How To Tell When Marijuana Seeds Are Ready To Harvest

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How can you tell when your marijuana is ready for bud collection? Learn when to harvest cannabis for optimal levels of ripeness, deliciousness, and potency. It’s vital that we know when to harvest cannabis at the right time to maximize results and avoid disappointment. Let’s find out how.

When To Harvest Cannabis: Tips & Tricks From Kyle Kushman

One of the most important decisions you can make is when to harvest cannabis plants.

Harvesting too early or too late can seriously affect the quality of your buds.

But how do you know when your buds are ripe for harvesting?

Well, just like a piece of fruit, there’s a peak time for ripening.

Collecting a little bit too soon or too late will produce a less than ideal harvest.

So how do you tell? How do you make sure your cannabis harvests are done at exactly the right time?

By reading this article! Let’s go!

What is the average time from planting to harvesting cannabis?

Some autoflowering cannabis plants can finish their entire cycle in 10-12, while big sativa strains can take up to 32 weeks, from planting to flowering!

Your average indoor cannabis grow will be 3 – 5 months.

Okay, this all sounds a little vague, and I apologize, but it all does depend on the cultivar!

Knowing exactly when to harvest cannabis is about knowing what you’re growing, when you flipped into flower, and knowing what signs to look out for.

We shall deal with this without delay.

How can you determine when to harvest pot?

Let’s start with the basics.

Save the date. When you flip to flower, mark the date on your calendar. You won’t know when to harvest cannabis without this basic barometer.

That day is going to be the best indicator of when your particular strain of marijuana is going to be ripe and ready for harvest.

Be equipped. When it starts getting close, you’ll see the pistils turning red.

That’s when you will need a lighted loupe, a handy magnifier that provides a better, closer view of the buds.

Know where to look. To harvest marijuana properly, the last few inspections are the most important of all.

Make sure you always check the buds that grow on the interior, so the coat of trichomes has not been touched.

When walking through the garden or tent, any contact like rubbing or brushing against the flowers could turn the bulbs brown, potentially leading to misjudgment.

Know what the colors mean. When you first look at the trichomes, those tiny mushroom-looking stalks will be clear.

As ripening gets close, maybe a week or two out, they will begin to turn opaque.

The cloudy or milky heads will then turn amber or brown, just like a ripe piece of fruit.

Once 5 to 10% of the trichomes have achieved the amber color, perfect ripening has been reached and that’s when it’s time to harvest marijuana like a master.

Check out this amazing video on ripening, you’ll love it.

How to tell if it’s too early to harvest cannabis

There are many ways to tell it’s too early to harvest your cannabis buds.

Use these guidelines combined with your knowledge and perception to know when to harvest cannabis at its most resinous.

Maturation dates

The time spent in flowering differs among cannabis cultivars. Consult your seed supplier, they should be able to tell you the flowering time of your plants. This will be your first data point.

For example, Gelato Feminized takes 8 to 10 weeks in flower.

Even if you see beautiful flowers and an abundance of trichomes, it’s worth waiting until all the boxes are ticked.

Clear trichomes

Trichomes make your cannabis sticky. Their color is a superb indicator that your marijuana crops are ready to harvest.

If they’re still glassy and transparent, your plants aren‘t ready for harvest.

Your plants should be cut down during the peak of resin production. Too early means losing out on strength, taste and smokability.

Too late, and the THC levels can drop as it degrades into CBN.

White pistils

Pistils go through color and shape changes when cannabis is ready to harvest. If the hairs are still white and poking straight outwards, your cannabis isn’t ready yet!

Pistils must be amber-colored before you harvest. Combine trichome hues with pistil color changes to pinpoint the best time to harvest cannabis.

How to tell if it’s too late to harvest

Knowing when to harvest weed is also knowing when you’ve left it too late. Missing the peak window to harvest cannabis buds can lead to over-ripe, super-sleepy buds.

A good sign you’ve left it too late is seeing the majority of the trichomes turn brown or amber.

Your plants will also be close to dying off!

How often can you harvest cannabis plants?

Wouldn’t you love to keep that gorgeous cannabis plant forever?

Harvesting cannabis plants is generally a one-off, as they are annual plants that die after reproduction.

Indoor harvest

Indoor harvesting of cannabis generally happens only once, though you can stagger the harvest if plants mature at different rates. You can also harvest some branches before others, though I wouldn’t advise it.

The best way is to cut the plants down whole. This helps them dry slowly and evenly.

