When to harvest cannabis plants?
There are many reasons why growing weed for personal use may seem like a good plan but is harder than you think. The apparently simplest things are often the most difficult when growing weed. Most mistakes are made with things like watering or feeding. Besides, too many weed plants are still harvested way too early by impatient growers. Anyway, how exactly to determine when to harvest cannabis plants and why is it so important to choose the right moment?
Harvesting cannabis plants at the right time not only affects the overall quality but also the yields. Harvest too soon and your weed will be too weak; harvest too late and it will send you to sleep. But how exactly can you tell when the right time arrives? This article will explain everything you need to know about when to harvest your cannabis crop.
When is my weed ready for harvest?
There are basically two methods you can use to determine whether your cannabis plants are ripe for harvest or not. The first method is a visual method and involves simple observations of the hairs on the pistils, the technical name for the female reproductive part of the cannabis flower. The second method – the trichome method – is a bit more technical. Let us tell you how to know when to harvest your weed plants, explore what both methods involve after which then you can decide which one is right for you or use a mixture of both.
1. The Pistil Method
If you prefer to operate in a more down-to-earth way and feel in tune with your growing plants, the observing pistils (hairs) method could work for you. Besides you don’t need to buy any equipment as long as your eyesight is working well so this method is ideal for those on a budget.
You need to know the signs that indicate your plants are ripe enough to be harvested. Look out for long white threads (the flowering hairs) that come out of the flowers.
The flowers of a female weed plant have long, white, thick hair during the flowering period. These hairs are most often a whitish color during flowering. When about 80% of these white hairs have turned brown, it is time to harvest, although there are exceptions to the rule, depending on what you want from your cannabis plant and on the strain.
Wait until no new white hairs appear in your buds. You will notice that the buds will have started to smell very strongly by this point in the cycle, the entire nursery or grow room will probably smell strongly of weed. The buds also look thick, bulgy and properly padded – mature and ripe, in other words.
40% of the white hairs are brown and dried up
Wait until at least 40% of the white hairs on the tips are brown and dried up. When this is the case, you are at the start of the harvestable period. If you harvest your weed at this moment it will give you a more energetic effect when it is smoked and the weed is not yet at its peak in terms of potential.
40% – 50% of the white hairs are brown and dried up
When 50% to 70% of the hairs are brown and dried up, your weed is at its peak in terms of potential. Your weed now contains the most THC. So if you are looking for potency, now is the time to harvest your weed.
80% – 90% of the white hairs are brown and dried up
When 80 to 90% of the hairs on the tips are brown and dried up, your weed has passed the peak of THC. The weed that you now harvest will give a more relaxing effect that makes it harder to get up from your couch. This is because part of the THC in the weed has been converted into the more relaxing CBN. People who are looking for weed with good painkilling properties would be well advised to harvest their weed at this point.
However, the harvesting time also depends on the species. Some types of weed need to flower longer than others. With some, the flowering process starts later and with some earlier. Yet, the above information provides a pretty solid answer to the question: when to harvest cannabis.
The aforementioned advice is a good guideline but you should be aware that with some strains, it can be much more tricky to work out if the plant is ripe to be harvested. Different strains of marijuana can present in different ways when they are ready for harvest. Some varieties, for example, manage to retain most of their hairs white even when they’re more than ready to be picked.
If you suspect this might be the case for your cannabis plants, the best thing to do is to find out as much as you can from someone who has successfully grown your variety before. This might be the breeder or a grower. It’s also sensible to look for online images of the appearance of your strain when it is ready to be harvested.
Other signs that indicate it’s time to harvest:
- The plant looks less healthy, leaves start to droop, and the number of yellow leaves increases at the bottom.
- The weed plants will stop being so thirsty and use much less water than before.
Warning: Do not grab the buds or manhandle them too much during the flowering period, this will damage the flowering hairs and cause them to die and dry out. Buds that are grabbed very often sometimes even look ready for harvest because all the delicate flowering hairs are damaged by grasping and turn brown as a consequence. You need to be gentle!
