Weed Plant Seed To Harvest

Patience is the key when trying to figure out when is the best time to harvest your marijuana plants. In this guide, we tell you exactly what to look for. First time marijuana grower? Who can grow their own? With passage of Proposition 64, anyone in California over 21 years old can have up to six plants. If you’re a medical marijuana patient When Is the Best Time to Harvest Cannabis?

When Is the Exact Time to Harvest Cannabis Plants?

You have observed your buds for months and waited for your cannabis plants to mature. Eventually, there comes a time when you have to decide to harvest. It isn’t as easy to choose the ideal time as you might think. In the excitement of collecting your cannabis for the first time, you could cut it down far too early. As a result, you miss out on the full effects of the herb.

The flowering time of cannabis varies depending on the strain.

For most growers, there are two methods of determining when your plants are in peak harvest. There is the pistil method and the trichome method. The former only requires your eyes. The latter involves the use of a magnifying glass, such as a jeweler’s loupe.

Harvest timing is arguably the trickiest aspect of growing marijuana for newbies. If you do it too early, you reduce the overall potency of your cannabis. If you leave it too late, your weed will have an excessively strong taste and an unwanted narcotic effect. In this guide, we provide you with details on the best time to harvest. We also provide information on what you can expect during the process.

EDITOR’S CHOICE – Homegrown CannabisCo

Homegrown CannabisCo are the masters when it comes to seeds. Offering a massive variety of cannabis seeds that are well categorized, not only does this company create a resource for superb quality options including feminized seeds, it also provides extensive growing information for those looking for some support along their journey.

Best Time to Harvest Your Cannabis Crop

After several weeks in the flowering phase, your marijuana plant will begin to decline in health. Once most of the pistils (the hairs found on the buds) have turned red, it is potentially too late. The marijuana you harvest could lack the psychoactive effects that you desire (there are caveats). During the latter stages of flowering, the trichomes on your plants become amber.

They ultimately reach their peak level of THC. If you haven’t already harvested by now, the psychoactive cannabinoid starts to break down after being exposed to UV rays and oxygen. Over time, the THC becomes cannabinol (CBN). While this particular cannabinoid has some apparent medicinal properties, it lacks the ‘high’ provided by THC. Indeed, CBN is known for its sedative properties. Therefore, it is ideal if you have insomnia and need a night time smoke.

As a rule of thumb, indica plants are ready for harvesting after eight weeks, while sativas need ten weeks. Autoflowers require 7-10 weeks in total from seedling to bud. However, you can’t take these recommendations as a guarantee. Therefore, you have the option of using one of these two methods to determine the right time to harvest.

Learn the growing basics…

The Pistil Method

When the majority of the pistils on your plants are white and straight, it is far too early to harvest. You probably have to wait several more weeks. Once you reach the point where 50% of the pistils achieve a brown/reddish color (and begin to curl in), you are very close to harvesting time.

When 70% of the pistils have darkened, you can harvest for the highest amount of THC. Once 80-85%+ of the pistils darken, it is time to collect if you want marijuana that offers a calmer effect. If you leave it too long, your cannabis will lose most of its psychoactive properties.

However, some growers believe the pistil method is ineffective. Conventional wisdom, as we stated above, is that allowing 90% of pistils to change color is terrible news. In reality, many growers say they experience a different type of high, one that is heavier. Others say their pistils completely change color and still produce weed that does the job. For them, it is all about trichomes.

The Trichome Method

Unless you have Superman’s vision, it is impossible to do this method with the naked eye. We recommend purchasing a handheld microscope with a range between 30x and 100x. You will need it to check the trichomes (resin glands) found on your plants’ buds and adjacent foliage. Ideally, you will use a microscope that illuminates the foliage, so you receive an unshaded view of the trichomes.

In case you weren’t aware, trichomes are the crystals you see growing on the buds and leaves. They are the reason why your marijuana is so sticky, and they play a significant role in the potency of your crop. You’re looking for trichomes that resemble miniature mushrooms, resin glands with a little ball on top.

Once there is a large number of ‘mushroom’ trichomes, your marijuana has effectively reached maximum potency. Pay attention to color as well. Plants with clear trichomes are not ready for harvest. In contrast, weed with milky white or amber trichomes is primed for harvest. If the trichomes are all amber, you’ve left it too late!

Here is a list of magnifying tools you can purchase for the trichome method.

Jeweler’s Loupe

It isn’t a hi-tech piece of equipment. However, a loupe should offer enough magnification for an accurate reading on whether your plants are ready for harvest. You can find loupes for under $20, but most of them only offer a magnification level of 40x or less.

