Every rookie grower makes the cardinal mistake of harvesting the crop before it’s ready. Read this article to learn about the best time to harvest your cannabis.
Harvesting your crop prematurely can be a waste of time and energy, and ruin a potentially heady harvest. Harvesting at just the right point ensures optimum flavor and potency.
Experienced growers know exactly what to look for when checking to see if their crop is ready. In this article, you’ll learn what to check for, how to check for it, and when to check it to see if your crop is ready for harvest, or if you should continue to wait patiently.
As marijuana buds mature, there is a point when they reach maximum potency and will produce the most psychoactive effect. When buds mature past this point, cannabinoid content and potency changes, altering the flowers effects from “high” to more of a stoned and sedated feeling, otherwise known as “couch-lock”.
Today we’re going to cover two methods used by cannabis cultivation pros to check for flower maturity. Let’s take a look at the first method.
The Pistil Method
Pistils are the hairlike structures extending from flowers when they begin to grow. Sometimes they are colorful, but for most strains they are white. As flower calyxes, or buds, mature, these pistils typically darken to a red-orange color and curl into the bud.
If the majority of a cola, or plant’s flowers, have an overall appearance of white pistils, you know your buds still have some maturing to do before they ready to harvest. Remember, there’s always new growth occurring, so different parts of the plant will be maturing at different rates.
As the flowers mature, you’ll see pistils begin to darken and curl or shrink into the bud. This signifies that the calyxes are maturing. Depending on how long you allow the ripening process to occur, the crop will have more or less potency. If you let your crop mature for too long, its potency can actually drop and the sedative effects may increase.
Use these tips to help guide you when using the pistil method to check for maturity.
- Harvesting when 60-70% of pistils have darkened produces the highest THC content in flowers.
- Harvesting when 70-90% of pistils have darkened produces more sedative, calming effects and lower THC levels
The Trichome Method
Trichomes are the resin glands produced on the calyxes of marijuana flowers. They synthesize cannabinoids and terpenes and are the reason that marijuana appears to be covered in crystalline resin and is also why it’s so sticky.
You’ll need either a
- Jeweler’s loupe – Kind of a low-tech way to check on trichomes, but gets the job done.
- Handheld magnifying glass – Efficient and easy way to check for ripe buds.
- Digital microscope – Most home growers aren’t using these, but if you’re looking for consistent potency and quality, this is your best bet.
Once you feel like your bud might be ready, start checking your trichomes with one of the magnifying devices listed above. If they’re clear than your bud isn’t mature. It will have low levels of THC and hasn’t gained sufficient potency. At this point, it’s not ready for harvest. It still has some growing to do.
Some Clean, Some Cloudy Trichomes
Start by checking the appearance of your trichomes. Do they look clear or translucent, or do they appear slightly milky and cloudy? As weed ripens, the trichomes begin to saturate with cannabinoids and terpenes.
Marijuana harvested when less than half of trichomes appear at least milky or cloudy will typically produce more of an energetic or stimulating high. This is likely due to the cannabinoid content ratio of THC to the other cannabinoids like CBD and CBN.
At this stage, it’s ok to harvest. However, when only half of the pistils have darkened, the flowers won’t be fully developed and the strain probably hasn’t reached its full potential yet.
Mostly Cloudy Trichomes
At this point more than half of the pistils will be darkened and about 70% of trichomes will appear cloudy, or saturated with cannabinoids. Marijuana harvested now will typically give you the most psychoactive, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory effects provided by THC and other cannabinoid compounds.
After more than 75% of the pistils have darkened, milky and cloudy trichomes will begin to turn amber, which means that they are over-ripening.
At this point, your flowers will begin to exhibit more of a sedative effect. The more amber trichomes there are on your crop, the more couch-lock effect it will have.
For some growers, this is what they’re after, but generally speaking, it’s better to harvest when just some trichomes have turned amber. This will give your bud a more psychoactive high effect, as opposed to a sedating narcotic experience.
Each strain has its own particular flowering period and will exhibit different characteristics into maturity. Some flowers will have pistils and trichomes that mature at different rates — usually around three to four months — so it’s best to be checking both along the way.
Pistils are a great indicator of maturity, but in our opinion, checking trichomes is the best method of checking for potency and ripeness in your cannabis crop.
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Aaron Matthew is a cannabis writer, digital nomad, independent musician, and now a regular contributor to Growbay.com.