Harvesting cannabis plants at the optimal time ensure the highest quality buds and potency. But how do you know? Our guide helps you to have an exceptional harvest. Growing cannabis plants at home won’t be an option until July 2023 — unless you’re… How To Know When To Harvest Cannabis Plants For many people, part of the joy of cannabis lies in the process of growing and harvesting your own plants. Perhaps it’s that DIY spirit of “gettin’
The Grower’s Guide to Knowing How and When to Harvest Your Cannabis
Harvesting cannabis plants at the optimal time ensures the highest quality buds and potency.
With restrictive laws governing cannabis consumption and cultivation loosening across the country, there are many novice cultivators playing farmer for the first time. If you are one of the newbies wondering if now is the optimal time to harvest your cannabis, put the gardening shears down and take a deep breath. The last thing you want to do is improvise in the field and risk losing your precious bounty to beginner’s bad luck.
In this article, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about the end of your beloved pot plant’s life cycle —the harvesting signals you need to look for, the tools you’ll need on hand, and the basic anatomy of the cannabis cultivar.
Cannabis Plant Anatomy
It’s important to know what you’re growing before you begin producing it. With that in mind, this section deconstructs the cannabis plant to demonstrate what you’re looking at and how it factors into your final product.
Cannabis consists of the same basic anatomy of all plants: a seed that produces roots on the bottom and a stem on the top, with the stem growing from the soil and eventually producing leaves, branches, and flowers. Of course, the magic of THC separates the cannabis plant from other shrubs and flowers. Let’s check out the basic anatomy, define the terminology, and examine each segment’s role at harvest time.
The stem keeps the plant upright, supporting its weight while housing the vascular system that ferries nutrients and moisture from roots to leaves. The stem also carries starches and sugars created during photosynthesis around the plant or into storage via the phloem cells, which can be harvested for hemp fibers. The stem contains little to no cannabinoids (THC and CBD).
The gloriously iconic fan leaf has become the universal symbol for marijuana. Shaped like an open hand with multiple parts and separated into three to 13 serrated leaflets, the leaves are removed at harvest. Fan leaves contain only trace amounts of cannabinoids.
This is the stem of the fan leaf, connecting it to the larger branch. Petioles contain more cannabinoids than fan leaves, making them a useful additive for tinctures, extracts, and concentrates when gathered in large quantities.
Stigma and Pistil
As in the anatomy of many plants, the pistil houses the cannabis flower’s reproductive organs, and the stigmas are the vibrant strands found on the pistil. Stigmas collect pollen from the male cannabis plants and change color throughout the maturation process, beginning with a white haze and eventually darkening to yellow, orange, brown, and red. While crucial to the growing process, stigmas and pistils have little impact on potency.
Bract and Calyx
The female cannabis plant’s reproductive parts reside inside the bracts, which are green, tear-shaped leaves. The bract is covered in resin glands that produce higher concentrations of cannabinoids than any other part of the cannabis plant. Tucked inside the bract and hidden from view is the calyx, a translucent layer covering the ovule on the flower’s base.
This is where all the action happens. Tiny, hair-like structures located on the surface of the buds, stalks, stems, and leaves of the cannabis plant, trichomes form a blanket of frosty, crystal resin that oozes the aromatic oils called terpenes, as well as the all-important THC and CBD cannabinoids. Though their practical purpose involves protecting the plant against microbial organisms, aphids, and insects, everything you work for in the field hinges on trichomes and their potent, sugar-like resin.
This refers to the cluster of buds that grow tightly together. The primary cola forms at the very top of the cannabis plant and is sometimes called the “apical bud.” However, many smaller colas will likely be found on the budding sites of the lower branches.
Female vs. Male Cannabis Plants
A quick note: Cannabis plants are dioecious , meaning they can be male or female. The buds that make up your personal stash are the flowers from the female plant. Only the female cannabis plant produces the resin-secreting flowers that deliver the high we want.
When Is The Right Time To Harvest Cannabis
This is it! It’s the beginning of the end for your beloved pot plant’s life cycle. You’ve watched your cannabis survive all of the peaks and valleys of cultivation, and it’s finally the optimal time to harvest your precious bounty. However, now is not the time for rash decisions and improvisation! Here, you’ll learn pro tips for the right time to harvest, how to do it, and the tools of the trade you’ll need to get the job done right.
There are two basic methods to determining if you’ve reached peak harvest time: The pistil method or the trichome method .
The Pistil Method .
As a pot plant approaches maturity from the vegetative stage to the flowering stage, the pistils will stick straight out from the flower’s body in a pure, white coloring. You’ll know your plant is ready to harvest when you witness with the naked eye at least half the pistils change to a darker hue and curl back toward the flower.
The Trichome Method .
For this method, you’ll need either a jeweler’s loupe, a magnifying glass, a digital microscope, or even the camera on your smartphone (which can be incredibly high-powered these days). If the trichomes resemble clear, glass-like mushrooms, you’ll know it’s not quite time to harvest. But when at least 50 percent of the trichomes turn cloudy, it’s finally time to reap what you’ve sowed.
