How To Harvest Weed: A Complete Guide To Harvesting Marijuana

A marijuana plant ready for harvest

You’ve spent months nurturing your plants from seedling to fully matured bush. The buds are looking beautiful and fat, and you can’t wait to sample the fruits of your labor. The time has finally come to begin thinking about harvesting your crop. Knowing when the right time to harvest marijuana is critical in the outcome of the quality of the final product. Harvesting too early will reduce the THC potency of your buds, and harvesting too late will reduce its THC and give the bud a stronger, heavier stoned effect.  


In this article, we will be giving you the information you need to make sure you harvest your cannabis plant at exactly the right time, for you to achieve the perfect buds. So here is everything you need to know about how to harvest weed.

First of all, it is important to know when your plant has completed its flowering period.


First of all, it is important to know when your plant has completed its flowering period.

A rough guide to flowering time completion is as follows:


  • Indica: harvest after 8 weeks of flowering

  • Sativa: harvest after 10 weeks of flowering

  • Autoflowers: 10 weeks from seedling to bud


These are however not conclusive flowering times and will differ depending on the strain you are growing. So the most effective way to tell when to harvest your cannabis plant is to assess how the plant looks


Check the Trichomes

Close up of marijuana trichomes

Seen by most growers as the most effective technique for checking when your cannabis plant is ready to harvest is to inspect its trichomes. Trichomes are tiny, glandular, growths on the buds and leaves of your plant. They often have stalks and bulbous heads, looking similar to a mushroom. Some trichomes are known as resin glands, these are the crystally, frosty-looking things you see on your bud/leaves. These trichomes are also what make weed stickier.


The trichomes you are looking for in order to harvest are the ones that look like little mushrooms. This is where the bud’s THC and other good stuff are located, so knowing when these trichomes are at their highest THC potency is crucial to choosing the right harvest time.


As these trichomes are so small, and you need to get a close-up look at them, for this you will need to use a digital microscope or jeweler’s loupe.

Take a close look at the trichomes with your digital microscope/jeweler’s loupe. Clear colorless trichomes indicate your bud is not quite ready yet. For the most potent buds, giving you a heady energetic high, harvest when most of the trichomes are cloudy/milky. Waiting longer will mean the trichomes will turn amber in color. Harvesting when a majority of trichomes have changed to amber will give you more of a stoned, relaxed, body high.


Of course, whether you choose to harvest when trichomes are mostly cloudy/milky or prefer to wait until a majority are amber in color is completely up to you. This decision will all come down to personal preference and what type of effect you are looking for from your buds.


Checking the Color of the Pistils

Another method used to determine the ideal time for harvesting marijuana is to check the coloring of the plant’s pistils. Pistils are the little hairs that sprout from the buds of your plant. These hairs will be white and stick straight out of the bud during the flowering process. The more they darken and curl, the closer it is to harvest time. Depending on what kind of effect you want from your buds you should look out for the following ratio of orange/brown pistils on your bud.


  • 0-50% of the pistils have darkened in color and curled up. This is a sign that the buds are not ready to harvest yet.

  • 60-70% of pistils have darkened in color and curled up. Your plant is ready to harvest and its THC levels should be at their most potent

  • 70-90% of the pistils have darkened. Harvesting your plant now will give your buds less THC and more CBN creating a more calming, sleepy effect.


Other Ways to Determine Cannabis Harvest Time

Yellowing leaves

Seeing yellow fan leaves on your cannabis plant is usually a sign of some nutrient deficiency. However, it is perfectly normal to see this as your plant is nearing harvest time. As your plant begins to focus as much of its energy on the flowers as possible it will start to discard its leaves. This results in the yellowing of leaves, with some even dropping off the plant altogether.


Strain Information

When Choosing your strain you will have been supplied with the information about how long the flowering time should last, this will give you a good gauge of when it will be complete. However this will not be completely accurate, so use this information in conjunction with more effective methods such as checking the trichomes and pistils.


Flushing Your Marijuana Plant

Flushing is a process used just before harvesting your cannabis plant. The idea of flushing is to force the plant to use up the store of nourishment in its buds, and as a result, the buds will be cleaner and therefore a smoother smoke.


To flush your cannabis plant means that you will stop using any nutrients to feed the plant, and instead give it fresh PH balanced water. It is important to remember that you will still need to water your plants as regularly as you were before the flush.


It is recommended that you begin flushing your cannabis plant 1-2 weeks before harvest. This can differ depending on the growing medium you are using. 1-2 weeks is ideal for soil grows, while those growing in coco coir can flush for around 1 week before harvest, with hydro, grows needing a 5-day flush.


Not all growers believe that flushing is necessary, stating that it makes no discernible difference to the overall taste and quality of the final product. And in truth, there is no concrete evidence to support the necessity of flushing a plant before harvest. In most circumstances properly curing your harvested buds can achieve the cleanest and smoothest finish to your product. However, as with a lot of aspects of growing marijuana, people have their own opinions and methods, of which flushing the plant is one of them.


Cutting and Trimming Your Plant

Person trimming cannabis plant

You’ve inspected your plant’s trichomes and pistils and decided it’s time to finally begin cutting and trimming your plant.

The equipment you will need to do this is:

  • Sharp scissors for trimming the buds

  • Stronger scissors or gardening shears for cutting branches

  • Disposable rubber gloves to stop your hands from getting overly sticky and dirty

  • Containers or trays to place your trimmed buds and trimmings in


Once you have all your equipment ready, you are good to go.

  • The first step is to use your strong scissors or gardening shears to cut off a branch from your plant. Cut the branch to a length that is easily manageable to handle.


  • Next, pull away all the big fan leaves from your bud. You can use your hands to do this as they will come away easily. Put these leaves to one side for later.


  • Now it’s time to trim the small sugar leaves surrounding the bud. You will be able to see the leaf tips but not the stems. So using your small scissors closely trim these leaves making sure you are not taking away any of the buds.


  • You will be left with a branch of nicely trimmed bud on it. Leave the bud on the branch as it will be easier to hang during the drying process. Now repeat these steps with every branch and bud until you have trimmed your entire crop.


This process can take a while, but it’s worth it to have nice-looking, neat buds.

A top tip is to trim the buds over a container so that you can catch all the trimmed leaves in, these can be used to make hash later on.


Other than finally sampling your final product, harvesting marijuana is the most exciting stage of your grow. It brings an end to the months of diligent care and attention to your plant. However, knowing when to harvest your plant for the desired effects you want is crucial. With the information supplied here, you should now be well-informed about how to make sure you time your harvest perfectly.


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