How to Tell When to Harvest Cannabis

The harvest time is the most exciting and rewarding part of cannabis cultivation. After several months of watching your plants growing, it’s about time to check and determine if they are ready to harvest. You may get too excited and do something that you will regret in the end. Give it time, stay patient, and wait for the most ideal time. You have to know and understand when to harvest cannabis

Why Should You Avoid Early Harvesting?

If you don’t know the right timing to harvest weed, you may end up getting low-quality flowers. Harvesting marijuana flowers at the perfect time guarantees the best in terms of quality. Early harvesting will reduce both the potency and the number of yields. Delayed harvesting is also harmful that it can lead to THC degradation and a more sedating and narcotic high.

Getting to Know the Basics

Harvesting cannabis is quite the same as harvesting fruits like grapes. As you know, farmers take more time and wait until the grapes are more delicious, more potent, and stronger. On that point, the grapes will be good enough to use in making wine.

In the case of cannabis, the buds will become more pungent. The more pungent they become, the more delicious they are. The buds will also have more cannabinoids if you wait a little more. With that, their effect is more intense – be it a body high or cerebral buzz. 

When to Harvest Cannabis? Check for These 3 Signs!

Cannabis plants begin to wither after they flower but will tell you what happens next with the following signs:

#1. Pistils Started to Turn Red

Pistils are the hair-like things that grow from the calyx. They are visible to the naked eye. You will see them right on the cannabis flowers. Pistils are white when the cannabis plants begin to flower and will turn to brown, red, or orange as the right harvesting time approaches. 

How to tell it’s time to harvest by using the pistils? If the majority of the pistils are still white, then wait a little more until all of them changed their colors. If not, wait until 50% of the pistils changed their colors to increase the THC amount. 

Start trimming the flowers when 60% or 70% of the pistils darkened to make the THC levels as high as possible. If you’re after a stronger and more relaxing body high, wait until at least 70% of the pistils have darkened. You can even wait a little more until 90% of the pistils changed their colors and more THC transformed into CBN.

#2. The Fan Leaves are Yellowing

These are the wide and big marijuana leaves that serve as the energy-producing solar panels for the plants. In the vegetative stage, seeing the leaves turning to yellow is not a good thing because it indicates a nutritional deficiency. 

However, when your cannabis plants are full of flowers, the fan leaves start to change into yellow and wither. It is another solid sign you’re almost there. The harvest period is getting closer. 

#3. Trichomes Become Milky White

Trichomes can also give you hints as to when you can harvest. These are tiny mushroom-shaped glands on the cannabis flowers that produce resin. Trichomes are extremely small to be visible to the naked eye, so you need a magnifying tool to see them. 

Methods to Use in Determining the Perfect Time to Harvest

The general rule of harvesting cannabis includes:

  • Harvest indica plants after 8 weeks
  • Harvest sativa plants after 10 weeks
  • Harvest autoflowering plants after 7 to 10 weeks

The only concern is that you cannot take all those ideas as a surefire guarantee. Hence, you can use any of these methods to find out when you can start harvesting the crops.

#1. Trichome Method

You need a magnifying tool in this method to closely check the trichomes. You can use a handheld microscope with a range capacity of 30x to 100x. With your magnifying tool, start checking the trichomes on the cannabis flowers and foliage. A microscope is good to use as it can illuminate the foliage, allowing you to see the trichomes completely. 

At first, the trichomes are white, and that means they are too young to be harvested. Wait a little more until the trichomes changed to milky white or tawny, and you’re good to go. Harvest your plants as soon as the majority of trichomes changed their colors. Don’t wait any longer. 

Below are the best magnifying tools to use for the trichome method:

  • Handheld Magnifier – a handheld magnifier is perhaps the best choice as it can give you a good mix of value and quality. It is more effective in terms of magnifying things as compared to a loupe. Although a handheld magnifier is more expensive than a loupe, it’s worth buying considering its effectiveness and accuracy.  
  • Digital Microscope – it is the priciest magnifying tool that guarantees the most precise readings. Most of the digital microscopes feature magnification of more than 100x that makes them more expensive, but you’re paying for best performance, accuracy, and convenience. A digital microscope is equipped with a digital lens that allows you to connect the device to a PC for on-screen image viewing. 
  • Loupe – though it is not a high-end magnifying tool, a loupe can provide ample magnification to see and confirm that your cannabis plants are ready to harvest. You can get a loupe for as low as $20 with 40x magnification.

#2. The Pistil Method

In this method, you have to figure out the right timing to harvest the crops. You need to wait patiently until most of the pistils turned to amber or tawny. The Pistil Method does not require a magnifying tool or any other type of device in determining the right time to harvest because the pistils will be visible enough. The only thing you need to do is wait and watch for the confirming sign. 

Also, the Pistil Method is pretty interesting as it can help a lot in measuring the possible THC content and level of potency of your cannabis plants. If you want the buds to be sufficiently potent, then harvest them when 80% to 85% of the white pistils turned to red, brown, or orange. Your cannabis flowers will not be pungent enough anymore if you harvest after all those white hairs darkened. 

However, some cannabis growers argued that this method is not always effective and accurate. They said allowing almost all of the pistils to change their color makes the buds extremely potent. So, a user is more likely to get too high in this case. Other growers said the pistils changed their colors but remained sufficiently potent. In other words, you can be more certain of the result if you consider the trichomes as well. 

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Conclusion

Knowing when to harvest cannabis is a very important thing for every novice grower. The job can be challenging, but to keep in mind what you have learned today is the key to get it done right. Always remember that you need to be patient and attentive enough to catch the right timing for this exciting activity. Hopefully, your first harvest turns into a worthwhile experience. 

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