Outdoor harvest

How do you know when to harvest cannabis outdoors?

You’d typically do it before the cold evenings of late September and early October, but you need to look out for the same signs as with indoor growing.

Mark the dates on the calendar. Look out for darkening pistils. Look for amber trichomes. When 5 to 10% of the trichomes turn amber, you can start cutting the plants down.

What do you need to harvest cannabis?

You now know how to tell if your plant is ready to harvest.

Get ready to harvest by making sure you have the room and the equipment.

Latex-free gloves

When you harvest marijuana you’re going to get covered in resin.

If you’ve got a large garden, things get very messy very fast.

A pair of gloves is a lifesaver! Latex-free ones are best as they don’t contain powder or synthetic resin.

Magnifier

Your eyes are a tool with limitations.

Invest in a magnifying glass, pocket microscope, or 40x magnification jeweler’s loupe. Use them to identify color changes in the trichome heads.

Modern smartphones also have great zoom lenses!

Pruning shears

When it’s time to harvest cannabis, growers know all-too-well how thick-limbed a mature marijuana plant can get.

Chopping from the base may require significant cutting power, which is why you’ll need high-quality pruning shears. Especially if you’ve grown outdoors.

Trimming snips

A good pair of pruning scissors is invaluable for trimming on busy harvest days!

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Your scissors should be sharp, ergonomic, and spring-loaded.

High proof alcohol and clean wipes

Trimming scissors get coated in resin.

Keep 90% proof alcohol and sanitary wipes on hand.

Cleaning your tools makes the task of harvesting marijuana much less of a drag!

Drying rack and drying area

Drying cannabis activates THC in the resin, which is the final step to achieving potency. Plus, it extends the shelf life of your bud!

A drying area isn’t a tool, but you’ll need a clean space big enough for your harvest. Pick a dark, dry place with adequate airflow. Your laundry room or a spare bedroom do the trick.

Moist marijuana plants become a hotbed for microorganisms like fungi.

You don’t want to be smoking that!

Pre-harvest: 5 things to do before harvesting marijuana

Knowing how to harvest cannabis includes steps to take in preparation.

Check out my harvesting video and learn what you need to do ahead of the big day.

Defoliate the plant

As flowering ends, you’ll no longer need large water leaves on stems and branches.

Snip them away for more direct light to the lower flowers.

Tip: Leave some larger leaves here and there. They’re indicators of any potential health issues.

Reduce humidity

The humidity in your grow room or tent should be dropped to 20%–30% a few days before you harvest cannabis.

By doing this, you force unseeded female flowers to produce more trichomes and resin.

That bud coating boosts potency.

Reduce nute feedings

You’ve been feeding your cannabis to help it reach its full potential.

Start reducing the feed the closer you get to the cannabis harvest date.

Drop the regular nutrient infusions a week, even better two weeks before you harvest marijuana flowers.

Prepare to flush nutes one last time, too.

Flush your plants

Before you harvest weed, you need to flush the remaining nutes from the soil and the plant.

Basically, you skip the liquid fertilizer with each watering and drench the soil with pH-neutral water.

That way, you make sure your plants use up the nutrients, so you won’t taste them in the bowl.

How to harvest marijuana: a step by step guide

Now you know when to harvest marijuana, I’ll show you how to harvest marijuana.

Get the tools we discussed, play some feel-good music, put on an old T-shirt you don’t mind ruining, and follow these steps.

Prepare the space

Excess light can degrade THC. That’s a scenario no eager stoner wants to face!

Turn off the lamps, toss an opaque sheet over the window, or wait for an overcast day. Some leakage isn’t the end of the world, but do your best to make it dark.

Go for a temperature range between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit and around 50% relative humidity.

If you’ve already gone through our “how to grow cannabis indoors” guide, you’ll know how to optimize these conditions.

Choose your method

You’ll find many niche cannabis harvest methods online, but why complicate things?

These two are the most common and effective:

  • Whole plant. This one is quick and easy, especially with smaller cultivars. Cut and hang the entire plant, and that’s it.
  • Ripe bud. This technique is a bit more time-consuming, but it maximizes yield and bud quality. You trim outside-in and top-down, cutting the buds that have ripened and leaving the others to mature for several more days each time.

Trim the leaves

There’s another decision to make before you harvest marijuana. Will you trim the leaves before or after drying?

