How to Harvest Weed: A Step by Step Guide

How to Harvest Weed: A Step by Step Guide

Cannabis-growing newcomers and even those with a little more experience may all be asking the same question — When is the best time to harvest weed? The brief window of time between budding flower and yellowing old plant is the period in which cannabis buds produce the most potent THC and the best high. It must be harvested before the plant dies, but not too early that THC content is too low.


Think of it like growing any other house plant; it has a flowering period and a growth cycle, and the trick is knowing where in the cycle your plant lies. Read more to find out various tricks and indicators that your plant is ready to harvest. After finding out when to harvest for the kind of high you want, find out how to harvest it, too.

1. When to Harvest Weed

How many weeks of flowering before harvest?

To kick off your marijuana harvesting guide, it’s important to know the time frame you’re working within. To the untrained eye, these three-pronged fan leaves might look the same, but the truth is that different strains have slightly different flowering periods. Boiled down to the basics, indica should be harvested earlier than sativa. Generally, the average bud harvest time is as follows:


  • Indica - 8 weeks after flowering
  • Sativa - 10 weeks after flowering
  • Autoflower - 10 weeks from seedling to bud

By paying attention to the weeks of flowering time, you’ll be able to determine your cannabis plant’s maturity. You can harvest marijuana indoors little by little as each bud is at its best stage. If you’re growing multiple plants or harvesting indica or sativa outside, you can harvest two times in one growing season.


Related: A Week by Week Guide to the Cannabis Flowering Stages

How to tell your plant is ready to harvest

If telling time isn’t really your thing, you don’t need a calendar to know when to harvest weed. Learn how to look for visual signs that your plant is ready to harvest. With fool-proof tools and a knowledgeable eye, there’s no way you’ll mess up. 

Trichomes

The most exact way to tell if your plant is ready to harvest is by looking at trichomes, which are tiny crystalline mushroom-shaped bumps that cover buds when the cannabis plant is ready to harvest. They range in color from clear to milky white to slightly yellow, and contain all the THC that makes your plant so valuable. The trichomes grow and multiply over time. Here’s what the different trichome stages mean for your harvest:


  • Clear and translucent - Too early for harvesting, they do not contain much THC.
  • Half clear - Harvesting plants with trichomes at this stage produces an energetic but brief high.
  • Amber - The potency decreases during this period, and cannabis with orange trichomes produces a more narcotic effect.

What this means is that most people will want to harvest weed somewhere between the half clear and amber stage, depending on the kind of high you want. Collect buds closer to the half clear trichome stage for a more invigorating high, and closer to the amber stage for a sedative, chill high.

Pistils

In feminized autoflowering cannabis and other female or intersex weed plants, you can also take a look at the pistil color. Pistils are the tendril-like sprouts that grow randomly along nodes, and they change from yellow-white to orange and amber. Like trichomes, pistils orange in color indicate that they’re mature.

Calyxes

Calyxes are the first part of the cannabis plant to grow, and they’re similar to the outer bud of a rose petal. They become more plump and swollen as they mature.

Tools

While these are visual signs to look for, you also need some tools to help you out. For trichomes, you’ll need a handheld pocketscope or smartphone camera magnifier; trichomes are tiny to the naked eye. Whenever you’re handling these plants, it’s a good idea to wear gloves to prevent contamination.

2. How to Prep and Flush for Harvesting

Preparing for harvesting is not something you can do in a day. Very yellowed leaves should be removed from the bottom of the plant, and you should stop spraying any growth helpers or fertilizers, and start spraying with water. Isolate in a ventilated room to initiate the process. The room should be at about 70 F.

Prepare the lighting

Turn off the lights or remove lamps from the grow room to prevent light from affecting the THC during harvesting. If you’re harvesting weed outdoors, pick a dry day with little wind and not too much sun.

Gather the tools

  • Trimmers - You can use handheld or electrical, but we recommend handheld scissors because they allow for more manual control and precision.
  • Gloves - Prevent stickiness, cross-contamination, and hands that smell.
  • Lines - For hanging plants.
  • Small clothespins or ties - Hang the cannabis plants from the lines.
  • Trim trays - Not vital, but can help harvesting stay less messy.
  • Isopropyl alcohol - For keeping you and your workstation clean.

Flush the buds

If applicable to your grow, use either distilled water (not tap) or water with a flushing agent to remove fertilizer, which gives cannabis a harsh taste or chemical smell. Start this process about 7 to 10 days before you expect to harvest. 

3. Methods of Trimming Buds

Whole plant method

This is the fastest way to trim weed. It’s quick and easy because you don’t have to monitor individual buds with as much attention to detail.

Ripe bud method

This is a more time consuming method of trimming weed, but can produce a higher yield with better bud quality. The outer buds mature first, so trimming weed when ripe requires you to work from the outside to the inside of the plant over time.


Related: The Basics of Growing Marijuana

4. Manicuring and Trimming the Harvested Buds

When should I trim the leaves?

When trimming the leaves from the buds, decide whether to do it before or after drying the buds. As a general rule, trim the leaves before drying if you’re in a humid environment, and keep the leaves on if you’re in a low-humidity environment before drying. Leaves in a humid environment may create mold, and leafless buds in low-humidity may dry too quickly.


Keep in mind that leaves are easier to cut right after harvesting because they are still wet, and the softer trichomes are less likely to be accidentally removed.


Use a razor or a soft cloth to clean scissors to remove residue as you trim the weed, and use a little isopropyl alcohol to wipe the scissors if they get too sticky. Cut at an angle with an outward motion.

Drying the buds

Hang evenly with good ventilation for about 3-6 days at 50% humidity.  Stems will snap instead of bending when they are properly dried. Then, it’s time to finish trimming if needed, and seal them in a tight container to finish the curing process.

5. Key Takeaways

Harvesting weed is an easy and fun process! To harvest the rewards of your labor, all you need is an understanding of the visual signs and a little bit of preparation so that you’re ready when the time has come.


Related: Harvesting and Drying


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