With more states legalizing adult-use cannabis, plant connoisseurs are increasingly turning to home cultivation. Harvesting cannabis at home requires a lot of patience and care, but it’s a labor of love that will result in quality weed, and less money leaving your wallet from weekly dispensary trips.
Harvesting weed isn’t as complicated as it sounds, but timing is definitely key. Here are our pro tips for cannabis home harvesting that you’ll carry with you throughout your entire cultivation career.
How to Prepare for Harvesting
Harvesting cannabis is one of the most exciting and important steps of the cultivation process, but there are a few things to take care of before you can get to this point.
- Check your plants for impurities. From pests to fungi and everything in between, make sure to do a careful sweep over your plants, making sure to discard any damaged parts.
- Cut out any oversized fan leaves. Giant fan leaves are a sign that your plants are thriving in their environment, but they have a much lower trichome count, rendering them less potent. However, they can still be used when making edibles, so if you’re planning to make some oil, you may want to keep them in.
- Flush your plants. This step is optional, but highly recommended, especially if you’re growing with mineral nutrients. Experts typically begin this step around two weeks before their plants are ready to harvest, a calculated timing we’ll go over in the next session.
Flushing your plants might sound intimidating if it’s your first time, but it’s a surprisingly straightforward process–and it doesn’t cost you a penny. When watering your plants, you’ll do everything you normally do, except without any of the mineral nutrients or supplements. Be careful not to overwater.
During the flush period, your plants may lose their green color and begin to turn slightly yellow. This is normal, but make sure to harvest before your buds’ sugar leaves have turned yellow–it will affect the appearance of your buds if you wait too long, and your plant will deteriorate at a rapid pace.
After you’ve been flushing for about two weeks, you’re officially ready for the next step: the harvest!
How Do I Know When to Harvest My Cannabis Plants?
After you’ve flushed your plants, it’s time to harvest–but how do even you know when to start this process in the first place? The timing will vary based on location, time of year, and the type of plants you’re working with, but here are some key signs to look out for that will let you know when your plants are ready to go at maximum potency potential.
- Check your plants’ flowering start dates. In order to successfully harvest your plants, it can be helpful to pay attention to the exact date your plants started flowering. However, this is quite relative depending on the strain of your plants, so don’t rely entirely on this as your harvesting guideline.
Indica-dominant strains tend to finish flowering as early as seven-eight weeks, while sativa-dominant strains can take substantially longer–even up to 24 weeks at a time or longer.
- Check your buds’ curls. One of the first things to pay attention to beyond the flowering stage is the growth of your plants’ buds. Be careful about this window: harvest too soon and your flower won’t be as potent. You’ll know your buds are ready to harvest when the little curly hairs have darkened in color, and are as curly as possible.
- Check for glittery trichomes. Honestly, the state of your cannabis plants revolves around your trichomes. You can best examine them with a magnifying glass. At the start of cultivation, your trichomes will be clear and glassy, and they won’t be very potent.
By the time your plants are mature and about ready for harvesting, the trichome heads will turn a glossy, glittery white, indicating the highest levels of cannabinoids–especially THC and CBD.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for lower levels of THC and more of a relaxing, full-body effect, give your trichomes a little more time to mature. Once they turn a golden/amber color, you’re ready to harvest.
Keep in mind that some sativas and “Haze” strains contain trichomes that don’t ever really turn amber, so if they’ve turned mostly white and don’t appear to be progressing, it’s time.
- Pay attention to the size and weight of your branches. As your plants’ buds continue to develop, the branches will grow heavy and hang lower. This is an indicator to pay attention to those trichomes and determine how far along your buds are.
How to Harvest Cannabis
Now that you know what to pay attention to, you’re ready to take on the next and most important step: harvesting!
When it comes to harvesting cannabis, it’s best to go about it sectionally rather than cutting down the entire plant. The buds on your plants’ upper branches are typically quicker to ripen. If that is the case, you’ll benefit from cutting off the top portion of your plant, allowing more sun to hit the lower branches so they can thrive for a while longer.
Harvesting your plants in sections is also less time consuming for you, and allows the entire process to go much more smoothly. But before you get started, you’re going to want to make sure you have all the tools necessary for harvesting:
- Scissors (for trimming your buds)
- Pruners/shears (for cutting your branches)
- Trimming tray (for easier transportation and preservation)
- Rubbing alcohol (to clean the inevitable resin from your trimming scissors)
Once you have all of your supplies ready, you can begin the rest of the process: trimming and drying. This will vary slightly, depending whether you prefer to dry trim or wet trim, but here is everything you need to know to get started.
- Dry Trimming
If you’re dry trimming your cannabis, you’ll have to hang your plants up to dry for a few days before you trim. Cultivators typically hang their plants upside down. While your plants are drying, the THC will convert into its psychoactive state–yay!
Most cultivators suggest around 5-7 days for the drying period, but this will vary depending on climate, location, and plant type. You should also make sure to dry your plants in an area that is as temperate (around 70 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal) and dark as possible, with preferably around 45-55% humidity.
- Wet Trimming
If you prefer to wet trim, you won’t have to hang up your plants after cutting them down. Instead, you’ll get straight to trimming. Best practices for trimming include cutting off the big branches and being delicate and intentional around your precious buds. Make sure the branches end up easy to handle.
Harvesting cannabis at home requires a lot of attention, care, and patience, but with the right tools, tips, and tricks, you’ll master this process in no time.
Have you tried any of these tips, or do you have any of your own you’d like to share with us? Pop a comment below and let us know!