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When to Harvest Cannabis: Tips and Tricks for Timing It Right

Determining when to harvest cannabis plant can be a bit tricky, but also be a matter of personal preference. Some growers want to harvest their plant based on psychoactive effects, while others want to harvest based on yield and size! And the best timing for each is different!

Once you know what kind of harvest you want, it's time to decide when to start it. That might sound like a technique only familiar to skilled growers, but actually with the right indicators to look at, beginners can get a satisfying harvest. In this article, we'll elaborate everything you need to know about harvesting cannabis, to help you make a solid, well-educated decision on when to harvest!

Table Of Content

  • 1. Factors That Decide When to Harvest Cannabis Buds
  • 1.1 Trichomes
  • 1.2 Pistils
  • 2. What to Prepare Before Harvesting Cannabis
  • 3. How to Harvest Cannabis: Step-by-Step Guide
  • 4. What Does Over-Ripe Cannabis Look Like?
  • 5. What Does Under Ripe Cannabis Look Like?
  • 6. Conclusion

Factors That Decide When to Harvest Cannabis Buds

check trichome before harvesting cannabis
when to harvest cannabis

Image via Hey abby grower HussleMonroe

Before delving into the key indicators we should observe for an ideal harvest, we'll cover 3 basic chemical properties of cannabis plants first:

  • THC: this is the phytochemical that produces the psychoactive high and everything that comes with it, like the euphorial head rush, altered perception of time, and heightened sense of your surroundings;
  • CBD: it's known for the incredible pain-relieving and sleep-inducing properties, without giving you any psychoactive effects;
  • CBN: CBN and CBD have a lot in common when it comes to the benefits, such as anti-inflammatory properties, relaxation, and appetite stimulation — without psychoactive effect neither.

As your cannabis plant grows and matures, its psychoactive effects vary. Now that you know about these chemicals, you'll be better equipped to decide when it's the right time for cannabis harvesting, based on your own preferences. While if you just want a harvest with as big yield as possible, we'll also guide you through it right away.

To determine when to harvest cannabis buds, you'll want to observe two key indicators: trichomes and pistils. A jewelers loop, microscope lens, or magnifier can be very useful during the process.

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1. Trichomes

changes in color of cannabis trichomes

Image via Hey abby grower

Trichomes are tiny resin glands on the surface of cannabis buds that contain cannabinoids, including THC, CBD and CBN. They gradually mature during the flowering stage. As the plant develops, the trichome heads will go through a transformation. They're clear initially, and will progress to a milky or opaque appearance. Eventually, trichomes will turn amber, a signal that they are degrading.

When you see this change from clear to amber, it indicates a degradation of THC level within the trichome glands, and the start of conversion from THC into CBD and CBN.

If you're growing for psychoactive effects, please look for the following signals:

  • Clear Trichomes: When the trichome heads are clear, the THC content reaches its peak as the plant is still producing resin in the trichome glands. On the flip side, CBD and CBN levels are quite low now. Additionally, at this stage terpenes and flavonoids are similarly in the highest concentrations, as the plant is still actively producing them.
    If you're aiming for the strongest "heady high" effects, I suggest harvesting cannabis once you start noticing some trichomes transitioning from clear to milky/opaque. This indicates that the plant has completed its THC resin production in the glands.
  • Milky Trichomes: Milky or cloudy trichomes suggest that this is the optimal time for harvests if you prefer a more balanced THC/CBD profile.
  • Amber Trichomes: The more amber/brown trichome heads a plant has, the less head buzz it produces, and the more sedative effect it will bring. This stage is suitable for those seeking a more relaxing and calming experience.

For Medicinal Purposes

For growers seeking medicinal benefits from their plants, it is recommended to harvest cannabis when all three types of trichome heads are present: clear, opaque, and amber. This combination offers a diverse range of medicinal and psychoactive effects. When all the phytochemicals are present, they synergistically work together to provide optimal efficacy. This is known as the "entourage effect."

