When to Harvest Cannabis? 4 Telltale Signs

When to harvest cannabis

Knowing when to harvest your cannabis is just one of those double-edged sword things.

If you harvest too soon then your buds will not be as potent as they can, whilst if you take them off too late you’re gonna end up with an altered cannabinoid profile which may give you different effects than what you were initially going after (read: Less THC than planned).

As a newbie grower, it may be confusing to figure out exactly when to harvest cannabis. In all honesty, I’ve read probably two dozen articles on this particular topic and they all recommend different methods:

Use a magnifying glass to look at pistils, closely examine the trichomes, follow the seed labeling, look at the visual examples…

There’s a lot of them, but which approach should a beginner grower go for?

That is exactly why I decided to look for weed growing case studies and start-to-finish tutorials and see which harvesting signs expert growers like to use.

I mean, if anyone knows the best then it’s the guys who harvested their plants hundreds of times: Pigeons 420 and NVclosetmedgrower are just some of the guys who do a tremendous job at explaining this.

So, without any further ado, here are top 5 telltale signs of when to harvest your cannabis:

When the hairs (pistils) turn dark and begin to recede

Pigeons 420 is one of my favorite cannabis YouTubers, case closed. The guy is a master at explaining how weed growing works, so I trust him when he says that hairs are the primary thing he’s looking at, come harvesting time.

Essentially, you want your pistils to become slightly darker and mature looking, so you’re looking for this:

Just make sure not to harvest while the hairs on your buds are still white. At this stage, the plant is still flowering and the majority of the pistils will appear straight.

Once the hairs get darker and start curling up, you should be good to go. But be sure to check out the other signs as well, just to be safe.

When the soil becomes extremely dense

Once the plant is ready for harvesting, it will simply not consume as much water like in the stages before. The plant simply did its biological purpose: it produced ripe flowers that are ready for male seeds.

This is best when combined with other signs, but as a general rule of thumb, when the plant starts taking in less water, it’s getting close to its harvesting window.

When there are 60-70% milky trichomes, 15% amber trichomes and 15% clear trichomes

You won’t be able to see this only with your naked eye, so make sure to grab a pocket microscope (preferably with an LED light attached).

Here you’re looking for the color of the trichomes: you want the majority of the trichomes to be milky with an equal distribution of both amber and clear trichomes.

Mature bud

The big question here is what’s the difference between milky and clear trichomes?

It’s easy — clear trichomes look like polished glass and milky trichomes look like frosted glass.

Avoid: there are a lot of growers who tell you to go for majority amber, but in my opinion this is too late. For maximum THC levels go for 70% milky and you’ll be fine.

When the leaves begin to turn yellow and crisp

Another indicator of your plant’s ripeness can be seen in the leaves surrounding the calyxes and even the bigger fan leaves. When the plant is ripe, the leaves will turn yellowish and start curling up and becoming dark and brittle.

It kind of looks like this:

Yellow fan leaves

Image source: Cannabis Pictures

Now, at this point you’re probably familiar with the fact that cannabis strains differ, especially when it comes to their growing stages.

In other words:

Make sure to learn how to recognize the flower ripeness, not just by blindly following any advice but by developing experience and that gut feeling that’s worth its weight in gold.

And if you are still confused about your harvesting window, just follow Pigeons 420’s advice:

“If you think she’s done, give her one more week”.

More on harvesting and growing cannabis

About the author
Luka Petkovic

Editor in chief at Greencamp. Researching topics related to the biochemistry of cannabinoids and interested in the latest industry happenings.

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