When to Harvest Cannabis Plants
Cannabis growers spend a lot of time taking care of their plants in order to produce much better results. Sometimes it can be hard to wait until the time is right to harvest; between impatience and that feeling of being near harvest time, it can be hard to resist. Knowing when to harvest cannabis is quite subjective; growers all have their own method, plus it depends on the substrate, water quality and other determining factors.
This post is designed to help growers that have just started out and have questions regarding when to remove the flowers from their plants in order to cure and dry them. We’re going to have a look at some of the most important things to keep in mind when harvesting cannabis and knowing what a mature plant looks like.
How to Tell if your Plant is Ready to Harvest
There are plenty of signs that can show you when to harvest your cannabis plants. There are also lots of myths and legends that end up causing growers to harvest too early or late. Some people even think harvesting early will stop them from going bad – most growers have had that thought at least once, but if you let them keep growing without getting too impatient, you can get some amazing results. There are still many things you can keep in mind when figuring out when to harvest cannabis.
Seed Bank Reference
Whenever you get seeds, we highly recommend checking out the dates given by the seed bank and their recommendation. They know their strain perfectly and they’ll be able to guide growers with the correct information. Keep in mind that these dates are still just guides, and aren’t 100% accurate. There are many different factors that intervene when it comes to each plant (growing conditions, outdoors or indoors, level of care, latitude etc.).
We all know that the pistils are the little brown “hairs” on your cannabis flowers when they begin to mature. These pistils can, in some cases, be a sign that your plants are almost entirely ready to harvest. The less brown, the more psychoactive and the more brown pistils the more intense the narcotic effect. Some growers recommend harvesting when more or less half of the pistils are brown, while also keeping in mind the effect/flavor/aroma that you’re looking to get.
Keep in mind that pistils going brown doesn’t almost indicate that your plants are ready to harvest; it could be caused by excess watering, spraying at night, having used a certain type of spray product, stress etc. Once your cannabis plant is ready to harvest it won’t be thirsty anymore, absorbing much less water than usual.
Trichomes are small cells that appear on the surface of your plants’ leaves and flowers. They contain cannabinoids, which produce psychoactive and narcotic effects in your buds. They look like droplets, and keep growing until they take on a mushroom shape. A good sign is that they’re no longer producing any more trichomes. Essentially, you should see calyxes covered in resin, which essentially look like mushrooms when looked at under a microscope, and they’ll want to have a creamy, milky color and some should be an Ambar-like color. The best way to check if your plants are ready is to use a microscope.
When the top of the trichome is perfectly round, it’s too early to harvest. You’ll need to wait until they look like a sort of an over-pumped ball, slightly deformed. This indicates that there are more cannabinoids inside. If you don’t harvest early, they’ll explode and degrade – if you wait until they explode, you’ll have waited too long.
What Happens When you Harvest Cannabis at The Wrong Time
All of the previous signs can help you to figure out when your cannabis plants are ready to harvest. However, it’s pretty easy to get impatient towards the end – you’re itching to taste your buds and see how the effect hits. However, this usually leads to issues with your harvest.
If you harvest too early, you may run into quality issues with your harvest; the flavor will most likely be less intense, its buds will produce less chlorophyll and therefore less terpenes. Plus, their buds will probably be a lot smaller and less dense than what you were expecting. Keep in mind that it can also influence the effect, as the pistils haven’t finished growing yet – you can lose a large part of your harvest if you don’t wait long enough.
If you wait too long to harvest, it’ll will essentially go “bad”. The flavor will be much softer and it’ll take less time to cure. The more time goes by the less psychoactive the effect is. This is because THC turns into CBN when it begins to degrade, losing most of its characteristic effects. If you wait longer, your cannabis will have a more relaxing, intensely narcotic effect.
Recommendations for When to Harvest Cannabis
We highly recommend following the previous advice as much as you can; if you don’t have the tools to fully check on your plants, don’t just go by the amount of brown pistils on your plant, pay closer attention to the state of the leaves and how they begin to use up their reserves and fall off. The best way to tell when to harvest is by using a microscope; if you don’t have one, wait until its pistils are more or less all brown and then wait another week or two. If the seed bank says 60 days, you’re better off stretching it to 75 days.
