It's time to harvest your cannabis. You have grown your plants from seeds. You have taken care of their lights, their water supply, and their nutrient levels. You have given them the best care and optimized your indoor production to create the best environment for your plants. Your small plant with a few leaves has matured into a full-blown plant with heavy buds. Congratulations, you have come far.
Now, the moment of truth has arrived. Pay as much attention to your harvesting strategy as you have been paying attention to the growth of your plants. Harvesting is all about timing. Choosing the right moment to cut your plants will improve your yield dramatically. Depending on what strains you chose, and what effects you are looking for, harvesting will be after 8 to 10 weeks. In this article, we will teach you the signs that you should be looking for to let you know your buds are ready for harvesting. In addition, we'll walk through the best practice for cutting your plants.
Harvesting Marijuana: Timing is King
Timing is essential during harvesting because it determines the cannabinoid levels in your buds. Depending on the goals you have for your yield (recreational, medical, subtle, strong), you will want to maximize your THC or CBD level. If you harvest too early, you will miss the good stuff. If you harvest too late, you will miss the good stuff as well. Harvesting too early means missing potency and yield. Harvesting too late might lead to a highly sedative product.
Harvestion too early means missing potency and yield.Harvesting too late might toa highly sedative product.
Pro Tip 1
Many professional growers flush their plants in the last week or two before harvesting. This means they only use plain water to wash out nutrients or anything that could negatively affect the taste or smell of your yield.
When optimizing for marijuana with a high THC level, wait until the THC crystals in the resins on the buds have coated the buds in the latest phase of the flowering stage. Don’t wait too long, because the THC will start to degrade into CBN.
CBD is mostly used for medical effects. Good news: CBD does not degrade over time. If you wait for the THC to degrade into CBN, you can get bigger benefits of CBD.
So here is a list of practical signs that tell you if your buds are ready for harvest:
Flowers merge into heavy kolas
Tiny crystals appear around the flowers
Ovaries are swelling up
The smell will be intense (keep your air flow and carbon filters running if you are doing indoor growing)
Flowers are sticky when touched
The pistils turn from white to a dark brown/red
The pistils will curl in (you want 60% – 70% of the white hairs to do so)
A few larger leaves will turn yellow
Trichomes (or resin glands) are the parts of the plant that carry the THC. They are a tiny white structure on the flower (do not confuse them with the hair of the pistils. Trichomes are more of glitter and also not as long as the hairs). The color of the trichomes can help you determine if the time for harvesting has come.
Pro Tip 2
Use a magnifier to look at the trichomes. It needs to be a jeweler’s loupe or something similar. You will not be able to fully inspect the trichomes with your naked eye.
The trichomes will evolve through three stages that will indicate the maturity of the plant for you:
- 1 Flat head or mushroom shape of the trichomes (Trichomes without mushroom head do not contribute to the potency). These clear trichomes have not developed enough potency yet.
- 2 Trichomes change into white or milky instead of clear. The buds will produce a more energetic high. The time when most trichomes are milky indicates the THC peak.
- 3Trichomes change into a light brown. This is the CBD peak. Much of THC has already degraded. When harvesting cannabis at this point, it might lead to a much more relaxed or narcotic high.
Pro Tip 3
As a rule of thumb: The longer you wait, the heavier the stone.
How to Harvest Marijuana Buds
The big day has come for your marijuana buds. Start early in the day, shortly before the very moment when the grow lights are turning on. You may turn off your high pressure sodium lights or others now and work with standard room lighting.
Pro Tip 4
Only expose your plants to light after you have cut them from the root ball.
Now we are going to get down and dirty. Cut the entire plant away from the root ball. Take off all leaves that are not connected to buds, then trim off smaller leaves. You should work yourself from outside in. From big leaves into smaller ones, far away from the buds, to up close to them. Choose the leaves without trichomes coverage first. Remove the sugar leaves closest to the buds last. This process is called manicuring.
Pro Tip 5
You may start taking off the big fan leaves a week before the actual harvest.
Once your plants are trimmed, hang them upside down on strings. Use an open space with good air flow. Use a humidity range of 45% to 55% in your grow room. You want your marijuana to dry slowly and steadily. The way you dry your harvest will change the burnability. This initial drying process will last about 5 to 7 days.
Pro Tip 6
With water drying out your marijuana, it will lose about 75% of its weight. This is normal.
Successfully harvesting cannabis is what differentiates the apprentice from the master. You have waited many weeks for this moment. Make sure you get it right. The timing for harvesting will determine the taste, smell, and effects of your yield. Keep in mind why you chose your strains and what goals you want for your buds. Pick the right time by observing the trichomes. In the next article we will discuss how to dry your yield.