Here’s the gist of it:

  • Trim before in humid environments. This will help you avoid mold issues on the horizon.
  • Trim after in low-humidity climates. Leafless flowers sometimes dry too quickly.

The next step is to hang the branches. Hang upside down and leave a tray underneath for falling leaves.

Mistakes to avoid when harvesting marijuana

You now know when to harvest cannabis and which tools you need.

Avoid these common mistakes for peace of mind and confidence in your next harvest:

Harvesting too early

Harvesting cannabis too early compromises your yield, cola size, and bud potency.

Overhandling cannabis

Overhandling cannabis rubs away the resin and ruins smoke, sale, and gift value.

While you harvest marijuana, be gentle with your ladies!

Respecting the herb will help preserve it’s quality.

Too few hands

Do you have a large garden? Rally friends, family, and paid hands to help.

When it’s time to harvest cannabis, having help is great for batch consistency.

During harvest windows, 12 hours can turn your cannabis plant’s effects from balanced to highly sedative!

You also have to dry and trim all those buds.

Why not make it fun?

Share the experience with friends and award everybody who helped with a fun type of gift bag.

What’s the next stage after the cannabis harvest?

Congratulations, you’ve done it.

Now, here’s how to get those colas ready for smoking, vaping, and mind-warping eves with your bong.

Trim your cannabis

Buds are lovely, but wheezing after inhaling burning leaves isn’t. Take the time to snip leaves off your cannabis for a smoother, more consistent smoking session.

Do you already know how to trim cannabis? It’s easier than you think!

Dry the trimmed buds

After harvesting, weed requires some time to hang and dry, ideally in an area with 45% to 55% humidity.

Internal moisture is a breeding ground for fungi and other microorganisms. It can ruin your whole batch. That’s weeks of money and effort going to waste.

Drying takes up to 14 days, depending on your climate.

Cure your marijuana

Curing removes trace amounts of moisture hidden deep inside each flower. It can take up to three weeks to complete the curing process.

It’s straightforward—all you need are some mason jars and patience.

Learn all about drying and curing weed right here.

FAQs

Before you head off to your garden, let’s answer some common questions about harvesting weed.

Can I harvest the top half of my plant?

Good news for impatient stoners—you sure can! No matter how much you trim, top, and prune, the upper side of your cannabis plant receives more light exposure.

The buds up there ripen earlier than those below.

Should all leaves be yellow before harvest?

There are two answers. Both boil down to ‘not really.’

Organic growers don’t have to flush before harvesting marijuana. In this case, it’s normal for the fan leaves to turn yellow. The plant is mature. It no longer needs the green pigment for photosynthesis.

It’s not necessary for everything to go golden for juicy, ripe buds. Those who flush see discoloration, but they should be careful about the sugar leaves. The buds deteriorate quickly once sugar leaves lose their greenery.

See also  How Long Weed Seeds Last In Body

It’s better to harvest before this happens.

Should I harvest in the morning or at night?

Marijuana is higher in terpenes, crystals, and THC in the morning.

It also uptakes moisture during the day, which can increase your drying time.

Harvest with confidence

You now know when to harvest cannabis for top-shelf results.

You have the theory down, so why not put your knowledge to the test?

Buy cannabis seeds and start a garden of your own. It’s a gratifying experience, and once you’re smoking the fruits of your labor, you’ll never look back.

About the Author: Kyle Kushman

Kyle Kushman is a legend in the cannabis community. He is the modern-day polymath of pot: cultivator, breeder, activist, writer, and educator. After winning no less than 13 Cannabis Cups, there’s nothing this guy doesn’t know about indoor growing – he’s been there, done it, and is still doing it to this day!

How and When to Harvest Cannabis Plants

Anyone who has cultivated weed, especially from seed, knows that when to harvest cannabis is not to be taken lightly.

The time, energy, and expense involved are investments in the dank output of smooth-smokin’ buds that hit the spot.

However, that labor and love could be for naught if you fail to determine the best time to harvest your weed . Subsequently, lighting up that bad bud can extend your downer for a whole season!

Nobody wants to face harvest day with dread, so read on to ensure you know exactly when to harvest marijuana .

It’s important to harvest cannabis at the right time

When to harvest marijuana is one of the most important factors in shaping your bud’s quality.

Too early and the batch is likely to be less potent, flavorful, and aromatic because resin production hasn’t peaked.

Too late, and you’ll be left with a body-numbing, couchlocking sleep inducer.

We may harvest early to attain the cerebral ‘up’ high. We harvest late to maximize the medicinal cannabinol (CBN) output.

