You’ve spent the past many weeks growing your plants; worrying about them, seeing them flower into adulthood and waiting for the teeny little hairs to go red and brown. The moment has finally arrived. Or has it? You could ruin everything by getting scissor happy a few days early (or a few days late).
Many websites were low on pictures and harvesting is one process where pictures seem critical. One site, growweedeasy.com, actually provides multiple pictures of not-ready-for-harvest and ready-to-harvest plants. This grower also put a lot of thought into dealing with all those issues that can go wrong along the way; power outages/equipment breakages, keeping cats and dogs away from your plants (they will eat them), and what color you want your trichomes to be for a specific effect. You can harvest the same plant at different times in the trichome maturation process to get different results.
Here are some general rules about harvesting marijuana based on trichomes and the color of the hairs/pistils. If you follow these rules, you’ll know how to harvest weed perfectly every time!
- If white “hairs” are almost all sticking straight out and trichomes are all still translucent (clear) then your plant is too young and not ready for harvest. Harvesting now will result in low yield and non-potent harvests.
- The beginning of the harvest window opens when your plant has mostly stopped growing new white “hairs” or pistils and at least 40% of the white hairs have darkened and curled in.
- Highest level of THC is when many/most of the trichomes have turned milky white/cloudy (when viewed under a magnifier). Trichomes that are milky have the highest levels of THC are “ready to harvest” and contribute to more euphoric and psychoactive effects. At this point 50-70% of the pistils have darkened.
- Some Sativa & Haze strains have trichomes that never really turn amber. If they’ve turned mostly white and don’t seem to be progressing further, it may be time to harvest!
- The most “couchlock” or sedating effect happens towards the end of the harvest window, when the trichomes have become a darker color (usually amber/gold). The best results from amber trichomes come from Indica strains. The amber/yellow trichomes contribute to a ‘body high’. Some of the THC has converted into less psychoactive CBN, which has calming and anti-anxiety effects. With some strains, the trichomes will even turn red or purple! I like to harvest around when 20% have turned amber. At this point 70-90% of the pistils have darkened. Harvesting later will increase the sedating effects but may also start reducing the psychoactive effects.
- When trichomes start looking grey or withered, the harvest window has passed, and buds will make you sleepy without many psychoactive effects. Usually it takes several weeks (4 or more) from the beginning of the harvest window for this to happen. It’s much easier to harvest too early than too late!
Want more of an ‘in-your-head’ effect? Harvest your buds earlier, when only 40% of hairs have darkened and curled in and more than half of the trichomes are part clear/ part milky or mostly cloudy/milky.
For the “strongest” marijuana buds with the most psychoactive effects, and the highest levels of THC, harvest when almost all trichomes are cloudy/milky.
For more relaxing, anti-anxiety buds, wait until at least some of the milky / cloudy trichomes have darkened to amber. More amber = more relaxing, though the effects may be somewhat less psychoactive. Remember, curing your buds properly for at least 2 weeks to a month will also give them more of an anti-anxiety effect.
When growing your own marijuana plants, you can certainly sample buds off your plant at different stages to get an idea for what your preferences are. It’s okay to cut off pieces at a time!
A book recommended again and again is “Marijuana Horticulture: The Indoor/Outdoor Medical Grower’s Bible,” by Jorge Cervantes and if you have low funds, there are many free downloads online.