give cannabis more of a “green” taste.

Buds develop best when given the right ratios of nutrients while forming

Organic Nutrients

In our side-by-side tests, we’ve noticed that growing cannabis plants in composted organic “super soil” can increase the number of terpenes in buds that are lab-tested (which we’ll discuss later in this article). However, we haven’t yet noticed a similar increase in terpenes from using purely organic nutrients. It seems (at least in our tests so far) that the biggest smell benefits of “organic” growing comes from the plants getting nutrients from the soil as opposed to just organic sources of nutrients in the water with regular soil. The overall health of the plant also seems more important than the exact source of nutrients. In general, it seems like a happy plant with perfect green leaves on chemical nutrients produces significantly more terpenes and better than an unhealthy plant even if it’s being given organic nutrients. However, we have only done a few tests so that’s anecdotal evidence at best and many growers have found that using organic nutrients can enhance flavor and smell so it’s worth including in this list.

So far, we haven’t found a fully organic nutrient system in bottles that seems to consistently produce impressive smell results in regular soil. Not to say there aren’t any, but most of the fully organic bottled nutrients work best when some of the nutrients are still being obtained naturally from the soil from organic sources. Good soil with a healthy colony of microorganisms seems to be what’s most important to increasing smell.

But if you want the fast healthy growth of mineral nutrients made mostly of organic sources, the Fox Farm nutrient trio is a great option. We have gotten excellent results with this nutrient system when it comes to producing amazing bud smells and taste even when used in regular potting soil from the store. This is a complete cannabis nutrient system that can support your plants from seed to harvest. Although “Tiger Bloom” and “Grow Big” are not 100% organic, they use high-quality ingredients and consistently produce great results in soil as far as smell and appearance when you water plants properly and manage the root pH. Be careful with “Tiger Bloom” as it’s extremely strong. Going overboard with nutrients is counterproductive. The “Big Bloom” part of the trio is completely organic and although it’s not a complete food source on its own, it can be used by itself as a Bloom Booster for plants in soil. It’s difficult to give too much “Big Bloom” to your plants since it’s basically a soup of gentle natural sources of nutrients. (Still, don’t go crazy!)

Don’t Overload with Nutrients Towards End of Flowering

Cannabis plants do a lot of vegetative growth during the first several weeks of flowering and need a lot of nutrients to power that growth. However, around 6 weeks after the switch to flowering, they mostly stop growing new stems and leaves. At this point, their nutrient needs go down quite a bit. If you look at a nutrient schedule for plants like cannabis, you’ll notice they start tapering down overall nutrient (NPK) levels as harvest approaches and switch to more gentle NPK doses. Even though you may be tempted to give plants tons of “food” during the crucial flowering stage, it’s important to keep plants healthy and avoid going overboard. If your plants are green and healthy at this point, continue what you’re doing. Go light on anything new and watch plants closely for negative reactions.

By week 6 of the flowering stage, you’ve already done a lot of what you can do for the plant. The absolute best thing you can do after week 6 is to ensure buds get a great environment (bright but not too bright light, warm but not hot, gentle constant air circulation, and humidity around 50%) and keeping them from getting sick or unhealthy in any way. Maintaining the right environment will give you much greater improvement to bud smell than any supplement if it causes nutrient burn or makes your plants unhealthy.

Around week 6 of the flowering stage, your plants will mostly stop growing new stems and leaves, and needs lower levels of nutrients (especially Nitrogen) until harvest. After week 6 of the flowering stage, focus on plant health, giving a good environment, and preventing nutrient problems. Aim to keep plants looking happy for as long as possible in the flowering stage to maximize smell.

Too much Nitrogen during bud development can deposit a “green” or “chemical” taste/smell to buds. This is true whether you’re using chemical or organic nutrients, though it’s difficult to over-fertilize with organic nutrients that were composted into the soil because any nutrient “burn” would have already happened in the vegetative stage. Plants in a super soil environment are great at giving themselves the exact right amount of nutrients at the right time.

