Pay attention that growing marijuana may be subject to special restrictions and regulation in your country or state. Please contact your attorney to obtain advice before cultivating cannabis.
When to harvest cannabis if you want to get a rich yield? Whether your plants are indoors or outdoors, the duration of growth and the specific strain significantly affect the right time to harvest. No one wants to let their hard work go down the drain, right? So, to ensure you hit that sweet spot, let's dive into the details of cannabis harvesting. We'll explore the key factors to consider to maximize your yields. Let's get ready to harvest the fruits of your labor like a pro!
Factors Affecting When to Harvest Marijuana Plant
There are several factors that affect when to harvest weed. Here are the most important ones:
Stage of Plant Growth
- Vegetative Stage: During this early phase, the plant focuses on building a robust structure with healthy leaves and stems.
- Flowering Stage: As the plant transitions into the flowering stage, buds start to form, and resin production increases.
Trichome Color and Maturity
Trichomes are cells on the surface of cannabis flowers and leaves. They start as little spheres but gradually develop into mushroom-like structures with stems. The size and abundance of these trichomes can vary depending on the strain and overall plant conditions. Trichomes contain essential compounds like THC (hello, euphoria!) and terpenes that add unique flavors and effects to your weed. You can determine whether the plant is ready by looking at the trichomes through a magnifying glass.
Pistil Color and Maturity
Pistils are delicate white hairs found on cannabis buds. Initially, they grow upright and appear bright white during the early weeks of flowering. However, as the plant matures, they transform into a brownish-orange hue and develop a graceful curl. Pistils may appear at various stages of the flowering period, and factors like temperature fluctuations, humidity levels, fertilizer use, or insecticide exposure can impact their color and quality.
- Light Cycle: If you manipulate the light cycle, you can trigger the flowering phase earlier.
- Temperature and Humidity: Optimal temperature and humidity levels throughout the growth cycle ensure healthy and timely growth.
- Pest and Disease Pressure: Take preventive measures against pests and diseases and address any issues promptly to prevent damage and get a rich harvest.
Best Time to Harvest Sativa vs. Indica
One handy way to learn when to harvest buds is to find out the expected flowering time for your specific strain. You can dive into online resources and reviews from experienced growers who've worked with the same strain. As a quick reference, here are some popular strains and their optimal harvest windows: Indica delights are usually ready after eight weeks of flowering, while Sativa strains shine brightest after 10 weeks.
How Long Does It Take to Harvest Weed?
When to harvest pot? The timeline can range between 8 to 12 weeks, varying based on the strain you've chosen. However, on average, most strains are ready to harvest around the 10-week mark.
When Is Cannabis Ready to Harvest – Key Signs
Here are the most important signs to look for in a weed ready to harvest.
Harvest your cannabis when approximately 90% of the trichomes have turned milky white while around 10% have transitioned to an amber color. This sweet spot represents the optimal point for harvesting. For a true-to-strain effect, don’t harvest when the trichomes are still transparent or when they have all turned amber.
Initially, pistils appear white, but as the flowering phase nears its end, they transition to vibrant shades of red, brown, or orange. Timing is crucial here, as the ideal moment to harvest is when approximately 50-70% of the pistils have changed color. If a significant number of white pistils are still visible, it's too early to harvest. Keep in mind that the higher the percentage of color-changed pistils, the more potent the high is likely to be.
Bud density and size
The shape and density of the buds themselves are also important to determine when to harvest marijuana plants. While not as precise as other methods mentioned, ripe buds ready for harvest tend to be firm and tightly packed.
Smell and Taste
Usually, cannabis starts to smell around 3-5 weeks prior to being ready to be harvested. This happens during the flowering period. Note that this smell will be distinct from the one you get when burning weed, as it is the smell of the plant itself.
Testing for Potency
THC and CBD Levels
One more complicated way to know when to harvest bud is to do a test. To test cannabis for CBD and THC levels, you can use DIY home testing kits for a rough estimate or send a sample to a reputable laboratory specializing in cannabinoid analysis.
You can also perform a terpene profile test. The most reliable method is to send a sample to a reputable laboratory that offers terpene analysis. These labs use techniques like gas chromatography (GC) or mass spectrometry (MS) to identify and quantify the various terpenes present in the sample.
Signs of Non-ready Cannabis to Harvest
If you want to know when to harvest pot plants, the most important is to know when you should hold off on harvesting. There are several signs to look out for:
- White Pistils: If the majority of the pistils (hairs) on the buds are white and stick straight out, it indicates that the plant is not fully matured.
- Clear Trichomes: The trichomes, those tiny resin glands on the buds, should still be mostly clear or transparent. Immature plants have trichomes that haven't developed into milky or amber colors.
