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A Marijuana Harvesting Guide

Apr 12, 2020
Growth Stages

A Marijuana Harvesting Guide

Harvest time is hands down the most exciting phase of marijuana growing. For months, farmers nurture seedlings or cuttings until they become robust plants heavy with resin-coated buds. At harvest, growers can finally cut, dry, and cure their plants in preparation for ingestion (smoking, vaping, baking, and encapsulating for example).

When you are planning for a harvest, it is vital to recognize changes that signal plants are ready. Timing is especially crucial for outdoor crops since weather can become a factor. Harvesting at the ideal time also ensures quality buds and flowers. For the best results, it is essential to use the correct harvesting methods for indoor and outdoor crops.

Outdoor growers should also be aware of security issues since thieves can stake out crops and wait until harvest to steal plants.  Even if you were given free granddaddy purple seeds to grow in your garden, or were handed some random unlabeled marihuana seeds from a friend, you have put in the hard work to grow them, so let’s make sure you get to reap the rewards for all of your efforts!

Harvesting Fundamentals

Timing is one of the most, if not the most, critical factors in successful marijuana harvesting. The process works much like harvesting grapes. The longer you wait, the stronger the fruit and the resulting alcohol. The longer you wait to harvest marijuana, the stronger the cannabinoids, which means a more robust product. Timing is also essential because plants begin to die soon after they flower, so you don’t want to wait too long. Needless to say, making the choice of when to harvest is a fine balance.

There are visible signs that let you know the best harvest time. For instance, it is close if plants have flowered, and you notice pistils have turned red or stems are broadening. Other signals include yellow, dying leaves, and dark brown bud resin.

Calculate Harvest Time by Checking Flowers

There is no one way to precisely determine when marijuana is ready for harvest since factors such as the environment play a part. However, there are ways to narrow the timeline.

Many growers use cannabis flowers as harvest indicators. The plant’s flowering times are useful guidelines since most cannabis reaches the flowering phase at about the same time in its development. There is some variation based on strain. For example:

  • Indica: Usual harvest is eight weeks after flowering.
  • Sativa: Harvest is typically ten weeks after plants flower.
  • Autoflowers: Harvest time is ten weeks from seedling to bud stages.

Pistils Can Signal Harvest-Ready Plants

Marijuana plants’ pistils turn brown as harvest season approaches, making them excellent indicators. You can use the following guide:

  • 50-70% brown: Indicates light, young marijuana.
  • 70-90% brown: Signals heavy, ripe marijuana.
  • 90-100% brown: Sharp, heavy marijuana.

Because subtle changes can be significant, experts recommend using tools like a digital microscope to scrutinize plants. Writers for High Times suggest investing in an affordable jeweler’s loupe that provides a clear look at pistils. Some growers simply use hand-held magnifying glasses.

A general rule is that when pistils are white, it is still too early to harvest. When they are completely red or brown, the peak time is past, and it is crucial to harvest immediately to avoid lowering quality.

Keep an Eye on Trichomes

It is also possible to gauge harvest time by checking the plant’s trichomes. You will need one of your magnifying tools to examine trichomes, which are tiny crystalline structures that grow on the plant’s buds. They house THC and other essential chemicals. Evaluating the small changes in these structures close to harvesting allows you to calculate their highest THC levels.

When scrutinizing trichomes, use the following results as a guide:

  • Clear trichomes mean you need to wait a bit longer.
  • Amber/milky white trichomes indicate plants are harvest-ready.
  • Completely amber trichomes are overripe.

If you harvest when trichomes are clear, plants will lack potency. At least half should be dark and sticking up straight. Cloudy or half clear trichomes have not reached their potential. If you harvest at this point, the bud will produce an energetic high. However, the odor and flavor will be more potent if you wait a little longer.

Mostly cloudy trichomes signal the ideal time for harvest because THC is at its peak. Plants harvested at this point provide exceptional pain relief and induce euphoria.

Once trichomes become cloudy and amber, they lose some potency but produce a relaxing high. If you want a product that provides a more narcotic effect, this is an ideal harvest point. If you buy 30% thc seeds, for example, this represents the peak level that can be reached if you harvest your plants during this critical window of time.

The Indoor Harvesting Process

Once plants have reached the right stage for your purposes, it is essential to use the correct harvesting methods. The process for indoor plants varies somewhat from methods used during outdoor harvests, so let’s explore both options.

To begin indoor harvesting, remove grow lamps. Make sure you have the following supplies:

  • Wire for hanging plants.
  • Heavy-duty scissors or shears.
  • A dish filled with Isopropyl alcohol.
  • A pair of gloves.