As for a timespan of when to harvest, that depends on the cannabis strain. Different strains boast varying flowering and harvest times. As a general rule of thumb, indicas are ready for harvesting at about eight weeks, while sativas hit harvest time at ten weeks. Meanwhile, autoflowers can take anywhere between seven to 10 weeks.
What do trichomes look like when ready to harvest? Other signs to look for at harvest time include dense soil and leaves that have turned yellow and crisp. When the soil is dense, it means your plant isn’t consuming as much water as usual. And when the leaves begin to yellow and become crispy, it means the plant is ripening and could be ready for harvest. But before you pull any buds, make sure to check the trichomes and pistils in conjunction with checking the soil and leaves.
Growing cannabis at home: A Connecticut guide
Advanced Grow Labs CEO David Lipton, right, stands high in a company’s West Haven Flower Room that was modified to grow more marijuana plants by using rolling bench tables to better utilize the square footage of the room. Tyler McKinley, an AGL production team member, left, opens up the canopy of the cannabis plant so light my penetrate the lower flowering sights of the plant on June 1 2018.
Peter Hvizdak / Hearst Connecticut Media file photo
Editor’s note: This is part seven of a seven-part series on what readers should know about adult-use, or recreational, cannabis in Connecticut.
A s we mentioned in Day 1, growing cannabis plants at home won’t be an option until July 2023 — unless you’re a medical patient who was allowed to get started in October 2021. Either way, the rules are the same.
Let’s take a look, courtesy of Hearst Connecticut state government reporter Julia Bergman.
Medical patients ages 18 and older may grow up to three mature and three immature cannabis plants at home, with a cap of 12 total plants per household. The same rules will apply to all Connecticut adults 21 and older come July 1, 2023.
Plants must be grown indoors at your primary residence and can’t be visible from the street or anywhere people under age 21 can access them.
Where do I get seeds?
You can buy seeds online, but perhaps the simplest way is to get them from someone who is already growing cannabis plants. Under Connecticut’s law, you’re allowed to give away cannabis as a gift.
Seed prices vary depending on the strain and quantity. A quick look online showed prices ranging from $25 to $1,000 depending on the strain.
Which kind of seeds should I get?
Traditional cannabis plants are either male, which produce seed pods, or female, which produce flowers that can be harvested.
If you’re buying regular seeds, you have about a 50/50 chance of them being male or female.
Autoflowering feminized cannabis seeds are often recommended for first-time growers. These seeds produce plants that flower on their own and don’t require any changes in lighting.
Autoflowers also take less time to grow and are compact, which makes them ideal for growing indoors in small spaces.
The downside? They produce fewer flowers and lower THC levels, Connecticut hemp farmer and Wepa Farms CEO/founder Luis Vega said.
What’s the difference between a mature and immature plant?
Mature plants are in the flowering state, which is when they produce THC, the psychoactive ingredient. Immature plants are in the vegetative state — the period of growth between germination and flowering.
Becky Goetsch, owner of Killingworth’s Running Brook Hemp, is applying to become a micro-cultivator of recreational marijuana. She already grows marijuana plants heavy with CBD.
Jordan Fenster / Hearst Connecticut Media Group
What about the lighting?
Plants should get 18 hours of light when they’re in their vegetative state and 12 hours of light when they’re flowering.
Joseph Raymond, founder and president of New England Craft Cannabis Alliance, recommended purchasing LED grow lights, which are more expensive “but definitely worth it,” as bad lighting can ruin the process.
What other equipment do I need?
Raymond and Vega recommend purchasing a specialized tent to keep a controlled environment. Raymond also suggested supplemental CO2.
You’ll need a fan for air circulation. Raymond prefers a peat moss-based soil, or a coconut coir-based soil for hydroponic growing, in which specialized watering systems replace their natural counterparts, sun and rain.
Raymond said growers should water plants one to three days per week. Overwatering and not providing the soil with enough nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphate fertilizers are among the most common mistakes people make, said Kebra Smith-Bolden, a registered nurse and the CEO of Connecticut’s CannaHealth.
How long does cannabis take to grow?
Indoor growing times vary but, on average, from seed to harvest it usually takes about three to four months — but this largely depends on lighting and the equipment used.
Growing autoflowering plants takes 8 to 10 weeks on average.
How much cannabis will I be able to harvest from my plants?
That depends on many factors, including the strain and how long you let your plant grow. Raymond and Vega said on average people should expect to get 2 to 4 ounces of pot per plant.
Thanks for going on this journey with us these past seven days. We’d love to hear your thoughts: Did you learn something new? Is there another related topic we should tackle? Would you be interested in a weekly cannabis newsletter?
Send us an email:
Thanks again for reading.
More from this series
Day 1 – A primer
Day 2 – How might I feel?
Day 3 – A trip to the dispensary
Day 4 – Inside the law
Day 5 – Inside the law, pt. 2
Day 6 – Medical marijuana
To read the latest stories about cannabis in Connecticut, visit ctinsider.com/cannabis.
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An important note: We aren’t lawyers and what’s written above and elsewhere in this series isn’t legal advice — it’s our best interpretation based on analysis of the lengthy law and conversations with experts.
