Most plants will grow for long periods in vegetative stage, providing the nutrients, light color, and light time is constant. In an indoor setting, since we are not relying on the natural cycle of spring-to-fall progression, we must initiate this cycle.
Changing from a blue spectrum to a red spectrum, adding more potassium and phosphorus and less nitrogen, and shortening the light exposure to 12 hours triggers the flowering cycle in plants.
Maturity is also necessary. Clones are mature enough as soon as they grow roots; the veg cycle of 3 – 4 weeks is to allow the size of the clone to increase. Seed-grown plants will usually indicate maturity by expressing small growth projections in the crotch of branches, and by shifting from an equal leaf arrangement to an alternating one.
During flowering, watch closely for bugs or diseases. These are much harder to treat during the fruiting phase, and can ruin a crop. Know your plants’ harvest dates and work out a schedule of specialty additives based on that time.
KEEP AN EXACT CALENDAR. If this is the first time you grew indoors, or the first time for a particular variety, this is crucial. Note everything. This way you do not need to “remember” for the next time. If you are experienced, keep a tight calendar anyway, since this will remove all guesswork for future crops.
Bloom cycle is where all the action is, and where the nutrient schedules can be demanding. There should be no more heavy pruning, but even heavier attention. Tie up or suspend heavy fruit clusters with sticks or yoyos. Rotate frequently. Watch for bugs and disease, since the closer to harvest the smaller your options are to fix things.
Flowering time is more hands-on work. More focus is required for a successful harvest.
Fruit should be picked when firm and ripe. Flowers, such as lavender, and herbs like basil and rosemary, require more care.
Trim away and dispose of all unwanted material, leaving only the stems and flowers. Remove all leaves stuck into or growing through the flowers. This leaf matter will detract from perfect lavender blooms. Curved, pointed trimming shears are great for the closer work. Oils and residue from a healthy plant will render your trimmers gunky. Rinse frequently in rubbing alcohol, or use a product like Sticky Bye-Bye. Soap and water work, but require an interruption in the process each time. Keep you trimmers and hands clean; I prefer using the blue gloves bought inexpensively in boxes of 100 you can purchase at most drugstores. When the hanging dry is complete, pack your flower clusters lightly into a mason jar (use a quart size wide mouth). Every few hours, “burp” your jars by opening the lids and stirring lightly. This will redistribute the remaining moisture and allow it to escape. This curing process takes up to a week.
Lay basil leaves or other succulent herbs on a paper towel or drying net. Allow these to dry completely until crumbly.
To air dry on a line, erect a series of string lines in a darkened area. Provide gentle but consistent airflow. Hang trimmed branches over the lines, or fasten with twist ties. Leave for about three days, or until the branches bend in half quickly but do not snap. A drying net is wildly practical for this event, since the stems can be removed at the beginning of the drying cycle.