High levels of nutrients, especially the kind found in liquid plant food, can deposit extra nutrients into the buds themselves, possibly altering the taste and smell. After buds are fully formed you don’t want to overdo it with Nitrogen or other nutrients. In addition to hurting the smell, too much Nitrogen can also prevent buds from fattening properly.

Now, you don’t want to starve your plant of nutrients in the flowering stage because that will cause early leaf yellowing and ultimately hurt yields, smell intensity, and bud appearance. If your plant already looks pale green all over, you don’t want to reduce nutrient levels further. That’s just harming the plant in a way that won’t increase smell.

Don’t go overboard with nutrients, but don’t starve plants of nutrients either. Healthy plants produce better than unhealthy ones. Keep the leaves green as long as possible in the flowering stage to ensure the plant is able to put its full “strength” into every aspect of bud development including terpene production.

Smell-Boosting Supplements

Supplements can be a controversial topic when it comes to growing cannabis, and there are hundreds of options with new products frequently appearing on the market. It can be tough to cut through all the marketing speak and figure out what actually is going to make a difference in your grow. This is the last time I’ll say this, but it’s worth repeating. Keeping plants healthy and providing a good environment during the flowering stage will increase bud quality/smell/potency far more than any supplement, especially if the supplement makes your plant unhealthy in any way. That being said, there are some supplements that are effective when used properly in the right situations. Okay, now on to what you were looking for

Here’s a list of the most common (and least controversial) supplements that improve smell:

Sugar-Based Supplements

Many sugar or carbohydrate-based supplements claim to improve the smell/taste/sweetness of buds. A cheap alternative to expensive sugar-based bloom boosting supplements is blackstrap molasses. Giving this to your plants for the last few weeks before harvest can help them get bigger and smell/taste better.

It’s not specially made for plants; it’s the regular stuff you’ll find in your kitchen or at the grocery store). Blackstrap molasses adds sugars, amino acids and trace minerals. Unfortunately for hydro growers, anything organic like molasses is not suitable for a hydroponic reservoir. But molasses works great for soil and

For the last 2-3 weeks before harvest in soil, give 1/2 tsp of Blackstrap Molasses per gallon when watering (avoid this if you get ants)

Improve or Enhance Natural Bloom Processes

This group contains ingredients that are meant to “enhance” or help the plant do its job better. In addition to carbohydrates or sugar, these types of supplements also contain extracts from plant, marine, and mineral sources, as well as things like vitamins, amino acids, polyflavonoids, etc.

The jury is still out and which is the most effective supplement, but some popular cannabis supplements based on this type of formula include…

    & KoolBloom (by General Hydroponics) & Cha Ching (by Fox Farm) (go light or this will severely burn your plants)

Note: When possible, get supplements from the same company as your regular nutrients. This greatly reduces the chance of negative interactions that could distress the plant.

Supplements that “add” a smell to buds

I’m really intrigued by Botanicare’s Sweet Carbo line. According to Botanicare:

The natural esters in Sweet are easily absorbed by the plant, but are not broken down further once deposited within the plant tissue. This means that as new flowers develop they will contain small amounts of these natural esters which contribute to the overall flavor and aroma of the finished product.

They offer flavors such as citrus, berry, and “raw” (which is just a generally sweet smell). These should be used throughout the flowering stage to help build smell/flavor in the buds as they mature. However, since these contain a small but significant amount of magnesium, they should not be used while flushing during last 2-3 weeks before harvest. At this point, the smells have already been deposited into the buds. Another cool thing about these supplements is they contain amino acids and some other enhancers, so it’s kind of like getting a lot of different products at once.

Other growers who’ve tried the “raw” version have said they can definitely notice an increase in the amount of “sweet” smell in their buds.

Clearing or Leeching Supplements

These claim to help remove buildup of nutrients or other unwanted compounds. They don’t seem to hurt anything though I have yet to see significant evidence of measurable improvement to buds. Contact us and let us know what you think!

