There are many new growers who feel as if it takes an eternity before your cannabis plants are ready to harvest. However, patience is very important, and not knowing the correct procedure and time to harvest will limit the desired effects.
The female cannabis plant tends to flower on average between 6 and 13 weeks, depending on the strains' genetics.
Full indica or indica-dominant hybrids tend to flower in a shorter timeframe, while sativa and sativa-dominant marijuana plants tend to take longer to mature and flower.
Know Your Marijuana Plant’s Genetics
If you start growing cannabis from an unknown seed, it may be difficult to get an idea of how long the wait will be until harvest. The thickness of the leaves will give you some kind of indication later in your cannabis plant’s life. They will either be wide or narrow-bladed cannabis leaves.
Leaves that are narrow are a genetic trait of the sativa lineage. While the wider leaves are a genetic trait of an indica or indica-dominant plant.
Cannabis seeds that are acquired from a reliable seed company will clearly state how long the flowering phase is for that particular strain. You should always take into account that these estimates are not always absolute. You will still need to learn to distinguish between what a mature flowering plant looks like as opposed to an immature flowering plant that is not yet ready for harvest.
Pistils And Trichomes
Pistils are known as the reproductive areas of the female cannabis plant. This area has very thin hairs (stigmas) that are used to catch pollen from males, which induces fertilization. It is made of the ovule, style, and stigma. These are the very same parts that allow you to determine the plant’s sex or gender.
Trichomes are extremely small lumps found on the calyx and sugar leaves of the marijuana plant. This is where your terpenes are housed and the trichomes are also packed with cannabinoids like THC, which gives you that “high”.
Observation 1: The Pistils
When determining whether your cannabis plant is ready to harvest or not, you will need to focus on two key areas.
The stigma is the part of the pistil that you will be looking at for a rough estimate of your bud’s maturity. This is not an accurate final representation, however, it acts as a basic guide as to when your harvest window is.
As the female cannabis plant flowers mature, the stigma will typically turn from a white colour towards a slight shade of orange.
If your plant is still showing white stigmas on the cannabis buds, this is an indicator that it is not yet ready for harvest. Once you start noticing these stigmas turning a slight shade of orange, you can start focusing on the trichomes. These give a more accurate depiction of when to harvest.
Observation 2: Trichomes
The trichomes on your marijuana plant change colour as the plant matures. It starts out looking like a translucent mushroom. They then start turning cloudy, followed by amber in colour closer to harvesting time.
If your flowers showing mostly orange stigmas, this is likely an indication that your trichomes have started to become ‘cloudy’ and almost milky.
Once these trichomes become milky, this is when your cannabis plant is at its highest in THC. Once these trichomes start to turn amber in colour, the THC starts to convert into CBN. This is a compound that is linked to physical sedation and a “sleepy high”.
Which Trichome Colour To Harvest At?
The three most common harvest windows and the high you will experience from each include:
Window 1: Mostly cloudy
Harvest when the trichomes are mostly cloudy and before they start turning an amber colour, with some clear trichomes still present. This will provide a more cerebral or “head high” and a slight “rushing” feeling. The high experience from an early harvest such as this is similar to what you expect from certain sativa strains, such as Haze.
This would be the closest harvest time for those who enjoy a more ‘psychedelic’ high. However, many do not enjoy the dizziness that tends to be associated with this harvest period.
Window 2: Some amber
A more common harvest period is when the trichomes have matured to the point of being cloudy, but with some also having converted into CBN and turned amber. A 10% to 30% amber ratio is the personal favorite of many experienced growers. Sativa-dominant strains accentuate the natural high of the plant. Sativas have a tendency to cause more of a cerebral, head high while indicas lean more towards body relaxation.
Most growers tend to offset these attributes by harvesting sativas later than indicas. However, it remains a personal preference between growers. This is the recommended time to harvest if you’re a novice grower, as it is the most balanced option.
Window 3: Mostly amber
Harvesting, once your cannabis plant is showing 30% or more amber trichomes, is considered a late harvest. This type of harvest is generally sought after by those seeking medicinal assistance with body pain or insomnia.
The conversion between THC to CBN is not all that bad. CBN plays an important role in the medicinal use of cannabis. It is a significant medical cannabinoid and studies have shown that it is a pain-reliever. CBN is also used as an anti-inflammatory, anti-convulsant, and sleeping aid. It is known for promoting appetite and is responsible for causing “the munchies”.
Harvesting Is A Personal Choice
Now you are aware of what to look for when timing your harvest. Your final decision will be based on what effect you want to achieve.
If you are looking to get high and be social, it is recommended to harvest in a mostly cloudy or light amber period. If you just want to smoke something while sinking into your bed, it is recommended to harvest a bit later with more amber trichomes showing.
There is still so much more to learn about harvesting cannabis plants. Stay tuned for our next article highlighting tips and tricks on harvesting. In the meantime, if you are still unsure of the perfect strain for you, check out our Cannabis 101: How to Choose the Right Strain or simply get your top-quality seeds now. Why wait!?