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How can you tell when to harvest weed? As the days get shorter and your plants get bigger, you need to prepare to harvest your mature flower buds. But how do you know when they are at their peak freshness? There is a short time window when cannabis flowers should be harvested.
Harvesting too early can produce buds with a weaker potency, flavor, and aroma. Harvesting too late can lead to reduced THC potency and buds that induce sedation. Our cannabis harvesting guide shows you exactly how to get your harvesting timing right.

How Long Does It Take to Grow Cannabis From Seed to Harvest?

How long do you have to wait to harvest after you planted your cannabis seed? It depends on a variety of factors including the strains genetics and growing environment. These elements can determine the rate of flower bud maturation.

In addition, the buds may mature all at once, from top to bottom, or outside the canopy and then within. Generally, buds that have the most exposure to light mature quicker than ones that do not. Some growers harvest buds outside the canopy first and then allow the inner buds to mature for a couple of weeks.

How to Know When to Harvest Weed

harvest time written in black with marijuana leaves, when to harvest weed

Knowing when to harvest weed can make or break your yield. There are a few different ways that you can tell if your marijuana plants are ready to be harvested. While most of the tips below can help you determine the maturity of your plants, the most important thing to look for is trichome color.

1. Trichome Color

Trichomes are the small and bulbous resin glands that primarily grow on flower buds’ bracts but can also be found in lower concentrations on its leaves and stems. When your cannabis plants are ready to be harvested, about half of the trichomes should have a milky white color while the other half should have a vibrant amber color.

Trichomes start off clear and are at their weakest potency. As they gradually mature, they change in color, going from a milky and cloudy white to, eventually, an amber hue. Since these resin glands are difficult to see with the naked eye, you can use a magnifying glass or a jeweler's loupe to get a closer look.

2. Leaf Color

best tips for when to harvest weed

In some cases, especially when the plant has been flushed of its nutrients as it gets close to the harvest, the color of its leaves can transition from vivid green to a dull yellow. Why? Nitrogen gives the leaves their green hue. As the plant’s nitrogen content decreases toward the end of its life cycle, the leaves can begin to turn yellow and fall off.

Worried that the change in color and vigor of your plant’s leaves are a sign of poor health? Check out our blog resource: Evaluating cannabis leaves for health problems.

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3. Curling Leaves

Similar to a change in leaf color, its leaves may begin to curl at its tips toward the end of its life. Don’t worry. This is normal. Since the plants may not be getting as much water as they were during the flowering period, the leaves may begin to dry off and wither away.

4. Pistil Color

In photoperiod marijuana plants, their pistils, their female sex organs that look like small hairs, can begin to change in color to a brown, orange, or reddish hue. Keep in mind, this method is not the most effective for determining your flower buds’ ripeness.

When to Harvest Weed – What If It's Too Early?

As mentioned above, it all depends on the color of your plant’s trichomes. If most of them are still clear, then it is way too early to harvest them. At this point, their cannabinoid and terpene production is just getting started. While you may harvest your buds at this point, they will be considerably weaker in terms of potency, flavor, and aroma compared to fully mature buds.

When to Harvest Weed – What If It's Too Late?

Worried that you might overshoot your harvest? Is it ever too late to harvest? Ultimately, it depends on the color of the plant’s trichomes. When most of the bud’s trichomes have turned an amber color that means that your buds are overripe. They can become brittle and break off when handled.

If you harvest your buds when they have gone past their peak maturity, you can still consume them. Keep in mind, the buds’ cannabinoids can degrade over time. In particular, THC converts to CBN, a cannabinoid known to produce more sedative and couch-locking effects.

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What to Do After Harvesting Marijuana

Once you have cut down all your flower bud branches, the work is not over. Your flower buds still need to undergo a trimming, drying, and curing process before they are ready for consumption. We have got you covered with our post-harvesting guides:

After you have completed these essential post-harvesting tasks, you can store your cannabis buds in an airtight container in a cool, dry, and dark place to extend their freshness.

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Do you want to learn more harvesting and post-harvesting tips? Are you ready to learn from the top growers in the industry? Enroll in Cannabis Training University’s cannabis college courses to get a complete education on cultivation and so much more.