Clearex is a popular “leeching” supplement

With all supplements, be careful not to give too much

The more types of supplements you use, the bigger the chance you might end up burning or causing a nutrient lockout problem with your plants. If possible, always try to use all supplements and nutrients from the same nutrient company. This lessens the chance of unwanted interactions since the whole line is designed to work together. When in doubt, go for an established nutrient company that has been around for years over one that has just appeared recently.

2.) Light Quality (Use Strong Light with UV-B)

It’s common knowledge that you need strong light to get cannabis buds to live up to their potential as far as density, potency and smell. The most common types of grow light for flowering cannabis plants are LEDs, CMH/LECs, and HPS, in part because these produce great yields and potent buds.

However, they’re not equal when it comes to increasing the level of smell. There is some evidence that some types of light, specifically a type of light known as UV-B light, can possibly enhance trichome production and smell. This is backed up by the fact that grow lights with high UV productions often produce some of the highest levels of terpenes in lab tests.

On the spectrum of light, UV-B is below blue/violet (that’s why it’s called “ultra-violet”) and outside of our range of vision. However, even though we can’t see UV-B light, it still has a big effect on both humans and plants. It tans humans and may increase terpene/trichome productions in cannabis plants.

But it’s not completely safe. too much UV-B light is bad for humans (we use sunscreen to protect ourselves from UV light from the sun) and can actually hurt plants, too. In fact, we believe trichomes may help protect the plant from UV-B rays, kind of like how humans get a tan.

This could be why increasing UV-B exposure seems to increase trichome production. However, because of the danger of UV-B light, always make sure to protect your eyes and skin from exposure and never look directly at the light. It’s also a great idea to wear protective glasses that block UV light whenever you’re around a grow light that is producing UV.

Supplementing your flowering plant with UV-B light may increase the potency and smell production by triggering a natural stress response

These sources of light provide UV rays and are shown to produce extra cananbis terpenes….

  • The Sun – ones of the best sources of UV light.
  • CMH / LEC grow lights – I’ve found CMH/LECs with the 4200k Philips CMH bulb in the flowering stage consistently produce significantly more terpenes (and trichomes) than any other grow light or bulb (including 3k CMH bulb, all LEDs tested so far, or HPS). However, the 4200k bulb does get lower yields than HPS, LEDs, or the CMH bulbs designed for the flowering stage. So there’s a tradeoff where the 4200k CMH bulb gives more trichomes and terpenes, but lower yields.

Note about LED grow lights: Some specialized LED grow lights these days are coming with a few UV-producing diodes. At this time, t’s unclear whether these produce enough UV rays light to actually make a difference to the plant. Most panels have just a handful of small UV diodes at most, and in side-by-side grows with lab testing, a CMH grow light with a 4200k Philips bulb produces higher terpene levels than any LEDs it’s gone up against.

Note: Glass blocks most UV light, so if your light is separated from your plants by glass (for example by a greenhouse or hood) it will prevent a lot of the UV light from reaching your buds. When it comes to UV light, there should always be a clear and direct path from the light source to the plants.

3.) Grow in “Living” Soil (Super Soil)

Even better than giving your plant organic nutrients is to grow with your roots in a living soil. In other words, this is a type of soil with an active colony of microorganisms. It is like the soil a plant would be using in nature, only it’s even better because it’s been amended with exactly the right kind of nutrients and supplements. We did a side-by-side with clones grown in Nature’s Living Super Soil vs coco, and found in lab tests that the super soil buds had higher THC and terpene levels. Although the differences weren’t huge and there could be other factors at play, it’s possible that super soil growing may lead to cannabis buds that smell better.

Green House Company was leading the way in cannabis terpene and terpenoid research by growing cannabis in a variety of ways and then directly measuring the terpene content in the buds. They have found that while hydroponic grows tend to get much higher yields (with the exception of a few Indica strains), soil-grown buds tend to have a more complex terpene profile. You can see the results of the terpene analysis here . The results have since been removed from the site for unknown reasons but here’s a link to see the old version of the page on the WayBack Machine (I encourage everyone who values knowledge to please support the WayBack Machine for preserving important information like this for future generations).

