When should you harvest cannabis ?
Its a question we have been asked many times over the decades, when is the best time to harvest cannabis? Seed banks in general often tend to state the earliest recommended harvest time for a particular variety, but we know from experience that lots of customers have their own ideas on when to harvest their home grown cannabis.
Over the last 30 years we have had lots of time to look at the various opinions and theories on this topic. The answer is not as simple as we would like, and since the emergence of Autoflowering cannabis there are now even more ideas on the best moment to harvest your home grown cannabis.
Early-harvested cannabis is not quite as popular as it used to be a couple of decades ago. Many connoisseur smokers feel that commercial growers ruin their crop by harvesting early instead of waiting an extra week or two for the crop to fully mature and develop a more ‘rounded’ effect. Fans of early harvested crops claim that the smoke offers a unique energetic ‘buzz’ with a special cerebral impact. An early harvested crop can be done when
- The pistils are all still white, and all the new pistils being produced are also still white. The pistils are the easily identified hairs that come out of the calyx, as the plant ages the pistils turn from white to golden brown.
- The trichomes are predominantly clear. The trichomes are the small resin glands that cover the buds, they contain the cannabinoids which get us high. The trichomes are initially clear and colourless, but as the cannabis plant approaches maturity the trichomes tend to change from clear to become increasingly cloudy. As they are left longer the trichomes start to become increasingly amber coloured. Many home growers that prefer early-harvested cannabis will chop their cannabis plants down while the trichomes are clear, before they become cloudy.
Many fans of early harvested cannabis will often grow specific varieties which they feel offer the best ‘early harvest high’, this is a question of personal taste. Often they will have grown the variety and smoked samples harvested at early, normal and late dates. So they will know that the variety should be harvested after a certain number of weeks, when the trichomes are mostly clear and before the pistils have started to run brown.
With early-harvested cannabis plants it is often obvious to the grower that the buds are still developing and growing. An early harvest often means that you will lose some of the harvest potential, but if you like early-harvested cannabis then its a price worth paying.
Harvest at normal time
Probably most home growers these days look to harvest their crop when it is nether too early nor too late. Often they will look for the point when the trichomes have started to transition from clear to cloudy but before the trichomes have started to become amber. For many growers this gives them a cannabis harvest with a rounded and enjoyable high, neither too heavy nor too cerebral. Experienced growers will be able to notice subtle differences on plant feeding behaviour to judge harvest point. For example, hydro growers will notice when a plant is starting to slow down on the feed by looking at the electrical conductivity (‘EC’) of the feed solution, that can be a signal to harvest.
For many growers a good time to harvest is when they see around 50%-75% of the pistils (hairs) are brown or when they see most of the trichomes have developed a milky (cloudy) appearance.
Late-harvested home grown cannabis is probably becoming more popular these days. There are a few reasons for this trend:
- late harvested crops are often heavier because they have been allowed an extra week or two to finish, these allows the buds to get heavier, more plentiful and more resinous
- if you prefer the extra sedation and strength of late harvested cannabis you often have to grow it yourself. ‘Street weed’ is usually harvested at the earliest opportunity because dealers like to produce their crops as quickly as they can caring little for the optimal harvest point. So if you prefer a fully matured cannabis crop then you probably need to grow it yourself.
Late-harvested cannabis often tends to show a large proportion of the trichomes with amber/red colourations. Pistils are often all brown. The smoke from a late harvest cannabis can often be narcotically strong with a heavy feeling which may make you feel like relaxing on the couch and doing very little. For some recreational/medical growers this is perfect. Sometimes fans of indica varieties will prefer late-harvested cannabis.
Late harvested crops will often look somewhat autumnal, with hints of yellow, brown and red in the leaves and general plant appearance.
Autoflowering harvest theories
Autoflowering cannabis varieties are now just as popular as traditional photoperiod cannabis varieties and some growers have their own theories about harvesting. Some growers prefer to judge the harvest point by the leaves, when the leaves start to fade from green to yellow they feel this is the signal to harvest the cannabis buds. Many auto growers feel that there are significant extra harvest quantities available if the plants can be left longer, so we often see auto growers leaving their plants for an extra week or two beyond the normal harvest date. Some auto growers routinely leave their plants longer than the normal 10-11 weeks simply to get bigger harvests of heavy-hitting cannabis. However the idea of harvesting your plants according to leaf colour is not a 100% reliable method since many growers use Nitrogen rich feeds all the way through growth which can keep the fan leaves greener than nature intended. So you will need to use your own judgement and experience in addition to your eyes.
Now the complicated stuff
Cannabis is a plant that, just like the grower, doesn’t always follow the rules. So you will need to apply your own experience to the timing of the cannabis harvest. Some varieties, such as Frisian Dew, may show trichomes that are pink and are difficult to judge whether they have gone cloudy or amber.
Other times you may have a plant where the trichomes appear to stay clear and don’t change until after harvest. Some plants will show trichomes that seem to go from clear to amber without the cloudy stage.
Its a question of looking at a few different factors (pistil colour, trichomes appearance, plant general appearance, leaf colour, feeding characteristics etc) to understand when to harvest your cannabis. Experience will help, as will knowledge of the particular variety that you are growing.