For Maximized Yield

On the other hand, there are growers who care more about how much weed does one plant yield over specific effects or quality. For these individuals, the answer to when to harvest cannabis is completely different. It is recommended to start cannabis harvesting when the majority of trichomes have turned amber and the stigmas (hairs) on the buds have transformed into orange and shriveled.

It's not a good idead to let the plant continue to grow beyond this point, as the buds will not become tighter or larger from then on; instead, they may become airy. Moreover, the plant will start to become more vulnerable to mold and fungal as its immune response is diminishing. Harvesting cannabis at this stage doesn't do any good.

In general, it's important to note that the desired trichome appearance can vary depending on personal preference and the strain being cultivated. Some growers may prefer harvesting cannabis slightly earlier for a more uplifting effect, while others may wait for more amber trichomes for a more relaxing experience.

2. Pistils

harvesting cannabis

Image via Hey abby grower_Kilo

Cannabis pistils are hair-like structures found on cannabis flowers. They also change color during the flowering stage and can provide additional insights into the plant's maturity.

  • White Pistils: When the pistils are predominantly white, it suggests that the buds are still developing and not yet ready for harvesting cannabis.
  • Orange/Brown Pistils: As the flowering stage progresses, the pistils will start to change color, turning orange or brown. This is a sign that the buds are nearing maturity, and it may be an indication to begin monitoring the trichomes for the desired ripeness.It's important to note that the pistils alone are not sufficient to determine the optimal harv

It's important to note that the pistils alone are not sufficient to determine the optimal harvest time. They serve as a complementary indicator alongside trichome examination.

What to Prepare Before Harvesting Cannabis

Before proceeding with the cannabis harvest, there are a few important preps you may want to keep in mind :

1. Complete the Flushing (Properly)

It's important to flush before harvesting cannabis. This process involves watering the plants with plain water and not adding any nutrients. Doing so will help remove any excess nutrients or residual substances, which will improve the final flavor and smoothness of your smoking experience.

2. Assess if Cannabis is Ready for Harvest As Mentioned

By examining the trichomes and pistils as discussed earlier, you can determine whether the cannabis plants have reached their desired level of maturity.

3. Prepare the Tool Kit:

Gather the necessary tools and equipment for a smooth and efficient cannabis harvest process. Here are some essential items to include in your toolkit:

  • Microscope Lens/Magnifier: To observe your plants and get to know their status accurately.
  • Pruner: Used for cutting off the plant stems (You can do this with Hey abby Pruner B)
  • Scissors: Needed for trimming the buds and sugar leaves (If you want to get this done, Hey abby Pruner A is what you need)
  • Drying Rack: Provides a space for drying the harvested buds.
  • Scale: Used to weigh the yield.
  • Gloves: Protect your hands when harvesting and trimming cannabis.

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How to Harvest Cannabis: Step-by-Step Guide

With the right timing and handy tools, you can start harvesting cannabis. Just follow the step-by-step guide on how to harvest cannabis below:

  • Chop off the Plant Stem: Using pruners or scissors, cut the main stem of the plant at the base. This will make it easier to handle and manipulate the branches during the cannabis harvesting process.
  • Cut the Branches: Working one branch at a time, cut them from the main stem. Be cautious not to damage the buds or handle them excessively, as this can affect the final quality.
  • Remove Fan Leaves: Trim away the large fan leaves from the branches. These leaves have a lower cannabinoid content and are not typically used for consumption. Removing them will make the trimming process more manageable.
  • Trim the Buds and Sugar Leaves:  Using pruners or scissors, carefully trim away the excessive leaves surrounding the buds. Focus on removing the large, protruding sugar leaves while preserving the smaller leaves with trichomes, as they contain valuable cannabinoids.
  • Place the Buds and Sugar Leaves on the Drying Rack: After trimming, separate the buds and sugar leaves and place them on a drying rack for cannabis. Ensure that there is enough space between the buds to allow for proper airflow, which aids in the drying process.
  • Weigh Your Yield: Once the buds are trimmed and separated, use a scale to weigh your weed. It is recommended to weigh the buds along with the drying rack, and then record the weight in an app or journal for future reference.
  • Record the Weight: Record the weight of the drying rack in the Hey abby app. Please note that the app will automatically deduct the weight of the drying rack from the total weight recorded.
  • (If you're using Hey abby) Set the Device to Drying Mode: After recording the weight, hang the drying rack inside the Hey abby indoor growing systems, and set the device to drying mode.
  • Bonus Tip: Remember to flip the cannabis buds every day or so during the drying process to ensure even drying. This practice helps promote proper airflow and prevents moisture buildup.