Living soil is often referred to as “Super Soil” in the cannabis world; this just means soil that has been amended and composted. This creates a “micro-herd” of microorganisms in the soil, which break down and feed nutrients directly to your plant roots. As a result, you don’t have to provide extra nutrients or worry about the pH of your soil, because your micro-herd is doing all the work for you. You just water your plants and that’s it. Learn how to grow cannabis in “Just Add Water” Super Soil.

The main downsides are plants tend to grow a little slower compared to using liquid nutrients and are more likely to get bugs than coco or hydro, but as a reward for using super soil your buds will be fragrant with a lovely bouquet of smells.

If you’re serious about maximizing the taste and smell of your buds, growing in super soil is a great choice

4.) Temperature & Humidity After Buds Start Forming

This may be difficult to control depending on your grow situation, but controlling the temperature and humidity for the last several weeks of flowering can make a significant difference in your bud quality.

If you’re not sure when to start, I recommend starting this effort 6 weeks after the switch to 12/12, as that’s a common halfway point for many strains. However, if you’re seeing buds fattening, it’s time to zero in on the environment.

Keep Day Temperature Under 80°F

Keep the temperature between 70-80°F in the second half of the flowering stage because high temperatures can “burn off” some of the smell contained in your buds! It can also make buds feel hard and crispy on top, and cause buds to grow airy and loose with foxtails. Don’t let your buds cook under hot grow lights.

It is especially important to make sure buds are not exposed to too-high temps after they start fattening, as this is when the terpene content in the buds is really starts to ramp up.

Night Temperature Should Be a Few Degrees Cooler

Having somewhat cooler nights can help cannabis produce more terpenes, and cooler night temperatures towards the end of the flowering stage also helps bring out colors like pink and purple if your plant has the genetics.

Flowering buds like slightly cooler temperatures during their dark period. Bonus: Slightly cool nights can enhance your strain’s natural colors if the genetics allow

Keep Humidity 45-50% RH

Keep grow space around or a bit under 50% relative humidity throughout the flowering stage for the best terpene production and overall plant growth. The lower levels of humidity not only prevent bud rot, but dry air can also cause the plant to produce more trichomes as a stress response.

Temperature & Humidity Adjustment Cheat Sheet

  • Dehumidifier – Raises Temperature (somewhat), Lowers Humidity
  • Space Heater – Raises Temperature, Lowers Humidity
  • Air Conditioner – Lowers Temperature, Lowers Humidity
  • Evaporative Cooler – Lowers Temperature, Raises Humidity
  • Humidifier – Raises Temperature (somewhat), Raises Humidity

5.) “Flush” Plants Before Harvest

If you’ve been giving your plants extra nutrients in their water, then it’s recommended to stop using them for some amount of time before harvest. This gives the plant time to use up any extra nutrients contained in the plant so they are less likely to come through in the taste of your buds.

Give just plain water to plants before harvest

If you’re not giving your plants extra nutrients in their water (for example if you’re growing in super soil) than there’s no need to flush before harvest because you’ve already been giving your plants plain water from the beginning. Your micro-herd is taking care of getting the nutrients to your plants without going overboard, and by this point in the grow you will have used up a lot of the extra nutrients.

In regular soil it’s common to flush for 1-2 weeks before harvest because there’s still some amount of nutrients contained in the soil.

In coco or hydro there are no extra nutrients as a buffer, so it’s recommended you flush for only a few days to a week. Giving a really long flush in a soilless medium can cause leaves to turn yellow and die too early. This hurts yields and can make buds look less attractive if the sugar leaves turn yellow too.

“Clearing” or “Salt Leaching” Solutions

We mentioned these briefly in the supplements section, but they are even more relevant here. These products are formulated to help remove extra minerals or salts when watering the plant, which may reduce the chance that these minerals end up altering the smell or flavor of your buds.

They’re meant to be used if you’ve been giving your plants extra nutrients in their water; they aren’t necessary when the plant has been getting all its nutrients from the soil. If you’ve got an active microbial colony in your soil, these might do more harm than good, but they’re a great choice for growers in soilless mediums like coco or hydro where the plant is getting all its nutrition from liquid nutrients.

