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For many people, part of the joy of cannabis lies in the process of growing and harvesting your own plants. Perhaps it’s that DIY spirit of “gettin’ high off your own supply” that makes the sessions just that much better. For some, it’s a way to ensure their herbs are always fresh, organic, and grown under environmentally friendly & low-waste conditions. Regardless of your reasons for growing, the harvest season is just about here, and we wanted to take some time to go over one of the most confusing parts of growing for beginners: how to know when to harvest cannabis plants.

How Long Does It Take For Cannabis To Be Ready For Harvesting?

One of the tricky things that make it tough to know when to harvest cannabis is that the growth period can vary significantly by strain. On top of this, factors such as grow method and desired yield effect grow time as well. 

Generally speaking, plants growing outside will take the longest of all methods and are dependent on local factors such as how long your natural growing season is. Growing cannabis inside gives you more flexibility over the growth time. However, this usually requires more equipment and attention to grow properly. 

In general, cannabis plants require somewhere between 6-16 weeks of growing time before being ready for harvest. Somewhere in the middle, usually, around 9-12 weeks is most common. 

How To Know When To Harvest Cannabis

You can keep an eye out for several critical physical changes to clue you in when your plants are ready to harvest. 

The Leaves Begin To Yellow

As the cannabis plant approaches harvest time, the plant’s fan leaves will begin to change from a rich green to yellowish-green color. 

When the plant is in its flowering stage (the final growth stage before it’s ready to harvest), the leaves are rich with nitrogen. Nitrogen assists the plant with photosynthesis in this phase and gives the leaves their green color. 

As this phase reaches completion, the nitrogen levels decrease, and the leaves will begin to yellow. That’s a good sign that you’re getting close to harvest!

The Pistils Begin To Turn Red/ Brown

Pistils are the tiny hair-like structures that you see in your cannabis buds. These are essentially the reproductive organs of female cannabis plants, which will seed when pollinated. Early on in the flowering stage, the pistils are white. As the plant reaches the end of the flowering phase, the pistils will change into a red, brown, or orange color. 

This requires a little bit of timing as the ideal time to harvest is when about 50-70% of these pistils have begun to change color. If there is still a significant amount of visible white pistils, it’s too early. 

The higher the percentage of pistils that have changed color, the heavier the high will generally be. This is something you can experiment with to dial in your optimal harvest time for your preferences.   

Trichomes Begin To Take On Color

Trichomes are the tiny resin glands on your buds that dewy appearance. This is where the cannabinoids and terpenes are produced to give each strain its unique properties. When the plant is still in its flowering stage, these trichomes will appear crystal-like and clear. This means the plant is not ready for harvest and would be minimally potent if you did.

You will know you are ready to harvest when these trichomes begin to turn milky white or amber in color. One issue, however, is that trichomes are incredibly tiny and difficult to see with the naked eye alone. To properly view the trichomes, you will need some kind of magnifying glass.

Trichome color is one of the most reliable indicators to tell you when to harvest your plants (if you have the tools to do it)!

The Leaves Begin To Curl

In addition to yellowing, the fan leaves of a cannabis plant will also begin to curl and dry up as it nears its harvesting time. Similar to how the plants take on more nitrogen when in the flowering stage, they also take in more water here. 

As harvest nears, the plant will require less water, and therefore the leaves will begin to take on a more wilted and dried-out appearance.

Bud Shape & Size

If all else fails, one final thing you can check to determine when to harvest is the shape and density of the buds on the plant. Though maybe not as informative as some of the methods above, a plant that is ready for harvest will generally have firm and tight buds. 

Signs That It Is Too Early To Harvest

If you want to be sure about where you are in the growth timeline, observing the trichomes is probably the most accurate gauge you have. It is as simple as determining the color of the trichomes, as the more clear trichomes there are, the less potent and ripe the plant is. Trichomes begin to change color as they hit their peak resin production. 

To put it another way, the more clear your trichomes are at harvest, the less flavorful, potent, and aromatic the plant will end up being. 

Signs That It Is Too Late To Harvest

Observing trichome color can also let you know when it’s too late to harvest the plant. If the majority of the trichomes are amber color, this means the plant is overripe and past its harvest date. 

When amber trichomes begin to outnumber milky-white trichomes, the THC within the plant begins to degrade. It will also begin to take on somewhat of an unpleasant taste when smoked, and the overall experience won’t be as good.

The Next Steps

With a little bit of care and attention, it’s relatively easy to nail the timing of your harvest. Of course, once the weed is harvested, it’s not quite ready to smoke just yet! The flower will then need to be dried, trimmed, and cured before it is ready to roll. 

Stay tuned for our next blog as we break down everything you need to know about the next steps for your freshly harvested herbs!

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