You’ve spent months cultivating the perfect crop. Now, it’s time to think about enjoying your marijuana harvest!
Before you can do that, though, you need to be careful about how to harvest cannabis. Without knowing all the intricacies of how to harvest weed, you’re going to have a hard time enjoying your crop. And harvesting marijuana is not exactly like harvesting other crops, like broccoli or tomatoes – it’s not as simple as plucking buds from the plant. There is some finesse involved!
If you want to know how to harvest cannabis but aren’t sure where to start, this article will show you how. We will tell you everything you need to know about how to harvest a weed plant so that you can enjoy your own bumper crop without worry.
Table of Contents
- Know the Best Times for Harvesting Weed
- Think About Common Indicators to Know How to Harvest Marijuana
- Consider the Type of High You Want
- Consider CBD
- Watch for Maturity
- How to Examine Trichomes
- Prepare for Harvesting Marijuana
- Flush Your Marijuana Plants
- How to Harvest Weed Step by Step
- Manicure Your Buds
- Curing the Buds: The Final Step for Your Marijuana Harvest
Know the Best Times for Harvesting Weed
As with all crops, one of the most crucial factors in a successful harvest is knowing when, exactly, your plants are ready for harvest. Getting the harvest time right is important because the major chemicals that create the effects of marijuana you are looking for – the high, the pain relief, etc- change significantly depending on the harvest time.
Here are some guidelines in knowing when the time is nigh to harvest.
Think About Common Indicators to Know How to Harvest Marijuana
The maturity of the trichomes is the greatest indicator of how ready your plants are for harvest – but it’s not the only way to tell whether they are ready for harvest. We’ll tell you more about the trichomes in a moment, but here are some other signs that can indicate harvest time is near.
The pistil color is a good indicator of how mature your plant it. Although your pistils will begin as a yellowish-white color, they will grow to become more amber as they mature. The calyxes of the plants will swell, too. These are the pods that would ordinarily contain seeds if your plants were pollinated.
Finally, your buds may seem to stop growing as they approach harvest time. This can be the toughest indicator to track since it’s hard to tell whether this slow-growing plant has completely stopped or not.
If you’re not sure when the right time to harvest is, consult the seed company. Many seed companies will provide you with the approximate date of harvest when they ship you your seeds.
Consider the Type of High You Want
The specific kind of high you get from your buds will vary depending on the strain and variety of marijuana you grew, but also on when you harvest the buds. As you know, there are plenty of highs you can get from marijuana, from sleepy highs to energetic head highs.
While strain and variety (sativa vs indica, bubba vs skunk, etc) will be the biggest predictors of what kind of high you achieve, flowering time can also impact this. The amount of time that has passed since flowering time will encourage certain traits to be showcased in the final product. This time determines, too, how well developed the THC glands are – and as you know, it’s the THC in marijuana that gives you that high you are looking for.
Trichomes form just a few weeks into flowering – also known as the small white hairs that coat your buds, these elements are what contain the important THC. they reach maturity slowly but are the best way to tell whether your plants are mature.
How can you tell if your trichomes are ready? Simple. Examine their color and transparency.
A mature trichome will be somewhat cloudy, but it will have some color, too. Don’t wait too long – an overripe trichome will be cloudy and orange while an immature one will be translucent.
The proper harvest time will also maximize CBD. CBD has powerful medicinal effects and, after THC, is the most popular cannabinoid in marijuana. It has anti-nausea and painkilling effects but, unlike THC, does not degrade over time.
You will want to wait to harvest until some of the THC has degraded into other cannabinoids in order to get the greatest benefit from CBD. Sure, you’ll have to sacrifice some of the psychoactive effects of your plant, but if medicinal benefits are what you are after, then it’s worth the wait.
Watch for Maturity
As you have likely deduced by now, timing is of the essence when it comes to determining the perfect time for harvesting your marijuana plants. Start checking trichomes regularly as your plants approach maturity.
Know that indica strains are mature sooner than sativas strains are – you will want to start looking at your trichomes around the fifth week of growth for signs of maturity, as your plans will be ready at about six or eight weeks of flowering.
Sativa strains, on the other hand, will take longer – usually, 7-12 weeks or sometimes even more. Start checking around the eight-week mark to be sure.
How to Examine Trichomes
Easier said than done, right? So how do you go about checking your trichomes? It’s simple. Start by pulling on a pair of latex gloves.
You’ll need a microscope to do this. When you use a microscope, you’ll be able to get a look at the trichomes to tell how developed they are. They’re quite tiny to behold, otherwise. You don’t need an expensive, lab-quality microscope in order to examine the trichomes, but you should use a handheld scope at the very least.
With a handheld pocket scope, you will be able to see how cloudy and well-formed your trichomes are. Keep an eye on them and check them regularly until they match up with the kind of high you’re hoping to receive. Then, it’s time for harvest!
Prepare for Harvesting Marijuana
When it’s time to harvest weed, it’s not going to be as simple as plucking buds from the plant and tossing them into a bucket. You need to do some prep work upfront.
Preparing the Harvest Area
Start by preparing an area where you will harvest and process your plants. This should be a designated room that is designed to reduce odors and to help the plants cure as quickly as possible.
In order to set up the best space for curing, you should make sure it is equipped with temperatures around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the ideal room for curing since it will help dry the plants and also prevent the oils in the plant from becoming volatile. The temperature will also prevent odors, as can an added carbon filter.
Get Your Tools Ready
You also need to prepare some tools. Harvesting cannabis requires some specialty items that you may or may not already have on hand.
At the bare minimum, you will need a set of trimmers (which could be as simple as handheld scissors or as involved as electric trimmers) and some trim trays. Trim trays will help you catch excess leaves with their mesh screens and will give you additional support while you work.
