Okay, so it’s time to harvest your cannabis plants. First off, congrats on making it this far—especially if you’re a beginner. You’ve obviously read up and studied all my guides at the Homegrown Cannabis Co; you should pat yourself on the back for a job well done. If you need a refresher on growing in general, check out our last piece.
This quick guide will show you when to harvest your plants, how to harvest and what to do with your plants once you’ve cut them down.
Too many growers miss the optimum harvest time because they don’t know how to read the plants, while others can easily make a mess of the drying process.
This won’t happen to you!
I’ll show you step by step exactly what to do and when. You’ll soon be showing other people how to harvest like an expert.
Cannabis plants have special ways of communicating with growers, with YOU. They let you know when they’re well-fed and happy, and when they’re under-nourished or suffering at the roots. They also let you know when they’re ready for harvest.
I will show you how to spot these signs to ensure you harvest at the right time. If you harvest too late, the terps and cannabinoids start to degrade. Harvest too early and the plants won’t have reached their full potential—meaning weaker, tasteless buds.
You also need to dry them properly. Without optimum drying conditions, they might dry too fast (buds like sawdust) or too slow (buds full of mold).
There’s lots to learn.
Now that I have your full attention—let the lesson begin!
The first thing to consider is the flowering time provided by the breeder. Note the date you flipped the plant into flower and, if it has an 8 – 10 week flowering time, you should start to see the following signs around the 7 – 8 week mark.
One good sign is the pistils turning red; once this happens, you’re close! But it’s not enough to check the pistils alone, you need to mike the triches.
Miking the triches is simple: you look at the trichomes under a microscope, or, more commonly, a jeweler’s loupe.
For the majority of flowering, the trichomes (tiny, mushroom-shaped growths on the leaves and buds) will be clear—glittering like little crystals.
Around a week out from optimum harvest time, the trichomes will turn cloudy or opaque. This is when you get your drying preparation started.
Over the next few days, a percentage of the trichomes will start turning amber and brown. Once this percentage is up to 5 – 10%, it’s time to take down the plants.
So, now you know what’s coming, how do you prepare for it? What do you need to do during the last few weeks of flowering?
From around five or six weeks into flowering, take these steps.
- Week five / six: no more nitrogen.
- 3 weeks before harvest: no more micronutes, reduce phosphorous by 50%.
- 2 weeks before harvest: flush – feed only enzymes and water.
- 1 week before harvest: feed only water.
- 1 – 2 days before harvest: stop watering (but don’t allow your plants to completely dry or wilt).
You also need to prepare your drying space. This could be a separate room or closet, or even the tent you used to grow the plants (if indoor). It needs to be dark, 68 – 70°F, with a relative humidity of 50 to 60%.
You can achieve these conditions using fans, dehumidifiers etc, but try to do this as passively as possible. Don’t point anything directly at the plants. You want to affect the environment rather than the plants themselves.
My preferred method is to cut the plants down whole, close to the base. Why? Chopping them into smaller pieces often leads to them drying too fast. You want them to dry nice and slow, retaining that little bit of moisture needed for the perfect cure.
Hang them on drying lines and let them lightly touch each other; they’ll soon shrink as they dry. If you’ve set up the room just right, they’ll take 7 – 10 days to dry perfectly, 2 weeks at the most.
Note: If you’re an outdoor grower with huge, 10 foot plants, you might want to cut them up a little before you hang them. Cut them down an hour or so before sunrise, when their terpenes and cannabinoids are at their peak.
Once they’ve been hanging close to a week, you should start regularly checking them. Here’s a few simple ways to tell your plants are dry enough to be cured.
- Bud test. Squeeze the buds. They should be dry but with a little springiness left.
- Snap test. Try breaking a branch. It should snap with a satisfying crack, rather than bend and squash.
- Smoke test. Grind a little into a joint and light it. If it stays lit, it’s probably ready.
Now everything is properly dried, you need to buck, trim and cure your buds—this will guarantee the best quality cannabis possible. Maximum flavor and effect, maximum smokability.
Knowing when to harvest is all about paying attention to your plants, learning their language and responding to their needs. Skills that underpin all aspects of being a successful cannabis cultivator.
Once you’ve mastered harvesting, it’s time to master the cure.
You can check out my curing guide at the Homegrown Cannabis Co, along with hundreds of other helpful blogs and videos.
Master your craft. Be the best grower you can be. Give it your all.
Your plants deserve it!