One of the questions I get most often from new growers is how to tell when it’s time to harvest a crop of cannabis. Since there seems to be a lot of confusion on this subject I’m going to go into this topic in some depth to help all you new growers out.
You should already have a rough estimation of your plants vegetation and flowering cycle lengths from your seed provider. This isn’t a perfect number, but a number meant to give you a heads up of around the proper flowering time. There are so many variations in lighting, growing, nutrition and watering that these estimates can be nothing more then just that, estimates. You also must consider how you want the final product to behave depending on the user’s preference.
That’s why I’m writing this article, I’m going to attempt to show new growers just when to harvest even with all the above variables interacting with your plants. To be honest with you…. It really isn’t very hard. It takes a good eye, some knowledge and a great magnifier.
Your plants are amazing, they’ll give you lots of signs along the way to maturity. As your flowers mature they will swell and merge together into larger kolas covered in sticky crystals called trichomes. The longer into the flowering stage you get the more aroma your flowers will give off. Along the way the pistils will slowly darken and curl from white to an amber color; this depends on the strain, but most will.
While your flowers are maturing some of your fan leaves may being to wilt or yellow; this is a natural process and nothing to worry about. Just prune any dying leaves along the way. By removing these dying leaves you’ll allow more light down into the canopy.
Many growers as well as myself rely on the trichomes to tell is when the plant is ready for harvest. The glands or trichomes as well as the trim leaves contain the resin which contains the THC and CBD.
There is one tool you will absolutely require to view the tiny trichomes on your plants. You’ll need at least a 40X jeweler’s magnifying glass or better yet a digital microscope these can be found at surprisingly low cost on Amazon.com. I prefer to use a digital microscope because I really enjoy getting up close and personal with my buds. I take close up pictures and share them like they were my kids.
To get a proper look at the trichomes you will need some sort of magnifier. Simple 40X jeweller’s magnifying glass, bought on ebay or loupes are easily and cheaply available. Not only do they allow you to inspect the trichomes properly, they also open up an amazing world of imagery and an aspect of your plant that can be fascinating to look at.
I’ve got my handy dandy magnifier, now what am I looking for? Your plants will experience four visual cues or stages that you will need to observe.
These changes are:
These color changes in your trichomes provide an estimate of maturity of your buds.
With careful observation of the trichomes you can decide when to harvest based on your personal buzz preference. If you like a heavy stone or couch-lock, you’ll want to let your plants mature until most of the trichomes are amber are darker. The pistils should be curly and have changed colors long ago. If you are looking for a regular high then you need to catch your buds as the trichomes become amber. Once about 70% of your trichomes have changed color you’re ready to go.
You’ll get a feel for knowing when to harvest after you get a couple of harvests under your belt. Do yourself a favor and grow one strain at a time in the beginning just to help you keep things straight. There is no need to add more complication to the process.