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When Is the Right Time to Harvest Cannabis? (Viewed 2345 times)
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When Is the Right Time to Harvest Cannabis?
Reply #11 Posted on April 11, 2015
When Is the Right Time to Harvest?
When should I harvest the buds from my cannabis plant? That is the eternal question...
I'm sure the answer we're all thinking is "Not soon enough!"
Unfortunately for us impatient people, harvesting at the right time is just as important as how you grow the plant. Harvest too soon and you lose potency and yields; too late and you can end up making a batch of sleep medicine.
There are two ways you can identify the right time to harvest your plants.
Note: We recommend that you try flushing your plants in the 2 weeks leading up to harvest.
You only need 3 things to accurately determine the best harvest time:
  1. The knowledge of when to harvest - You get that today!
  2. Eyes for visual inspection - You've probably had these for a while!
  3. A magnifying tool - Makes the glittery, resin-filled trichomes on your buds easier to see; although not 100% necessary, this lets you time your harvest perfectly to get the exact effects you're looking for
When it comes to magnifying tools for growing, there are a few options:
  • Jewelers Loupe - This is the cheapest and most low tech way to get the job done. Unfortunately, it will also give you the least insight into how your buds are doing.
  • Handheld Magnifier - These can create a much larger picture because they can magnify as much as 10x more than a jewelers loupe. However, this power makes them a bit harder to focus.
  • Digital Microscope - A digital microscope is the final word in determining harvest time. It costs a bit more and needs a connecting laptop, but it'll get you face-to-face with your trichomes. You'll be almost uncomfortably close to your trichomes! in the article for a demonstration!
First, we'll show you how to identify harvest time by checking the pistils (the 'hairs' on your buds). The pistil method isn't nearly as accurate as checking the trichomes (the 'glitter' on your buds), but it's definitely a good place to start since you can just look at the buds and get a general idea.
The following marijuana harvest pictures will guide you, so you know when to harvest your marijuana buds using 'The Pistil Method'
1st Method to Identify Harvest Time: Pistil Method
Not Ready for Harvest (pictured below)
The vast majority of pistils (hairs) are still white and sticking out straight.
This is definitely too early to harvest!
These Wonder Woman buds are not ready harvest
Not Ready to Harvest - Auto Mazar Cannabis
Still Not Quite Ready for Harvest (pictured below)
Still waiting for at least 40% of the white hairs to darken and curl in; even though some of the pistils are starting to look mature, this plant has much less than 40%, so it's still too early to harvest.
Most of the pistils (hairs) on this bud are still white, so it needs more time to ripen.
Beginning of Harvest Window (pictured below)
The harvest window opens after at least 40% of the white hairs have darkened and curled in. The plants in the pictures below can definitely be harvested, but they wouldn't be at their maximum size or potency.
An unflushed bud can be beautiful, look great and smell great, but is it smooth to smoke?
This Auto Sour Diesel is still working on darkening some pistils. More time would benefit it greatly!
A few weeks left... these buds are not quite ready to harvest
Ready for Harvest (pictured below)
Harvest when 50-70% of hairs have darkened for highest levels of THC.
Harvest when 70-90% of hairs have darkened for a more calming,
anti-anxiety effect as some THC turns to the more relaxing CBN.
Ready to Harvest Cannabis buds; the dog in the background is not harvestable.
Ready To Harvest Marijuana plant
Purple buds ready for harvest
More buds ready for Harvest
With some strains, it is much harder to tell when the time is right. Different strains can look different ways at harvest. For example, some strains can keep most of their pistils white even when they're ready to be harvested.
You can get some good information by talking to someone who has grown your strain before, such as the breeder. The breeder or growers who've grown your strain before can often provide extra insight into what to look for at harvest. You can also search online for pictures of what your strain should look like when it's fully ripened.
Next, we're going to go over the 2nd (and MUCH more accurate) method of checking your cannabis plants to see if they're harvest-ready...
2nd Method to Identify Harvest Time: Trichome Method
(the accurate method)
Close-up of marijuana trichomes
This method tends to be more precise than looking at the pistils of your cannabis plant.
With this method, you look at the glandular stalked trichomes on the buds under a magnifying glass. Trichomes are the the mushroom-looking growths on cannabis that are responsible for it being so popular!
In some places these trichomes are called resin glands. These trichromes are the 'crystals', or 'frosty stuff' you see accumulating on your bud/leaves. They're also what makes weed so 'sticky'.
A bit of random trivia for you: For some reason some cats love the taste of trichomes! They may lick or chew your plants around the leaves or the buds, at the absolute worst time during the flowering marijuana stage. Once they get a taste, you'll have a monster on your hands. So if you have cats, make sure you keep them far away from your marijuana, especially during flowering!
The trichomes you're trying to see look like little mushrooms. You'll also see tiny, clear hair-like trichomes without the mushroom head - these aren't important to potency so you can ignore them. You are only interested in the trichomes that have a little ball on top. This is where a lot of the THC and other good stuff in cannabis is located. Since these are what contribute the most to bud potency, being able to tell when they've reached their highest levels of THC will help you be able to choose the exact right time to harvest. 
These trichomes are difficult to see with the naked eye, so you'll need a jeweler's loupe or other way to magnify the image in order to use the "trichome method" for determining harvest time....
A view of marijuana trichomes through a jewler's loupe
Jeweler's loupes are relatively cheap to buy online, or at a hardware or jewelry store.
If you put the loupe right up to your buds, you'll get a better view of the trichomes, letting you better determine their color and shape. 
Click the picture to the left for a close-up to see what that looks like.
Although a jeweler's loupe can make trichomes appear bigger, sometimes it's not big enough. I know I end up squinting a lot when I'm trying to use one, but they are a heck of a lot better than nothing!
A digital microscope that takes video works even better than a jeweler's loupe or other magnifers since you get a much clearer pic of the trichomes. Not only can you see the trichomes better, but you can record video of them to look over after the fact. These are still pretty cheap, costing about $40, and they will give you better results than any other method for determining harvest.
Here's an example of a digital microscope in action - these buds are ready to harvest.
Close-up of the trichomes on a Blackjack cannabis plant
Close-up of the trichomes on a Wonder Woman cannabis plant
We took these videos using the Carson zOrb hooked up to a laptop. So far this seems to be the most accurate way to look at trichomes (and you can make the picture big so you're not squinting through a tiny jeweler's loupe)
A Carson zOrb is a great way to get a video closeup of your trichomes
 Here's a guide breaking down 
when to harvest marijuana buds based on color of trichomes.

