When To Harvest Marijuana

Rambo November 4, 2012 15
When To Harvest Marijuana

It’s not easy to be patient with your garden when it’s filled with huge buds, but knowing how to tell when buds are ready to harvest is of utmost importance. If you harvest before the buds reach full maturity, the potency and yield of your crop will not reach its potential. On the other hand, If you wait too long, potency can actually decrease. As the bud becomes overripe the THCA begins to degrade into CBL and CBN.

Cannabis trichomes

As the buds grow close to full maturity a visible layer trichomes will begin to cover the flowers and leaves. These trichomes are very small resin glands on the surface of the plant that will sparkle in the sun like little diamonds. You have probably heard these referred to as crystals. Some cannabis strains will have pronounced trichome development four or five weeks before maturity, others will develop as late as two weeks before they reach full maturity.

As the buds mature, the crystals, or to use capitate stalked trichomes, begin to swell and resemble tiny mushrooms as they fill with cannabinoids and terpenes. Under magnification from a jewelers loop, the bulbous tips of these trichomes will appear clear while still developing, but will begin to turn amber or milky as they reach and pass full maturity. This milky or amber is color is what shows you the cannabinoids have reached full maturity and have begun to degrade. When about 20% of the trichomes on a bud begin to turn amber or milky, this is the time to harvest.

To be clear, trichomes are not the hairs on the buds that turn from white, pink, or purple to a rust or brown color. These hairs are called pistil and despite what people might tell you, their color is not a good indicator of a buds maturity or ripeness.

Some cannabis plants may reach full maturity all at once while other plants may begin to ripen from the top colas down. Ideally you will be able to harvest the plant all at once, but it’s not uncommon for the top colas or outer buds to mature faster. You can harvest the mature buds and leave those not quite ready for a week or two longer. Often the extra light provided by removing the ripe buds will speed the others along pretty quickly.

The trained eye may be able to identify when a bud is ripe without magnification. Considering how important it is to get this right, I suggest a jeweler’s loop until you have the experience under your belt.

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  1. midowo May 28, 2013 at 10:38 pm -

    nice article!
    I personally like to harvest early as then the high is more uplifting, but I usually do a partial harvest and let the lower buds develop where the amber trichomes are more than 50 % as then you can get some body high!

  2. Gringo June 12, 2013 at 2:06 pm -

    Very well put. This is the best explanation yet.

  3. jumping bean July 2, 2013 at 6:28 pm -

    Yea I have flowered for 8 weeks now and the plant hasn’t reached full maturity. how much longer on average will it take

    • Rambo July 9, 2013 at 1:02 pm -

      It all depends on the strain. Some sativa strains can take up to 14 weeks to finish flowering.

  4. GENA September 19, 2013 at 11:26 am -

    HELP ME. growing outdoors. plants r nice. butt I found mold in my beautiful big buds what the hell. WHAT DO I DOOOOOO

  5. Laurie October 9, 2013 at 11:50 am -

    I am confused.The trichomes on My buds are milky white and the small leaves around them are amber. Is it time? My neighbor says just wait until Halloween as usual, but I don’t particularly like the outcome waiting this long. thanks

    • Rambo October 21, 2013 at 12:42 pm -

      They may be ready to harvest but without a picture under magnification its hard to tell.

  6. Doremi November 3, 2013 at 8:31 am -

    Thanks Rambo, very informative.

    I have large magnifying glass, but my trichomes appear to be too small to determine inside color. This is week nine of a nine-week flowering period. I kinda expected the trichomes to be more developed.

    What power jeweler’s loop would you recommend I get?

  7. jFbassheAD November 13, 2013 at 7:25 pm -

    actually, its better to harvest with majority trichomes milky, cloudy , some still clear and a few amber colored ones (which are the ones at their peak and about to degrade.

  8. Daniel December 3, 2013 at 9:32 pm -

    I need advise, my plants seem to be taking a long time and at this point I dont have many leaves left, major whitehairs and clear trichomes. Flowering for 8 weeks.
    im sure I need more time but what happened to the leaves and where are the buds only white hair. W.T.F.

  9. Thomas March 25, 2014 at 8:50 pm -

    To much of somthing and not enough of somthing else your trying to grow them to fast less chemicals get the doses right and you’ll get mad buds thanks for the warning on what’s going on a light and some of that fake dirt and the a and b mixture and I’ve seen mad buds so a little slower and you’ll get mad buds some people make the growing resappy to hard to follow you don’t need to get that technical their weeds how can you go wrong

  10. Mad one ! April 25, 2014 at 3:58 am -

    Please help, my plants are budded up leaves nearly gone, mostly still white hairs, all bottom buds are starting to seed. What went wrong ? I’m not sure if finished growing. Do I just pull them up or cut off the top buds or let them go ?

  11. Smokey Boy August 5, 2014 at 10:58 pm -

    I have very tall FEMALES I just got my last MALE plant out today. My FEMALES is in the budding stage. I want to send a few picks I topped a few already and pinched a few BUDS on 15 FEMALES. And they are purple but a few coming out fatter. What do I do? And how long should I let them go?…