Table of contents
- Before Harvesting a Cannabis plant
- When to harvest your Cannabis plants
- How to harvest a Cannabis plant step by step
In this article, you’ll learn how to harvest a Cannabis plant, how to dry and cure your buds. When to harvest and how to set a drying space. Avoid common mistakes and enjoy a good yield.
The flowering stage seems to be coming to an end and you are eager to harvest your plants as soon as possible. Harvesting is a crucial moment in cannabis cultivation. It is very common for beginners to get too ahead and try to chop their plants too early. The plant gives signals for us to know exactly when she’s ready to harvest.
Prepare your plants
- Check for pests and discard damaged parts (fungi, severe insect infestation).
- Cut out big fan leaves, especially if they had pests.
- Flushing: When growing with mineral nutrients, flushing is recommended. Start 2 weeks before harvesting.
Flushing Cannabis plants before harvest
Flushing a Cannabis plant is basically to run a lot of water through its growing medium (soil, for example) to get rid of the excess of salt and mineral nutrients. This action forces your plant to use up any amount of nutrients previously absorbed. The result will be buds with better flavor and aroma. The excess of fertilizer in your Cannabis plant may result in buds that are harsh to the throat when smoked.
Flushing with clean, room temperature water will help to get rid of fertilizer excess in the soil.
How to flush your indoor Cannabis plants
Place a container (bucket or similar) under the pot for collecting the excess water, be careful or this may result in a bit of a mess.
Regarding the amount of water needed, a good rule is to calculate up to 3 times the volume of the pot. For example, if your pot is 5 liters, you can flush with up to 15 liters of water per pot. Start small with 1-2 liters and see how the plant reacts. An easy way of doing this is carefully placing each plant in a big bucket, barrel, shower, or bathtub and add the water gradually to the soil, without drowning the plant. The excess water will slowly drain from the bottom of the pot.
A good visual sign is that, in the beginning, the water coming from the bottom of the pot will be dark and will gradually turn to a lighter color. By running this process once in each plant, most of the salt buildup should flush away from the substrate. Discard the runoff water.
When to stop fertilizing before harvest
Two weeks before harvesting is usually a good moment to start flushing your plants and watering with water only (no fertilizers) until the harvesting moment.
When to stop watering before harvest
Depending on the size of the pot, you can stop watering 1-3 days before harvesting.
Prepare your drying space
- Dark room or tent
- Temperature: Around 20º C
- Relative humidity: 50%
When to harvest your Cannabis plants
Cannabis strains have their own particular flowering time, which may go from 8-12 weeks for most breed hybrids, and even less in the case of fast autoflowering strains. It is important to use this information as a guide to starting checking our plants, but dates may vary along with cultivation methods, environmental factors, etc. When the harvesting date approaches, it is recommended to start checking the buds for pistils and trichomes ripeness to determine the best harvesting moment.
To know when to harvest we’ll look at pistils and trichomes:
Pistils are those little “hairs.” They start white and as the plant ripens, they get darker and curling until they are brown.
Trichomes are little resin glands (that “frost”) and they also change color as they ripen. They look like little lollipops.
A simple way to determine harvesting time is to look at pistils’ evolution.
Pistils start as a pair of white hairs and they start grouping to make the buds.
– Buds with white pistils are very young. Don’t harvest yet!
– After that, pistils start turning orange, brown, or even pink and they stay “upright”.
– When harvesting time is near, there’s a majority of orange or brown pistils and they have curled inwards the buds. This may also happen due to environmental factors even when the Cannabis plant is not yet ready for harvesting. It’s a good indicator to start looking at the trichomes: that’s the perfect way to know if the plant is ready.
You can see and track these changes without any equipment, just observation by the naked eye.
The best way to determine Cannabis harvesting time is given by the trichomes.
Trichomes are little resin glands and they also change color as they ripen. They look like little “lollipops” sticking out.
– Trichomes start clear and transparent.
– When they become milky-white and some of them are amber, that’s the best time to harvest.
– If they are all amber / brown, it’s probably too late.
Look at the trichomes with a magnifying glass or loupe and their color will tell you the best moment to harvest.
In this photo, trichomes are already milky white and pistils are orange. Ready to harvest!
There are many ways of drying Cannabis after harvesting: using drying racks, boxes, hanging the individual branches, or hanging the whole plant to dry upside-down with a wire or similar.
Turn on a fan and aim it right beneath the buds if there’s no airflow.
Make sure the room is dark, and the exhaust fan is running if drying in the growing tent.
Keep humidity around 50% and the temperature around 20º C.
The drying process may last 10 and 14 days.
Look at them every day and make sure no mold is growing. If you find some, cut that bud and throw it away before it grows all over your buds.
To cure your Cannabis buds, keep them in glass jars or similar and open it once a day until they are cured.
Exposure to oxygen and light causes THC degradation. To protect your precious buds, keep them in sealed containers, in a dark place.
Temperature around 20ºC
Curing may take from 3 weeks to months. For the first 2 weeks, open jar lids for 1 hour every day to release moisture and check for mold.
Don’t try to accelerate this process. Buds need time to dry and cure to increase the smell and bring out the flavors of the bud (terpenes). Curing affects the smell of the buds by breaking down chlorophyll, removing the taste of grass.
When to harvest looking at Pistils
50% brown 50% white pistils – young, light marijuana
70-90% brown/orange – ripe marijuana
90-100% brown – sharp, heavy marijuana
When to harvest looking at Trichomes
How to check trichomes: with a magnifying glass or microscope
Clear trichomes – wait a bit longer
Milky trichomes – near harvest
All Amber trichomes – overripe
We prefer to look at the trichome evolution because it’s a more accurate method. Pistils may change color because of environmental modifications such as high humidity and not necessarily because the plant is ready to harvest.
How to harvest a Cannabis plant step by step
- Shears or scissors
- Isopropyl alcohol or alcohol 70% (to clean your tools)
- Plastic gloves (it gets messy and sticky)
- Plastic tray to put branches
- A drying rack / box / tent / hangers
Before starting, set your workplace. Clean your tools and hands, wear plastic gloves when touching the plant and keep rubbing alcohol on your tools if it gets too sticky.
How to harvest a Cannabis plant indoors
- Cut the plant and its branches
Depending on your plant’s size, cut out all the branches first or cut the plant at its base and then cut out the branches one by one. Cut out big fan leaves, especially if they show signs of pests (insects, mold, fungi). Place those branches in plastic trays.
- Divide branches into buds
Divide the branches into smaller twigs or individual buds. Depending on the size of the buds and the relative humidity of your drying space, you can leave them bigger or smaller. Work on a clean surface as a big table and be tidy.
- Dry in a dark ventilated place
Make sure the room is dark and the exhaust fan is running if drying in a tent. If the buds are laying on a surface like a drying rack, rotate them every now and then so they keep their shape. Drying may take 10-14 days.
- Trimming buds before or after drying
You can trim or keep the sugar leaves with trichomes if desired. This step may be done before or after drying.
- Curing: put buds in jars
When the drying process is ready (10-14 days), put your buds in sealed jars, and start the curing process. You can also weigh your yield before curing, as most of the moisture in the buds will have disappeared by then. For the first 2 weeks of curing, open the jars once a day for an hour, and seal them after. This process may take from 3 weeks to months.
Don’t forget to tag your jars with strain and harvesting/curing dates! You can log information such as harvesting dates and weights in the Grow with Jane tracking app!
Harvesting is a great moment in every grower’s journey. Now you know how to tell when are buds ready to harvest and how to do it. If you have more questions, please tell us in the comments. We hope you have a great harvest and soon be enjoying your own!