At last, your cannabis crop is fully grown, but when exactly is your weed ready to harvest? We'll tell you how to pick the perfect moment. There are two common methods to determine when a cannabis flower is ready for harvest: with the naked eye or with a magnifying glass or microscope.
When Is My Weed Ready To Harvest?
You’ve been waiting patiently for months, watching your tiny plant as she grew. You gave her water, nutrients, and love. Maybe you’ve even been whispering sweet words of encouragement when nobody was watching. And now, after all those weeks, there is only one question on your mind… At last, your cannabis is fully grown, but when is your weed ready to harvest? Knowing the right time for harvesting is vital. If you get it wrong, the high you’ve been yearning for could be a disappointment – or you could miss it altogether. But how do you know when those buds are ripe for the picking? What are the signs to look out for? With a bit of extra pot plant knowledge, you’ll know exactly when the perfect moment for harvesting arrives.
Determining The Right Moment To Harvest Cannabis
If you pick the right moment to harvest your cannabis, the sky will literally be the limit. Your buds will contain all the THC you need to get you as high as you want to be. And of course, that’s what you’ve been planning for all along. However, if you harvest too late or too early, you’ll be sitting on that couch gazing at your spliff and wondering what went wrong. The answer: your harvesting approach – and probably your timing, to be more specific.
So when is Cannabis ready to harvest? To find out, you’ll need to keep a close eye on your buds. But even then, you’ll need to know what to look for if you want good results. It doesn’t matter whether your growing autoflowers or not: a blossoming plant does not mean you get to harvest those flowers straight away. There are other signs to look for. The first thing you’ll notice is how your plant starts to look less fresh than when it first started flowering. The leaves may start to dip, and the bottom leaves may turn yellow. Your plant needs less water than before. The main signs, though, are the trichomes and the white flowering hairs called pistils.
Zooming In On Trichomes
You’ll find the trichomes in and around the buds. Theyu are tiny resin glands. How they look is a key indicator of the maturity of your buds. Ideally, you’ll need a (pocket) microscope or a jeweller’s lens to get a good look at them. You’ll find out what these trichomes tell you about harvesting in the next section. If you don’t have a microscope or lens ready, don’t worry: most modern phone cameras have great zoom functionality that will work almost as well. If that doesn’t work, the pistils of the flower (i.e., the small ‘growth hairs’ you see on the buds) are another tell-tale sign of weed that is ready to harvest.
Is The Weed Ready To Harvest Yet?
The flowering phase of the cannabis life cycle consists of three distinct stages. Keep track of these stages to know when you should start to harvest. For best results, you should use a microscope or lens to view the trichomes.
Clear, opaque and brown trichomes
At the first step, you’ll notice that the resin glands are as clear as water. This indicates that it’s too early for the harvest: your trichomes contain little or no active cannabinoids at this point. Harvest now and your smoke will not bring any high. You’ll need just a bit of extra patience – hang in there!
If you manage to keep your weed intact for just a little longer, you’ll witness the trichomes turn from clear and transparent to a milky white hue. At this point, your buds are loaded with THC. Well, to be fair, they’re mostly loaded with THC’s precursor THCA. This is an acid form of THC, but this turns into proper THC when you light that joint later on, no worries!
Obviously, you’d like to see all of those lovely trichomes turn white, but that is not going to happen. It’s a gradual process: you’ll usually see a portion of the trichomes turn milky white while others are still developing. You’ll have to be very alert and detect the moment when most of the trichomes are white.
If you leave your weed in the soil for just a bit longer, you’ll see the trichomes turn to shades of amber and brown. Sadly, that means you’ve waited too long, because at this point, the THC is converted into CBN (cannabinol). This cannabinoid produces no high. If you decide to harvest anyway, you can still smoke those buds, but you won’t get the intended effect. Talk about missed opportunities!
Watch Them Colas Closely!