The best advice we can give to any home grower is to make some tests and find out what YOU prefer – early, middle or late harvested cannabis. If you are growing your own cannabis it is produced more-or-less for free, you just need to decide when it is best to harvest. One of the beauties of home growing is that you choose the genetics and the timing of the harvest. Not all varieties show the same characteristics regarding trichome appearance or pistil colour, so you may prefer to harvest your next crop in 3 stages (early, medium and late) to make a smoke test. This will allow you to gauge your own future preferences. And remember its your home grow, your passion, your cannabis. Home growing gives you the chance to produce cannabis of far superior quality than anything you will buy on the streets, so next time you grow a plant have a think about making your own smoke test on buds harvested at different times. You never know, it could change the way you think about harvesting your future crops.
When should you harvest cannabis? Harvest Early – Harvest Normal Time – Harvest Late – Autoflowering harvest theories
When to harvest cannabis
Copy article link to clipboard.
Link copied to clipboard.
- What is the average time from planting to harvesting cannabis?
- How to know when to harvest cannabis
- How can you tell if it’s too early to harvest cannabis?
- How can you tell if it’s too late to harvest cannabis?
- Next steps after harvesting cannabis
If you’re new to the world of cannabis cultivation, you are probably eager to taste the fruits of your labor at harvest time. In this beginner’s guide to harvesting cannabis, you’ll learn the best time to harvest marijuana as well as the key indicators that tell you when cannabis plants are ready to harvest.
What is the average time from planting to harvesting cannabis?
From seedling stage to harvest, marijuana plants have a broad range of growth periods. The duration of the growth cycle may depend on several factors, including growing medium, desired yield, and marijuana strain. This combination of factors means that you’ll need to wait between six weeks and 16 weeks to harvest most cannabis plants. On average, you can expect between nine weeks and 12 weeks to elapse from planting to harvesting, but again, timing is contingent on a number of factors.
From seedling stage to harvest, marijuana plants have a broad range of growth periods. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Here are three strains known to grow faster than average, in case you want to accelerate your harvest:
- Early Girl. As the name implies, Early Girl is speedy and may be ripe to harvest within seven weeks of planting.
- OG Kush. Known for its earthy, spicy taste and high THC content, OG Kush is a perennial favorite among weed lovers and can be harvested within eight weeks.
- Chocolate Skunk Auto. Like other autoflowering strains such as Northern Lights Automatic and Easy Bud, Chocolate Skunk Auto impresses with its rapid growth and is usually ripe within eight weeks.
How to know when to harvest cannabis
As a grower you’ll know that your cannabis plants are ready to harvest when you observe these visual clues:
Trichome color: The appearance of the trichomes, the small resin glands on flowers, is one of the surest ways to tell it’s time to harvest. Ideally, half of the trichomes should appear milky white and the others should be a vivid amber. Clear trichomes, on the other hand, indicate that it’s a good idea to wait a little longer before harvest. Of all the signs to look for, trichome color is the most reliable. This color change might be hard to see with the naked eye, so make sure you have a magnifying glass handy.
Ideally, when the trichomes appear milky white and vivid amber, it’s time to harvest. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Leaf color: Another reliable indicator of when a marijuana plant is ready to harvest is the changing shades of the fan leaves. During the flowering stages, nitrogen gives the leaves their green color. When it’s time to harvest, fan leaves will turn yellow and start to fall off as nitrogen decreases.
Curling leaves: As the fan leaves turn from green to yellow, they may also curl and dry. The lack of moisture is a natural occurrence as cannabis plants take in less water when harvest time draws near.
As the fan leaves turn from green to yellow, they may also curl and dry because cannabis plants take in less water when harvest time draws near. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Brown pistils: For photoperiod cannabis plants, the pistils will turn brown at maturity. The optimal time to harvest is when about half the pistils are shaded brown. Similar to checking trichome colors, you’ll want to have your magnifying glass handy for this step.
Bud shape: Though not as surefire a way to know when it’s time to harvest as the trichome test, the shape of the buds can still offer a few hints about the plant’s maturity. Look for firm, tight buds on a marijuana plant as a sign that it’s ready to harvest.
These visual indicators are all observable with the naked eye and are clear signals that it’s time to harvest. Likewise, there are other clues that demonstrate when a plant is either too young or past its prime for successful harvesting.
How can you tell if it’s too early to harvest cannabis?
Trichomes will signal if your crop is not yet ready for harvest, just as they let you know when it’s the best time to start harvesting. If the majority of trichomes are clear, then the cannabis plants are not ready to harvest. Clear trichomes indicate that resin production has not reached its peak and the resulting weed is likely to be less potent, flavorful, and aromatic.
How can you tell if it’s too late to harvest cannabis?
Check the trichomes again and note the color. If you observe mostly amber trichomes, then the cannabis flowers are overripe. At this stage of development, the harvested weed will have an unpleasant taste. In addition, cannabinoids such as THC begin to degrade when amber trichomes overtake the milky white ones. In rare cases, trichomes can even begin to turn black if growers didn’t harvest their marijuana plants. Besides the amber color, trichomes can also become noticeably brittle. Trichomes on overripe buds may even crumble in your hands.
Harvesting cannabis past its prime is not recommended but may be preferable to harvesting prematurely. The terpenes, which are believed to contain healing properties, can become more potent during a late harvest, but at the expense of scent and flavor.
Next steps after harvesting cannabis
Drying, trimming, and curing are the important next steps after you harvest marijuana plants. Once these steps are complete, your weed will be ready to enjoy or store for future use. If storing cannabis, be sure to keep it in a vacuum-sealed container in a cool, dark place for maximum freshness and shelf life.
If you're new to the world of cannabis cultivation, you are probably eager to taste the fruits of your labor at harvest time. In this beginner's guide to harvesting cannabis, you'll learn the best time to harvest marijuana as well as the key indicators that tell you when cannabis plants are ready to harvest.