Knowing when cannabis is ready to harvest is equally important as to how you grow it. This is the crowning moment of all your homegrowing efforts, and it’s important not to screw at the end.
Knowing the basic chemistry in the process can enable you to take the right steps when the time is right for harvesting. Although, you can figure out the most part through observation.
One of the signs to look for is the coloring of the stigma/stigmata found on the cannabis buds. The stigma looks like hair, and it’s covering the buds. It’s part of the pistil, the reproductive parts of the cannabis flowers. Stigmata change their color continuously during growth and maturation. At first, it should present with having a white color, and later on, the coloring changes from all nuances of yellow to orange to brownish. While this part of the cannabis flower has no particular significance to the weed potency and taste, it holds an important “secret” that can tell you when the right time to perform the cannabis harvest is.
Another vital sign is the color of the trichomes. In fact, this is the most important sign you should keep an eye on. Trichomes are the most accurate indicators when the time for harvest is.
Last but not least, what the breeder has to say on the specific strain that you are growing is also important. However, don’t rely so much on this source of information. Insights obtained from breeders can be beneficial for the gardening process in general, but it may not necessarily specify when precisely the cannabis is ready for harvest.
How to tell when is cannabis ready to harvest?
Now that you know the signs, you need to know how to use them.
To accurately determine that your homegrowing cannabis is ready for yield, it’s good that you use something like a magnifying glass or a small microscope. These tools can help you follow how your plant transforms and when it’s about to reach its peak potency.
When the flowers reach the point of peak potency, you may notice how the trichomes are loosening their milky white color and how they become amber-like. This would be a major indication that the cannabis flower up to that point contains the most THC. The more you wait after this point, the more the flowers lose their THC potency. As THC ages, it eventually triggers a new chemical reaction where it transforms into CBN, a minor cannabinoid that is non-intoxicating in its nature.
CBN does have its own set of qualities, however. It’s used for treating pain, inflammation, or sleep issues. If you harvest your plants after the peak harvest point, and as the THC begins to break, you’re likely to obtain weed that’s going to do exactly that – make you lazy and sleepy.
So, that’s one important note on harvesting and whether you aim to yield weed that’s going to be abundant with THC or not, and it depends on you and your needs how you like your pot.
How to make sure your plants are abundant with THC?
If you are homegrowing, the chances are that you probably aim to harvest cannabis that’s not going to sedate you on the couch. Here’s where you can make use of the stigmata part of the cannabis flower.
There’s a widespread assumption, which still stems from observation, that as soon as approximately 40% of the stigma dry out and obtain a brownish pigment, and while 60% of it is colored white, the plant is mature and ready to harvest.
What you can do is follow how the stigma changes on the flowers. Once you notice that it starts changing its colors, it’s time to start observing the trichomes with a magnifying glass or a handheld microscope, whichever of the tools you have.
Those trichomes that look clear are indicators that the buds are still forming, not ready. Once the trichomes reveal a milky white color, this is a sign the cola has reached full maturity. The indication is that the trichomes on that part of the plant are no longer producing THC.
You should bear in mind that not all buds are going to ripe at the same time. Colas found on the top of your crop are more likely to reach maturity before colas that are located on the bottom of the plant.
Since not all trichomes advance at the same pace, you will notice that while some are yet to turn white-like or translucent, others have already become amber. The amber-like color indicates that the THC is degrading and that the flower is starting to produce CBN. You can assume at this time that your plant has yielded maximum THC possible, and it’s about the time when the cannabis is ready for harvest.
Of course, you can reach such a conclusion if you perform daily observation with your looking glass. Sometimes, a week is enough to make the whole difference.
What to do if some of your colas are not mature yet?
There is a chance that your lower colas will lag behind with maturity, in which case you may want to harvest your plant in two instances. This may actually turn out really well as once you reap the top of the plant, the lower colas will be able to receive a boost of energy and resources so they can fully grow potent with THC.
However, do note that nothing is a fixed rule in the “science” of determining the peak of potency. Each crop is different, and some might require it to be collected earlier or later than the presentation of these general signs. That is also why growers follow different practices; hence, some perform the harvest slightly earlier or slightly later or do it in rounds.
Besides the theory part, or what you just read here, what counts the most is the practical part. Growing cannabis is a continual process of learning. Therefore, the more times you are assigning yourself to grow a certain strain, the more you will hone your skills to grow that particular strain. Then as you move on to plant another type of strain, you may notice it might require a slightly different treatment from your end.
Cannabis plants are approaching their timing for harvest when the stigma begins to darken, and the buds from the cola begin to look more protruded.
When you harvest your cannabis plants just before trichomes start to darken, you’re supposed to get weed with a stronger psychoactive effect.
When you harvest your cannabis plants after the trichomes lose their milky white color and start to obtain amber-like color, you are more likely to get weed that gives the couchlock effect.
It may take a week or two at the most for all of the white trichomes on your plant to become amber-like, thus decomposing most of their THC. If you are like most growers, you will not want to wait until that happens.
Good luck growing and harvesting!