Choosing the right time to harvest marijuana plants is crucial to the quality of the harvested buds. When it comes to harvesting cannabis, timing is everything.
This comprehensive guide will describe the best time to harvest cannabis, harvesting methods, tools, tips, and more.
Before the Harvest
There are a few pro tips when it comes to harvesting cannabis. Experts recommend specific times for stopping nutrients and water before harvest time.
Please keep reading for information on treating your cannabis plants before they are ready to harvest.
Harvesting cannabis for Resin Production
You can do several things during cannabis cultivation to strengthen resin glands and promote resin-filled trichomes to form and increase overall resin production before it’s time to harvest.
It’s in the Genes
Genetics plays an essential role in regards to trichomes and healthy resin glands. Here are ten strains that are known to be potent and high yielding for cannabis cultivation:
- Blue Dream
- Gorilla Glue
- Northern Lights
- Tropicana Cookies
- Sour Diesel
- Sunset Sherbet
- White Widow
- Yoda OG
During the growing season, the climate that your cannabis plant buds mature will significantly impact cannabis trichomes and weed quality.
When you grow cannabis, you will want to understand light periods and how they affect the cannabis life cycle. If you don’t, your plant may never produce buds. The light schedule for your cannabis plant will change throughout its life stages, from the time you germinate seeds to placing them in their final growing medium.
Indoors, your cannabis plant will need twelve hours of metal halide or high-pressure sodium or led grow lights, then twelve hours of complete darkness on a cycle in the flowering stage before they are ready for harvest. The higher the UV-B rays’ quality, the more the resin glands produce. For outdoor plants, the sun provides the perfect lighting in warm climates.
Darkness before harvest time
It’s recommended to try and provide your indoor growing cannabis with 24 to 48 hours of complete darkness right before your cannabis plant is ready to harvest. This is why it’s vital to do one harvest at a time. Managing more than one harvest can lead to lower quality plants and light marijuana cycle mix-ups. Unless you have a lot of help, please keep it simple at first when you harvest cannabis.
When do I stop fertilizing?
Before you are ready for harvest, the buds have typically gotten quite dense during the last flowering phase. The trichomes will change from transparent to a milky, white color, and you’ll know it’s the optimal time to reduce the fertilizer gradually.
When one to two weeks are left before harvest time, experienced growers advise stopping providing nutrients to the cannabis plant altogether. It is believed that if fertilizer is applied through the end of plant growth, the buds will have more of an unpleasant, chemical taste.
Therefore, eliminating fertilizers earlier and flushing the roots will allow water to purify and thus enhance the flavor profile of the cannabis buds when they are ready for harvest.
When do I stop watering?
For the best crop yield, most people that are experienced in cannabis cultivation say that you should stop watering your plants approximately three days before you’re ready to harvest. Others stop a week or so before they are prepared to harvest buds of the same strain.
The idea is to send the cannabis plants into drought mode. This controlled hydric stress will cause the entire plant to direct its resources to reproduction, resulting in larger, denser buds.
How long to stop watering before harvest time is ultimately up to you and unique to your cannabis plant and situation. The ideal amount of time differs for bigger plants, and most climates also vary. Overall, somewhere between three days and one week seems to be the consensus.
Temperature and Humidity
When you dry marijuana buds, you’ll want to keep your grow room temperature between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit or 20 degrees Celsius during the drying process. Setting it to 20 degrees Celcius and 50 percent humidity level should do the trick if you have a temperature-controlled unit.
If airflow becomes a problem while drying or curing cannabis, investing in a small fan to circulate air would be an excellent idea; however, remain cautious not to allow the fan to blow directly on your drying pot plant.
Utilizing low-stress training indoors is designed to make the most out of smaller grows spaces. High-stress training is a slightly more complicated plant training used on both indoor and outdoor plants. When done successfully, high-stress training can positively influence your plant’s growth.
There are numerous techniques that growers have developed over the years to control a better grow cycle’s outcome in high-stress environments. Beginner growers should start slowly, as high-stress training can damage plants if done incorrectly. However, with a bit of diligence and quite a lot of practice, most beginner growers can learn to high-stress train successfully.
High-stress training is a blanket term referring to a range of training methods that manipulate the growth and structure of plants. As the name would suggest, high-stress training puts a significant amount of stress on the cannabis plant, which can be damaging when done incorrectly.
However, this type of training can trigger potent healing responses in plants when done the right way. This can lead to a more significant and more potent crop. If you are interested in high-stress training, we highly recommend starting with more straightforward methods and working your way up.
Marijuana vs. Cannabis plants
The flowering period of hemp plants and marijuana plants depends significantly on the strain. Because of this, you can typically know when it’s time to harvest based on the strain, type, and whether you grow indoors or outdoors.
Indica strains are typically ready to harvest around 6 to 8 weeks. It is a smaller cannabis plant with a shorter flowering phase. Placing two or three plants in your garden is ideal for rapid growth.
Sativa has a longer flowering period and is typically ready to harvest around 9 to 12 weeks. It grows very high and has lower yields, so it’s not ideal for an indoor growing medium.