Recreational cannabis is a new area of law in Connecticut. If you have questions, talk to a lawyer.
Julia covers Connecticut politics for Hearst, including how public policy decisions affect the lives of residents here. She previously reported on the military for The Day newspaper in New London. A native of Philadelphia, Julia now calls Connecticut home, but won’t give up her 215 area code.
How To Know When To Harvest Cannabis Plants
For many people, part of the joy of cannabis lies in the process of growing and harvesting your own plants. Perhaps it’s that DIY spirit of “gettin’ high off your own supply” that makes the sessions just that much better. For some, it’s a way to ensure their herbs are always fresh, organic, and grown under environmentally friendly & low-waste conditions. Regardless of your reasons for growing, the harvest season is just about here, and we wanted to take some time to go over one of the most confusing parts of growing for beginners: how to know when to harvest cannabis plants.
How Long Does It Take For Cannabis To Be Ready For Harvesting?
One of the tricky things that make it tough to know when to harvest cannabis is that the growth period can vary significantly by strain. On top of this, factors such as grow method and desired yield effect grow time as well.
Generally speaking, plants growing outside will take the longest of all methods and are dependent on local factors such as how long your natural growing season is. Growing cannabis inside gives you more flexibility over the growth time. However, this usually requires more equipment and attention to grow properly.
In general, cannabis plants require somewhere between 6-16 weeks of growing time before being ready for harvest. Somewhere in the middle, usually, around 9-12 weeks is most common.
How To Know When To Harvest Cannabis
You can keep an eye out for several critical physical changes to clue you in when your plants are ready to harvest.
The Leaves Begin To Yellow
As the cannabis plant approaches harvest time, the plant’s fan leaves will begin to change from a rich green to yellowish-green color.
When the plant is in its flowering stage (the final growth stage before it’s ready to harvest), the leaves are rich with nitrogen. Nitrogen assists the plant with photosynthesis in this phase and gives the leaves their green color.
As this phase reaches completion, the nitrogen levels decrease, and the leaves will begin to yellow. That’s a good sign that you’re getting close to harvest!
The Pistils Begin To Turn Red/ Brown
Pistils are the tiny hair-like structures that you see in your cannabis buds. These are essentially the reproductive organs of female cannabis plants, which will seed when pollinated. Early on in the flowering stage, the pistils are white. As the plant reaches the end of the flowering phase, the pistils will change into a red, brown, or orange color.
This requires a little bit of timing as the ideal time to harvest is when about 50-70% of these pistils have begun to change color. If there is still a significant amount of visible white pistils, it’s too early.
The higher the percentage of pistils that have changed color, the heavier the high will generally be. This is something you can experiment with to dial in your optimal harvest time for your preferences.
Trichomes Begin To Take On Color
Trichomes are the tiny resin glands on your buds that dewy appearance. This is where the cannabinoids and terpenes are produced to give each strain its unique properties. When the plant is still in its flowering stage, these trichomes will appear crystal-like and clear. This means the plant is not ready for harvest and would be minimally potent if you did.
You will know you are ready to harvest when these trichomes begin to turn milky white or amber in color. One issue, however, is that trichomes are incredibly tiny and difficult to see with the naked eye alone. To properly view the trichomes, you will need some kind of magnifying glass.
Trichome color is one of the most reliable indicators to tell you when to harvest your plants (if you have the tools to do it)!
The Leaves Begin To Curl
In addition to yellowing, the fan leaves of a cannabis plant will also begin to curl and dry up as it nears its harvesting time. Similar to how the plants take on more nitrogen when in the flowering stage, they also take in more water here.
As harvest nears, the plant will require less water, and therefore the leaves will begin to take on a more wilted and dried-out appearance.
Bud Shape & Size
If all else fails, one final thing you can check to determine when to harvest is the shape and density of the buds on the plant. Though maybe not as informative as some of the methods above, a plant that is ready for harvest will generally have firm and tight buds.
Signs That It Is Too Early To Harvest
If you want to be sure about where you are in the growth timeline, observing the trichomes is probably the most accurate gauge you have. It is as simple as determining the color of the trichomes, as the more clear trichomes there are, the less potent and ripe the plant is. Trichomes begin to change color as they hit their peak resin production.
To put it another way, the more clear your trichomes are at harvest, the less flavorful, potent, and aromatic the plant will end up being.
Signs That It Is Too Late To Harvest
Observing trichome color can also let you know when it’s too late to harvest the plant. If the majority of the trichomes are amber color, this means the plant is overripe and past its harvest date.
When amber trichomes begin to outnumber milky-white trichomes, the THC within the plant begins to degrade. It will also begin to take on somewhat of an unpleasant taste when smoked, and the overall experience won’t be as good.
The Next Steps
With a little bit of care and attention, it’s relatively easy to nail the timing of your harvest. Of course, once the weed is harvested, it’s not quite ready to smoke just yet! The flower will then need to be dried, trimmed, and cured before it is ready to roll.
Stay tuned for our next blog as we break down everything you need to know about the next steps for your freshly harvested herbs!