You wouldn't be alone in thinking drying and curing are the same thing, but in fact they are two very different processes.
Drying Your Plants
How you dry your plants depends on how you harvest. Some growers prefer to dry the whole plant, whereas others will cut off the bigger branches and dry them separately.
The most common method of drying is hang drying. Regardless of if you harvest the whole plant or just branches, the hang-dry method works well for both. Whole plants will take slightly longer as they still have excess foliage that retains more moisture.
The important factors when it comes to drying your plants is temperature, humidity and air flow. You want to dry in a dark room, with temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Your humidity should be constant between 45-55%, and you want fans (more or less depending on room and harvest size) to help circulate the air in the room.
Depending on your plants, drying can take anywhere from 5-15 days. Then you're ready to start the curing process.
Curing Your Flowers
After you harvest and dry your plants, you need to trim them up before you cure them. How much extra leaf you want to leave on your flowers before curing is up to you, but be sure to remove any big leaves that could retain extra moisture.
You can cure your flowers a few different ways. Glass jars, plastic bags (like turkey bags), metal air tight bins, plastic buckets.
Growers with a big harvest may use big plastic bins to store pounds of product, and a lot of growers prefer bags because of how much you can fit in them. But for your average home grow, glass jars can work just fine.
While drying tends to be the same for everybody, curing times can vary depending on your flower. Regardless, you want to cure for at least two to three weeks, with some cultivars needing much longer.
Most importantly, you need to do what is called "burping" throughout the curing process. During the first week, you want to open your jars or whatever container you choose for storage, and allow the oxygen to replenish in your container. You can shake the container slightly to get rid of any air pockets.
If you have a fully packed container with no space for your flowers to move, you are more likely to encounter issues like mold and mildew, which can destroy your flowers.
The Importance of Drying and Curing
You can't sell or consume wet flower. People won't want flower that isn't properly cured. So, it's safe to say that drying and curing are essential to cultivation.
In fact, the drying and curing process is possibly just as important as the growth process, as improperly drying and curing can ruin your harvest. Suffice to say, don't take either lightly.