Harvesting Cannabis plants can be one of the most exciting times as a beginner grower, watching all your hard work pay off. You have done everything right in terms of nutrients, flushing and as far as you are concerned, the plants look ready, however understanding when is the right time for harvesting Cannabis plants and drying them, will be a major advantage when achieving the best results. In this article, we explain the window to harvest your plants and what to consider.
When is the best time for harvesting Cannabis plants?
For many first time growers, using the flowering time provided by the seed bank will generally be their only guide when it comes to harvesting Cannabis plants. Others may go off the ratio of brown hairs and decide to pull the room when all the hairs have become mainly brown. There should be a combination of factors to check against before even considering the final chop as covered below.
6 signs to look out for when harvesting Cannabis plants
Once you become aware of the many different aspects of harvesting Cannabis plants, you will be much better off at determining the perfect moment. As indoor growers, we want to produce the biggest buds possible and ensure the most terpene rich buds. Below are 6 different variables that should be considered when harvesting your plants.
1. Trichome maturity
If all the essential oils, cannabinoids and terpenes reside within the trichomes head, then it is extremely important that the trichomes are mature enough. The best way to identify if the trichomes are close to maturity is to use a microscope and examine the resin glands. There will be three stages of trichome development that a beginner grower should be vigilant of. The more amber and darker the trichome head will indicate a more narcotic effect, compared to a clear or milky development.
* The trichomes will be small sized with a clear appearance and see through.
* There will be a silver, cloudy or milky color inside the trichome head.
* Amber and red trichome heads will appear as a sign of final development.
2. Calyx development
The calyx is what makes up the bud and should only be harvested when they are swollen and compact. Different strains will produce a different looking bud structure, color and amount of resin, however each will reveal a point of maturity and will have a hard to squeeze characteristic and in some cases, can stack up and foxtail. Harvesting Cannabis plants that are not fully swollen will result in a loss of final dry weight, resin production and ultimately affect the taste and aroma when dry.
3. Aroma and terpene production
How aromatic your plants are can be a direct result of the terpene production, trichome maturity and development of the essential oils and plant esters. If your plants smell incredible and fill the room with a powerful stench each time you shake a branch, then there is a good chance the plants are fully mature in the terpene department.
If you find the terpenes are not fully there and don't possess that head turning aroma you are used to, then simply wait a week more and allow the terpenes and trichomes to mature slightly longer.
4. The Flush
Feeding your plants only plain water for the final 14 days is an essential part of pushing the plants over the finishing line, whilst allowing any undissolved salts that may have built up over time to wash away.
A proper flush will take a full two weeks, and during that time the plants will begin to fade in color, as a result, you will notice a rainbow selection of colors. This is often a great indicator the plants have used up all their internal nutrients and may now consider harvesting the Cannabis plants.
5. Pistil color
In the old days, many growers would go off the ratio of brown hairs to white hairs, as a sign of when to harvest. Nowadays, there are many more checks to perform and to be honest, the ratio of brown hairs is not the best way to know when is the right time for harvesting Cannabis plants.
6. Different phenotypes
This simply refers to the different traits that your plants may produce. A phenotype of one plant may express itself in multiple ways from yield, bud structure, resin production and flowering time. As a beginner grower, working with various phenotypes of the same plant may leave you wondering when the window is to harvest.
It can be an inconvenience when you need all the plants to come down at the same time for the sake of drying in the tent afterward, so working with different phenotypes can be challenging, but allowing plants to fully mature is always best.
Mistakes to avoid when harvesting Cannabis plants
Sometimes learning the hard way can be an expensive lesson, especially as an indoor grower during the current energy crisis and high cost of living. If you are overzealous, or simply are adapting to an emergency situation, below are some mistakes to avoid when it comes to harvesting Cannabis plants.
Chopping early - This can be done out of inexperience or the need to move the harvest date forward, so you have something to smoke sooner. Harvesting Cannabis plants early will result in a lack of terpenes and causing the final smoking experience to be lacking.
Avoid the flush - Another mistake to avoid that will only diminish the smoking experience when with friends, and will cause the flowers to taste harsh and burn with a charcoal black ash. Flushing is very important and will result in a smooth, flavor filled and soft burning flower.
Drying room - A drying room that is smell proof and maintains a consistent setting is essential after harvesting Cannabis plants. It is during this time that your buds will reduce in moisture and size, and kill the chlorophyll smell associated with freshly cut buds. 14 days of drying time at 50% humidity between 15-18 degrees Celsius will produce the best results.
Harvesting Cannabis plants comes down to much more than just the flowering time provided by a seed bank. There are many variables that should all align, allowing your plants to reach full maturity. Be vigilant and do daily checks during the final week of the harvest date, checking for mold also, and you will be much closer to cup winning quality!