A short guide on when to harvest cannabis
Growing cannabis can be very exciting and rewarding in spite of its challenges. It ensures a regular and more accessible supply of pot throughout the year. When cultivating your own weed in the home garden, it is very crucial to know when to harvest your crop. Harvest too soon and your cannabis won’t be strong enough. Wait too long to cut the flowers and the narcotic effects and the pungent flavor will be too strong for your taste. Since the quality of your marijuana depends on this final phase of cultivation, you need to be absolutely sure about when to harvest cannabis buds. What is the best time to harvest cannabis flowers from the plants? Which factors do you need to consider in order to ensure a timely harvest of your crop? Here is a short guide on when to harvest cannabis so that you get the best quality flowers.
When to harvest cannabis – Key Factors to get the harvest time right
As the quality of marijuana depends on the timely harvest, it is very important that you understand the basic chemical structure of your cannabis plants. Cultivating cannabis is somewhat like growing grapes. You need to know when to pluck the ripened fruits. The longer you wait, the stronger their alcohol content will be. Wait too long and too much alcohol can ruin the taste of your grapes. It is the same with marijuana. You need to wait for the cannabinoid content in the flowers to get stronger, but not too much. Getting the harvest time right can be a little tricky. However, certain physical signs will tell you when to cut the flowers. While growing cannabis plants at home, you need to pay attention to the following factors that will alert you of the upcoming event:
- Flowering time
- Physical changes in the stems and leaves
- Color of the pistils or stigma of the hair-like strands coving the flowers
- Color of the trichomes
When to harvest cannabis – looking for clues in the plant body
Each strain of cannabis has a different flowering time. Typically, the flowering time recommended by the breeder points towards an average schedule, it will never tell you when the plants will have a peak harvest. However, it will give you an idea which is helpful for maintaining your garden schedule. Usually, the best time to harvest indica crops is after 8 weeks of flowering. For Sativa strains, it is a little longer – after 10 weeks of flowering. For the auto flower strains, the harvest time is usually 10 weeks from seedling to bud. However, this is a sketchy timeframe that varies between individual strains and growing conditions. There are more favorable clues in the changing colors of the pistils and trichomes which will help you to pinpoint the exact harvest time.
Signs in the stem and the leaves
You can look for other changes in the body of the plants to determine when to cut the buds. Usually, an upcoming harvest time is signaled by physical changes like the broadening of the stems or the leaves turning yellow and dying. Still, there are more reliable clues in the pistils and the trichomes that will alert you of the right time to harvest.
Pay attention to the pistils and trichomes
To make an accurate estimate of when to cut the flowers, you need to look for the changes in pistils and trichomes of the buds. At the initial phases of flowering, the stigma or the pistils are usually white and stringy. As the harvest time approaches, they start to change color from white to orange at first, and then to dark red and brown. Usually, 50-70% brown pistils mean still young and light marijuana, while ripe and heavy marijuana will have 70-100% brown pistils.
When you find the pistils are changing colors, it is time to minutely examine the trichomes and look for the changes in their colors as well. A still young marijuana bud will have clear trichomes. As the crop matures and the cannabinoids are concentrated, the trichomes turn opaque and milky white. At this point, the production of cannabinoids has reached its limit and it is time to cut the flowers. Once the opaque, creamy white trichomes begin to turn amber, it means that THC has started decomposing and you will lose potency.
Examining the trichomes to determine when to harvest cannabis flowers
While the trichomes are visible to the naked eye, you need magnifying tools to closely examine the color changes in them. For those on a shoestring budget, getting a low-tech magnifying tool like the Jewelers Loupe can help. However, the best way to examine the minute transformations in the trichomes is to use a microscope. Handheld microscopes, with magnifying powers ranging from 30x to 100x, can do the job and are easily available at any growing supply store. A still better option, although much expensive, will be a digital microscope. However, you need to connect it to a computer to see the results.
Never wait too long to harvest the flowers
While you need to give time for the cannabis flowers to mature, waiting too long won’t provide optimal results. If you let your plants flower too long, it can degrade the THC content and you’ll have flowers with an overpowering, unpleasant smell and a harsher taste. To time it correctly you need to examine the trichomes under magnification. Powerful magnifying tools help you to observe the enlarged glands that contain the resin. Cut the crops while the resin is still sticky and creamy white. Once the resin begins to darken and turn amber-colored, there is not much time before the flowers start to lose their potency.
Growing cannabis is more of an art as it is science. Every gardener has a different idea about when to harvest cannabis. Some like to cut the flowers earlier when others prefer a late harvest. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your crops. It is a continuous learning process and with experience you’ll get it right!