2. The Trichrome Method
This method is a bit more technical and does require a bit of scientific knowledge, but if you want to grow cannabis for its THC levels, this method will give you a much higher level of accuracy. Never fear, this article will give you all the info you need to become a cannabis trichome expert and harvest your crop when it is at its pinnacle in terms of THC and other goodies.
What exactly are trichomes?
Trichomes are very important as they are responsible for the THC of the weed plant, the very substance that makes you high. If you look closely at a weed plant in bloom, you will notice very small stems with bulbs on them. These are trichomes but they are pretty hard to see with the naked eye.
With this in mind, you may benefit from using the following magnifying tools to make inspecting of the trichomes easier and more accurate. Using one is not completely necessary but will help you get the timing of your harvest perfectly right.
Jeweller’s Loupe – A jeweller’s loupe is a compact round magnifying glass that is inexpensive and yet more than capable of getting the job done. A cheap one should give you a 40x magnification. You simply hold it over the blooming cannabis plant and peer through the glass.
Digital Microscope – This has to be one of the best gadgets to calculate the right harvesting period. Digital microscopes are available to suit all budgets, but a good-quality digital microscope can now be purchased for under £50 and will allow you to view images of the trichomes on your laptop or any connected device. They are ideal if you want to share images of your trichomes and canvas second opinions.
Now comes the technical part; what to look for when looking through your microscope or jewellers loupe:
The trichomes you are attempting to observe look a bit like tiny mushrooms. You may also notice minute, transparent hair-like trichomes minus the mushroom head. These are unimportant as they won’t have any impact upon the final strength – you need to pay close attention to the trichomes with the little ball on top. It’s this tiny head that holds the power as this is the location where most of the THC and other key chemical properties of cannabis, such as CBD and CBN are concentrated. As these trichomes are the most responsible factor regarding bud potency, knowing how to tell when they’ve achieved their highest THC levels will help you determine exactly the right time to begin your marijuana harvest.
Look for the following signs which indicate when it is time to harvest:
- Clear trichomes If all the trichomes on the plant are still clear or transparent, it is too early to harvest. The plant is not yet fully ripe and should be left to flower for a while longer. However, for inexperienced growers, it can be difficult to judge whether a trichome is clear and glass-like or cloudily opaque. This is where the advantage of a digital microscope that can capture images and allow you to compare online later really becomes crystal clear.
- Clear and milky trichomes If most trichomes begin to turn whitish, you could potentially harvest now – the results will give an energetic vibe and a nice euphoric feeling after smoking.
- Yellow trichomes If you are going to harvest now, you will get a narcotic high which is good for insomniacs.
- Mostly yellow with some whitish trichomes If you were to harvest your plants now, the resulting weed would generate a nice buzzy stoned feeling in your head and body.
- Only brown trichomes Oh dear, you’ve left it too late, the plant has passed its best time. If you harvest now you will have little or no effect from the THC. Better luck next time!
Summary: General tips and tricks
Growing and harvesting marijuana takes a moderate amount of gardening skill and there are always new hints that can provide additional insight. Here is some additional advice about harvesting cannabis based on the colour of the hairs and the state of the trichomes. Follow our rules and you’ll stand a good chance of harvesting perfect weed every time!
- You can tell that your plant is too immature for harvest if it still has white “hairs”, the majority of which still stick straight out; especially if its trichomes are all still clear. Harvesting now will result in low yield and non-potent harvests. Wait until your plant has ceased growing new white pistils and lots of the white hairs have turned into an amber brown and curled inwards.
- THC is at its strongest when most of the trichomes look milky white when observed under a microscope. Approximately 50-70 % of pistils have been browned and harvesting now will lead to a more trippy weed. However, some strains, such as Sativa and Haze have trichomes that never really turn amber. If they’ve turned white for a while and haven’t changed for a few weeks, you may need to get harvesting.
