Guide: When to Harvest Your Plants

Tara | August 16, 2023
picture of trichomes

Knowing the optimal time to harvest is crucial for both the potency and flavour of the buds. Harvesting too early or too late can dramatically impact the quality of your yield. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help growers identify the ideal harvesting window for their plants.

Understanding the Harvesting Window

Generally, plants have a harvesting window of a few weeks. While it’s not an exact science, the perfect time within this window depends on the desired effect and flavour profile. The earliest part of the window will have higher active compound content, offering a more stimulating effect, while the latter part may lead to a more relaxing effect.

Check the Flowering Time
  • Sativa-like strains usually take longer (10-12 weeks) to flower.
  • Indica-like strains typically have shorter flowering times (8-10 weeks).
  • Hybrids can vary, so always refer to the breeder’s guidelines.

This is a general rule, and the actual time will vary for different strains. Always cross-check with visual cues.

Inspect the Pistils

Pistils are the hair-like structures on the buds. Initially, they are white and stick straight out. Over time, they curl in an darken to an amber reddish brown colour.

  • 50-70% darkened pistils usually means the plant is ready for harvest.
  • 70-90% darkened indicates a more calming, anti-anxiety effect.
Examine the Trichomes

Trichomes are the tiny, crystal-like appendages on the buds and leaves that produce active compounds. They’re best viewed with a magnifier (e.g., magnifying loupe).

  • Clear trichomes: Not yet ready, they’re still producing active compounds.
  • Milky white trichomes: Peak compound content, resulting in the most potent effect.
  • Amber trichomes: Some of the compounds have converted, leading to more relaxing, sedative effects.

For a balanced effect, many growers harvest when trichomes are a mix of milky white and 10-20% amber.

Assess the Bud Structure and Density

As the flowers mature, they will become denser. Harvesting when buds are fully developed and dense can lead to a better yield and quality.

Fan Leaves Yellowing

Towards the end of the flowering phase, it’s natural for the larger fan leaves to turn yellow as the plant sends its remaining nutrients to the buds. This is an additional sign that the plant is nearing harvest.

Flush the Plants

Before harvesting, consider flushing the plants (i.e., giving them only plain water) for 1-2 weeks. This process removes any remaining nutrients in the soil, leading to a purer flavour in the buds. See Flushing your Plants to learn more.

Things to Remember
  • Strain Variability: Different strains might have slightly different harvesting cues. Always consult strain-specific information.
  • Individual Preferences: Some growers might prefer a more energetic effect and harvest earlier, while others might wait for a calming effect.
  • Be Patient: Waiting a few more days can make a significant difference in potency and effect. Regularly inspect your plants.

In conclusion, knowing when to harvest requires keen observation and sometimes a bit of experimentation. With time and experience, growers will be able to make more informed decisions and achieve the desired outcome from their plants.

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