Growing cannabis is a rewarding and lucrative endeavor, but it also requires a lot of patience and practice to do correctly. When you’re first starting, there are so many elements to pay attention to that the entire process can seem a bit overwhelming at first.
As a newbie grower, you’re likely eager to harvest your crop so you can either smoke or sell it (or both). However, cannabis plants must mature at their own rate, meaning you must wait until they’re ready. If you harvest your crops too soon, they won’t have much THC or CBD, rendering them almost worthless. However, if you wait too long, the cannabinoids will have the unfortunate side effect of putting the user to sleep.
So, knowing when to harvest your plants for the maximum yield is crucial. Fortunately, there are some pretty easy signs that the plant is ready, so all you need is some patience and the right tools. Here’s everything you need to know about identifying when it’s time to harvest your cannabis.
How to Tell When Cannabis is Ready to Harvest
Two primary elements will tell you when the plant has the most THC and CBD. These elements are pistils and trichomes. Both of these pieces grow on the buds themselves and are pretty easy to spot. Pistils are much longer and more noticeable than trichomes, so you’ll notice them when they change first. Here’s a breakdown of what to expect with both options when determining if it’s time to harvest.
Trichomes are the little hairs growing on the outside of the bud. When they first develop, they look clear and glassy. However, as the plant produces more THC, they will turn milky white. If you let the plant mature a little while longer, the trichomes will start to turn amber brown. As a general rule, the longer your plant matures, the more of a relaxing effect it will have. Conversely, if you harvest your cannabis early in this phase, it will have more of a positive and uplifting effect.
One thing to point out is that you want to wait until all the trichomes have turned white before harvesting. Even if a few of them turn amber, it’s still the best time to harvest.
While you can spot trichomes with the naked eye, it’s often better to use a jeweler’s loupe or handheld magnifying glass. This way, you can inspect most of the plant’s buds quickly and efficiently.
Another point to remember is that if you’re growing identical crops at the same time, you shouldn’t need to check each individual plant.
Pistils are the long, white strands sticking out of each bud. When the plant is still young and lacks THC, these pieces will be milky white. Then, as the plant matures and develops more cannabinoids, the pistils will turn brown and curl into the bud. So, as long as the pistils are sticking straight out, your plant needs more time to mature before harvesting.
Outdoor vs. Indoor Growing
Most cannabis operations grow indoors, so using the trichomes and pistils method works the best. However, if you’re growing your crops outdoors, you can also harvest based on the time of year. Since cannabis is an annual plant, it matures toward the end of summer and the beginning of fall. So, you should plan to harvest between September and November, depending on your specific climate.
For example, growers in California can often harvest later in the year because the weather is still warm enough for the plants to grow and thrive. However, those in the Pacific Northwest should harvest in late September or early October to avoid too much rain and cold weather. Also, the specific strains will determine the best harvesting time. As a rule, Indicas finish earlier than Sativas, but if you’re growing hybrids, the results can vary significantly.
Steps to Harvest Your Cannabis
Once you know your harvesting schedule, you can flush your plants about a week before cutting them down. Flushing means you only give them water with no extra nutrients. Doing this first helps stunt maturation and growth while allowing the plant to stay healthy and nourished. While flushing isn’t technically necessary, it does make harvesting a bit easier.
Here are some elements to consider when cutting down and trimming your cannabis plants.
Gather Your Equipment
Harvesting cannabis requires various tools like:
- Scissors – For trimming small branches and leaves
- Pruners – For larger stems and stalks
- Large Empty Table – For placing the plants while you cut the buds
- Drying Rack – Only for dry trimming
- Gloves – Trimming and pruning your plants for hours on end can give you blisters, so we recommend wearing gloves.
Wet vs. Dry Trimming
Before harvesting, you need to know whether you’ll be dry or wet trimming. There are pros and cons to both, but each method requires different processes. With wet trimming, you’re cutting the branches and processing the buds immediately after harvesting. The benefit of this option is that you preserve the trichomes more easily and start much sooner.
The downside, though, is that you have a lot more work to finish in a single session. Since you’re not drying your plants, you have to cut them down and trim them with no downtime between. Also, wet buds are messier and stickier than dry ones, so you have to spend more time cleaning your scissors.
Dry trimming allows you to take a break between harvesting and processing and helps preserve the terpenes and trichomes. However, since the trichomes will dry out, they’re more brittle and can break as you go. Overall, dry trimming is a bit more involved, but it yields smoother and tastier results, so it might be worth the extra time and effort.
Get the Best Cannabis Seeds From Us!
Regardless of your harvesting method, you need to start with the best cannabis seeds. We have an extensive collection of feminized, regular, and autoflowering seeds for your operation.