You’ve spent months tending to your weed plants, but how do you know when to harvest cannabis?

The secret to incredible marijuana is timing

If you cut down your plants too early, you’ll always wonder what could have been? Harvest weed too late, and you’ll feel as if you’ve only wasted your time.

We take you through every aspect of this technique, giving you everything you need to make this decision with confidence.

Let’s cut to the chase!

 

Why it’s crucial to harvest cannabis at the right time

Knowing when to harvest cannabis can mean the difference between quality buds or destroyed crops.

Many amateur growers make the mistake of waiting too long before cutting down their marijuana plants. 

The result is usually less than satisfactory, with buds lacking in appeal, potency, and flavor.

Thankfully, there are a few simple steps you can take to ensure you know precisely when to harvest cannabis.

All you need to ensure you get the right timing for your weed crops are the following:

  • A basic understanding of the anatomy of marijuana.
  • A magnifying glass or mobile phone.

 

When to harvest cannabis: Ultimate guide

 

When to harvest cannabis for the highest potency

To know when to harvest marijuana for the highest potency, you need to understand what gives it these psychoactive properties.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is one of many cannabinoids found in weed. It’s recognized as the main reason for the high you experience after consuming pot.

Your plants begin developing THC when they enter their flowering phase. You need to harvest cannabis at the later stages of this period, as the levels peak during this time.

Eventually, THC degrades into cannabinol (CBN), a non-psychoactive chemical with medical applications.

 

How to decide when to harvest marijuana

There are two things you can keep an eye on to figure out when to harvest cannabis. These are:

  • The shape of the buds
  • The color of the trichomes

 

Shape of the buds

The size and shape of your marijuana flowers are good indications of whether they’re ready for harvesting or not.

You can’t decide when to harvest cannabis based on the appearance of the buds alone. The genetics of a plant has a large role to play in how your flowers look. 

Indica cultivars display tightly packed nugs, while sativa types grow buds that are airier and spaced out.

 

Color of the trichomes

The best way to tell when to harvest weed is by looking at the trichomes on each flower. 

If you’re not familiar with the term, trichomes are the tiny hairs that cover each bud like a fluffy blanket.

As your cannabis plants age, the color of these hairs becomes darker or cloudy. 

When the trichomes on your buds become milky or opaque, you can start harvesting marijuana at its most potent level.

 

How to know when cannabis buds are ready to harvest

Expert cultivators rely on two techniques to discern the right time for harvesting cannabis.

Each method offers an important insight into the plant's biological clock. Your best bet to tantalizing buds is using the two together, rather than only picking one.  

 

When to harvest cannabis: Ultimate guide

 

Inspect the buds

Begin inspecting the flowers on your weed plants using your naked eye

You need to pay attention to the color of the stigmas protruding from each bud. These hairs start off transparent, but as they age, they turn a brown or orange hue.

You should start harvesting marijuana when 80% of the stigmas have become dark.

 

Take a closer look with a magnifying glass

The next technique you should carry out is using a magnifying glass to look at the trichomes coating your flowers.

As we’ve mentioned, the color of these microscopic hairs provides a detailed insight into the potency of your buds.

The best time to start harvesting cannabis is when these crystals become milky. An amber color suggests you waited too long to collect your buds.

 

How to check if it’s too early to harvest weed

By using the techniques mentioned above, you can avoid harvesting marijuana early and ruining your hard work.

Here are a few signs that suggest you need to wait longer before grabbing your pruning scissors:

  • Flowers are small and underdeveloped.
  • The stigmas emerging from your buds are crystal clear.
  • Trichomes are translucent when looking through a magnifying glass.

 

What tools do you need to inspect trichomes?

You can use many tools to inspect those sticky trichomes and figure out when to harvest cannabis.

All of the items below offer incredible zoom capabilities and image quality. The only thing separating them is their price and convenience.

 

Jewelers Loupe

If you’re looking for a solid option that you can carry around easily, look no further than a jeweler's Loupe.

This device generally offers magnification up to 10 times, with newer versions going even higher.

It also doesn’t need batteries to operate, allowing you to check on your crops without any setbacks.

 

Digital microscope

Digital microscopes are by far the best tool to determine when to harvest marijuana. They offer magnification up to 100 times, allowing you to view trichomes closer than ever.

Some models even come with a light attached so you can get a clear view of these hairs any time of the day.

The only disadvantage to digital microscopes is their price and the need for a laptop with a USB connection.

 

Smartphone

Mobile phones these days come with incredible cameras and the capability to take clear micro pictures.

While your smartphone can't zoom in as much as the other two devices, you can see enough to make an informed decision.

Plus, you can use the opportunity to take a few pictures of your luscious crops before harvesting cannabis.

 

When to harvest cannabis: Ultimate guide

 

What tools do you need to harvest marijuana?

Harvesting marijuana is one of the most exciting parts of the entire growing process. It's the moment you get to see all your hard work and get an idea of your yield size.

Before you get started, you need a few common items to make the entire process fun and easy.

 

Clean bowl or tray

Grab a clean container large enough to comfortably hold several branches when your marijuana is ready to harvest. If you use the wet trimming method, a tray will suit you better.

Avoid cleaning your container with detergent or chemicals beforehand, as this can damage the taste of your weed. 

 

Scissors

When it comes to picking a pair of scissors for harvesting cannabis, you need to consider a few things.

You want a pair sharp enough to cut through the stems easily and large enough to handle safely. 

Use pruning shears for larger branches, followed by a small pair of scissors to manicure the buds.  

 

Rubbing Alcohol

Harvesting marijuana is a notoriously sticky affair, and the last thing you want is your tools jamming up.

Keep some rubbing alcohol close by, and clean your scissors every few minutes to ensure a clean cut every time.

 

Comfortable place to sit

The most crucial item on your harvesting cannabis list is finding a comfortable place to sit while you’re busy.

Manicuring those gorgeous buds is a slow process, but it doesn’t need to be taxing. Call some friends over and make a day of it.

 

How to harvest cannabis - the wet trimming method

Once you decide your marijuana is ready to harvest, you need to figure out how you plan on trimming your buds.

Wet trimming is your first option and involves cutting away the leaves and branches before drying.

This method is best for growers living in humid climates as the drying process is quicker without leaves present.

 

Step 1 - Flushing 

Knowing when to harvest weed is not a spur-of-the-moment decision. Instead, you need to plan this day two weeks ahead so you can begin the process of flushing cannabis.

This technique involves feeding your plants only water, removing any additional minerals from the soil. By flushing your crops, you enhance the flavor of your weed.

 

Step 2 - Cut large branches

The best way to harvest cannabis efficiently is to cut the thicker branches into sections before removing leaves.

For this step, you’ll need:

  • Pruning shears
  • Bowl or large container

You can then take your pieces and sit down comfortably before trimming the larger fan leaves. 

 

Step 3 - Remove buds

With most of the foliage out of the way, you can remove the dense flowers from the stems.

Don’t worry if there are a few sugar leaves still attached; you can grab a smaller pair of scissors and shape your buds.

 

Step 4 - Allow heads to dry

Finally, take your manicured buds and place them on a drying rack to complete your marijuana harvest.

Don't forget to check in on your weed every day and turn them over to avoid the shape deforming.