When done right, you can harvest enormous flowers. These tips and tricks can help you to harvest delicious, large and high quality yields. We hope this information has been useful, and that this year you have a better idea regarding when to harvest cannabis plants! If you have any questions or suggestions, go ahead and leave a comment below.
Learn about when the right time to harvest cannabis is and how to tell apart the signs that can indicate your plant's ready to be harvested!
When is my cannabis plant ready for harvest
The most fulfilling part of growing your own cannabis is the harvest!
Harvest time is the most rewarding and exciting aspect of cultivating cannabis for many growers. After months of witnessing your plants slowly morph from seedlings into fully bloomed plants, it’s almost time to reach for the trimmers and proceed to dry and cure your bounty. However, it’s important to remain patient and not become too hasty. There are numerous signs you need to be aware of and look out for on both the macro and micro levels to make sure your flowers are truly ready.
Harvesting cannabis flowers at just the right time ensures optimal quality. Doing so too early can reduce both yields and potency, and doing so too late can result in THC degradation and a far more narcotic and sleepy high.
There is a large debate surrounding exactly when to harvest buds. There are general guidelines for each cannabis subspecies in regards to the optimal time. Indica strains are usually ready after 8 weeks of flowering, and sativa strains after a 10-week period of flowering. Autoflowering strains often take approximately 10 weeks after the seedling stage. Although these guidelines can be helpful in estimating when harvest time may occur, more attention to detail is required to make sure you are spot on with your timing.
A slight knowledge of cannabis anatomy is required to make an accurate assessment of ripeness and of when your cannabis flowers are ready to be gathered. Below we explain how several parts of the cannabis plant that display signs that drying and curing are just around the corner.
FAN LEAVES WILL TURN YELLOW
It doesn’t take much anatomical knowledge to identify this change. Fan leaves are the large and wide leaves that serve as energy-forming solar panels for your plant. During the vegetative phase, yellow leaves aren’t a good thing and often point towards nutritional deficiencies. However, if your plant is loaded with flowers, fan leaves will begin to turn yellow and die as much of the resources are directed towards the buds. This is an easy to spot and surefire sign that harvest time is close.
PISTILS WILL BEGIN TO TURN RED
This is where a little cannabis anatomy can go a long way. Becoming acquainted with cannabis pistils will help you to identify when it’s time to start snipping flowers. Pistils are hair-like structures upon cannabis flowers that emerge from the calyx and can easily be identified with the naked eye. Pistils contain the reproductive organs of the female cannabis plant and will develop a seed if pollinated by a male. These structures are white early on in the flowering phase and turn to darker colours of red, brown, and orange as the flowers move closer to harvest.
If most of the pistils are still visibly white, then it’s too early to harvest and your plants should be left to mature for a little longer. Growers should wait until at least 50% of pistils have turned darker to ensure near maximal THC levels. Begin trimming flowers when 60–70% of pistils have turned dark for the highest levels of THC. Those growers looking for a more stoning and physical high should wait until 70–90% of pistils have changed colours, as more THC will have converted to CBN at this stage.
TRICHOMES WILL TURN MILKY WHITE IN APPEARANCE
Trichomes are important anatomical parts that offer signs for harvest time, although on a much more micro level. Trichomes are minute mushroom-shaped glands that occupy the flowers and sugar leaves, and produce the valuable resin that contains cannabinoids and terpenes. Trichomes are too small to be properly assessed with the naked eye, therefore magnifying tools are required to get a closer look.
A jeweller’s loupe is a small hand-held magnifying device that can be used to get up close and personal with trichomes. Additionally, a digital microscope will provide a clearer image of the state of your trichomes, but at more of a cost.
Under magnification, trichomes will appear clear and have crystal-like look during the early stage of flowering, signifying low potency and underripe flowers.
Further down the flowering timeline, trichomes will begin to display a more cloudy appearance and milky colour. When these resin factories are only half cloudy, flowers are still not fully formed and will have a low odour profile. There’s still some time to wait.
Eventually trichomes will become mostly cloudy. At this stage they hold the greatest levels of THC and will produce the most intense psychoactive effects. This is the point when most growers will want to harvest their crop.
If left longer, trichomes will turn from a cloudy colour into an amber one. Gathering at this stage will produce a more narcotic and physical high.
The most fulfilling part of growing your own cannabis is the harvest!