- If you want weed that will get you properly stoned, you need to aim to harvest at the end of the season, when most of the trichomes have turned into a dark amber or gold shade. Experts say that amber trichomes derived from Indica varieties produce the best body highs. A good proportion of the THC will have converted into CBN which is far less psychoactive and is known for its calming and anti-anxiety effects.
- Colour disparities – Don’t be alarmed if you notice red or even purple trichomes – this is normal for some strains. As a rule of thumb, harvest when the majority of pistils are nice and dark.
- Don’t leave things too late If you spot trichomes looking grey or shriveled, you have missed the harvest window. Harvesting now and the end product will make you drowsy without any other pleasant effects. This is not a common problem though, as most growers are far too eager to get harvesting and you the harvest period open for about four to five weeks.
- Cure your buds properly. Curing them for about a month will increase their anti-anxiety and calming properties.
- Do things in stages If you are feeling excited about harvesting your marijuana plant, pull buds off the plant that look the most mature, dry them and check the potency for yourself. You can do this over a few weeks. Harvesting the buds in stages (starting off slowly with small batches) is a good way of abating the excitement. It will also help you work out where your preferences lie. There is nothing wrong with cutting off a few pieces in a go.
- Follow your gut instinct Cannabis harvesting can seem daunting but always listen to your instincts. We think that using a combination of both methods is the best way of helping you choose the optimal time to harvest, but knowing how you want the end product is a very personal thing. This means that even the best methods are just general guidelines. But hopefully, you’re now closer to getting your weed the way you want it.
Final hints before your harvest
1. Be prepared – Before starting your harvest, it is handy to arrange everything in advance, ensure a clean environment, good clean scissors, possibly plastic gloves, and make sure your drying loft is ready to be used. You don’t have to go to the extremes of Walter White in ‘Breaking Bad’, but it’s good to get organised. Start by cutting away all the large leaves, leaving a plant with many small leaves and no large leaves. Cut away half a centimetre of leaves around your buds, the protruding weed leaves will dry and shrink. You could possibly leave THC on it.
2. How to physically harvest the cannabis plant – There are several methods, it really is a matter of trial and error and personal preference.
Leave the plant in the pot or soil and cut off the large leaves. Then cut away the small leaves around the tops so that you end up with a bare plant with only the flowers. You cut a branch every time and cut the leaves off again. So you can cut the twigs per piece, this is a bit more convenient because you don’t have to turn your plant every time.
You can also cut your weed plant in its entirety and lay it down to cut off branches.
Related article: how to harvest weed?
What can you do with leaves or cutting waste?
After harvesting, you have a whole mountain with leaves and clippings. However, many of these residues can still be used for processing in recipes or tea. You can also compost any unwanted vegetation.
You can do a lot of fun and useful things with the waste, but it is important that you know which leaves you should throw away and which leaves can be used.
Cannabis, weed, pot, herb – the list of names for the wonderful plant is endless, but, as you can see, the knowledge of when to harvest, while not completely straightforward, is, nevertheless, less complex than it might first appear.
Our advice is: follow our tips, read as much around the subject as you can – our blog posts are a good starting point – and talk to as many experts as possible. You’ll be an experienced cannabis cultivator before you know it!
Wondering when to harvest weed plants? Cannabis harvest time is determined by 2 methods. Check this blog and learn when your weed is ready to havest!
General information about growing cannabis
Growing and Blooming
The growth of a cannabis plantdepends on the number of hours of light it gets each day. The more hours light, the stronger the plant will grow. The mostused light period in cannabis growing is 18 hours light per day and 6 hours night. This corresponds to the 21st June, the longest day of the year, and a sunny one at that. We kid the plant that it is the always the most lovely and longest day of the year. But you can just as well give your plants 19 hours, 20 hours – right up to 24 hours light per day.