    (by General Hydroponics) (by Botanicare)

6.) Harvest at the Right Time

More than any technique or tactic for harvesting cannabis (and there are lots of them) there’s one that really makes a difference when it comes to increasing terpenes…

Harvest at the right time. Smells (terpenes) build up throughout the flowering stage. If you harvest too early you will have far lower levels of terpenes, and your buds won’t be nearly as fragrant as they would be if they had been allowed to develop to maturity.

Buds are ready to harvest once they appear solid and all the white “hairs” have darkened and curled in

7.) Dry & Cure – (CRUCIAL – don’t skip this!)

Drying Your Buds

Follow the drying and curing tutorial given at the beginning of this article to give plants optimal drying and curing. Other tips include…

  • Dry buds slowly. Fast-drying can give them a “green” or minty sort of taste and smell that doesn’t go away even after curing.
  • Buds are dry when they snap off instead of bend. When buds feel completely dry and pop off their stems without leaving strings behind, they are done drying and ready to put in jars. At this point the small stems on the branches will snap, but the bigger ones may still bend without snapping (bending means there is still water contained inside).

Curing Your Buds in Jars – Read the Full Curing Tutorial

The curing process may seem unnecessary if you’ve never done it before, but it is going to significantly improve the taste, smell and overall smoothness of your buds. You simply cannot skip the curing process and get cannabis that lives up to its potential.

Chemical processes in the buds during the curing process can drastically changes their scent. These processes also increase the perceived potency of buds and many find the mental/body effects of buds to be much stronger and/or more pleasant after buds have been cured.

Put buds in jars. Place your newly dried and separated buds in quart-sized mason jars as this is the beginning of the “curing” process. Fill jars 80% full of buds and close them up.

Watch out for rising humidity levels. If you’ve dried your buds slowly and put them in the jars at the right time, the overall humidity in the jar is going to rise over time as the moisture from inside the buds works its way to the outside. If buds ever feel moist or are sticking together in the jar, it means there’s too much water contained inside and the jar should be left open for a few minutes to an hour to help dry things out. If this happens to you, check on buds frequently until the humidity has stabilized. Buds should always feel completely dry.

  • Open jars at least daily for 2-4 weeks
  • Use a hygrometer to try to maintain humidity between 55-62% RH in the jars (lower humidity for bigger buds to help them dry thoroughly, higher humidity for smaller buds to prevent them from getting too dry)
  • Consider using Boveda or Integra Boost humidity packs to automatically maintain the desired humidity in jars (58% and 62% are most common for curing weed)

The curing process magnifies the “weed smell” and slowly reduces the smell of hay, grass, or chlorophyll

Boveda humidipacks automatically maintain the humidity in jars (at 58% or 62%) for you during the curing process

Watch out for the smell of ammonia or an unpleasant “funk.” Whenever you open your jars and take a little whiff, watch out for the smell of ammonia or a bad “funky” kind of scent. That could mean that extra moisture in the jar is causing anaerobic bacteria to grow when it’s sealed up. If you smell something that doesn’t seem right, keep the lids off your jars for an hour to help buds dry out a bit, and check again tomorrow to make sure the smell has cleared up.

8.) NO Scent Neutralizers

Some products are great at neutralizing the smell of cannabis… Almost too good.

ONA products are strong enough to neutralize a whole room of almost any smell (it was designed for sewers), leaving a strong chemical-y clean scent. The problem with scent neutralizers is they can actually alter the smell of the buds themselves. If you use a lot of products that leave a strong artificial “clean” smell (perfume, cologne, Febreeze, ONA products, etc) in the air near your developing buds, it can affect your buds even if they never get touched.

If a product leaves a strong smell of chemicals or perfume in the air, don’t use it near your plants

The Glade plug-in in your bathroom isn’t going to affect the smell of your buds, but if you spray a lot of Febreeze in the grow space whenever guests come over, or put something like ONA gel in your tent with your plants, your buds may come out smelling just like Febreeze or ONA even if they never come in direct contact. If you don’t know what’s causing the odd taste/smell to your buds, this can be really frustrating.