- Lack of Bud Density: If the buds feel light and airy and lack density and weight, it suggests that they have not fully developed and need more time to grow.
- Green Appearance: The overall color of the plant should be vibrant green. If the fan leaves remain fully green and don’t start to yellow, the plant is not fully ripe.
- Immature Fragrance: Unripe cannabis typically lacks the potent aroma associated with mature buds. If the scent is still relatively mild or lacks the characteristic fragrance, it suggests the plant is not ready for harvest.
What Happens If We Don’t Harvest on Time?
Harvesting too early brings a lighter touch to the game. You'll have lower levels of CBN, THC, and CBD, giving you a softer and more active high. But here's the deal: early birds might miss out on the full sensory experience. The buds won't have fully developed their aromatic and flavorful potential, as the essential oils and terpenes love to show off during the final stretch.
On the flip side, if you wait too long to harvest, things take a different turn. THC and CBD start to degrade, transforming into CBN. Brace yourself for a more narcotic and heavy effect (not the same as that cozy relaxation typical of indicas, mind you!). Late harvests also run the risk of losing out on that delightful flavor. So, finding that sweet spot between too early and too late is the secret to capturing the perfect balance of potency, flavor, and overall cannabis experience.
What Does Overripe Cannabis Look Like?
Take a close look at those trichomes once again and pay attention to their color. If you spot a majority of amber trichomes, it's a sign that the cannabis flowers have reached an overripe state. Be prepared for disappointment, as the harvested weed may have an unpleasant taste.
On top of that, when the amber trichomes take over the milky white ones, cannabinoids like THC can start to degrade. In some unfortunate cases, trichomes can even turn black if growers miss their harvesting window. Keep an eye out for brittle trichomes, too, as overripe buds might crumble in your hands. Remember, knowing when to harvest weed plants is everything for your success.
What Do Trichomes Look Like When Ready to Harvest?
Harvesting begins when new white pistils have mostly stopped growing, and around 30-40% of them have darkened and curled.
The highest THC levels are reached when the trichomes appear milky white or cloudy under magnification. These milky trichomes are ready to harvest and provide more euphoric and psychoactive effects. Around 50-70% of the pistils will have darkened at this stage.
Some Sativa and Haze strains may not develop amber trichomes. If the trichomes have mostly turned white and aren't developing further, it might be time to harvest.
Towards the end of the harvest window, when the trichomes have darkened to an amber/gold color, the cannabis will have a more sedating effect. This is commonly seen in indica strains. The amber trichomes contain less psychoactive THC and more calming CBN, which has anti-anxiety effects.
Methods of Harvesting Cannabis
Even if you know when to harvest pot plant, you still need to figure out how to do it the best way. There are several methods:
Manual harvesting is the most popular method among small-scale growers. You will need shears or scissors, isopropyl alcohol for cleaning, plastic gloves, plastic trays, and a drying rack or box. Always clean your tools, wear gloves, and maintain a clean space.
As to machine harvesting, you can use the bucker—a handy machine that takes the hard work out of removing flowers and leaves from the stalks. You can insert a branch or stalk into the bucker's opening, and it pulls it through, leaving you with stripped plants ready for the next steps. Whether it's using a roller or blade mechanism, depending on the model, the bucker ensures a quick and efficient process. Buckers are a great aid for large-scale growers.
Wet vs. Dry Trimming
Wet trimming is when you trim the cannabis harvest immediately after it's been harvested and remove the leaves right away. On the other hand, dry trimming is when you hang the entire plant, leaves and all, to dry for a few days before trimming. Most cannabis industry experts tend to favor wet trimming as the more efficient method.
To sum up, the best way to learn when to harvest cannabis is to look at the trichomes and pistils. Harvesting too early results in a lighter high, while harvesting too late can turn your buds into a sleeping medication. How do you learn when marijuana is ready to harvest? Share your know-how with other growers.
When to Harvest Outdoor Weed?
When is marijuana ready to harvest outdoors? Largely, the flowering period for outdoor and indoor cannabis is the same, around 16 weeks. Usually, outdoor weed is planted during the spring and harvested in early fall.
How Do You Know When Your Cannabis Buds Are Ripe?
Your cannabis buds are ripe when approximately 90% of trichomes are milky white and 10% have turned amber color. Also, the buds are ready to harvest when around 50-70% of pistils have turned red, orange, or brown.
When Should We Stop Watering Before Harvesting?
A good idea is to stop watering 1-3 days before harvesting. By letting your plant wilt a little bit, you increase the resin production.
At What Stage Should We Harvest Cannabis?
You will need to wait 6-12 weeks until the harvesting depending on the strain. Harvest when around 90% of trichomes are milky white, and 10% are amber. Plus, around 50-70% of pistils should have turned red, brown, or orange.