You should also have a pair of latex or nitrile gloves set aside. Wearing gloves while trimming marijuana isn’t just about your own comfort or style – you need to prevent contaminating the buds. You also need some lines ready on which you can hang your buds to help facilitate the drying process.
Ready Your Plants
Your plants need some prep work before they can be harvested, too. Make sure you remove any old or dying leaves from the plants. These will be those that have started to turn yellow. Only trim back leaves close to the harvest and only take off leaves that are growing on the bottom quarter of the marijuana plant.
Make sure you stop spraying two weeks before harvest. This will prevent residue and reduce the likelihood of mold, making the job of curing and drying a bit easier for you.
Flush Your Marijuana Plants
The final step in preparing your marijuana plants for harvest is flushing the buds – a step that’s so important it deserves its own category and heading!
Flushing your cannabis plant is important because it will remove any chemicals or residual nutrients that still remain inside the flowers.
If you skip the process of flushing, you’re probably not going to like the results – your plants will have some residual fertilizers on them that can impact the flavor of the smoking experience. The buds may become unpleasant and harsh, and they might not even burn – or if they do, they won’t burn properly.
If you use synthetic fertilizers, flushing the plants is crucial. It will get rid of chemicals and build-up that can get you sick.
Stop fertilizing entirely and only water with clean distilled or RO water. This needs to be done at least a week, but ideally ten days before you plan to harvest. Flushing is simple when you grow your plants in soil – you’ll just water with clean water instead of mixed water. With a hydroponic system, you will need to flush the entire system.
How to Harvest Weed Step by Step
Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for – it’s time to harvest your pot!
Make sure you handle your buds properly at all times. This will prevent damage to the plant and will ensure a successful, enjoyable experience.
Make sure you have set up the proper environment before beginning. If you don’t set up the right environment, you risk damaging or degrading your harvest. What do we mean by a “proper environment?”
This simply means avoiding harsh conditions like temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, damp or humid conditions, too much friction while handling, or even intense light. All of these conditions can degrade the quality of your THC.
How to Harvest Weed
There are several ways you can choose to harvest your marijuana plants. You can cut the main stem to harvest the entire plant, or you can just harvest a few, exceptionally mature buds.
If you choose to harvest the whole plant, you will have less work on your hands. It’s quicker and often easier. All you need to do is cut the main stem and then hang up the plant or continue to divide it.
If you choose to only harvest weeds with a few buds at a time, you will want to go after only the ripest buds. This can improve the quality as you will only harvest the buds that need to be harvested, allowing the rest to reach maturity on their own time.
If you remove just the ripest buds, you will come back about five to ten days later for the rest. Keep in mind that the outer buds – or those that receive more direct light – tend to mature first.
Either way, you will want to use a good pair of pruning shears to get through the stalks. When you’re ready to cut, keep in mind that you may or may not choose to remove the fan leaves. These are the leaves that do not contain trichomes and are quite large in size.
If you choose to remove your fan leaves, you’ll expedite the drying process. On the flip side, leaving them on will let the buds dry more slowly. Deciding whether to remove them is a matter of preference, but know that, in a humid environment, removing the buds can prevent mold, while keeping them on in low humidity is preferable.
After cutting your plants, you should hang them on the wire. Your plants need to be spaced evenly so air can get between them and facilitate the drying process. The room in which you dry your plants should have plenty of ventilation to prevent humidity from rising and cause mold problems. You may need to set up a fan to get things moving.
Again, make sure you wear gloves while harvesting your buds. This is essential. THC is sticky, and you don’t want it on your hands.
Manicure Your Buds
You didn’t think you were done because your buds were off the plant, now idd you? The next step is to proceed to the manicuring process. There are several ways you can do this – you can trim your buds down to nuggets immediately, or you can dry them on the line.
If you trim immediately, you’ll likely have quicker drying time. This is because immediately after harvest, the leaves are still filled with water. They are firm and therefore easier to cut. In Addition, the trichomes are less likely to be knocked off the plant as you handle them. If you have fewer outer leaves covering your buds, they’ll dry more quickly.
If you trim first, your next step is to hang the buds on the line. Let them hang on the line until their stems bend and start to break – but don’t let them break all the way. This will tell you that your buds are dry.
If you trim afterward this dryness will be an indicator that your buds are ready to be trimmed. It will usually take a minimum of three days but can take as long as ten days for this time to arise. Know that the branches and leaves of your plant can be trimmed more easily since everything will snap off. This can be a good thing but can also be problematic as the trichomes are more likely to fall off.
How to Trim
Regardless of whether you trim before or after, trimming instructions are more or less the same. You will simply want to remove the excess material from around the buds. How closely you trim is a matter of preference, but if you plan to sell your cannabis, consider trimming tightly – this is what customers tend to prefer.
You will need to remove all the large leaves that stick out from around the buds. You should also remove leaves that are tinged with yellow or brown, as these can impact the aesthetics and flavors for your buds. Make sure you remove leaves that don’t have any trichomes on them, too.
If trimming for hours doesn’t sound like fun to you, don’t worry – there are plenty of tools you can invest in to make things go by more quickly. You can invest in items like curved trimmers, bowl trimmers, and trim trays to make your time go by.
When you trim, do so wisely – don’t hack indiscriminately but instead try to leave a few inches of the stem while you cut. You may want to clean your scissors while you trim, too, as the blades can easily become clogged and difficult to use.
Curing the Buds: The Final Step for Your Marijuana Harvest
Now that your buds are trimmed and your plants are harvested, your work is (mostly) done. Now that you have a room full of buds, it’s time to dry and cure your weed. You can find more information on how to do that here.