Learn how to completely scrub all smells using a carbon filter – they work better than any spray product and won’t affect the scent of your buds.

9.) Start with the Right Genetics

No matter what you do as a grower, you can’t get a plant to overcome its own genetics. If a plant doesn’t have the genes to make fragrant buds, than there’s not a whole lot you can do. There’s no way to make ditch weed smell great. Today’s tutorial has covered all the things you can do to maximize an individual plant’s potential, but if you want something really special you have to grow a plant with the good genes.

Most strains of cannabis will smell to some extent when grown properly. However, there are also some strains (like Northern Lights) which have a particularly light smell, so working on increasing the terpenoid content of this strain won’t do much to make a difference.

If you want to grow something really special like this Purple Kush Auto, you have to have the right genetics

Every breeder has something different they’re breeding for and there are many strains with unique smells including pineapple, chocolate, blueberry and more!

If there’s something particular you have in mind, you will be much happier if you start with a strain that matches your preference!

List of Suggested Strains

These strains are either particularly pleasant smelling or have a downright pungent odor. There are growers who want both kinds. The strains below have been hand-picked by us because they’re exceptionally strong and aromatic, as well as being stable strains from known and trusted breeders.

Peyote Critical produces great yields, sparkle, potency, and a sweet smell. Easy to grow and fast-to-finish flowering. A perfect beginner strain.

Critical Hog by TH Seeds. Not only does this strain make beautiful, sparkly, STINKY buds, it also gets exceptional yields. Check out a grow journal from one of our readers featuring Critical Hog.

Aurora Indica (by Nirvana) – Diesel smell, almost like gasoline or fuel. This plant was a breeze to grow, and had seemingly had no problem even after several mistakes were made. Quick to harvest.

Here are the freshly trimmed buds at harvest. The smell was intense, almost like fuel

Pineapple Chunk (by Barneys Farm)

A lot of the time when someone says a strain smells like a fruit, they mean that you’ll get small hints of that smell in the undertones. With Pineapple Chunk the buds actually smell sweet, and some really do smell quite a bit like pineapple. Although not the highest yielding, this strain produces buds that always get a surprising number of positive comments about the taste and smell, and the bud effects are very smooth.

You will be able to start smelling the pineapple when the plant is still in the flowering stage, but the smell is most pronounced after the buds have been dried and cured.

Blue Cheese – Smells fruity, sweet and spicy, with hints of the powerful “cheese” smell. Incredibly strong smell in flowering may be overwhelming. Powerful and stoney effect has been described as euphoric.

Note by Nebula: This strain is forgiving (easy) to grow indoors and produces incredible yields. Naturally mold-resistant (which is partly why this strain is popular in humid climates like the UK). It is not as good outdoors because the powerful smell gives it away. Most plants grow short and stocky with lots of side branching, though certain plants tend to grow a bit taller. Responds well to plant training.

Here’s another example of a different Blue Cheese plant. It doesn’t smell exactly like blueberry or cheese, but the smell definitely has strong undertones of both!

Smells lemony, and certain plants will end up smelling just like a Lemonhead with a mix of citrus, sour and sweet. The potency is surprisingly strong, energetic and creative, perfect for daytime use. Doesn’t usually cause ‘couchlock’ so many people like this strain for daytime use.

…and a Super Lemon Haze cola

Liberty Haze (by Barneys Farm) – Liberty Haze is a potency juggernaut, and the only thing as strong as its potency is the diesel smell it produces.

Note from Sirius – This strain is seriously a powerhouse in terms of both potency and smell. The smell is so strong that you probably shouldn’t open a jar of it with other people in your house. They are definitely going to notice when it smells like an 18 wheeler is filling up on gas in your home!

Autoflowering Strains (learn more about autoflowering strains)

Amnesia Auto (autoflowering) by MSNL produced excellent yields, smelled like a dream, and had trichomes everywhere. When we grew it we got hints of kush and citrus scents.

Blue AutoMazar (by Dutch Passion) – A cross between two autoflowering strains from breeder Dutch Passion, this strain is as much about taste and smell as it is about potency.

