It’s cannabis harvest season! Here’s a quick guide on how to tell when your cannabis is ready to harvest.
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The Different Stages of Cannabis Growth
There are generally three different stages of cannabis growth: vegetative, flowering, and ripening. Indicators of when to harvest your cannabis during each stage will depend on the method of growing being used, as well as the phenotype of the strain being grown. However, there are some general tips that can be followed in order to ensure proper timing of the harvest.
The vegetative stage
After your cannabis plants have germinated and sprouted, they will enter the vegetative stage. Because this is when your plants grow their roots, stems, and leaves, it’s the longest stage of their life cycle.
During the vegetative stage, you should keep your grow lights on for 18-24 hours per day. Your plants will do best if they get at least six hours of darkness each day, so it’s fine to turn your lights off for a few hours in the evening.
You’ll know your plants are in the vegetative stage when they start growing leaves and stems. Their root system will also be growing during this time. Once your plants have reached their full size, they will enter the flowering stage.
The flowering stage
The flowering stage is the last stage of cannabis growth before harvest. For most strains, this occurs when the plant receives 12 hours of uninterrupted darkness per day (often called “12/12”).
During the flowering stage, cannabis plants will grow buds (the flowers that contain the majority of THC and other cannabinoids). The length of the flowering stage varies depending on the strain, but it usually lasts between 6 and 8 weeks.
The plants will also produce more leaves and branches during this time. growers often remove these extra leaves and branches to focus the plant’s energy on producing bigger, better buds.
The ripening stage
The ripening stage is the final stage of Cannabis growth before harvest. Ripening is when the cannabinoids and terpenes inside the buds develop and reach their peak. The THC levels also increase during this time. This is why it’s important to wait until the ripening stage to harvest your Cannabis. If you harvest too early, you won’t get the full effect of the THC.
You can tell when your Cannabis is in the ripening stage by looking at the trichomes, which are the tiny hairs on the buds. At first, they will be clear. But as the buds ripen, they will turn from clear to white, and then eventually to amber. When about 60-70% of the trichomes are amber, that means the Cannabis is ripe and ready to harvest.
If you want to maximize THC levels, you can wait until most of the trichomes are amber. But if you want a more balanced high with less couch-lock effect, then harvesting when about 60% of the trichomes are amber is ideal. Again, it all comes down to personal preference.
Once you’ve determined that your Cannabis is ready for harvesting, it’s time to cut down your plants and dry them out so you can enjoy your handiwork!
How to Tell When Your Cannabis is Ready to Harvest
The most important part of harvesting your cannabis is knowing when to do it. The following will give you the information you need to know about how to tell when your cannabis is ready to harvest.
Cannabis trichomes are tiny, delicate, incredibly potent structures that grow on the surface of the plant. These tiny structures are what produce the cannabinoids and terpenes that give cannabis its unique effects.
To determine when your cannabis is ready to harvest, you will need to examine the trichomes closely. Use a jeweler’s loupe or a microscope to get a good look at the trichomes. You should see that they have started to turn from clear to cloudy white. Some may even be starting to turn amber.
The color change is an indication that the cannabinoids and terpenes are starting to degrade. The longer you wait to harvest, the more degradation will occur and the potency of your cannabis will decrease.
As a general rule of thumb, you should harvest when the majority of trichomes have turned cloudy white. If you want a more potent cannabis product, you can harvest when some of the trichomes have started to turn amber. Just be aware that too much amber can give your cannabis a more sedative effect.
The easiest way to tell when your cannabis is ready to harvest is to look at the pistils. The pistils are the tiny hairs that stick out from the buds. When the plant first starts growing, the pistils are white. As the plant matures, the pistils change color and eventually turn red, orange, or brown.
The color change is a good indication that the THC and other cannabinoids are maturing and that the plant is getting close to harvest time. However, it’s not a foolproof method — some growers prefer to wait until most of the pistils have changed color, while others harvest when only a few are still white.
Another way to tell if your plant is ready for harvest is to look at the trichomes. Trichomes are tiny, glittery crystals that cover the leaves and buds of the plant. They’re what give cannabis its distinctive smell and they also contain most of the plant’s THC. You can inspect your trichomes with a magnifying glass or microscope.
When they’re immature, trichomes have a clear or milky white appearance. As they mature, they change color and turn amber or brown. The general consensus among growers is that cannabis is ready for harvest when about 50-75% of the trichomes have turned amber.
Color of the leaves
Cannabis plants are annuals, meaning they complete their life cycle in one growing season. In legal cannabis operations, growers carefully control every aspect of their environment to produce high-quality flowers that are harvested on a particular schedule. For home growers, it’s not always possible to replicate these conditions perfectly, but you can still get a sense of when your plants are ready to harvest by paying attention to the color of the leaves.
As cannabis plants mature, the leaves begin to change color. The speed of this color change depends on the strain, but in general, you will see the leaves start to turn from green to yellow or brown as the plant approaches harvest time. This color change is caused by a decrease in chlorophyll production, which is necessary for photosynthesis. As the plant starts to direct more of its energy towards producing flowers instead of leaves, it produces less chlorophyll.
You can begin harvesting your cannabis plants when about 30-50% of the leaves have changed color. Keep in mind that the buds will continue to mature even after you’ve cut them from the plant, so if you want a more potent product, you can wait until most of the leaves have changed color before harvesting.
The Harvesting Process
Harvesting your cannabis at the right time is crucial to getting the most out of your crop. There are a few things you can look for to determine when your plants are ready to harvest. The first is the trichomes . These are the tiny crystals that cover the leaves and buds of your plant. You want to wait until the majority of the trichomes are milky white or amber in color. Another thing to look for are the pistils. These are the little hairs that sticks out from the buds. They will start out white and eventually turn red or brown. When about 60-70% of the pistils have changed color, your plant is probably ready to harvest.
Cutting down the plant
Cannabis plants can be cut down when they are fully mature. This is usually around 4-6 weeks into the flowering stage, but can be earlier or later depending on the variety of cannabis and the desired effect. To tell if a plant is ready to be cut down, observe the trichomes on the leaves and buds. If they are mostly clear/milky white, the plant is not ready yet. If they are mostly dark brown/amber, the plant is ready to be harvested. Check a few different spots on the plant to get an accurate idea of readiness.
Once you have determined that the plant is ready to be harvested, cut down the main stem at the base of the plant. Be careful not to damage any of the lower branches in the process. Start by trimming off any large fan leaves and set them aside. These can be used for making hash or other concentrates. Next, trim off all of the smaller leaves from around the buds themselves. These trimmed buds can now be hung up to dry in a cool, dark, and dry place.
Drying and curing the buds
After you have cut down your plant, it is time to dry and cure the buds. This process can take a few weeks, but it is important to do it properly in order to preserve the potency and flavor of your cannabis.
To dry your cannabis, hang the branches upside down in a dark, cool room with good ventilation. If the room is too warm or too humid, the buds will mold. Check on them daily and give them a gentle shake to help them dry evenly. The buds are ready to cure when they snap easily in half.
To cure your cannabis, put the dried buds into Mason jars or other airtight containers and store them in a cool, dark place. Every day, open the jars for a few minutes to let in fresh air and release moisture. After about two weeks, your cannabis should be cured and ready to smoke!