You finally found enough time to plant and look after your first crop of marijuana plants, but what now? How do you know when your resin coated buds are ready to harvest and how do you do it? These are just a few things that novice cannabis growers overlook, but are very important aspects to having potent, high-quality pot that you’ll be excited to show off to your stoner buddies.
How to know when marijuana is ready to harvest
When it comes to growing marijuana, it’s important to keep detailed notes on the stages, condition, water, nutrients, and light you use for your plants. This will help to determine when your cannabis plants are ready to harvest and what you can do differently when planning for your next crop. The most important thing to know is the date your plants began to flower. This is easy to know for indoor plants because this is the day that you change the light cycle to force your plants to flower. Autoflower strains are not dependent on light to trigger flowering, so you will need to know the average weeks to flower from your seed bank. Outdoor grows are dependent on the seasonal change in light, so outdoor cannabis plants grown in the northern hemisphere will flower sometime between September and November. If you start to see small, white pistils, then your plant is beginning to flower!
Check the pistils and trichomes
Start checking your plants to see if they’re ready to harvest around the seventh week of flowering. Most indoor plants are harvested between week seven to nine, though some strains may take up to 12 weeks. Remember that plants of the same strain will be ready at the same time and should be harvested at the same time, while a crop of different strains often ripen at different times. Use a jeweler's loupe or magnifying glass with between 30x-100x magnification to inspect your plants up close. When weed is ready to harvest, the pistils (the tiny hair-like strings) will change from white to an orange or rust color and begin to curl up.
Next, look closely at the trichomes. To the naked eye, trichomes look like crystals, or sugar covering the leaves and nugs, however under a loupe, they resemble tiny mushrooms protruding off of the plant. These sticky microscopic trichomes are filled with cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes that dictate potency. Trichomes will begin clear, then turn a milky white, before finally becoming an amber color when ready to harvest. Try to harvest right when the trichomes turn amber, which is the point of the highest THC content possible. After this time, the THC and other cannabinoids will begin to slowly break down. This means you may have to harvest the entire cannabis plant, even if not all the buds have turned color.
How to harvest marijuana plants
When the dates line up and the pistils and trichomes have changed color, it’s time to harvest your plants.
Preparing for a marijuana harvest
Once you have a rough estimate that your plants will soon be ready to harvest, get rid of all nutrient build up by flushing the soil with normal water. If you have more than one plant, you’ll probably want to call up some friends to see if they can help you with this time consuming task. Decide if you want to do a dry or wet trim. A wet trim is when you trim the buds as soon as you cut the plant, while a dry trim calls for cutting the plants and hanging the branches up to dry for a few days prior to trimming. Don’t forget to have the right amount of equipment ready to go for when your helpers arrive and ask them to wear clothes that they don’t mind getting dirty.
Equipment for harvesting weed
- Sharp scissors
- Pruning shears
- Trimming tray or a large bowl to place buds
- A large clean table or other flat surface
- Rubbing alcohol (for cleaning)
- Some form of entertainment
Begin by chopping down your cannabis plants using the pruning shears. Try not to touch the buds, but if you do, handle them with care. If you’re doing a dry trim, cut the branches so they will be easy to hang upside down. Tie up a rope or twine somewhere with good airflow and let the branches hang from the rope. Dry trimming makes the entire drying process quicker and is less sticky, which can get very annoying when spending hours trimming. No matter what method you choose, you’ll want to have some form of entertainment since harvesting and trimming takes many hours if not days to complete. Light up, then a few podcasts, turn on the music, or prepare any type of method to stay entertained that doesn’t require you to take your eyes off the precious nugs. Now that the harvest is over, it’s time to start trimming!
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