Knowing when to harvest a cannabis plant is one of the most important things you should know as a cannabis grower. If you harvest your plant too soon, the THC will be immature, and you will have a smaller yield. On the other hand, if you harvest a cannabis plant too late, the THC will degrade, and your plant can produce seeds, or bud rot and mould.
Finding the right time to harvest your cannabis plants is a personal preference for most growers. Some prefer to let their plants ripen for a little longer, and push for a high amount of amber trichomes. Some like to harvest earlier for a more cerebral high, rather than a couch lock effect.
In this guide on when to harvest a cannabis plant, we will help you find the harvest time that is perfect for you. But no matter what, do not harvest your plant too soon. Take some pictures of the trichomes and ask for help in the forum if you need help.
If you have any questions about when to harvest a cannabis plant, then feel free to ask for help in our cannabis growers forum
What are Trichomes on a Cannabis Plant
Trichomes are the little crystals that can be seen growing on the buds and leaves of a flowering cannabis plant. They are hard to see with the naked eye as they can be very small. But they will look like mushrooms. With a clear stalk, and bulbous head that will be transparent, opaque, or amber.
When a cannabis plant comes to the end of its life cycle, these trichomes will begin to mature, and change colour. At first, they will all grow transparent, but as they mature they will become more milky and opaque. As the trichomes begin to degrade, they will start to turn orange, yellow, amber, and in some cases purple.
The trichomes on a cannabis plant will hold resins, terpenes and cannabiniods, and using these as a guide on when to harvest a cannabis plant is the best way to ensure your plant is mature and ready for harvest.
Harvesting a Cannabis Plant too Early
Harvesting your plant too early will stop it from reaching its full potential. During the last couple of weeks, a cannabis plant will put on a lot more weight, and the resins and terpenes will ripen. This will give your cannabis better flavour and effect, and also a better yield too. Just waiting one more week can make a huge difference in the quality your cannabis.
Some growers will look at the pistols (white hairs) on a the buds of a cannabis plant, and wait for them to turn brown or orange. This will not give you an accurate idea of how mature your plant is. The colour of pistols can change for many reasons, such as over feeding, damage, or phenotype of strain. Your plant may look done, but it may be far from being at its peak.
Harvesting a Cannabis Plant too Late
Your cannabis plants have a certain amount of time to complete their flowering cycle before they die. In their natural environment, a female cannabis plant would be pollinated during its flowering period, and produce seeds for the next generation. If you leave a plant to go too far over its peak, it may “Hermie”, and produce its own seeds in an effort to pass on its genetics. Of course this is not ideal. Not only will you have seeds in your buds, but the seeds will be from a hermaphrodite cannabis plant, so they will probably be “hermie” too.
Once a cannabis plant has passed its peak harvest time, it begins to die, and this can cause it to contract mould and other diseases. There comes a time where you must harvest your plants, or lose them to mould, rot, bugs, and nature itself.
Checking the trichomes on the buds of your plants can give you an accurate idea of how mature they are, and when to harvest them for the best quality.
How to check Trichomes
To check the trichomes on your cannabis plants, you should first check the trichomes on the buds. This will give you a good idea of the progression of the trichomes on the flowers.
You can use a microscope, with over 60x zoom, to see exactly when to harvest a cannabis plant. Using this image, you can see clear trichomes, meaning the plant is still not ready for harvest.
You will then see milky trichomes. This is when the plant is reaching maturity. Once all trichomes are milky/ opaque, you are coming close to harvest time. It is just down to your personal preference on how many amber trichomes you would like.
Harvesting your cannabis plants at the right stage will give you a high that is personally best for you. Some like just milky, some like 50% amber!
By using a USB microscope, or a jewellers loupe, you can get a good close up look at the trichomes on your plant. Using a usb microscope is the best way to see when to harvest a cannabis plant, as you can take pictures and show them to the members of the forum.
If you need a good microscope to check your plants, then you can buy one here and it will be with you in a couple of days. It is better to wait and make sure your plant is ready for harvest. Chopping too early can ruin months of hard work. Be patient.
When To Harvest a Cannabis Plant
When the trichomes have all turned milky, the THC is mature, and you can harvest at anytime. It is unlikely that all of the trichomes will be milky at one time, and to ensure your whole plant is ready for harvest, you should wait for 10% amber trichomes, with 90% milky.
Once you have reached over 90% milky trichomes, you should start flushing your medium, and prepare for harvest in around ten days.
But of course, if you would like to push the plant further, for the extra amber trichomes, then wait an extra week until you harvest your plant. But again, do not let the plant go for too long, as you risk losing it to mould disease, or it may hermie.
Patience Pays Off!
I know, it can be very difficult to look at a ripe, juicy cannabis plant and want to harvest it as soon as possible so you can taste the fruits of you labour. But waiting those extra two weeks will really push your harvest to the full potential. Both in weight, and in quality.
Don’t waste months of hard work, by rushing the final few weeks of your grow. Let your plant reach its full potential. Check the trichomes, flush at all milky, harvest at 10-20% amber, and you will have high quality top shelf cannabis.
Thanks for reading! You can find more information on anything related to growing in our cannabis grow guides. All of our guides are written by experienced growers, and members of our cannabis growers forum. If you have any questions, sign up. It is free, and we are always happy to help!