Handheld Magnifier

This is probably the best option because it gives you a mixture of quality and value. It offers a higher degree of magnification than a loupe. While it is typically more expensive, it is comfortably within the budget of most growers.

Digital Microscope

This is clearly the most expensive option, but it also provides you with the most accurate reading. There are numerous digital microscopes with a magnification of well above 100x. However, you’re really paying for convenience. With a digital lens, you can connect it to your computer to see the images on the screen.

What Is the THC Level in Your Cannabis at Harvest Time?

Overall, the ‘perfect’ time for harvesting depends on what you’re seeking. For instance, if you want marijuana that acts as a sedative, wait until the pistils of the plant are almost entirely amber. That way, you will have weed with a high CBN content. However, for the highest level of THC, you should consider harvesting when 70-90% of the pistils have changed color.

Alternatively, wait until the resin on your plants has darkened in color ever so slightly. For buds with the highest level of THC, look at the trichomes through your magnifying device. When you see clear trichomes, it is a sign that the buds are still developing. Assuming you have your crop close by, it is best to monitor the trichomes as often as possible. This is a fascinating time because your plant is very close to reaching maturity.

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You don’t want to confuse the …

Here’s a quick guide to determining the optimal THC content based on the pistil and trichome methods.

Checking for THC Content via the Pistil Method

  • 0-49% of pistils are brown: Now is not a good time to harvest because your marijuana is nowhere near maximum potency.
  • 50-69%: Your plant is still not at its peak THC level, but you have the option of harvesting now for a mellow high and light taste.
  • 70-90%: Once you reach this range, it is time to harvest because your marijuana is potent! Most growers suggest that the ‘sweet spot’ is 75-80%, but any time after 70% and below 90% will result in high-quality weed.
  • 91%+: Your plant is now past peak THC content, and the cannabinoid has already begun degrading into CBN. Marijuana left this late will have a heavy taste and a narcotic effect that’s sure to leave you drowsy. However, some growers believe the color of pistils don’t matter, and that trichomes are more important.

Checking for THC Content via the Trichome Method

  • Transparent color: Your plant is not ready. If you harvest at this stage, you will have a lower yield and decreased potency.
  • Cloudy color: This is the best time to harvest. Cannabis plants with mostly milky white or cloudy trichomes contain the most THC. They provide an energetic and potent high.
  • Amber/Cloudy: The plant is probably slightly past its most potent stage, but you still experience a powerful cerebral and body high.
  • Amber Color: The plant is past its peak, and the high you receive now is mainly sedative.

The Right Time to Harvest Cannabis – Our Recommendations

As you have probably ascertained from reading this guide, there is disagreement over the precise time to harvest your cannabis plants. Growing cannabis is an intensely personal experience. It is also a process that can only improve through practice.

There is no single ‘gold standard’ for either the pistil or trichome method that applies to all marijuana strains.

An increasing number of growers experiment with higher CBN products. The cannabinoid is linked with pain-relieving properties. A high CBN marijuana strain will make you feel drowsy. However, users often describe it as a pleasant experience. For best results, harvest when your marijuana plants have slightly exceeded their peak level. By doing this, you receive a strain with CBN as well as THC.

7 Quick Tips on When to Harvest Cannabis

  1. Your plants are not harvest-ready if the pistils are white and sticking up. It is the same if the trichomes are clear. Harvesting now will result in a low yield and decreased potency.
  2. Wait until your plants have stopped growing new pistils, and at least 40% of them have changed color and curled in. Now, you are officially at the very beginning of the harvesting window. It is still too early, but at least you haven’t ruined your hard work. Ideally, you will wait a week or so, but we recommend monitoring your plants daily from this point.
  3. When 50-70% of pistils have darkened, and the trichomes are changing color, you are close to peak THC content.
  4. Wait until 70%+ of the pistils have changed color and curled in. You also need the majority of trichomes to have a cloudy color with little balls on top. This is the right moment for harvesting if maximum potency is your goal. Don’t waste any more time because your plants will start to degrade rapidly from this point onwards.
  5. There are a few sativa strains with trichomes that don’t change color. If this happens, wait a little while. If they still don’t change color, you should harvest before the quality of the bud declines.
  6. Once 90%+ of pistils have darkened, and the trichomes are part amber, part cloudy, your plant is past peak potency. Harvest now, or else you will end up with a high CBN content.
  7. If almost all of the pistils have changed color and the trichomes are grey or withered, you are likely past the harvest window. You could end up with low-grade weed. It usually takes up to four weeks from the beginning of the window for this to happen.