Hang wire from the ceiling. You will need it to dry the plants. Make sure the room is well ventilated and has gentle airflow. Experts at Cannabis Business Times suggest placing wall or floor-mounted fans around the room.

Remove big fan leaves from stems using scissors or gloved hands. That helps ensure plants dry correctly, which is critical to prevent mold growth. Hang plants upside from the wire. It’s a good idea to group them by strain.

Use the alcohol to clean your hands and tools, since resin is sticky.

During the drying process, moisture evaporates, and chlorophyll breaks down. Keep the room dark and dry, so plants don’t dry too quickly, which can cause chlorophyll to remain and affect the taste. Drying takes 10 to 14 days. Monitor plants carefully and make sure temperature and humidity are low.

Cure dried plants by placing them in airtight containers. Professional grower’s websites offer detailed information about the drying and curing processes.

Nature Provides a Timeline for Outdoor Harvesting

Harvesting outdoor cannabis crops is similar to indoor harvesting, but the environment plays a part in timing. You have to learn how the sun, weather, and seasons affect plant development.

In summer, crops get 14 or more hours of sunlight. By June 21st, some northern areas receive as much as 15 hours of light daily. As August moves to September, the light begins to decrease quickly. The changing light signals plants to move from the vegetative to the flowering stage.

It is essential to use a grow calendar that explains when plants will flower in your area. It will simplify harvest planning. Some cannabis seed banks in USA, like, make sure to provide their customers with a thorough grow guide to make sure growers have a clear understanding of how to approach their strategy for their given region of the continent.

All Forms of Light Impact Outdoor Crops

Like all plants, cannabis reacts strongly to any form of light. That means you need to be aware of light sources other than the sun. Outdoor crops can get artificial light without you realizing it.

For instance, be careful not to plant near street lights or other forms of ambient light. Marijuana needs the dark provided naturally by autumn nights. If plants do not get enough darkness, they can be slow to flower.

Signs that Plants Are Ready to Harvest

You can tell that a crop is ready to harvest by evaluating the pistils and trichomes of outdoor plants. Also, notice the condition of buds and leaves.

Bigger leaves will turn yellow-brown as harvest time draws near. The discoloration is a sign the plant is dying. Stigmas on mature plants also wither at the base of buds but remain white on top.

Pick marijuana buds just as they are losing their vibrant green color. Once buds turn brown, they smoke more harshly.

The weather will also play a part in your decision. Calm, dry weather is the ideal time to harvest.

Change the Light to Change Results

Since marijuana plants need 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness to flower, you can control crops by manipulating the light your crop receives, even during outdoor cultivation. Many automated black-out systems have been engineered to fit greenhouses or solariums in people’s homes.

Some growers cover plants to induce flowering. You can also manipulate light in the opposite direction. Professionals sometimes flood crops with bright lights to reset the plant’s internal clocks. The process results in bigger plants and delayed flowering.

If growing auto marijuana seeds, you will pay more attention to the number of weeks past, rather than when you changed your light cycle to induce flowering.

Harvesting Outdoor Cannabis

The September Equinox is generally a good day for the final harvest, but that’s not a hard and fast rule. Make sure you see signs that plants are ready first.

Flowering and bud formation should guide your decision. Professionals generally look for three stages and begin harvesting once the last phase is complete.

The stages are:

  • Bud formation.
  • An increase in bud formation.
  • A sudden drop in bud formation.

Plants reach their growth potential a week after the last day of the flowering phase. Do not wait to harvest after this point since it could jeopardize the quality of the yield.

Harvest in good weather and cut plants into lengths that fit well into the bags you are using for transport. Use sealable bags. If they are transparent, place them in outer, non-see-through bags.

Process, dry, and cure plants the same way you would if they were indoor crops.

A Final Word about Harvest Security

For most growers, vigilance is part of the harvest. There are even farmers who sleep near their crops during this time of year. That is because some people watch crops and steal plants when they are ready to harvest. You might also be worried about the authorities catching wind of your backwoods grow spot.

The best protection is to plant in a secure location. If you see signs of trouble, it is wise to walk away. As valuable as your crop may be, it is not worth putting yourself in danger or getting in trouble with the law.

With some preparation, professional guidance, and a few tools, anyone can successfully harvest a marijuana crop. You will need to learn how to determine when indoor and outdoor plants are ready for harvest and then choose the right time. It is essential to know how to dry and cure cannabis. Every grower should also understand crop security basics.

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