Auto flower plant’s buds mature faster, no matter the strain. The whole plant should be ready for harvest around the six-week mark. These are the best seeds to choose if you plan to have multiple harvests per year or if you need more than half to turn out to be a female plant.
Cannabis plant anatomy
Female plants take longer to show signs of their gender, but you can recognize them by the white hairs that appear during the flowering stage. These are the plants that you will continue to grow and harvest.
Male plants will have pollen sacks that appear close to the main stem where buds form on the female plant, one to two weeks after the flowering stage. These plants will need to be removed or separated from the female not to disrupt the flowering period.
Important plant parts for harvesting cannabis
Sugar leaves are smaller than fan leaves and produce quite a bit of resin. These leaves are where the buds are formed, and unlike fan leaves, they can be saved after trimming for pre-rolls, extracts, or edibles.
There are no male flowers; only female plants produce buds. They are small and teardrop-shaped, with pistils attached to bracts. You’ll notice shimmering trichomes, and the more, the better. The pre-flower leads to flowers that contain CBD, THC cannabinoids, and terpenes. Flowers are typically dried then ground to smoke.
In a nutshell, the pistil is the plant’s reproductive system. It contains thick strands which look like white hairs. The job of the stigma is to collect pollen, which is why they start white and eventually turn yellow. While these reproductive parts are vital to plant growth, they do not affect potency or taste.
The trichomes are the tiny, sugary crystals covering and protecting the buds. They come from the plant tissue glands of leaves, stems, and the calyx on male or female marijuana plants. The more trichomes, the more potent your plant will be, even though you can’t see them well with the naked eye.
Plant life cycle
There are four main stages of growth for marijuana plants before they are ready to harvest.
The seed germination life stage can take three to ten days. You’ll want to place your seeds in a dark place that is warm and humid. Once the regular or feminized seeds open and begin to produce their first root, transfer it into a small flower pot. It will start to create the oval leaves known as cotyledons.
Once you have a seedling, it should take approximately two to three weeks to complete this essential life stage. You’ll begin to notice serrated leaflet production, followed by larger, bladed fan leaves. Mature female cannabis plants have five to seven blades per leaf.
Next, your marijuana plants will enter into the three to sixteen weeks known as the vegetative stage. Your female marijuana plant will need at least sixteen hours of light, or six hours of direct sunlight with several hours of indirect sunlight to follow. At this stage, you’ll want to provide nutrients, water, and maintenance to your larger female cannabis plants.
Finally, the flowering stage lasts eight to twelve weeks and is the final step to producing buds. This is where the twelve hours of sun twelve hours of dark come into play.
If you take good care of your plants, they should begin to produce large, resinous buds with high contents of resin production. This is the last stage before it is time to harvest.
What’s the best time of day to harvest cannabis outdoors?
The best time to harvest cannabis is in the early morning hours, just before sunrise. At approximately three to five in the morning, the terpene levels are the highest, making it ideal for harvesting marijuana plants.
Here, we recommend all of the supplies, tools, and equipment you’ll need for a successful harvest time.
Small scissors for trimming the small stems and leaves.
Pruning shears for smaller branches.
Pruning lopper for the central stalk and larger branches.
Seventy percent Isopropyl alcohol for a sanitary environment.
Paper towels for cleaning purposes
Nitrile gloves for handling resin-filled buds and for cleaning up
Tarps for laying the weed on and to collect anything dropped
Pocket Microscope or Magnifying glass to view pistils and trichomes
Fans for circulation
Drying rack or tent
Camera to capture the initial quality of your buds
Dehumidifier to regulate humidity
Thermometer and Hygrometer to monitor humidity and temperature
Airtight containers for curing and storage
Basics of harvesting indoors
Growing and harvesting cannabis indoors will allow for the ultimate control over your cannabis plants’ grow environment and elements. You need to take a few specific steps to make the most out of your harvesting experience.
Steps for Harvest time
Check for issues
First, you’ll want to take a close look at your cannabis plants right before it is time to harvest. Things to look for are damage due to nutrient or water deficiency, natural occurrences, disease, and mold. Instead of removing the entire plant, if it’s possible, you can trim off any damaged pieces and throw them out.
Are you ready to harvest?
- use the pistil method to see if white pistils sticking up are now perfect brown pistils
- the pistil method also includes checking to see if orange and brown hairs are curling inward
- Instead of the pistil method, you can look for clear trichomes becoming creamy white
- time to harvest should be around 8 to 12 weeks; less for auto-flowering seeds
Microscope vs. magnifying glass
Trichomes, like white hairs, are not always easily visible to the naked eye. While a magnifying glass can do the trick to see the white pistils sticking up, investing in a pocket microscope will give you the best view of the marijuana plant to see if there are clear, milky white, or amber trichomes. If they are creamy white, you’ll know it is ready to harvest.
Flushing before you’re ready to harvest cannabis removes excess nutrient buildup from the roots and soil of your plants, giving them a fresh start. Flushing essentially allows your plants to absorb any nutrients still in the ground. You can avoid harsh and unsatisfying smoke by flushing your cannabis plants before harvest.
