Knowing the best time to harvest marijuana is a crucial part of the cultivation process. Missing the harvesting window could erase weeks of devoted care.
The harvesting process is a delicate balancing act to get the best potency and flavor. So how do you get the timing just right?
Join us as we look at the cultivation process and how to identify the best harvesting window.
The importance of timing in cannabis harvesting
Timing is everything when harvesting your marijuana buds. Getting the harvest time just right gives your buds a chance to reach their full potential.
The best way to tell if the buds are ready is by looking at the trichomes. These tiny, resinous glands show the maturity and potency of the buds.
The impact of harvest timing on potency and yield
If you harvest too soon, the THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) won’t develop fully. Leave it for too long and it’ll degrade.
Of course, harvesting too early also means underdeveloped buds. You’ll then harvest a lower yield than expected. Give your buds the chance to reach their full potential by timing your harvest just right.
What happens if you miss the window?
Marijuana has over 100 cannabinoids, THC and CBD (cannabidiol) being the most common. Both develop from CBG (cannabigerol) during the flowering stage.
If you miss the best time for harvesting marijuana, THC degrades into CBN (cannabinol). This less-desirable cannabinoid has sedating properties, which few enthusiasts prefer.
Understanding the marijuana life cycle
On average, growing a marijuana plant can take 4–8 months. During this time, the four distinct stage are:
- Germination: The start of the growing cycle, having the seed pop and develop the vital tap root.
- Seedling: Your young, delicate plant develops its root system and foliage.
- Vegetative: Rapidly growing roots and foliage need more nutrients and light.
The cannabis flowering stage
Finally, the marijuana plant reaches the flowering stage. This is when the aromatic, sticky buds you’re after develop on your plant. The buds are covered in resinous trichomes, delivering desired terpenes and THC levels.
Depending on the strain you’re growing, this stage could last 6–10 weeks. If you’re growing indoors, now’s the time to change the light cycle to a 12:12 schedule. This encourages the plants to bloom and reproduce (if that’s your goal).
Recognizing the signs that it’s time to harvest
As you grow more familiar with cannabis cultivation, determining harvest time gets easier. Over time, you’ll find that your plants have key indicators to tell you when the time has come.
Here are the main signs to look for:
Inspecting trichomes for maturity
Trichomes are the most reliable indicator of harvest time. Get your magnifying glass ready for a clear observation of these small resin glands. The coloring indicates:
- Clear shows it’s too soon to harvest
- 50:50 Milky white/amber trichomes show harvest time
- All amber reveal that the buds are overripe
Ideally, you want half of the trichomes to be milky and the rest a vivid amber color.
Monitoring pistil color changes
The pistils on photoperiod marijuana plants turn brown as a sign of maturity. With your magnifying glass, you’re looking for the brown color in about half of the pistils.
Observe the leaves
Changing fan leaves are also a reliable indicator of harvest time. When they turn yellow and fall off, it’s go time!
Tips and tricks for timing your harvest perfectly
After weeks of attentive care, it’s time to reap the rewards of your labor. Whether growing indoors or outside, harvest timing is crucial. Here are a few tips to consider:
Light schedule and growth cycle
Of course, growing indoors or in a grow tent allows you to manipulate the cycle stages. It’s as simple as adjusting the light schedule. Just be careful, though, as it’s easy to make mistakes if you aren’t familiar with this process.
Regular monitoring and patience
Allowing your marijuana plant to experience each stage naturally ensures it’ll reach its full potential. This requires patience as you wait for mother nature to do her work.
As you would during all growth stages, it’s vital to keep a close eye on your plants. Watch out for signs of potential threats and treat them immediately.
Use your microscope to check trichomes and pistils. Their colors aren’t visible to the naked eye. Grey and withered trichomes show the harvest window has passed.
Understanding Strain-Specific Harvest Times
Not all strains mature at the same rate, so guessing the best time to harvest marijuana won’t work. Understand every aspect about the strain you’re growing to get the timing right.
Some autoflower strains, for example, go from germination to harvest within 7 weeks. Slower growing sativa strains could take 9–15 weeks from flowering to harvest.
You may find that some Haze or sativa strains don’t turn amber but remain mostly white. In which case, the trichome method won’t work to determine harvesting time.
Taking great care in every growth stage significantly impacts the final product.
With the harvest time indicators established, plan your approach. Have a harvesting strategy in place and get all tools ready for when the time comes.
Flush your plants 14 days before harvesting to remove the chemical taste. In the last day or two, allow the roots to dry to make harvesting easier.
Next, you’ll need to prune, dry, and cure your buds. Always ensure sufficient ventilation to prevent mold from developing. Once it takes hold it’ll compromise the quality of your marijuana.
With the timing just right, you’re well on your way to enjoying the fruits of your labor.