Here’s a guide breaking down when to harvest marijuana buds based on color of trichomes.
This harvest tutorial is part of our “how to harvest cannabis” series:
Here are some general rules about harvesting marijuana based on trichomes and the color of the hairs / pistils. If you follow these rules, you’ll know how to harvest weed perfectly every time!
Ready for Harvest Pictures
Although a jeweler’s loupe can make trichomes appear bigger, sometimes it’s not big enough. I know I end up squinting a lot when I’m trying to use one, but they are a heck of a lot better than nothing!
Unfortunately for us impatient growers, harvesting at the right time is just as important as how you grow the plant. Harvest too soon and you lose potency and cannabis yields; too late and you can end up making a batch of sleep medicine.
This harvest tutorial will fully cover the two main techniques growers use to identify the right time to harvest marijuana plants.
You can get some good information by talking to someone who has grown your strain before, such as the breeder. The breeder or growers who’ve grown your strain before can often provide extra insight into what to look for at harvest. You can also search online for pictures of what your strain should look like when it’s fully ripened.
T here was a time in our not-too-recent history when a sack of weed almost always included seeds. But as cannabis cultivation evolved, so did the demand for sensimilla, or high-quality, seedless cannabis. Breeders not only began developing their own customized strains, they also started specializing in the cultivation of very special cannabis seeds. These seeds are used in both the breeding process and the wide-spread distribution of the carefully created strain itself.
Seed crops are harvested when the seeds are plump and dark, often with a tiger stripe appearance (around six to eight weeks into flowering). After harvesting, the bud is dried and the seeds are collected. Small-scale seed collection is done by simply crumbling the cannabis flower and collecting the seeds that fall out (this video by Johnnys Green Extractions offers a clever way to separate seeds from flower using an old vinyl record cover) while commercial seed collection usually involves special machines that crush dried flower then pass the trim and seeds into separate bins.
The Role of Seeds in the Breeding Process
The process of breeding the perfect strain requires a controlled production of seeds. Breeders must force their favorite plants to produce pollen and then use it to pollinate other favorite strains, thus creating “cross-breeds” of their two selected parents. Note that this process is not haphazard like the seeds one might find in a poorly-controlled outside marijuana grow – cannabis seed cultivation is a precise process that requires controlled, sanitary environments that are thoroughly sealed to prevent outside dander from getting in.
The plants can “veg” here, or continue their vegetative growth phase, if trying to increase their size before seed production begins but it’s not necessary. Once the plants are large enough, they are put into a flowering light cycle of 12 hours light and 12 hours of complete darkness. Within a few weeks, the male will produce pollen sacks which will soon burst and get carried off into the air to pollinate the females. The females will now produce seeds which may continue to be used in the breeding process or harvested and sold to the public.
But cannabis is an amazingly resilient plant and doesn’t require male pollination to produce seeds. Evolution has bestowed upon the cannabis plant an amazing ability to self-pollinate when there are no males around to do it for her. Whether stressed or old (for example, a female cannabis plant that is not harvested before her prime), if a female senses an environment that is not conducive to long-term growth, she will produce seeds in hopes that her legacy will continue.
The most fulfilling part of growing your own cannabis is the harvest!
If most of the pistils are still visibly white, then it’s too early to harvest and your plants should be left to mature for a little longer. Growers should wait until at least 50% of pistils have turned darker to ensure near maximal THC levels. Begin trimming flowers when 60–70% of pistils have turned dark for the highest levels of THC. Those growers looking for a more stoning and physical high should wait until 70–90% of pistils have changed colours, as more THC will have converted to CBN at this stage.
FAN LEAVES WILL TURN YELLOW
Harvest time is the most rewarding and exciting aspect of cultivating cannabis for many growers. After months of witnessing your plants slowly morph from seedlings into fully bloomed plants, it’s almost time to reach for the trimmers and proceed to dry and cure your bounty. However, it’s important to remain patient and not become too hasty. There are numerous signs you need to be aware of and look out for on both the macro and micro levels to make sure your flowers are truly ready.
There is a large debate surrounding exactly when to harvest buds. There are general guidelines for each cannabis subspecies in regards to the optimal time. Indica strains are usually ready after 8 weeks of flowering, and sativa strains after a 10-week period of flowering. Autoflowering strains often take approximately 10 weeks after the seedling stage. Although these guidelines can be helpful in estimating when harvest time may occur, more attention to detail is required to make sure you are spot on with your timing.