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When Should You Harvest Your Marijuana Plants?

A woman inspecting a marijuana plant with a pair of scissors.

Growing cannabis can be a fun and exciting process, and regardless if you are a novice or long-time grower, you may be eager to reap the fruits of your labour, but patience is going to pay off big time when it comes to harvesting your crop. There are some tips and important insights that will help you ensure you get the maximum yield from your grow and help you determine exactly when you should harvest your marijuana plants.

The first thing to be said about timing your harvest is that indoor vs outdoor growing is the largest variant in determining harvest time. If you are growing outdoors, similar to many crops, you will likely harvest in the fall. But if you are unsure of the ideal harvest time, check with growers and growing resources in your area to better understand the subtleties of your climate in order to reach your growing potential. 

Indoor grows are much more consistent and ideal for many growers who have both larger and also for micro growing operations. With indoor growing, you can create artificial conditions that will allow you to grow basically as many plants as you want, as often as you want, and continuously be harvesting if you have the space and materials to do so. As you can control lighting, feeding, watering, and humidity conditions, your plants will behave as you guide them.

The kind of weed you grow will be a big determining factor in how long you wait from planting to harvesting. The average grow time to reach maturity is about 9-12 weeks, though some plants, like OG Kush for example, can be ready sooner, whereas others, like many Sativa strains, will take slightly longer to be fully grown. 

You can usually tell your plants are nearing the harvesting phase if you have yellowing fan leaves that start to curl or fall off. This is around the time that you may want to tie up your plants if the secondary stalks are heavy from the growing buds. Taking steps like tying up stalks, or tying down primary stalks to promote the growth of the secondary stalks, will also help you optimize your growth especially in a smaller operation or space.

If you’ve noticed yellowing and falling off leaves, and heavy, tighter buds, your plants may be almost ready to cut. With Indica plants, you will have bushy, short plants, but with Sativa, they should be quite tall and lean, though again, buds may be heavy and cause stalks to droop.

But don’t harvest yet – if your trichomes (the little white dots that are commonly known to indicate high THC content) are still more clear than milky, your buds may not be quite ready to cut. 

The best way to determine if your trichomes are milky, is to start by monitoring them as you suspect they are getting close. At this stage you will likely be checking on your plants every few days or so, and so you can start to add checking buds and trichomes as part of your care routine.

As your trichomes get milky white, the stigmas or “hairs” will turn a brownish orange. The ideal time to harvest is when you see lots of the milky white trichomes, and some amber hairs. Buds will also give you some indication as they will be tighter and more firm than in earlier phases.

These developments can be difficult to see with the naked eye, so using a magnifying glass, or even the zoom function on your smartphone, can help you determine just how far along your plants are. You may even want to take some photos to compare how they are coming along, or for reference as you continue to grow your cannabis cultivation practice. 

You may also want to look up the specific strain you’ve planted, to see what a mature plant looks like. These visual factors are one of the best ways for you to determine when to harvest.

It is unfortunately also possible to wait too long to harvest, so you want to be vigilant in your timing process. If much of the plant is looking brown and amber instead of milky white with some dark hairs, you may have waited too long to harvest your plant. The THC will start to degrade if you wait this long, and the plant will not produce the same effects even if dried and cured. Additionally, it may simply not taste very good. 

Depending on what you are going to use your plants for, harvesting late may be preferable to harvesting early. Some believe that harvesting late means more time for the nutrient properties to develop in the plant, so if you are not looking to use the plants for smoking, you may be alright to wait a bit longer. 

At the end of the day, there is an ideal time to harvest, but it is up to you as the grower to determine how your plants look, and what you’re going to use them for. If you are aiming to gain the maximum THC benefit from your plants, make sure to harvest when the buds are at their milkiest. 

It is just as important to be patient during the drying phase. If you are juicing your cannabis, you can use the fresh plant, and it is actually recommended to use the freshest plants possible for that process. But for most other uses, you want to dry your plants properly. 

Similar to your growing process, make sure you are paying attention to the humidity and air flow of your drying space, keeping humidity around 50%. Once you have dried your buds for 5-7 days, you can trim and store your plants for up to 2 years. 

As you will likely understand from the process of growing cannabis, humidity plays an important role in the growing, and storing, of cannabis. So storing your cannabis in air tight containers will help you keep the bud as fresh as possible for the time of use and storage. 

Now that you have been patient, and attentive to your marijuana plants, you will have the best possible harvest, and have plenty of product to sell if you are licensed to do so, or enjoy for yourself for months, or even for years to come.

Mac Jackman