What Do Drugs Smell Like?

If you suspect that a spouse, friend, or loved one is abusing drugs, your nose may be the key to finding out the truth. Maybe you’ve noticed strange behaviors, money problems, or have caught your loved one lying to you. If you’re suspicious about them using drugs and you ask them directly, they may not give you an honest answer.

In the early stages of drug addiction, people often deny that they have a problem with drugs. Or, if they are confronted by a loved one, they may simply try to develop more sophisticated ways of hiding it.

Fortunately, most drugs produce a distinct smell, especially if they are smoked. Below, we’ll dive into some of the unique aromas of several commonly abused drugs. This should help you get some answers and maybe even confirm your suspicions.

If you can confirm your loved one’s drug abuse, there are a few different ways you can approach them about the issue and help them get treatment. We’ll go into that in more detail below.

What Do Drugs Smell Like?

Meth Powerful chemicals, cleaning products, burnt plastic, sulfuric
Heroin Acidic and sour (like vinegar)
Crack Burnt plastic, burnt rubber, cleaning chemicals
Marijuana Musky, skunky
PCP Permanent marker

What Does Meth Smell Like?

Meth (methamphetamine) is a powerful and highly addictive stimulant drug. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse) NIDA, most of the meth in the U.S. is produced and then transported here from Mexico. 1 However, meth can still be made in small laboratories with easy-to-get ingredients.

Meth production involves several different toxic chemicals, including:

  • Acetone
  • Hydrochloric acid
  • Lithium
  • Sulfuric acid
  • Red phosphorus
  • Anhydrous ammonia

As a result, meth usually smells like powerful chemicals. When it’s smoked, it has a more subtle smell that’s almost sweet. Some other common ways people describe the smell of meth include:

  • Cleaning products
  • Burnt plastic
  • Sulfuric (like rotten eggs)

Similar to a hospital or medical facility If someone has recently binged on meth, their sweat may also smell like ammonia. Unfortunately, unless you are in the same room while a person is using meth or you discover their meth lab, it may be difficult for you to detect meth use simply by smelling it.

If you want to know how to spot a meth lab, here’s what you should look for:

  • Chemical smells
  • Visitors at all times of the day and night
  • Large bottles in the trash
  • Suspicious or paranoid behavior of the residents or of the people who are coming and going

What Does Heroin Smell Like?

Heroin is an opioid that’s made from morphine, which is a naturally occurring substance found in the seed pods of opium poppy plants. It often looks like a white or brown powder, but it can also be a black sticky substance (called black tar heroin). People who use heroin usually sniff, smoke, inject, or snort it. 2

Usually, heroin is odorless, which can make it difficult to detect based on scent. However, depending on how it’s made, it can have a strong acidic and sour smell like vinegar. Typically, if the heroin is purer, it will smell sour as a result of the production process (boiling morphine with the chemical acetic anhydride).

According to the United States Department of Justice, black or brown heroin is most likely to have a sour vinegar-like odor. 3 Some heroin may smell differently due to various additives that may be used to make it, such as laxatives, talcum powder, or acetaminophen (Tylenol).

Unfortunately, heroin and fentanyl (which are frequently combined) hardly produce any smell at all. When it’s smoked, the smell dissipates very quickly, which can make the combo extremely difficult to detect.

What Does Crack Smell Like?

Cocaine is a powerful stimulant that is made from the leaves of the coca plant. As a street drug, it’s manufactured into a fine, white, crystal powder and can be mixed with other drugs like amphetamine or synthetic opioids. It can also be cut with additives like corn starch or flour. 4

Another common form of cocaine is called “crack.” Also called “freebase cocaine,” crack is cocaine that has been processed into a rock crystal which is smoked on its own, or sprinkled over marijuana or tobacco.

Generally, crack smells like burnt plastic or rubber and cleaning chemicals when it is smoked. It doesn’t have a scent when it’s not being smoked. Cocaine can have a sweet, floral scent but it also smells very metallic, like chemicals.

