When to Harvest Cannabis


Jason Mueller

February 14th, 2018

Policy


Harvesting cannabis at the right time means that the crop will have the most potent cannabinoids it can for its strain, so it is essential to nail harvesting time accurately. Growing cannabis can take two or more months, so losing potency by harvesting early or too late can set you or your business back by nearly an entire fiscal quarter in the worst cases of botched harvest jobs. Luckily, identifying changes in your cannabis plants can give you clear insight as to when your harvest will be optimal.

Stages of a Cannabis Harvest

First, let’s recap on the stages of growing cannabis that precede harvest time, just to establish a timeline that will dispel confusion as to when to start preparing for harvest.

Week 1: Germination and sprouts.

Week 2: First nodes.

Week 3: First week switched to 12/12 light, or beginning of autumn for outdoor.

Week 4: First signs of plant gender expected: safely discard males without releasing pollen.

Week 5: Plants will be taking in a lot of water during the “stretch”, (period of time in flowering where they roughly double in height).

Week 6: Buds are getting denser, preparatory yo-yo ties can be used to support top-heavy stalks.

Week 7: Buds are getting fatter yet, and pistils should be darkening. Look for early signs of bud maturity.

Week 8: This is when to check daily for timing on harvest, on average. Each strain is different and some will take upwards of three months to achieve the ideal circumstances for harvest. Knowing what strains you’re growing is quintessential to providing them the perfect environment and timing, so be prepared to start checking late in week 7 and also be prepared for your bud not to be “ripe” yet by the end of week 8 depending on the strain.

What to Look for at Harvest Time

Now that it is time to harvest, there is an easy way to tell when the perfect time to chop your plants. It does require the use of a jeweler’s loupe, (magnifying glass) with at least a 60x magnification. Once your plant has yielded dense, frosty buds, the best way to know when to harvest is by inspecting the trichromes up close with your jeweler’s loupe. Trichromes are actually the what make up the “frostiness” of buds and cannabis plants, and they are where most of the THC that gets you high is found. As the cannabis plant matures, trichromes go from a clear color to a milky white color, and then finally an amber color. Depending on the color of your trichromes, you will get different effects from the bud you harvest.

Clear/ Too Early

Clear trichromes are an indicator that your plant is not mature yet. Do not even consider chopping your crop down if you find any translucent or clear-looking trichromes when inspecting your plant with your loupe. If you do, the THC levels of your buds will be so low that the crop will be wasted and unusable. Patience is a virtue and even if buds look big or “finished”, having clear trichromes means that there is much more in store for the quality if you wait.

Mostly Milky White / Head High

When looking at your buds with your loupe, if you notice that the trichromes have turned 90% milky-white in color, it means that your plant is extremely close to optimal harvest time. In fact, the crop could be harvested at this point and the product would yield more of a cranial, lucid, head-high feeling. Each strain is different, but slightly early harvests usually lose their body high / couch-lock effects to a degree. Though seeing mostly milky white trichromes means the product will get you high, it still is not the right time to harvest, optimally.

70% Milky White / 30% Amber (OPTIMAL)

At the point when all of the trichromes are milky-white, their next step in “ripening” is turning a dark amber color. These amber trichromes start popping up like grey hairs in old age: you’ll see a few at first, then more and more. At the point when you see amber trichromes in about 1/3rd of any sample that you inspect with your loupe, you are ready for optimal harvest. This is because harvesting at this point will yield the best blend of head high effects and body high effects of the strain. While it may be tempting to wait longer for a more intense body high, unfortunately the plant does not develop that way.

50% Amber + / Late

If you wait too long before harvesting, you’ll notice that the amber trichromes can take over quite quickly. If they wind up turning amber quicker than you anticipated or if you missed timing, you’ll find that the cannabinoid strength will be less potent than if harvested at the optimal time. It will still get you high and be workable product, but it may not pass medicinal standards or be as effective as over-the-counter bought cannabis.

Jason Mueller

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