When to Harvest Cannabis Outdoors

Discover when the best time is to harvest your cannabis crop outdoors. Learn about the different stages of the cannabis plant life cycle and how to determine when your plants are ready to harvest.

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Late Summer/Early Fall

It’s late summer or early fall, and you’ve been growing your cannabis plants outdoors all season long. Now, it’s time to harvest your hard-earned buds! But when is the best time to harvest? While it may vary depending on the climate you live in, there are a few general tips you can follow to determine when to harvest cannabis outdoors.

In general, cannabis plants are ready for harvest when the pistils (the small white hairs on the buds) have turned from white to red, brown, or orange. You can also achieve similar results by looking at the trichomes (the tiny crystals on the buds) under a magnifying glass – when they are mostly clear, your plant is not quite ready; when they are mostly cloudy, your plant is ready; and when they are mostly amber/brown, your plant is overripe.

Another way to determine if your plant is ready for harvest is by observing its daily growth. For most plants, bud growth will slow down or stop entirely about 2-3 weeks before they are actually ready to harvest. So, if you notice that your plant’s buds are no longer growing larger or filling out as they were a few weeks ago, it’s probably time to start thinking about harvesting.

Of course, these are just general guidelines – ultimately, the best way to know when your plant is ready for harvest is by using a combination of all of these methods (observing pistils, trichomes, and daily growth) and using your own best judgement. After all, you know your plants better than anyone else!

When the pistils are 80% red

It’s hard to give an exact time when to harvest cannabis because it depends on so many different factors. One of the most important things to consider is what kind of high you want from your final product. If you want a more cerebral high, you’ll want to harvest earlier when more THC is present. If you want a more sedative high, you’ll want to wait until later when CBD levels are higher. But in general, most people harvest when the pistils are 80% red.

To get an idea of how THC and CBD levels change over time, check out this chart from Leafly:

You can also look at the trichomes on the buds to give you an idea of ripeness. If they’re mostly clear, the plant is probably not quite ready yet. If they’re mostly amber, it’s probably time to harvest. And if they’re brown, the plant is probably too ripe and has lost some of its potency.

Of course, these are just general guidelines – ultimately, it’s up to you to decide when your cannabis is ready to harvest!

Check the trichomes with a jeweler’s loupe or microscope

To determine when to harvest your cannabis crop, you’ll need to get up close and personal with your plants. Take a look at the flowers (also called “buds”) with a jeweler’s loupe or microscope, and check the individual resin glands (trichomes) that cover the buds. These are the tiny, sparkly crystals that contain high levels of THC and other cannabinoids.

When the trichomes are mostly clear, that means it’s time to harvest. If most of them are still cloudy white, the plant needs more time. If most of them are brown or red, the plant is probably past its peak.

Here’s a general guide to trichome colors and when to harvest:
-Clear: not quite ready
-Cloudy white: ready
-Amber/brown: past peak

The buds should be plump, dense and sticky

Cannabis plants typically go through two life cycles outdoors: the vegetative stage and the flowering stage.

The vegetative stage is when the plant is growing and maturing, and the flowering stage is when the plant produces buds. Most growers start their plants indoors in late winter or early spring, so they can control the environment and get a head start on the growing season.

Once the plants have reached a certain size and maturity, they are moved outdoors and allowed to flower. The amount of time it takes for a plant to flower depends on several factors, including the strain of cannabis, the amount of light it receives, and the weather conditions.

In general, cannabis strains that are native to warmer climates will flower faster than those from colder regions. Indica strains tend to flower faster than sativas, and hybrid strains fall somewhere in between.

The buds should be plump, dense and sticky before harvest. The flowers will also start to turn brown or red, and the pistils (the small white hairs on the buds) will begin to darken and curl inward.

Fall colors in the leaves

The basic rule of thumb is to harvest when 50-75% of the trichomes have turned milky white or amber. If you wait too long, the psychoactive effects of THC will start to degrade into a more couch-lock feeling. But if you harvest too early, the buds won’t be fully developed and lack potency.

Early morning frost

Early morning frost can damage your cannabis crop if the temperature falls below freezing. If you live in an area with a risk of frost, it’s important to harvest your plants before the first frost of the season. The best time to harvest is usually in the late afternoon or early evening, when the temperature is at its highest.

You’ll know it’s time to harvest when the buds are starting to turn brown and dry out. The THC levels will also be at their highest at this point. To harvest your plants, cut them down at the stem and hang them upside down to dry.

Short days and long nights

The closer it gets to winter, the less daylight there is. As the days get shorter, the amount of time your cannabis plants have to produce energy from sunlight reduces. This energy is used to form THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids and terpenes.

To make up for this loss of energy, your plants will increase their metabolism and produce more energy from their stores of carbohydrates (sugars). This increased metabolism also has the effect of making your plants more fragrant. By the time autumn comes around, your plants will be producing a lot more resin than they were at the beginning of the season.

Harvest before the first hard frost

For most of us, the growing season comes to an end when the first hard frost hits. That first frost will damage, or even kill, your cannabis plants. So, it’s important to harvest your crop before that happens.

In general, you should harvest your cannabis plants before the first hard frost. However, there are a few things to keep in mind.

First, the further north you live, the earlier you should harvest. That’s because the first hard frost will hit earlier in the season in northern climates than in southern climates.

Second, if you’re growing a hybrid strain of cannabis (a strain that contains both indica and sativa genetics), you should harvested a bit earlier than if you were growing an pure indica or sativa strain. That’s because hybrid strains tend to be more susceptible to frost damage than pure strains.

Third, if you’re growing in a greenhouse or other protected environment, you can extend your growing season by a week or two. However, it’s still important to keep an eye on the weather and be prepared to harvest at any time.

fourth, If your plants are showing signs of stress (yellowing leaves, slowed growth, etc.), it’s a good idea to harvest them early rather than risk them being damaged by frost.

Finally, remember that mature cannabis plants can withstand colder temperatures than young plants. So, if you have both mature and immature plants in your garden, it’s best to harvest the mature plants first and then let the immature plants continue to grow for a week or two longer before harvesting them.

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