When crack isn’t being smoked, it can be a very difficult substance to detect by smell alone. For this reason, it’s often easiest to determine when a loved one is using crack based on their behavior and other physical changes, like:

  • Extreme energy and happiness
  • Extreme sensitivity to sound, light, and touch
  • Paranoia
  • Irritability
  • Bizarre, unpredictable, or violent behavior

What Does Marijuana Smell Like?

Marijuana is the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds of the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plants. Researchers know that marijuana is physically and psychologically addictive and chronic marijuana use can lead to mild or severe marijuana use disorder.

Marijuana smells very musky and skunky and has a distinct and potent smell. (After you smell it once, you’ll recognize it instantly the next time.) Depending on the strain, its scent can also vary a bit. Unlike many other drugs, the smell of marijuana can be easily detected both before it’s smoked and after. It’s scent often lingers on clothes, hair, and personal items as well, which makes it difficult to hide.

According to the NIDA, marijuana is the most commonly abused drug in the United States. 5 About 45.3 percent of individuals ages 12 or older have used marijuana at least once in their lifetime. 6

As a result, most people know what marijuana smells like because they’ve smelled it before. The recreational and legalization of marijuana has also contributed to more widespread use and access to marijuana, which means you’re likely to smell its distinct aroma often.

What Does PCP Smell Like?

PCP (phencyclidine) is a hallucinogen and dissociative drug that was originally developed for medical use as a general anesthetic for surgery. It’s produced in many different forms, including tablets, capsules, liquid, or powder. People who abuse PCP usually snort it, smoke it, inject it, or swallow it. They may also sprinkle it on top of marijuana, parsley, or tobacco and then smoke it. 7

Most people who use PCP smoke it, which produces a recognizable scent. Most people say smoked PCP smells like a permanent marker.

What Are Other Signs of Drug Abuse?

Since many drugs don’t have a smell unless they are smoked, you may not notice any particular odors associated with a loved one’s drug abuse. However, there are many other signs of drug abuse that should be cause for concern, such as:

  • Strange behaviors
  • Sudden lack of hygiene
  • Financial problems
  • Sudden change in social habits
  • Loss of interest in usual hobbies and activities
  • A sudden drop in performance at school or work

Help a Loved One Get Addiction Treatment Today

If you smell drugs on your loved one, you’ll want to approach them in a calm and non-judgmental way. Although it’s important to be firm about their need to get treatment, you also don’t want them to feel judged. That could make them more resistant to getting help.

You’ll also want to have a plan for treatment lined up before you confront your loved one about his or her drug use. Whether you do your own research or you work with an interventionist, having a plan for how you will confront your loved one is essential.

The following types of addiction treatment can help your loved one overcome their substance abuse problems and achieve sustained sobriety:

  • Medical detox: A medical detox program will help your loved one overcome their physical dependence on drugs. Medical staff will administer medication as needed to manage your loved one’s withdrawal symptoms and clinical staff will provide counseling for a more manageable and comfortable withdrawal experience.
  • Residential drug rehab: A residential rehab program will provide structured, individualized treatment, including individual therapy and counseling, group therapy, 12-Step programming, peer support services, and more. This type of treatment allows your loved one time to heal, helps them establish essential life skills and tools, and provides them with a supportive peer sober circle in the earliest stages of recovery.
  • Outpatient rehab: IOP or an intensive outpatient program offers comprehensive and individualized treatment with a flexible schedule. Your loved one will attend outpatient treatment sessions several times a week, with individual and group sessions led by licensed and qualified staff members. Your loved one can also complete online IOP if they are unable to attend in-person or prefer not to.
  • Sober living: A sober living program provides a supportive, safe, and sober living space for your loved one. Residents are also drug tested regularly and receive peer recovery support services such as employment assistance, educational planning, volunteer placement, and individualized recovery programming.

When you’re ready to find help for your loved one, call (512) 605-2955 to speak with a representative at Nova Recovery Center. We can help by identifying suitable addiction treatment options and connecting you with a qualified interventionist who will guide you through the intervention process if that’s how you choose to confront your loved one.