With a 24-hour light period your lamps are burning continuously, of course. But if you give the plants less than 18 hours light you increase the chance that the plant will start to bloom. Some varieties bloom when given 15-16 hours light. Whenever we talk about “putting the plant into bloom” we are referring to the practice of putting the lamps on a timer set for 12 hours light and 12 hours night. This is the optimal period for blooming. If you give her more hours dark, then the plant will come in to bloom more quickly, but the yield will be less, because you have convinced her that winter is just around the corner.
This is sometimes worth doing at the end of your bloom period to tip the plants into a ‘harvest-ready’ state a little earlier. Why just 12 hours? Because the plant needs light in order to develop its buds and make its THC. The more light, the more bud growth and THC pro duction. The perfect boundary therefore is 12 hours, so that the plant can bloom well, while developing a good, THC-rich bud with a decent yield as it does so. Now I can hear you thinking: ‘then I’ll just give the plant even more light!’ But this will simply prolong the blooming period without adding anything to the size or potency of your crop. The length of the blooming period is dependent on the plant variety and can be any where between 5-16 weeks. The most common varieties though all bloom after 8-10 weeks.
The female cannabis plantis very easy to recognise from her production of little white hairs. The first white hairs are found in the ‘armpits’ of the plant, where two of them spring from one pistil. The pistil is the place on the plant where the leaf is attached to the main stem and from where a side branch sprouts. The male plant, by contrast, makes no white hairs and is therefore easy to tell from the female plant.
The male plant has little balls that always appear in groups that hang off the plant by a thread. When these balls pop open after a lengthy period of blooming, 5 Here you can see clearly the THC crystals on a bud. Pressed THC crystals are the ingredient for hashish. This is how you can see them, using a magnifier. The more glistering the bud, the better the quality. then banana-shaped pieces become visible. Out of these comes pollen that can fertilise your female plants.
At the very beginning of blooming, the male balls and the female pistils look similar because they are only a milli metre or so big, but by looking carefully you will be able to see that a male ball grows away from the main stem, hangs on a thread and multiplies itself to form several balls. A female pistil stays firmly close to the main stem until, at a particular moment once it is large enough, the two white hairs emerge. So if you see in one pistil two balls growing then the chance is already large that you are looking at a male specimen.
In this way you can determine at quite an early stage of blooming which are the males and remove them to leave more room and resources for the females to develop. Hermaphrodites are double-sexed plants, having both male and female character istics. Within this sort we have various types. Some hermaph rodites are 90% male and 10% female, others are 90% female and 10% male, or 50% malefemale. In the case of those that are 90% female hermaphrodites, we can still simply remove the male flowers and in this way still develop harvestable, unfer tilised – and therefore seedless – buds. The pollen these her maphrodites produce will for the most part produce female seeds.
How are buds created and what are the smoke able parts of the plant?
In order to understand how a bud is produced on the plant, from flower to smokeable product, you really need to see it with your own eyes. A mere description of how a female plant manufactures a bud will make many people none the wiser. As you can see, the female plant produces many little white hairs that emerge from a tiny budlet, and the more advanced the blooming proceeds the more these buds will swell up and become bigger.
In many cases the buds will eventually grow into each other, making it look as if there is just one enormous bud. Eventually the buds will stop growing in size – at the end of the blooming process – and these white hairs will take on a colour. When this has happened for 80% of the plant’s buds then it is time to harvest the plant. The only bits of the cannabis plant that are smokeable are the buds. The cultivated buds are dried out in a dark, cool (15-20 degrees Celsius) space where they can quietly and slowly undergo the drying process, and at the same time the ‘conversion’ process that produces the substances that give a ‘high’.
There is little point in fast-drying your buds, since the real high you get from smoking cannabis needs some time to mature during the drying process. The leafage trimmed off from around the bud is smoke able, but does not taste as nice as the buds themselves. You’re better off making hashish out of this, but there’ll be more about this in future editions.
