March 16, 2018

Know When to Harvest Like a Pro

March 16, 2018

Harvest is the culmination of weeks of hard work and the most coveted ritualistic component of cannabis cultivation. The pothead cultural reverence for flower harvesting is nothing short of religious devotion. 

From start to finish, the journey of cannabis cultivation is fraught with potential devastation in nearly every stage of the process: overwatering, pests, bud rot, climate problems, incorrect fertilizer, too much fertilizer-these are only a few of the problems facing cultivators today. In the US, threats of draconian punishment from various law enforcement entities are still a sad reality as well. All of this turmoil and time reinforces the jubilation of harvesting weed. 

If you’re fortunate enough to properly provide and configure all the variables required to produce abundant flowering buds from your cannabis plants, you’ll want to maximize the quantity of your buds, as well as the THC content within them. This can only be done correctly with a perfectly timed harvest, which is why it’s so important to understand precisely when to harvest weed. But, how do you know when to harvest? How can you tell if the trichomes are ready for harvest?

When to Harvest Cannabis

Like other plants, cannabis transitions through several growth stages of various time periods as it grows and develops: germination (5-10 days), seedling (2-3 weeks), vegetative (3-16 weeks), and flowering (8-11 weeks). From seed to harvest, this process takes 4-8 months. 

The flowering stage indicates (when to harvest buds); however, this doesn’t mean you should scramble to collect buds during the first few weeks of flowering. The buds won’t reach their full growth potential with maximized THC potency until 6-8 weeks of flowering has occurred. 

Once your cannabis plants have been flowering for 6 weeks, you’ll want to make observations of the flowering buds with a trichome magnifier, also known as a weed microscope in some circles- some really high circles. These inexpensive digital microscopes can be easily found online, or you can alternately purchase a 60x jeweler’s magnifying glass. The trichome magnifying glass is crucial, as it provides the only accurate method to determine when to harvest pot plants.

The goal is to harvest your buds with fully-mature trichomes. Trichomes are microscopic, mushroom-shaped protrusions that make up the sticky, white crystals coating the leaves and buds of your favorite strains. Not only do trichomes provide the flavor and aroma of cannabis strains, but they also produce the hundreds of cannabinoids in cannabis which induce unique effects and sensations in consumers. The key to harvest is the trichomes; essentially, a flower harvest is a trichomes harvest. 

How To Know When Flowering Is Done And How To Tell If Your Plant Is Ready to Harvest

Pictures of buds ready to harvest.

You must take a close look at the weed trichomes using a digital microscope, or weed magnifying glass, to accurately determine if your marijuana plant is ready to harvest. The trichomes should be mushroom-shaped, and they will have changed from translucent to cloudy, morphing into an amber color. Also, take note of the pistils on your marijuana plants. These are the hairlike growths protruding from your cannabis buds. If the pistils are curly and begin to brown, then you have ready-to-harvest buds. 

What Do Trichomes Look Like When Ready to Harvest: What Color Should Trichomes Be?

You’ll know when to harvest weed if most of the trichomes are an amber or brown color.

Alt text: You’ll know when to harvest weed if most of the trichomes are an amber or brown color.

Making close observations of your bud’s trichomes is the best way to discover when your marijuana is ready to harvest. Before harvest, trichomes are clear and lack much color. When it’s time to harvest, the trichomes will become cloudy and change to an amber or brown color. 

When Should I Stop Watering Before Harvesting?

It is important to know when to harvest pot, so you can properly flush your marijuana plants just before the harvest window is open. Using different cultivation methods calls for different amounts of time to water, or flush, before harvest: soil growers (1-2 weeks), Coco Coir growers (5-7 days), and hydroponic growers (3-5 days). 

How Long for Trichomes to Go from Clear to Cloudy: Can I Harvest with Clear Trichomes?

Generally, it takes about 10-15 days for marijuana trichomes to go from clear to cloudy. Most hybrid marijuana strains will develop maximum THC potency in this time frame. While you can harvest buds with clear trichomes, it is not advisable because those buds have not yet accumulated optimal THC concentrations.

Can I Harvest the Top Half of My Plant?

If your eagerness to harvest gets the best of you and you want to start early, it is possible to harvest the top half of your cannabis plants. Begin with the buds that blossom from the top half of the plants, as these sections mature first. Harvesting buds from the top will not harm lower parts of the plants. The lower parts may have different color variations because they mature more slowly than the top of the plant. 

What Magnification Do You Need to See Trichomes?

A jeweler’s loupe with 60x magnification is needed to see trichomes. This is a small glass about the size of your thumb, and it’s the most common trichome magnifying glass size for cannabis cultivation enthusiasts. Without proper magnification to see trichomes, you won’t be able to accurately determine when your weed is ready to harvest.

How Do You Fatten Up Buds Before Harvest?

You can fatten up your marijuana buds before harvest by increasing light intensity during the flowering growth stage. It’s also very important to wait until your bud’s trichomes fully develop into cloudy, brown colors before harvesting as the buds won’t have completely grown or developed optimal THC potency until the trichomes are ripe. Also, make sure to feed your plants proper nutrients and create the appropriate temperature and humidity conditions throughout all growth stages to fatten up your buds before harvest. 

Do Trichomes Ripen After Harvest?

Trichomes can ripen after you harvest your cannabis buds, but I wouldn’t advise harvesting before your trichomes are completely ready. The trichomes will be ready with optimal THC content when they change from a translucent to cloudy complexion with fully developed amber or brown colors. 

How Do You Check for Trichomes?

Checking for trichomes is easy, but it does require purchasing a 60x jewelry loupe magnifying glass. If you feel the flowering buds from your marijuana plants are ready to harvest, take a close look at the buds with the jeweler’s loupe. The clear and amber, mushroom-shaped protuberances are the trichomes. 

How Can You Tell If Your Plant Is Male or Female?

You can tell if your plant is male or female by looking at the nodes (where leaves and branches extend from the stalk) of your cannabis plants. In male plants, spherical pollen sacs will develop in the nodes to spread seeds, while in female plants thin, hairlike stigma will develop in the nodes. 

Additional Readings on Cultivation

The Weed Blog is a comprehensive source to find reviews of specific top strains of cannabis and online news resources regarding the legalization of marijuana. We are committed to helping you find valuable information about cannabis on our website. With marijuana law constantly changing, learn about the latest legislation from our website and what you can do to help. Otherwise, consider these other top tier articles regarding cannabis cultivation:

How to Cure Marijuana

What You Need to Know about Autoflowering Cannabis Seeds

How to Increase Terpenes When Growing Your Marijuana Plants


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