Harvesting by High

  • For acerebral high: Harvest at step #2 when 40%+ of the pistils have changed color, and at least half of the trichomes achieve a cloudy color.
  • For potent weed: Wait until step #4 when 70%+ of pistils have changed color, and the cloudy trichomes look like mushrooms. At this point, your marijuana has the highest possible amount of THC.
  • For arelaxing high: Wait until step #6 when some of the trichomes are amber, and over 80% of the pistils have turned brown. Generally speaking, the more amber the weed, the more relaxing the high. If you wait too long, you end up with a strain that contains less THC and more CBN.

Choosing the ideal harvesting time is difficult and represents a significant challenge to a first-time grower. Above all, please remember that you’re allowed to cut off little pieces of the plant if you suspect that harvest time is close. Sample the parts you take to determine your preferences.

If you get high from the clippings, it is an excellent time to harvest the rest!

The main enemy of the new grower is excitement. Understandably, your desire to sample the produce is overwhelming, but you need patience. There is no point in spending months carefully tending to your plants if you ruin everything by harvesting too early.

Although it is not an exact science, it isn’t as challenging to pick the right moment as you think. Once the pistils and trichomes begin changing color, it is time to monitor your crop closely. Check on it daily and adhere to the guidelines above. Cut your weed down for curing and drying once your plants have reached peak potency. Alternatively, harvest earlier for a mellow high or later for a relaxing one.

EDITOR’S CHOICE – Homegrown CannabisCo

Homegrown CannabisCo are the masters when it comes to seeds. Offering a massive variety of cannabis seeds that are well categorized, not only does this company create a resource for superb quality options including feminized seeds, it also provides extensive growing information for those looking for some support along their journey.

First time marijuana grower?

Who can grow their own?
With passage of Proposition 64, anyone in California over 21 years old can have up to six plants. If you’re a medical marijuana patient with a doctor’s recommendation, you can have as many as you and your doctor decide you need.

That said, all non-commercial cultivation for recreational use (called “adult use” in California) and medical use is subject to local regulations. Many cities and counties require permits even for personal use and many ban outdoor growing entirely, requiring you to grow indoors under lights. Check your locality’s rules.

While we can sell plants to you and you can legally drive them home, you may be subject to restrictions on how and where you grow them.

Where can I grow my plants?
The best place is outdoors in sunshine and fresh air, where plants are happiest. Plant them in the spring or summer and harvest in the fall. However, if you don’t have access to garden space or your local jurisdiction doesn’t allow outdoor cannabis growing, you can grow them indoors under high-powered “grow” lights. Check with your local city or county officials to see if there are specific limits on where you can grow.

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Growing any plants indoors under artificial lighting, but especially cannabis, requires some research, skill and practice. There are many books and websites dedicated to it.

We recommend outdoor growing in the normal gardening season, so most of what follows is somewhat specific to outdoor cannabis gardening.

First, some basics about cannabis plants.
Cannabis is a “genus”, a taxonomic unit used by biologists to classify living organisms, that contains several species: Cannabis indica, Cannabis sativa and Cannabis ruderalis. These interbreed freely, resulting in “hybrid” species that contain features of both parent species. (Note that Cannabis nomenclature is changing. Stay tuned.)

Cannabis has been the subject of such intensive breeding that there are virtually no “pure” sativa or indica strains. Virtually all are hybridized.

Boys and girls
Cannabis is also “dioecious”, which means male and female flowers are borne on separate plants. This may seem weird, but it is quite common in the plant world. Pistachios, date palms, stinging nettles and Gingko trees all have male and female flowers on separate plants. Just as only female pistachio trees produce nuts, only female cannabis plants produce the useful flower clusters commonly called “buds”. Male flowers are tiny and fall off once they’ve bloomed and shed their pollen.

The process of identifying which plants are male and which are female is known as “sexing”. It is an important part of cannabis cultivation that takes an experienced eye. At the nursery, we take the guesswork out of it and guarantee that our plants are all female.

While you can grow both male and female plants together, you will end up with low-quality “bud” that is packed full of seeds. By excluding the males, the female flowers will never be pollinated, allowing the clusters to grow bigger and more potent. Male plants, once identified at the nursery, are composted.

Seed-grown or clone?
Plant Humboldt is one of the very few cannabis nurseries to offer female plants grown from seed. This is the original Humboldt grow-your-own tradition. Many cannabis farmers—old-timers and first-timers, medical users and commercial growers—still prefer seed-grown starts.

