Harvesting cannabis: When and how to harvest weed plants

The moment you haven been waiting for 2 or 3 months has finally come - harvesting cannabis plants you’ve nurtured for so long can often be a bittersweet experience. It is the time to reap what you’ve sown.

From the very first moment of seedling to the flowering phase and finally to harvesting cannabis, you need to carefully think through every step you make. If you do it too early, you will have smaller yields, on the other hand, if you are late for harvesting, you will harvest the buds that are more sedating than psychoactive.

First time growers should definitely follow at least some type of indoor cannabis growing and harvesting guidelines in order to get the best possible marijuana buds.

Cutting your cannabis plants and trimming the buds are not the only two actions you need to take when harvesting cannabis. Drying and curing cannabis plants are equally important. Also, the right time of the harvest is very crucial and preparing plants for harvesting.

Before harvesting a cannabis plant

Flush your plants with water, 2 weeks before the harvest, if you grow cannabis with mineral nutrients. In that way your buds won’t have a harsh taste, which usually happens when there is too much fertilizer on the plant. Don’t add any more fertilizer to the plant, use only water the rest of the time until harvesting.

Make sure you cut the fan leaves and remove the damaged parts.you can also wash the plants in a mix of hydrogen peroxide and water if you see any type of mold, bud rot or powdery mildew appearing on your plants, and then dry them thoroughly for at least two weeks.

When is the best time to harvest marijuana buds?

To answer this question, we need to raise another question - which marijuana strain are you growing? If you grow hybrids, the time to harvest your cannabis plants is around 8 to 12 weeks. Autoflowering and Sativa strains usually need 10 weeks to grow completely. Indica strain takes around 8 weeks. However, to really know when is the best time to harvest marijuana buds, depends on these factors as well:

  • What is the cultivation method you used to grow cannabis?
  • In what environment did you grow your plants; indoor or outdoor growing conditions?
  • What color are the pistils?
  • What do trichomes look like?

At the early phase, pistils start grouping to make buds and they are white color. When pistils are orange or brown, curled inward it may be the time for harvesting, but you need to check the trichomes as well.

Image source: herbiesheadshop.com

Pistils can sometimes change their color due to environmental factors. There are other signs that show if the plants are ready to be harvested, so let’s take a look:

  • Branches are heavy and hanging lower
  • Buds stopped growing and look plump
  • Some leaves fell off or became yellow
  • There are no new white pistils or 40% of them are curled in

What do trichomes look like when ready to harvest?

Trichomes are an important part of cannabis growing, as they are natural defense mechanisms and make the strains effective and potent. They look like crystals, so shiny but also smelling good.

In the early stage of growing, they are clear, translucent and their color change is actually what determines if it is the right time for harvesting.

thc booster

Milky white or amber trichomes show that is the right time to harvest your cannabis plants and that there are the highest THC and CBD levels present. If you grow sativa or haze strains, you should know that their trichomes won’t turn amber at all, just white.

As a general rule for all strains, don’t wait too long, because if trichomes turn brown, you are late for harvesting. Use a magnifying glass if necessary to decide the color of the trichomes. This is the most correct way of evaluating the right time for harvesting, even more correct than looking at the pistils.

Harvesting cannabis with clear trichomes

It is not advised to harvest cannabis plants when their trichomes are clear, because the yield won’t be potent. Your product won’t be psychoactive at all, as it would contain only some of the cannabinoids, without having some of the more important ones like THC, CBG and so on.

Does cannabis need darkness before harvesting?

The reason why the early morning is the best time to harvest cannabis is that the levels of THC and terpenes drop during the day. Marijuana plants need darkness to replenish terpenes and THC. Keep your plants in a dark room or tent for at least 24 or 48 hours prior to harvesting for the most potent buds.

How to harvest cannabis plants in 2 ways

After you have prepared your plants and chosen the right time to start the harvest, here is a step by step guide for harvesting a cannabis plant:

  1. Prepare the harvesting equipment and clean the workspace.
  2. Cut the branches.
  3. Cut the leaves and put them into bags.
  4. Gently pluck the twigs or the buds.
  5. Dry the buds for 10 up to 14 days in a completely dry, dark and ventilated space. If you use a tent for this step, make sure you use the exhaust fan to dry the buds. 
  6. Trim the buds. You can do this step before drying if you prefer wet trimming. 
  7. Cure the buds by putting them in a sealed jar. This final step can last for at least 3 weeks to months. In the first two weeks of curing, don’t forget to open a jar for an hour and then close the lid tightly again.

There are two ways of harvesting cannabis - dry trimming and wet trimming.

Wet trimming is when you cut down the plant, remove the buds off from the branches, also called “bucking”, trim and then dry the buds, all in one sitting.

Dry trimming is trimming your plants after you’ve let them dry for several days; then you’ll buck buds off branches and trim the flowers by removing unnecessary leaves and stems.

You can also trim the plants partly, leave them out to dry for a week or two, and then trim some more in order to get a really good trim and clean buds.

Harvesting cannabis for edibles

When you pluck your favorite buds, don’t go straight to the kitchen to make weed brownies. Have some patience and dry the buds first before adding them to cannabis edibles. Both the taste and experience will be better. It’s not that you can’t use the fresh buds, it will still contain the same level of THC, but you would need to decarb it and extract the oil from the flowers.

However, if you plan on making lots of edibles, you’re going to need a significant amount of flowers. Harvesting a few plants might be a small job, but if you plan on growing lots of plants you might want to invest in an automatic trimming machine.