Harvest buds at the right time for the highest potency

When to harvest marijuana can be as important as the actual growing of the plants. A number of methods can make sure you harvest at the most advantageous moment.

From bud shape to effects, from THC to CBD contents, your harvest’s eventual quality depends on finding this key moment. Read on as we discover the optimal time to start harvesting.

How to know when to harvest marijuana

THC levels peak in the late stages of the flowering phase, making this t he best time to harvest weed .

However, extending that period doesn’t extend THC production, as the cannabinoid eventually starts to degrade and turn into cannabinol (CBN).

While CBN does have medicinal properties, it lacks the psychoactive effects of THC and thus limits the effects.

Bud shape

While in no way infallible, the shape and feel of the buds can give you a good idea of when to harvest buds .

At this stage, the pistils or ‘hairs’ should have mostly darkened and turned inwards, exposing the solid bud beneath. The buds themselves should be firm, solid, and tight but not squishy.

Also, remember that sativas have longer and fluffier buds, while indicas usually have dense nugs.

Trichome color

Trichome color is, without doubt, the best and most accurate method in assessing how to tell when cannabis is ready to harvest .

The trichomes you’re looking for are the mushroom-shaped ones. These ones have what looks like a ‘head’ or a ‘ball’ on top.

Inside this ‘head’ is where much of the THC or other cannabinoids are located. They also give weed its seriously sticky nature.

Trichomes are often called resin glands, and they sparkle like frosting or crystals. They’re exactly what gives weed its potency and can give us the best indication of when to harvest cannabis for best results.

This depends primarily on the color of these trichomes, so know your trichomes with marijuana plant anatomy!

How to check if buds are ready to harvest

The trichomes will change from clear to opaque to amber during the flowering period. If the trichomes are clear, it’s too soon.

If 50% of the trichomes have turned cloudy or opaque, the buds are still growing, and the odor has not fully developed.

Harvesting marijuana at this point usually provides a more speedy or energetic buzz.

If you’re looking for an intense high, euphoria, and superior pain killing effects, harvest bud when most of the trichomes are cloudy.

If you wait longer, the trichomes will start to turn amber, which indicates the peak of THC production. It also heralds the onset of a narcotic style effect that reduces anxiety.

There are two ways to check when you should be harvesting cannabis .

Look at the buds

First, the pistil method takes aim at the ‘hairs’ present on all buds. These hairs start out white and eventually turn an orange-brown color.

When about 40% have darkened, you can harvest cannabis , but wait until 50–70% have browned for peak potency.

If 70–90% of the hairs are dark, the marijuana harvest is on the late side, and more relaxing highs should result.

Check the buds with a magnifying glass

However, the trichomes are the real showstoppers.

The trichome method is the most accurate way of determining when to harvest weed .

Trichomes are too small to see with the naked eye, but with a modest outlay, we can get close enough to make informed decisions.

Pictures of trichomes ready to harvest

When the majority of your trichomes turn from clear to milky-white, you know when to harvest bud : now!

These trichomes are close to being ready.

However, when buds are richer in CBN, trichomes will begin to turn a brownish amber color.

Trichomes begin turning amber as they become ready to harvest.

The trichomes turn amber after they have reached maximum potency, so beyond this point, there are diminishing returns.

What tools do you need to check if trichomes are ready to harvest?

There are numerous methods employed that improve visibility to varying degrees, from budget to pro.

Choosing the best time to harvest weed is crucial, so it’s imperative that you can see when your trichomes start changing.

Jeweler’s loupe

Probably the easiest and most cost-effective method to analyze your trichomes is with a jeweler’s loupe.

Simply put the loupe up to the plant and look for the ‘glitter’.

Camera phone

Modern camera phones are eminently capable of shooting a decent image which can then be enlarged.

You’ll need good light and steady hands or a tripod. Focus is king.

Digital microscope

These are able to shoot video and can achieve a tighter focus. Digital microscopes can produce more defined pictures.

They are the surest way of knowing the state of your trichomes and how to tell when marijuana is ready to harvest.

See also  Small Weed Plant Seeds

How to tell when it’s too early to harvest weed?

If the hairs or pistils on the buds are still straight and white, it’s too early! The trichomes themselves will still be clear like glass. If you harvest cannabis at this point, your potency and yield will both suffer.

If pistils are still white, THC levels are still low.

What tools do you need to harvest marijuana?