Others prefer starting from rooted cuttings, known in the industry as “clones”. Clone plants start as small branches cut from a “mother plant” and rooted in trays indoors in a controlled climate under artificial lights.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both seed-grown and clone-grown starts. Seed-grown plants tend to be more vigorous, but can sometimes show variation in their production, and they need to be sexed properly to exclude males (something we take care of at the nursery). Clones, being genetically identical to the mother plant, will produce bud with consistent look, smell and potency, but are often less vigorous plants and have specific light requirements that can be tricky for beginning growers (see below). Clones are only cut from known female plants, so all clones are female from the start.

Along with seed-grown plants, we sell clones in 4” pots that are well-rooted and acclimated to natural light and air, so they are ready to plant in your garden straight from the nursery.

Night and Day
Cannabis is an annual plant and has two seasonal growth phases: vegetative and flowering. During spring and summer (“veg” phase), the plant puts on extensive leaf and stem growth, often in massive amounts.

As the days get shorter and nights get longer in late summer (August in the Northern Hemisphere), the plants are triggered into flowering phase (“budding”). If you’re an outdoor grower, you will typically plant in the spring and harvest in the fall, whether you’re starting your plants from seed or clone.

But, with clones there’s a catch. Clones are cut off of a mother plant that is kept indoors under artificial light for 18 hours or more per day, so the mother plant and the little cutting “think” they’re living in an endless summer of long days and therefore remain in vegetative phase. If you put that rooted cutting outside in the spring under natural daylight, when the days are short, it thinks it’s fall and time to flower. A seedling, on the other hand, will wait till the light naturally fades again in the fall to go into flower.

At the nursery, we add a few hours of supplemental light with low-wattage LEDs in order to trick the clones into thinking it’s endless summer and therefore keep them in vegetative phase. After about June 1st, you can plant a clone in your garden and it will grow normally, with no extra light needed. Before June 1st, you will need to add supplemental lighting for a few hours each evening (or early morning) or the plant will go immediately into flower and you’ll end up with a tiny plant with one little bud on it. Supplemental lighting can be as little as a single low-wattage bulb on a timer next to the plant. You don’t need expensive horticultural grow lights because all you’re doing is tricking the plant a little.

Cultivation Basics
Cannabis is as easy to grow in your garden as a tomato plant, but there are some rules of thumb that will dramatically improve your yield and quality.

Soil
We recommend all first time growers use commercial potting soil, not native garden soil. Master gardeners can grow cannabis successfully in natural dirt, but beginners will have much better results with bagged soil.

Container
The bigger the roots, the bigger the plant. You can dig a large hole and fill it with commercial potting soil or use a plastic pot or fabric grow-bag above ground. The bigger, the better. Many Humboldt commercial cannabis farmers use 200 gallon (or bigger) fabric grow bags, but these are expensive and require a lot of expensive soil to fill. For a personal-use amount of finished marijuana, a 20-gallon pot will be manageable and can be put on a patio or deck. In the ground, dig a hole at least 30” across and 18” deep and fill it with commercial potting soil.

Fertilizer
You can spend $100 on a bottle of plant fertilizer with a fancy label, but there’s no need to. Any organic fertilizer will do. Some commercial potting mixes, especially those formulated for cannabis, have significant amounts of plant nutrients included. In vegetative phase, cannabis likes more nitrogen (marketed as “grow” formula fertilizers). Once your plants switch to flowering phase they need lower nitrogen but more phosphorus and potassium (“bloom” formula).

Spacing
When provided proper care and large root space, outdoor, seed-grown plants can easily grow to be eight feet tall and equally broad. In some cases they can grow twice that size, all in one short season. Even for a beginning gardener, a well-cared for cannabis plant in a 20-gallon pot can still get four feet tall by equally wide, so plan your space accordingly.

Trellising/staking
Modern cannabis strains have been bred for heavy flower (“bud”) production, often to the point where the branches will break under the weight if not supported. As the branches grow out, gently tying them to thin bamboo stakes with plant tie wire (available at garden stores) will keep them from breaking off later during flowering phase.

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Pest Control
Cannabis is relatively pest-free, but there are a few that can ruin your entire crop, particularly mites and molds. Detailed pest control descriptions are available online, in books and through cannabis-centered grow shops. Below is a quick overview of what to look for. We recommend getting a 100x pocket microscope and checking your plants regularly, especially the undersides of the leaves where mites live. These are available at most grow shops for about $20.

Mites
Spider mites and russet mites can destroy your plants and buds. Spider mites leave white “stippling” spots where they suck the juice from the leaves. Large infestations will build up webs on the plants. (Learn to distinguish from the webs of actual spiders, which are beneficial!) Spider mites are barely visible to the naked eye, but easy to identify with a pocket microscope. There are many available organic treatments.

