For all growers, the most important and the most exciting part in growing cannabis is the harvest time. And yet, at the same time, it is considered to be the most crucial because this is the point in time in which your seeds should be attested if they are right for use and consumption.
Cannabis is a plant that, just like the grower, doesn’t always follow the rules. So you will need to apply your own experience to the timing of cannabis harvest. Some varieties may show trichomes that are pink and are difficult to judge whether they have gone cloudy or amber.
Other times you may have a plant where the trichomes appear to stay clear and don’t change until after harvest. Some plants will show trichomes that seem to go from clear to amber without the cloudy stage.
It’s a question of looking at a few different factor (pistil color, trichome appearance, leaf color, feeding characteristics etc) to understand when to harvest your cannabis.
Here are the questions mostly asked and the steps to take when harvesting weed:
Should I harvest early or late?
If you harvest early, the THC content will be higher, therefore it will produce more of a cerebral “head high”. When a plant is in the later stages of budding, the THC starts to turn into what’s known as CBD. CBD is thought to produce more of a body buzz then THC. The high will be less clear and will sometimes make you feel stupid. So the later you wait to harvest, the more CBD you’ll be smoking.
We would recommend experimenting a little, no we don’t mean you need to find a white lab coat, just try harvesting at different times and “feel” the results. Try and find a balance between the two. When 50-65% of the hairs turn color, it’s usually a good time. The right time to harvest marijuana is up to you.
Don’t touch those buds! Touch only the large fan leaves if you want to inspect the buds, as the THC will come off on your fingers and reduce the overall yield if mishandled.
When should cannabis plants be harvested?
The time when to harvest marijuana can be anywhere between 6-12 weeks after the plant starts flowering, then it should be ready for harvest. I know that sounds vague, so we’ll have to look for some visual cues. Look for the white hairs to turn red, orange or brown, and the false seed pods (you did pull the males, right?) to swell with resins. When most of the pistils have turned color, the flowers are ripe to harvest.
The male plants will be taller and have about five green or yellow sepals, which will split open to fertilize the female plant with pollen. The female plant is shorter and has a small pistillate flower, which really doesn’t look like a flower at all but rather a cluster of white hairs. If you don’t want any seeds, just good dope, you should pick the males before they shed their pollen as the female will use some of her resin to make the seeds.
How are weed plants determined for harvest based on pistils and trichomes?
One may be able to harvest from the said marijuana seeds if most of the white pistils have changed color to brown or dark red. They would at least be 50 to 80 percent majority. The second one is that the majority of the trichomes have turned to a more milky and translucent substance from being clear.
How and when should I flush away the nutrients?
Many growers and harvesters like to prep their marijuana by “flushing” out unwanted nutrients from the plants to purify the marijuana. Two weeks before harvest, flood the medium with a heavy dose of water until the nutrient build-ups break down. Wait a few minutes and then add more water—the first dose dissolves the salts, and the second dose flushes them out. Over-irrigating the medium will help the harvesting process.
In the days after you have “flushed” out the nutrients, you’ll notice that the leaves will change color, from dark green to light green to yellow. Now, test if your flush is effective by breaking off a leaf and tasting the juices from the stem. If they’re bitter, there’s still plenty of sugar and food in the plant. If they taste clear, like water, it’s go time!
How do I trim weed accordingly?
A little known fact: different strains of marijuana require different trims. Remove all of the large leaves and trim off the leaf tips that are all around the buds a week before harvest, as soon as the leaves begin to pale in color. Then, trim the leaves not associated with buds first, followed by the ones that are associated with them. Gently turn these over to snip away at the stem and leaf. Make sure to be careful during this process as to not damage the bud.
What happens if weed is not harvested in its right time?
If marijuana plant is not being harvested in its right time, the plant will not taste as good as it should be. Moreover, it will be harder for it to ignite when being consumed. Thus, it is best that patience must be observed so as to achieve the best harvest condition of the said plant. Never be too hasty or too late for harvest it.
How should weed plants be dried?
Once your plants have been cut and the leaves have been removed, the next step is to dry them. In order to dry successfully, the correct environmental conditions must be met—if it is too cool or damp, drying will occur too slowly and mould may form; if it is too hot or dry, flowers will dry too quickly and will develop a harsh, green taste when smoked. Flowers may also dry unevenly if it is too hot or dry, which will lead to them being crispy and dry on the outside but still damp inside.
The ideal setup for drying cannabis is to hang the branches from a clothes line or similar device situated in a room in which the temperature range stays at around 18-24°C (65-75°F) and the relative humidity remains at 45-55%. It is also necessary to ensure that your chosen drying spot is dark, as presence of light will lead to more rapid degradation of THC.
Hang your branches along the line, making sure that they do not touch each other as this will encourage retention of moisture and potential mould growth. Placing an oscillating fan on a low setting and allowing it to run throughout the drying period will improve airflow and reduce chances of mould growth occurring.
Keep in mind:
The best advice we can give to any home grower is to do some tests and find out what YOU prefer – early, middle or late harvested cannabis. If you are growing your own cannabis it is produced more-or-less for free, you just need to decide when it is the best to harvest.
One of the beauties of home growing is that you choose the genetics and the timing of harvest. And remember: is your home grow, your passion, your cannabis.
[Updated, originally published 8.3. 2017]