(note: the trichomes of some strains turn purple or pink instead of amber/gold/yellow)
Click me to see weed harvest pics up close and personal, learn how to tell if your marijuana is ready to harvest by looking at trichomes
Note: Guide is based on color of resin glands/ trichomes (you will need a magnifier)
Many of the cannabinoids we enjoy most are produced within these glandular stalked trichomes. This includes THC, CBD, and CBN amongst others.

Summary: Tips & Hints
Here are some general rules about harvesting marijuana based on trichomes and the color of the hairs / pistils.
  1. If white "hairs" are almost all sticking straight out and trichomes are all still translucent (clear) then your plant is too young and not ready for harvest. Harvesting now will result in low yield and non-potent harvests.
  2. The beginning of the harvest window opens when your plant has stopped growing new white "hairs" or pistils and at least 40% of the white hairs have darkened and curled in. 
  3. Highest level of THC is when many/most of the trichomes have turned milky white / cloudy (when viewed under a magnifier). Trichomes that are milky have the highest levels of THC and contribute to more euphoric and psychoactive effects.
  4. The end of the harvest window is when the trichomes have become a darker color (usually amber/gold). The amber/yellow trichomes contribute to a 'body high' because some of the THC has converted into less psychoactive CBN, which has calming and anti-anxiety effects. With some strains, the trichomes will even turn red or purple!​
  5. When trichomes start looking grey or withered, the harvest window has passed, and buds will make you sleepy without many psychoactive effects. Usually it takes several weeks (4 or more) from the beginning of the harvest window for this to happen. It's much easier to harvest too early than too late.
Want more of an 'in-your-head' effect? Harvest your buds earlier, when only 40% of hairs have darkened and curled in and more than half of the trichomes are part clear/ part milky or mostly cloudy/milky.
For the "strongest" marijuana buds with the most psychoactive effects, and highest levels of THC, harvest when almost all trichomes are cloudy/milky.
For more relaxing, anti-anxiety buds, wait until at least some of the milky / cloudy trichomes have darkened to amber. More amber = more relaxing, though the effects may be somewhat less psychoactive. Remember, curing your buds properly for at least 2 weeks to a month will also give them more of an anti-anxiety effect.
When growing your own marijuana plants, you can certainly sample buds off your plant at different stages to get an idea for what your preferences are. It's okay to cut off pieces at a time!
These marijuana plants have been trained with ScrOG and Defoliation to produce a sea of marijuana buds
The hardest part of growing for many new growers is waiting for the right time to harvest.
There is a strong tendency for new growers to harvest the plant early due to excitement.
Unfortunately, this often results in low yields and lower-potency buds.
If you are feeling excited about harvesting your marijuana plant, take branches off the lower part of the plant that look the most done and dry them and check the potency for yourself.
Harvesting the buds in stages (starting off slowly with small batches) can really help abate the excitement.
When in doubt, listen to your gut. Using both methods together will help you pick the best time to harvest, but only YOU know how you want your buds to turn out. This means that even the best methods are just general guidelines. But hopefully, you're now closer to getting your bud the way you want it.
Happy growing...

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