Russet mites are microscopic, but visible with a 100x pocket microscope. The reason they are so feared among growers is that by the time damage becomes visible, the crop is often irrecoverable. That is why it’s important to do preventative pest control and maintain constant vigilance. Don’t wait till your plants look sick! Russet mites look like tiny milky colored maggots with four legs in front. They are much harder to spot at first and, unlike spider mites, are literally microscopic and can only be seen with a 100x pocket microscope. Growers are still struggling with organic control methods. Natural insecticides based on essential oils, neem and yeast enzymes all seem to work to varying degrees. Check with your local grow shop. We recommend doing routine preventative control even if you don’t see russet mites with your microscope. The good news is that anything you do to control russets will also control spider mites, thrips, fungus gnats and most other cannabis pests.

Detailed pest control is beyond the scope of this page, but you’ll need a small hand-pump sprayer and some organic pesticide. Any good grow shop can advise you. You don’t need to spend a ton of money to do basic preventative control. At the nursery, we use various organic pest control sprays preventatively about twice/week, but most home growers won’t need near that often of a spray schedule. If you are diligent with your microscope inspections, you may not need to do much at all if you don’t see any mites.

Fungi
Powdery mildew, also known as “powder mold” or “PM”, is a fungus that grows as a white powdery coating on the leaves and buds. In small amounts it will not hurt the plant, but you don’t want to be smoking it if it gets on the flowers near harvest. It is easy to control with dilute hydrogen peroxide, potassium bicarbonate, bacterial anti-fungal solutions (e.g. Actinovate, Serenade) and many other off-the-shelf and DIY concoctions. Look online, in books or ask at a grow shop for detailed information.

Brown/gray mold, also called “bud mold” or “stem mold” is a systemic fungus that rots buds from the inside out. The best way to prevent it is to keep the plants from getting rained on during flowering phase and to provide extensive dry airflow. Once mold is identified in a bud, remove and discard the infested part and harvest the adjacent bud to limit the spread.

Harvest and storage
The rule of thumb is that when most of the pistils (commonly known as “hairs” for their appearance) on the flower clusters (“buds”) have turned from white to brown, it is time to harvest. If possible, have an experienced friend take a look and give you harvest advice, or check online.

To harvest, cut the branches, remove all the large leaves by hand or with a scissors and hang the branches in a cool, dry place with plenty of airflow but minimal heat. There is an art to proper curing and it takes some experience to get it right. The main mistakes are drying too fast with too much heat, which causes the buds to crumble, and drying too slowly, which can cause mold. A cool, dry (not damp and moldy!) basement with a small fan blowing on a string full of branches is ideal unless you want to invest in specialized climate control equipment like commercial growers do.

The proper dryness is when the buds are dry, but not crispy to the touch. A good rule of thumb is to bend the stems below the flowers. If the stems snap but don’t break clean through, the flowers are probably about the right dryness. If the stems merely bend, let the cannabis dry some more. If the stems snap clean through into separate pieces, the flowers are probably too dry. If needed, they can be placed in a slightly more humid environment briefly to rehydrate so they don’t crumble when handled.

Once the proper dryness is reached, clip the buds off the stems and store in a cool, dry place. Glass jars in a closet are perfect. Be sure to check the moisture levels regularly to avoid mold.

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Note: we would like to add links to competent online how-to resources for first-time growers (there is A LOT of BS out there!). If you have suggestions, please let us know via email to [email protected]m
Happy growing!

2022 COVID-19 update. We take the pandemic seriously and ask that you take precautions while visiting and traveling. All nursery staff are vaccinated and the nursery is open-air, so there is a very low risk of transmission. To be on the safe side, we ask that you maintain a minimum of 6′ or greater distance from employees and other customers and be aware that many of our customers use cannabis for medical reasons and may be more vulnerable to infection from any virus. If you want to wear a mask but don’t have one, we have paper ones we can give you. If you’re more comfortable around nursery staff with masks, we can put one on when serving you.
More info here.

Weed Plant Seed To Harvest

Article written by

Dipak Hemraj Head of Research and Education

Dipak Hemraj is a published author, grower, product maker, and Leafwell’s resident cannabis expert. From botany & horticulture to culture and economics, he wishes to help educate the public on why cannabis is medicine (or a “pharmacy in a plant”) and how it can be used to treat a plethora of health problems. Dipak wants to unlock the power of the plant, and see if there are specific cannabinoid-terpene-flavonoid profiles suitable for different conditions.

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