Cannabis legalization in Canada has engendered many Canadians to try their hand at home-grow cannabis. The whole process takes about 7 steps, ranging germination to flowering. Unlike vegetables and fruits, knowing exactly when to harvest weed can be a difficult process. After all, there isn’t any fruit or vegetable to look at to determine the ripeness!
For more fortunate home growers, scientific equipment to perform chemical analyses help determine the proper harvest time are available, but these tend to be prohibitively expensive and inaccessible for most.
Instead, we’re going to show you how to know when to harvest weed and the optimal harvest through just your senses alone.
Why Harvesting Weed At The Right Time Matters
You’re growing your own weed at home, but that doesn’t mean it can’t reach dispensary-level quality. The chemical, cannabinoid and flavour profile of cannabis plants vary throughout the entire plant’s growing cycle. If you harvest at an inopportune time, you might end up with foul-tasting flower that won’t even be psychoactive.
If you’re going through the trouble of sourcing the soil, lighting and fans to grow your own weed at home, why settle for an inferior product?
Before we get into the specifics of harvesting weed, let’s dive a bit into cannabis plant anatomy for a better understanding of how timing plays a crucial role in the overall quality and yield of your harvest.
Trimming Cannabis – Before or After Harvest?
Cannabis plants have 2 types of leaves – fan leaves and sugar leaves. The largest of the pair are known as fan leaves and are responsible for providing energy to the plant through photosynthesis and are not psychoactive. Sugar leaves are smaller and closer to the bud and tend to contain a minute amount of THC.
Whether you decide to trim before or after harvest can impact the quality of your buds.
There are 2 schools of thought – wet trimming and dry trimming.
A wet trim is performed by removing the cannabis plant’s fan and sugar leaves 1 to 2 days before the harvest. This helps to minimize mold and is ideal if the humidity in your area is above 60%. This also makes your overall harvest time quicker since there is less post-processing.
A dry trim is performed by removing only the fan leaves 1 to 2 days before harvest and removing the sugar leaves during the trimming phase, after the weed has already been harvested. This tends to take a longer time, but makes for a denser bud.
The trimming method you’ll use is dependent on the environment of your growing operation, but it’s ultimately up to your senses to figure out when the right time to harvest weed is.
4 Ways to Determine When to Harvest Weed
Although scientific analysis and lab equipment will undoubtedly determine the optimal time for harvesting cannabis, not all of us have access to the capital nor time to procure and learn how to use these tools.
Instead, we’ll be following the same techniques that cannabis cultivators have been using for hundreds of years long before the advent of industrial and scientific equipment. Here are 4 ways to tell when your weed is ready to be harvested.
Instead, we’ll take a pragmatic approach by relying on our five senses that emphasize: stigma color, trichome color, the firmness of your plants and its smell to determine ideal harvesting times. Here are the 4 factors that let you know when your bud is ready for harvest.
You’re growing your own cannabis so chances are, you know what quality weed smells like. The more pungent it is, the riper it is for harvest. You want to look for an aromatic fragrance that matches the terpene profile of the strain that you’re cultivating. For example, if you’re growing a batch of Northern Lights, you’ll want to look for strong scents of pungent Earth and Pine.
Nugs that are ready for harvest will be dense and firm to the touch. Give your bud a light squeeze between your index finger and thumb and see if there’s some springiness to the touch. If it bounces back with a bit of resistance, they’re most likely ready for harvest. If you can squeeze them all the way, give your nugs a bit more time to ripen before cutting them loose.
Colour of the Stigmas
Stigmas are the long hairs that appear on the surface of your bud. When your cannabis is flowering, these stigmas are white. As the bud ripens, these stigmas will transform into shades of brown, red or orange depending on the strain and/or phenotype of the cannabis that you’re cultivating. When these stigmas are no longer white, it’s a sign that the buds are ripe for harvest.
Colour of the Trichomes
Colloquially known as “kief,” the trichomes are the fine bumps and crystals on the surface of the bud that eventually transition into “kief” as the plant matures, ripens and dries. When cannabis is still in its flowering stage, these trichomes will remain clear. When they begin to ripen, the colour will transition into shades of amber or become cloudy.
When To Harvest Weed – Concluding Thoughts
Keep in mind that these 4 techniques can not be used in isolation from one another. Your cannabis bud must meet all 4 of these criteria adequately before you can harvest your bud for consumption.
While relying only on your senses to harvest cannabis may seem a bit uncouth; experience and time will prove that this is one of the best techniques to determine cannabis ripeness. You may have trouble finding out the perfect harvest time for your buds the first go-around, but by the second and third, you’ll be a cannabis connoisseur.