If you don’t have a microscope or jeweller’s lens handy, don’t despair. You can use your phone camera as an alternative, but even the naked eye will do to determine the right to harvest your weed. You’ve probably noticed the white hairs standing out from the buds of your cannabis plant. These are the pistils. When flowering starts, they are white. At the very least, you will have to wait until no new pistils appear. By that time, your plants should be producing a strong scent, and the buds should be getting big and heavy. Observe your weed plants closely.
- Once 40% of the pistils have turned brown, your harvesting window of opportunity opens. The plant contains enough THC to produce a high, but she hasn’t reach her peak yet. At this point, the weed will produce an energetic high;
- Once 50 to 60% of the pistils turn brown, your cannabis plant is at her best! Her buds are rich in THC (well, THCA to be precise) and this is the perfect time to get that harvest in;
- Once 80 to 90% of the pistils turn brown, your weed has flowered for too long. Most of the THC has now turned into CBN. This produces an effect, but it will not get you high. CBN has relaxing properties, and it can be used as an analgesic.
So now that you know when to harvest, and how to tell when the time has come, you’re all set to complete your grow. Remember that patience is a virtue, but don’t wait too long – just pick the best moment in your harvesting window of opportunity and you’ll be fine. Once your harvest is in, you can proceed to the next steps: trimming, drying, and curing your harvested buds. We’ll tell you all about that, but that’s the subject of another blog. Until then, enjoy your flowering phase!
I’m a first-time cannabis grower and my first plants are starting to flower, but I’m not sure exactly sure when I’m supposed to harvest them. How do I know my buds are ready? Also, is there anything I can do with the fan leaves after harvest, or do I just throw them out?
There are two common methods to determine when a cannabis flower is ready for harvest: with the naked eye or with a magnifying glass or microscope.
With the naked eye, the grower should closely watch his or her flowers until the pistils (little white hair protruding from the flowers) start turning red or brown.
As the cannabis flower reaches maturity, more of the pistils will become red or brown. A good rule of thumb is to harvest when just over 50 per cent of the pistils have become red or brown in color. The naked eye method is good for beginners who do not have access to a magnifying glass or microscope.
If possible, use a magnifying glass or microscope to determine the appropriate time to harvest your cannabis flowers. A magnifying glass or microscope allow a gardener to observe the trichomes (the small mushroom-like glands that contain most of the cannabinoids).
As the cannabis flowers start to ripen, the trichomes will turn from translucent to milky, and then, eventually, to an amber color.
For most hybrid plants, the peak THC percentages will be when the trichomes are mostly milky in color. In other words, most growers wait until most of the trichomes have become milky to harvest.
However, some growers like to harvest earlier (when trichomes have developed, but are still translucent) which produces a more energetic high for most users or later (when the majority of the trichomes have turned amber) which produces a more lethargic high for most users.
Having a magnifying glass or microscope allows the grower to determine when to harvest more accurately depending on his or her personal preferences. All in all, a magnifying glass or microscope is a valuable tool for harvesting and an investment worth making.
To answer the second part of your question regarding the fan leaves, you can make extracts from them. The large fan leaves contain cannabinoids, albeit at a far less concentration than the flowers.
Due to the low percentage of cannabinoids they contain, many growers dispose of the fan leaves. Personally, I like to make a coconut oil extract with my fan leaves. I do this by heating water and coconut oil in a large pot (I use one of my water bath canning pots).
The amount of water and coconut oil will vary depending on the amount of fan leaves you have. After the coconut oil has melted completely in the water, add the fan leaves, and cook over low heat for three to five hours.
You do not want to heavily boil the leaves; a light simmer is sufficient. After cooking, strain the water/coconut oil mixture through cheese cloth to remove the leaf material. The remaining mixture can be placed in the refrigerator for separation.
After 12 hours, the coconut oil will separate from the water and become hard. Discard the water and scrape the bottom of the hardened coconut oil to remove any sludge left by the plant material.
The resulting cannabis-infused coconut oil can be used for making capsules, baked goods, or as a topical ointment.