If cannabis plants are not flushed correctly, the minerals and nutrients used during the cultivation process remain present. Flushing takes care of those nutrients and improves the overall quality of your own marijuana.
However, it’s crucial to remember that flushing too early may restrict nutrients and restrain the plants from growing and flowering. Flushing too far in advance to when your cannabis plant is ready for harvest also results in discolored fan leaves.
Generally, flushing usually takes place two weeks before you harvest cannabis. Flushing should start towards the end of the flowering cycle when trichomes begin to form a milky white color. Don’t wait until there are amber trichomes, as this is a sign that THC levels are dropping rapidly and it’s past harvest time.
First, cut off the branches using a sturdy pair of pruning shears. Then, break down the plant into smaller pieces until the central stalk is reached. This main stem will need to be cut off very close to the soil.
Be sure to set up the drying room way before harvest time. There are a few things to consider when choosing a space to dry your marijuana buds:
The room’s climate should not frequently change while you dry weed.
Whenever possible, use a new room. Old areas, especially those used as storage, often have a lot of mildew.
The room should not be too big that you won’t be able to control the climate in it accurately.
Drying weed should be this room’s only purpose.
- Digital Hygrometer for humidity level
- Digital thermometer for temperature control
- Small fan for circulation
- Duct Kit with ducting, exhaust fan, and filter
- Drying rack to hang buds upside down
- Drying screen for loose buds that fall
How to set up your drying rack
Often, the most challenging part of marijuana cultivation is setting up a grow and dry space for their cannabis. While it’s nice to use top-quality supplies and equipment, it may be best to keep it simple at first and learn to produce a couple of plants before increasing to a whole operation.
A simple dry room setup can involve putting together your rack to hang the plants upside down. Be sure the room is large enough that the plants can hang freely and allow air circulation. The space will also need to be completely dark and sunlight-free. Once you set up your circulation system, ensure it isn’t directly blowing on the drying cannabis.
Terpene loss is unavoidable during drying, so you want to evaporate just enough moisture at an optimal time where maximum terpenes can be retained.
Some terpenes will inevitably be lost during the drying process, so you’ll want to set the space up to retain as many as possible during the evaporation phase. All in all, this room will need to be set up long before you harvest cannabis.
How long does the drying process take?
Freshly harvested weed needs to cure a minimum of two full weeks or fifteen days. You’ll know they are adequately dried when the dry buds are firm to the touch and the branches bend but don’t crack.
Smaller or wet trimmed buds may dry quicker, so regularly check on your drying buds after the ten-day mark. At the end of drying the cannabis plant, the humidity level will drop from approximately 80 percent to around 25 to 30 percent.
Next, you’ll either be trimming buds before or after the drying process.
Wet trimming is a process that involves trimming before you dry the marijuana flower.
Immediately following harvest, you would cut off the leaves before the drying and curing process.
Wet trimming benefits include:
- easier to trim
- less time to trim
- faster drying and curing time
- lower risk of mold or mildew
- less space needed to dry buds
Dry trimming is when you cut down the plants, hang dry buds with the leaves intact, and then trim them afterward.
Dry trimming benefits include:
- speed to dry marijuana can be controlled and adjusted
- results in higher quality dry weed
- Less messy to trim when dry
- The less harsh, more flavorful smoking experience
The curing process involves seven steps:
Once your pot plant is dry, separate buds from the branches.
Place your precious buds in an airtight container.
Store the container in a dark, cool place.
Regularly check curing room climate and weed humidity with a hygrometer. The perfect humidity level will be between 60 and 65 percent.
Repeat routine checks on your cannabis plant for two to three weeks.
Portion, weigh, and long term storage
A proper cure will ensure that your weed will maintain its flavor and bud potency longer as well—store marijuana buds in airtight containers. Mason jars are excellent for storing cannabis after the curing process.
Maintain a dark environment with a cool temperature for optimal storage of cured cannabis in an airtight container. Ensure your drying and storage room is clean and free of stagnant air and excess dust. It’s best to clean with alcohol a few hours before utilizing the space.
Bonus tip: Cannabis buds frozen in airtight containers can last up to one to two years.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
Avoid over and under-watering. Manage water quality and pH.
Choose top-quality fertilizer and avoid giving too many nutrients.
Follow the plant’s growth cycle. Every detail matters during growth.
Choose the suitable soil for the plant roots.
Pick top-quality seeds with dense bud production and a particular strain you’ll love.
A poor climate without proper ventilation, lighting, and airflow will result in an unhealthy plant. Choose a clean, optimal growing and drying room.
Don’t be overzealous about the time to harvest. Wait until the cannabis buds are fully formed, and flowering is complete.
Store your weed in an airtight container for best results.
If you’ve ever gotten to sample buds that had an ammonia smell, that means the curing process was incomplete. Without taking the optimal time to cure, not only do you risk the ammonia smell, but you’re also in for dry marijuana that is harsh to smoke.
Deciding when to harvest marijuana outdoors and indoors is an important decision, and timing plays a key factor when it comes to the quality and potency of your marijuana buds.
Please refer back to our comprehensive guide when it’s harvest time, and be sure to check out our other resources on growing, drying, and curing your cannabis plants at Leafy Mate.