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When to harvest cannabis

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Contents

  1. What is the average time from planting to harvesting cannabis?
  2. How to know when to harvest cannabis
  3. How can you tell if it’s too early to harvest cannabis?
  4. How can you tell if it’s too late to harvest cannabis?
  5. Next steps after harvesting cannabis

If you’re new to the world of cannabis cultivation, you are probably eager to taste the fruits of your labor at harvest time. In this beginner’s guide to harvesting cannabis, you’ll learn the best time to harvest marijuana as well as the key indicators that tell you when cannabis plants are ready to harvest.

What is the average time from planting to harvesting cannabis?

From seedling stage to harvest, marijuana plants have a broad range of growth periods. The duration of the growth cycle may depend on several factors, including growing medium, desired yield, and marijuana strain. This combination of factors means that you’ll need to wait between six weeks and 16 weeks to harvest most cannabis plants. On average, you can expect between nine weeks and 12 weeks to elapse from planting to harvesting, but again, timing is contingent on a number of factors.

From seedling stage to harvest, marijuana plants have a broad range of growth periods. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Here are three strains known to grow faster than average, in case you want to accelerate your harvest:

  1. Early Girl. As the name implies, Early Girl is speedy and may be ripe to harvest within seven weeks of planting.
  2. OG Kush. Known for its earthy, spicy taste and high THC content, OG Kush is a perennial favorite among weed lovers and can be harvested within eight weeks.
  3. Chocolate Skunk Auto. Like other autoflowering strains such as Northern Lights Automatic and Easy Bud, Chocolate Skunk Auto impresses with its rapid growth and is usually ripe within eight weeks.

How to know when to harvest cannabis

As a grower you’ll know that your cannabis plants are ready to harvest when you observe these visual clues:

Trichome color: The appearance of the trichomes, the small resin glands on flowers, is one of the surest ways to tell it’s time to harvest. Ideally, half of the trichomes should appear milky white and the others should be a vivid amber. Clear trichomes, on the other hand, indicate that it’s a good idea to wait a little longer before harvest. Of all the signs to look for, trichome color is the most reliable. This color change might be hard to see with the naked eye, so make sure you have a magnifying glass handy.

Ideally, when the trichomes appear milky white and vivid amber, it’s time to harvest. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Leaf color: Another reliable indicator of when a marijuana plant is ready to harvest is the changing shades of the fan leaves. During the flowering stages, nitrogen gives the leaves their green color. When it’s time to harvest, fan leaves will turn yellow and start to fall off as nitrogen decreases.

Curling leaves: As the fan leaves turn from green to yellow, they may also curl and dry. The lack of moisture is a natural occurrence as cannabis plants take in less water when harvest time draws near.

As the fan leaves turn from green to yellow, they may also curl and dry because cannabis plants take in less water when harvest time draws near. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Brown pistils: For photoperiod cannabis plants, the pistils will turn brown at maturity. The optimal time to harvest is when about half the pistils are shaded brown. Similar to checking trichome colors, you’ll want to have your magnifying glass handy for this step.

Bud shape: Though not as surefire a way to know when it’s time to harvest as the trichome test, the shape of the buds can still offer a few hints about the plant’s maturity. Look for firm, tight buds on a marijuana plant as a sign that it’s ready to harvest.

These visual indicators are all observable with the naked eye and are clear signals that it’s time to harvest. Likewise, there are other clues that demonstrate when a plant is either too young or past its prime for successful harvesting.

How can you tell if it’s too early to harvest cannabis?

Trichomes will signal if your crop is not yet ready for harvest, just as they let you know when it’s the best time to start harvesting. If the majority of trichomes are clear, then the cannabis plants are not ready to harvest. Clear trichomes indicate that resin production has not reached its peak and the resulting weed is likely to be less potent, flavorful, and aromatic.

How can you tell if it’s too late to harvest cannabis?

Check the trichomes again and note the color. If you observe mostly amber trichomes, then the cannabis flowers are overripe. At this stage of development, the harvested weed will have an unpleasant taste. In addition, cannabinoids such as THC begin to degrade when amber trichomes overtake the milky white ones. In rare cases, trichomes can even begin to turn black if growers didn’t harvest their marijuana plants. Besides the amber color, trichomes can also become noticeably brittle. Trichomes on overripe buds may even crumble in your hands.

Harvesting cannabis past its prime is not recommended but may be preferable to harvesting prematurely. The terpenes, which are believed to contain healing properties, can become more potent during a late harvest, but at the expense of scent and flavor.

Next steps after harvesting cannabis

Drying, trimming, and curing are the important next steps after you harvest marijuana plants. Once these steps are complete, your weed will be ready to enjoy or store for future use. If storing cannabis, be sure to keep it in a vacuum-sealed container in a cool, dark place for maximum freshness and shelf life.

If you're new to the world of cannabis cultivation, you are probably eager to taste the fruits of your labor at harvest time. In this beginner's guide to harvesting cannabis, you'll learn the best time to harvest marijuana as well as the key indicators that tell you when cannabis plants are ready to harvest.

When to harvest autos? Your leaves will tell you.

Muddy
Proud deplorable!

One of the most frequently asked questions is how do I know when my autos are ready to pick? The convention wisdom from growing photo period plants was to watch for color change in the trichomes, or crystals. For an uplifting high, harvest when the trichomes are all cloudy, for more of a stone, wait till a percentage have turned amber. Sound advice, for photos. But autos are a little different. While some strains have shown amber trics, many do not.

So how do I know when they are ready? I watch the the fan leaves. Over the past several years of growing autos I started taking samples at various stages of growth to evaluate the high. I tend to prefer my smoke with a little stone so began to leave them longer than the 8-9 weeks that are advertised. I find that around 11-12 weeks the plants are ripe for me. I also began to see a correlation between the color of the fan leaves, the color of the trics and the high/stone quality of the smoke at the various sample intervals. It seemed that the greener the fan leaves, the more clear trics the buds had. As the fan leaves started to yellow and die off, the trics became less clear and more milky. By the time that all the fan leaves had died off and the bud leaves were starting to yellow, I got the quality of smoke I wanted. At that time most of the trics were now milky with no, or only a few, clear ones. Here are some examples:

I’ve found this to be a very reliable method. It takes about 3 weeks for the fan leaves to die off. During that time the buds will continue to fatten up as the plant uses the energy stored in the fan leaves. So when I see my leaves start to yellow, I wait a week, then begin cleansing them. Two weeks later they will be well cleansed and read to harvest.

Of course there will be other factors such as genetics, lighting, nutrients, pot size, etc. that will effect how long a plant takes. But as a general guide for when to pick, just watch your leaves.

NOTE: If you have questions regarding your personal grow, please post them in the appropriate forum and not in this thread.

One of the most frequently asked questions is how do I know when my autos are ready to pick? The convention wisdom from growing photo period plants was to… ]]>