Growing your own cannabis has a lot of advantages, like starting from seed with a strain of your choice. Understanding when to harvest marijuana can be overwhelming, and knowing how to harvest cannabis can feel just as tricky. Lots of people online brag about their methods being the absolute best, but truthfully there’s lots of right ways to do it, and just a few things you should avoid.
How long does it take from seed to harvest?
If you’re trying to figure out how long it will take from seed to harvest, there’s a couple variables to consider. Your cultivar, or strain, is going to be the biggest factor in this. Generally speaking, most strains finish somewhere between 4-5 months, and more strain specific info can usually be found from the website of the seed bank you purchased your genetics from. Your growing method is another variable that will greatly impact your harvest date. Growing in hydroponics tends to speed things up a little, compared with growing outdoors where you will be harvesting with the change of seasons. You shouldn’t be trying to rush to harvest though; each plant is different. If you’re growing more than one plant of the same strain from seed, you may notice that certain plants will be ready to harvest a few days before others.
What equipment do you need to harvest cannabis?
Scissors: First and foremost, you’re going to need a good pair of scissors – maybe two, just to be safe. When I say good, I mean they can’t be dull, and even more importantly, MAKE SURE THEY’RE COMFORTABLE. Harvesting can take a long time, so you won’t want a hand cramp.
Gloves: The whole process will be stickier than you think. Using a pair of cheap medical gloves will keep your hands clean but won’t get in your way. Plus the finger hash you’ll collect will be cleaner without skin contact.
Bins: You’ll need one bin that will fit well on your lap while you’re sitting; trim into this. You should have another bin for the finished buds, too.
String / wire: You’re going to need something to hang your branches from to dry. String or wire is fine here, there’s no need to get fancy with drying racks for a small harvest.
Isopropyl alcohol: Very handy for cleaning all the sticky resin off of your scissors.
Jars: Airtight containers for your bud to cure in. This keeps your fresh bud from drying out to complete dust. Any regular mason jar will do, as long as it’s airtight.
Hydrometer: These aren’t completely necessary, however if you’re trying to achieve a relatively high moisture content, this is a great way to know exactly how much moisture is left in your bud.
How to tell when it’s time to harvest your marijuana plants
There are a few different ways to check if your plants are ready, and just as many different opinions on the best way to tell if your cannabis plants are ready to harvest. Let’s take a look at the most commonly used signs:
A jeweller’s loupe will be an integral tool in knowing when to harvest your cannabis. Trichomes are the main producers of cannabinoids like CBD. They change colour as the plant comes to maturity which is an indicator of when to harvest cannabis. A trichome will start as almost completely clear like glass but slowly progresses to cloudy, then milky white, and finally changes colour turning an amber brown. As the trichomes darken and become more amber-colored, more CBN is produced. This results in a “sleepy” high, which can be good or bad depending on personal preference. If you like a real couch-lock, heavy stone, consider waiting until 60-70% of your trichomes are amber in color. For a more uplifting and energizing smoke, you might want to harvest when only 30% of trichomes are amber.
Late into your flower stage you will notice leaves changing colours, and dying off. Cannabis plants need less nitrogen while flowering, and this is a sign of the last of the nitrogen being pulled from different areas of the plant. Just like any other plant in its normal environment, when seasons change the plant will progress through their stages. This is a natural and normal progression for the plant that tells you it’s soon coming to the end of its lifecycle.
The originally white, pointy, sometimes alien-looking pistils will pull in, curl, and change to a copper orange. Some folks use pistil colouration as an indicator of harvest time, but this is not a confirmed method and shouldn’t be relied on exclusively.
While it may not be the best indicator of when to harvest cannabis, you will see that the buds are getting increasingly dense and compact just before harvest. If you’re not able to determine by the trichomes or pistils if your plant is ready, this can be used, but only as a last resort.
What happens if you harvest cannabis too early?
Being patient with your cannabis is the most difficult thing about growing marijuana, but if you do harvest your plants too early, you’re really missing out. Bud production is still occurring very late in the flowering stage, meaning you’re losing quantity from your harvest. Additionally, your trichomes aren’t fully mature yet, so the THC and other cannabinoids will not have finished producing.
What happens if you harvest marijuana too late?
There are ways to start a plant over, called “re-vegging,” but cannabis does die after flowering in the wild. If you’re too late, you risk losing your whole crop to disease. Additionally, the trichomes containing the psychoactive components you’re growing for will degrade, thereby losing potency.
Timing for the best product
When trichomes change color, it does more than tell you it’s time to chop your plants down. This change also indicates a conversion of cannabinoids, specifically THC converting to CBN, which will change the effect of the cannabis. THC is stimulating, almost void of any sedative effects, while CBN is one of the cannabinoids responsible for the relaxed sleepiness people feel with certain strains. Some growers will keep this in mind while deciding when to harvest cannabis.
How to harvest marijuana
You should flush your plant prior to harvest to leech out any fertilizers that are left in the plant – this involves using only clean water for a week before you plan to cut the plant down. There are products that you can use to assist with this process, and shorten the time for flush.
When you’re ready to start harvesting, begin with cutting the outside branches into 12 to 6 inch segments, working your way towards the main stem.
Once all the branches are removed, now would be the time to trim if you plant on doing a wet trim. Trim your bud down to the appearance you like best.
Alternatively you can leave the leaves on the plant while it drys to lengthen the drying time. However, the leaves will be quite brittle and difficult to work with. Keep the branches hanging to dry for approximately 7-10 days or until you can hear a snap when you bend them with your fingers. This can be difficult for outdoor growers – if you’re planning to dry outdoors you’ll need to be in a warm and dry climate. More than likely, you’ll be bringing them home to dry.
Once the desired moisture content has been achieved you can remove the buds from the branches, giving them a final trim before putting them in airtight containers for storage.
Congratulations! You’ve finished your grow and harvested your crop.
Preparing for Concentrates
If you’re planning on making hash or concentrates with your crop, there’s only a few things to change in your process. When you’re trimming your plants, you’ll trim the buds right off the stems. When you’re done trimming put your buds in a bag, then inside your freezer. Once daily, open the bag and mix the bud gently every day for about a week or until there’s no moisture in the bag anymore. This ensures the trichomes will be brittle and detach from the buds easier, keeping the rest of the trichomes intact. This makes for a better start material for your concentrate. Now your weed is ready to make hash with. Alternatively, if this is a bit too much for you, you can put a fine micron screen down over your bucket before trimming. Once finished you’ll find a ton of great quality kief (pollen) in your bin.