You’ve done everything right, from germination to lighting, soil, nutrients, to even kissing them good night. But how do you know when to harvest your weed?
In this guide, we will be talking about the most obvious ways you know when your cannabis is ready for harvest. We’ll look at the physical signs of when the plants are ripe and why these things happen. Knowing why they happen will help determine how far along they may need to go before the plants are ready for the chop.
Let’s get started. Why am I even still typing this introduction? Anyway.
Table of contents
When you Flip into Flower
When you flip your plant into flower, you’ll notice a few things happening. The first sign things have changed is the “stretch.”
This is the stage of the plant life cycle where the plant is no longer focused on taking nutrients that help build cell walls but rather ingesting nutrients that aid in its flower production.
The plant doesn’t just rely on the root system in this stage but will also focus on drawing stored nutrients from the plant’s leaves. They do this to put as much energy into producing enough flowers for a higher chance of reproducing as many seeds as possible.
The plant will start eating itself. This is when you will also start to notice other changes.
Your leaves may start to do one of two things or both. Unlike in the vegetative period, these changes are natural and not cause for concern.
First, they’ll change colour. Or, they’ll curl. Often, both.
As the plant starts to produce flowers, the leaves start to change color. Understanding how they look is to recognize if this change is due to a deficiency or the natural process of the regenerative cycle.
Usually, a deficiency will come along with a form of necrosis or possibly “swelling” of the leaf. The leaves will also look sicklier and droopier, not nearly as perky as they should. The colors won’t be as vibrant, either. An example of a deficiency and a natural fade would be a nitrogen deficiency. You’ll see the leaves start to yellow with the noticeable darkening of the veins.
Though, if it weren’t a deficiency, the leaves may turn a dark green or purple. Some can even come out in variations of reds, oranges, blues, and yellows. They will stay perky and upright, though, as they continue to progress, you may also notice the curling of the leaves.
When the plant is getting closer to the end, the leaves will curl in a specific manner. They will start to “canoe”, as people will say. So, the leaves (especially the larger ones) will start to cup themselves, taking on a canoe shape. This is also a natural process; if they remain perky, it’s not a definitive sign of a deficiency.
Most times, you will notice this in the later stage of the flower cycle but can start near the beginning, depending on the genetics and phenotype. So, why does this happen?
It helps aid in producing chlorophyll when the temperatures start to become cooler. Without this, chlorophyll production can cease, halting the regenerative process altogether. Anthocyanin will come in a range of subcategories from the color spectrum. The curling effect is also done so the plant can store a little more heat as the weather starts to cool down. Think of it as a solar panel heater. The light will reflect off one side of the leaf and then the other. This creates a pocket of heat.
This is the first step to knowing when it is time to harvest your plant.
Pistils are the female part of the plant that collects the pollen. When your plant realizes it is time to start flowering, it will start to shoot out white, down feather-looking strings coming out of the calyces. These are what are known as the pistils.
When they are white, they are at the prime to collect pollen to form the seed. As the plant progresses through the regenerative stage, these pistils will start to turn, most commonly, yellow, then brown. However, some plants are known to have the pistils turn different colors.
The production of new pistils will start to slow down and possibly stop as the plant gets closer to ripening. A rule of thumb is that 70%-80% color change is what is recommended before harvesting.
What About Seedlings?
The pistils will act differently for those who want to seed the plant through pollination. They will die off, and the pistil becomes the stigma of the calyx. You will then notice that the calyxes will start to swell and become firm to the touch. This is how you know that that flowering site has been properly pollinated.
When you pollinate, you want to give that site an extra week or two of bud development to allow those seeds to mature and harden. Most will wait to see some of the calyces start to crack open, showing the seed inside, before they harvest those flower sites.
If you are not pollinating the whole plant but instead are selecting specific sites, you can harvest the flower that isn’t pollinated, leaving the pollinated flowers to finish off those next one or two weeks.
Trichomes will be the final thing you need to look at.
Trichomes are the part of the plant that develops during flowering that looks like sugar sparkling on the plant. With a good magnification (60x zoom at the minimum), they actually look like a tower with a ball on top.
These tiny little plant parts hold the medicine of the plant.
Earlier in the regenerative cycle, these trichomes will develop on the tiny leaves that sprout out of the flower sites. As the flower starts to fatten up, more trichomes will also start to develop on the calyces. These trichomes will start out clear and don’t hold much of the THC or CBD yet. They still have a way to go from that point.
But, as they age, you will notice a change in their transparency.
The Change in Colors
They will start to become cloudy. That’s when the trichome is at its highest potency.
For this reason, people will wait until there is 70% or greater cloudy trichomes, with anywhere from 10%-30% amber ones. The lower the percentage, the more of a “head high” you will have. Depending on the cultivar, trichomes may not turn amber at all.
Not all trichomes will turn amber. As a matter of fact, some can turn red, blue, purple, or even shades of red and pink.
Though this isn’t a common occurrence, this can happen. If you see this, do not be alarmed. It is still a natural process. It just means that you won’t be looking for amber trichomes but the color that the trichomes are turning.
The only color you don’t want to see is black. This means that the trichome has expired, and the flowers have over-ripened to the point of extreme degradation. This means that it is imperative that you keep an eye on your trichomes and harvest when you are within the “ripe” window, so you can get the most out of your flower.
Know When to Harvest Your Weed – A Conclusion
When it comes to knowing when to harvest your cannabis plant, there are a few things you want to keep your eyes on as the plant progresses.
It’s not always a definitive time, so you must look at the progression of the plant to know when you are in the window to harvest. Look at the plant when you flip into the flowering stage, and make sure you observe that natural stretch.
Then keep an eye on the leaves as the plant prepares the bud sites to produce flowers.
As the flowers continue to grow, look at the pistils, so you have an idea of when to start looking at the trichomes.
Then, keep vigilant on watching those trichomes and harvest when you think is right.
Ultimately, it is up to you when you harvest, so try out different harvest times. The harvest window tends to stay open for a good while. So, don’t be afraid to experiment; as always, stay lifted.