Difference between hash and weed
As you should know by now, weed is the dried buds of the female cannabis plant. Only the females can produce potent weed. Hashish on the other hand is the collected crystals that are found on the buds, leaves and stem of the plant. Since a photo says more than a thousand difficult words, you can probably better see for yourself how many crystals there are to be Some mothers do have ‘m: this plant’s a Crystal Galore. found on a bud of cannabis.
The transparent little balls you see under magnification are the crystals I mean, and you can find them on small stalks. When the cannabis plant is ripe these crystals take on an amber- to-gold coloration. By drying out the buds and leaves of the plant the crystals easily come loose from the vegetation, especially once we stick this leafage in a pollinator. This is a square box with a drum inside it – like a washing machine, only with a round sieve.
The drum turns round and the crystals are shaken loose as a result of the churn ing. They fall through the sieve whereupon we can scrape them together into one pile, which we call skuff, or unpressed hashish. We can press this hash powder into a lovely block, as you may have seen for sale. Hashish is thus the collection of the THC crystals that are found on the cannabis plant and that are not visible to the naked eye. It is a pure concentration and therefore gives a more energetic, clearer high. If you roll a joint with a bud you will notice that your fingers become covered with a goldcoloured powder from breaking open the bud and crumbling it this powder is the crystals I’ve been talking about.
Indoor or Outdoor growing?
Indoor or outdoor growing? There’s a huge amount to be said on this topic and it should be stated that both have their qualities. Outdoors, you can squeeze three harvests in between spring and winter. Except that you are dependent on the weather gods, and so there are very few certainties to rely on when growing outdoors. A lot can go wrong, and after months of slog you can be left with a few measly buds to harvest. Most unwelcome.
The advantage of growing outdoors is that it costs you next to nothing. You just need a good patch of soil or a nice big pot in which to put a seed or clone, which will grow into a female tree that will give you several hundred grams of bud. Weather permitting. A clone is a sliced-off piece of branch that has been stimu lated to produce roots. Outdoor growing is a great way for the beginner to get to know the cannabis plant and her feed ing wishes. The growing period outside begins in early April and goes on ’til mid-August, so if you screw up a plant you can simply germinate another one. By starting with growing out doors you will build up a wealth of knowledge that will serve you later if and when you start to grow indoors. The great out doors is in short the ideal grow room for beginners, who will be enjoy the many surprises they will encounter as they help their plants to thrive.
Especially if you plant your babies in solid earth, when you will have little else to except sit around on your lazy butt and wait for them to ripen for harvest. With indoor growing, you are Mother Nature herself and you must therefore take control of all aspects of growth, from ensuring air throughput and ventilation, air moisture levels, and so on. Growing indoors is a little safer than growing outdoors, given that the plants are safely hidden away inside. Curious neighbours can easily spot your plants growing outdoors and cause some major hassle. Indoors, you can get up to four, five or even six harvests per year, realised dependent on the length of the growing period of the particular variety you’re growing.
You are not confined by the seasons and can there fore choose yourself when you want to start a crop. You have complete freedom with indoor growing. You can grow any variety at any time. On the other hand, you have to pay much more attention to your plants with indoor growing. It is a bit more work – though pleasant work of course. Also you need to make a starting investment in order to acquire all the essentials. You have to check your plantation every day and give feed water whenever the plants need it.
If you choose to grow indoors you are also choosing to spend a portion of your free time on the activity. If you think you can just bung some plants in just like that and when you feel like it pop your head round the corner and take a quick shufty at them, you’re going to quickly find that you’re deluding yourself. But since you can simply control most of the climatic factors you can continuously be working towards a maximum yield of top quality weed. You can control the temperature by letting the air pumps operate at a certain level, the optimum Male plant air moisture content can be reached by installing an air humidifier, and a good air flow by putting one or more ventilators in your grow room. Indoor as well as outdoor growing can deliver excellent quality weed in outstanding quantities. Depending on your own possibilities and desires you should make the choice that suits you best.
The growth of a cannabis plant depends on the number of hours of light it gets each day. The more hours light, the stronger the plant will grow.