There are a few things you will need to gather when harvesting marijuana . This is an exciting part of the process and very hands-on.

It’s hard work too, but it’s super rewarding!

Scissors and pruners

We require at least a single pair of quality scissors, capable of speed and accuracy.

For larger branches, use a pair of pruners that can be spring-loaded or not.

Of utmost importance are comfort and effectiveness, as harvesting cannabis can be a time-intensive task.

Clean surface, tray, or bowl

You need a clean, handy tray, bowl, or surface to place the trimmed branches or buds in. Some trimmers like a lap tray for comfort and efficiency.

A screen to collect kief is a great idea too. Any flat, clean surface like a table will suffice. Just store the buds in a bowl.

Rubbing alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is an important part of your armory when harvesting cannabis . This is a sticky business, and your scissors are likely to get gunked up rapidly.

Rubbing alcohol cuts through the resin and cleans your blades, surfaces, and hands with the help of a spare rag.

Comfortable chair

A comfortable chair saves your back as you settle down for a solid session of harvesting marijuana .

Choose a cool place with plenty of light, perhaps some music, and you’re ready to harvest your pot.

How to harvest marijuana—dry trimming

Dry trimming is one cutting method that can be used once you’ve determined the best time to harvest weed .

Dry trimming is when we remove the leaves of the plant only after we’ve dried the plant for 10–14 days.

Flush plants a week before harvest

When you’ve decided when to harvest pot , prepare to start flushing your cannabis .

Do this by feeding the plants only water for the last two weeks.

Cleanse the cannabis harvest with pH-neutral H2O to eliminate the chemical taste, magnifying the natural flavor of the colas.

Prune off some of the bigger branches

When you harvest cannabis , cut off the bigger branches not far from where they meet the stem.

This means you won’t accidentally step on the plant and damage the fragile colas.

It makes the harvest progressive and organized.

Cut off all branches

Next, cut off all the branches you’re going to hang and remove excess leaves. It’s unnecessary to remove all the leaves, as some will keep the buds moist for the first few days.

Hang the branches to dry

Finally, hang the branches to dry. You need a room with a constant temperature of around 70 degrees F.

The humidity is also important—a relative humidity (RH) of 50% is great. If you hang branches upside down, you won’t need to turn them.

Make sure you have a cool, dark spot with decent airflow.

How to harvest cannabis—wet trimming

Wet trimming is the second cutting method, primarily used in humid climates where the potential for mold is higher.

Here the buds are separated from the fan and sugar leaves before drying starts.

Flush your plants

Like with dry trimming, the first step is to flush your plants with water a couple of weeks before you intend harvesting cannabis .

Cut off the branches

Next, cut off branches, making them easy to handle when snipping off the buds.

When wet trimming, cut branches individually so that you can trim each one first before moving on.

Trim the buds from the branches

Trimming immediately after harvesting cannabis is easier, as sugar leaves haven’t closed in on the buds.

Wet trimming means more chlorophyll in the leaves, however, which may lead to a lingering grasslike aroma.

Leave buds to dry

Finally, place your carefully trimmed nugs on a drying rack. Leave your marijuana harvest in a cool, dark room with decent airflow.

Remember to turn the buds regularly to dry your crop evenly and to avoid misshapen buds.

Tips for harvesting marijuana

We hope you’ve got a clearer idea of when to harvest marijuana now. As an added bonus, we’ve got some extra tips on how to maximize your time, effort, and yields:

  • Attach a label with the strain’s name and the date it started drying to help differentiate between multiple breeds.
  • Be on the lookout for ‘friendlies’ that may have made a home in your cannabis harvest , especially for outdoor grows.
  • Wear clothes you don’t mind getting filthy— harvesting cannabis can be sticky and dirty work!
  • It’s good to harvest buds before the plants get too warm, so it’s best early in the morning outdoors. Indoor grows can be harvested shortly after the lights come on.

What comes next?

After harvesting cannabis and drying marijuana, you can move on to another important part of the process — drying and curing .

Curing is placing your dried cannabis into air-tight jars for a few weeks for a controlled breakdown of residual chlorophyll.

This process helps bring out the delectable taste and aroma locked inside the terpenes. Yum!

Become a harvesting master today

There you have it—our step-by-step guide to harvesting weed plants for optimum potency. We hope it helps!

This is also a great time to start thinking about your next cannabis harvest. If you’re on the lookout for delectable new weed seeds for your next harvest, i49 seed bank has everything you could want.

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