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What Does Over-Ripe Cannabis Look Like?

overripe cannabis

It is important to identify and harvest cannabis at the appropriate time to avoid overripeness and the negative effects coming with it. Harvesting cannabis too early can result in lower THC content, while late harvesting leads to overripe trichomes with reduced quality and potency. Monitoring visual cues such as trichome color, pistil appearance, and overall bud appearance can help determine the optimal cannabis harvest time. Environmental factors, such as temperature fluctuations and humidity levels, should also be monitored to prevent over-ripening

Overripe cannabis buds exhibit specific characteristics that differentiate them from ripe buds. Here is a summary of what overripe buds look like:

  • Appearance: Overripe buds may display color fading, with brown and yellow spots on the flowers. The trichomes, which are the resinous glands on the buds, completely turn amber or brown. The buds can become dry, brittle, and shriveled in appearance.
  • Odor: Overripe buds may emit a pungent or musty smell instead of the fresh aroma of ripe buds. They may also have a skunk-like smell. (Want to learn how to get rid of weed smell? Be sure to check out our previous guide!)
  • Mold and mildew: Overripe buds are more susceptible to mold and mildew growth due to their aging and drying process. Moldy buds should be discarded to prevent further issues.
  • Decreased potency: Overripe buds have lower THC content, resulting in a weakened psychoactive effect like a head high. Meanwhile, the conversion of THC to CBN can lead to sleepiness.
  • Harsh taste: Overripe buds may taste harsh and have a negative aftertaste.
  • Reduced quality: Overripe buds have diminished fragrance and are less visually appealing.

If buds are already overripe, there are still options to utilize them and achieve a pleasant high. However, it's worth noting that overripe buds may not provide the desired potency, flavor, or overall quality compared to properly harvested and ripe buds.

What Does Under Ripe Cannabis Look Like?

underripe cannabis

Image from Hey abby grow box grower_Kilo

Underripe cannabis buds have distinct characteristics that differentiate them from fully mature buds. Here's what you can find from underripe cannabis buds:

  • Appearance:  Underripe cannabis buds are often smaller and less dense compared to mature buds. They may have a lighter shade of green and appear less vibrant. The pistils may still be white or light-colored instead of changing to orange or brown. And the trichomes may not be fully developed and may lack the desired frosty appearance.
  • Texture: Underripe buds may feel slightly softer and less sticky compared to fully mature buds. They might not have the same resinous coating that mature buds possess.
  • Aroma: Underripe buds typically have a milder or less pronounced aroma compared to fully mature buds. The aroma may be less complex and lack the intensity and richness found in mature buds.
  • Taste: The flavor of underripe buds may be less developed and may lack the desirable terpene profiles found in fully mature buds. It may have a grassy or herbal taste rather than the more distinct and flavorful notes.

Negative Effects of Using Under-Ripe Cannabis:

  • Potency: Underripe cannabis buds contain lower levels of cannabinoids, including THC and CBD, which are responsible for the psychoactive and therapeutic effects of cannabis. This can result in a weaker efficacy.
  • Flavor: Underripe buds lack the rich flavors and aromas associated with fully mature buds, which diminishes the overall taste experience when you consuming them.
  • Effects: Underripe buds may not provide the desired effects or therapeutic benefits that mature buds offer.

Conclusion

Proper timing and careful observation of trichomes, pistils, and overall bud appearance are essential for harvesting high-quality cannabis. By following these guidelines and utilizing the Hey abby appAndroid IOS ), growers can achieve optimal results and enjoy the full potential of their cannabis harvest. Happy growing!

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