How to Harvest Marijuana
A Great In-depth Guide on How to Harvest Your Marijuana Crop
You’ve just spent the last 9-weeks watching your cannabis crop like a hawk – is it time to harvest your marijuana buds?
This is possibly the single most important moment for a cannabis cultivator, but are you ready?
Whether you’re ready or not, join us as we teach you how to harvest marijuana like a pro.
How to Determine if Your Cannabis Plants are Ready for Harvest
As you learned in our last series on how to grow cannabis, you know that each cannabis strain flowers for a certain duration until it’s ready.
This is known as flowering time, and it can last from 6-weeks to 16-weeks.
In general, Indica-dominant hybrids have shorter flowering times, but this isn’t always the case.
Many OG cannabis strains are known to flower for a minimum of 10-weeks, which confounds many new growers.
Knowing the general flowering time will help you estimate how long until the day of harvest. However, a general timeframe means a rough estimate.
Just because a seed breeder labels their cannabis seeds as 10-weekers, they may finish in 8-weeks or 12-weeks.
This variation is due to the genetic pool found in cannabis seeds. Even if a marijuana breeder made a strain that usually produces flowers in 9-weeks, a stray phenotype may show up and flower in 11-weeks.
In other words, it’s essential that you use flowering times as rough guidelines. The tool that tells you definitively if your cannabis crop is ready for harvest is a simple jewelers loupe.
These magnifying glasses are able to reach 10x-50x magnification, which means you’ll have an up-close-and-personal view of the trichomes.
Trichomes are the sticky glands that look like mushrooms up close. They contain everything that cannabis enthusiasts are after, such as cannabinoids (THC, CBD, and more), terpenes, and flavonoids.
Trichomes are also excellent indicators to time your harvest perfectly. As your marijuana flowers mature, the trichome gland begins to change color.
At first, trichome glands are clear, but as they age, they transition from clear to milky; and from milky to amber.
If you harvest cannabis flowers while trichomes are clear, you’ll likely experience a head-rush after smoking it because the trichome gland is immature.
Since the trichome gland is immature, it has yet to reach its cannabinoid and terpene peak.
This is why it’s optimal to harvest cannabis flowers once the majority of trichomes exhibit a milky color. It’s at this point that the trichomes contain the highest amount of THC.
However, if you overshoot the ideal harvest window, then the trichomes will become amber in color. If the majority of trichomes are amber, then you’ve waited too long, and the glands are beginning to degrade.
As trichomes begin to degrade, they lose potency, flavor, and aroma. This is why it’s absolutely essential to keep watch during the later stage of flowering.
If you harvest too early, you won’t experience the potential of your cannabis crop. If you wait too long, your marijuana flowers will degrade.
By harvesting at the proper time, you’ll experience the best that your marijuana flowers have to offer.
Time to Harvest Your Weed
Ok, so you’ve determined that it’s time to harvest your marijuana plants. Finally, right?
Now, it’s time to get your harvest room ready and prep your plants for their big day.
Regardless if you grow marijuana indoors or outdoors – you need a space to harvest your plants.
Ideally, this means an empty room where you can safely trim your plants.
Your harvest room should be well ventilated and stocked with harvest-time necessities, such as
- Latex gloves
- Broad trimming scissors (for cutting large branches)
- Small trimming scissors (for hard to reach spots)
- Rubbing alcohol for sterilization
- A large desk and comfortable seat
- A long music playlist
- Bin for trim
- Bin for trimmed flowers
- Clothes hangers or string for hanging branches
- A space for drying
- Carbon filter and quiet inline fan
- A thermometer/hygrometer combo unit
- An oscillating fan
By having all of these essentials prepared beforehand, you’ll be ready come harvest day. Whether you’re harvesting cannabis flowers or marijuana seeds – follow these simple directions for the best result possible.
When it’s harvest time, you’ll need to incorporate a “lights out” period to allow your cannabis plant to dissipate a large amount of chlorophyll from its leaves.
Chlorophyll is a green pigment found in plant leaves that allows photosynthesis to occur.
Although we appreciate chlorophyll for keeping our cannabis plants alive, we want to kick it out of our marijuana flowers before we smoke it. This is because chlorophyll gives off a horrid taste, which is akin to hay.
The easiest way to get rid of a large amount of chlorophyll is by keeping your cannabis plants in utter darkness for 1-3-days.
You won’t need to worry about hermaphrodites at this stage, so feel free to cut the lights during the last 1-3-days of flowering before harvest.
During this time, the leaves won’t have a source of energy due to a lack of light. The plant will focus the rest of its energy towards the flowers while abandoning everything else.
You’ll notice that the leaves have gone from green to a light yellow in this time, which means a large amount of chlorophyll is gone.
How to Harvest Marijuana Buds...The Big Day
Now that you know how to harvest marijuana plants, it’s time to teach you how to harvest marijuana buds.
First, you’ll want to ensure that you have everything needed in your harvest room.
It’s a good idea to use a checklist that includes the last look at the trichomes, a lights-out period, and all of your essential tools.
Bring in one plant at a time. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself by bringing you the entire crop into your harvest room. Depending on the size of your marijuana plant, we recommend cutting the base of each main branch.
Main branches have many secondary branches, so it’s ideal to cut down the main branches first. By doing so, you can organize a single plant into 3-4 main branches.
Begin to remove the fan leaves in a systematic and organized manner. Start from the base and move up.
Once all the fan leaves are removed, place the branches into a bin – gently. Remember, you just spent the last 2-5 months cultivating these cannabis flowers, so be kind to them.
Once you’ve harvested your marijuana buds, it’s time to hang them up to dry.
Drying Cannabis Flowers
Drying cannabis is a genuine make-or-break moment for most marijuana cultivators.
When you allow cannabis buds to get too dry, then they will be damaged beyond repair in most cases.
If you allow flowers to stay too moist, then they have a high potential for attracting mold.
You must find the sweet spot that’s in between dry and moist. This may sound difficult, but you’ll soon understand what we mean.
When you gently, yet firmly, press down on the buds – you’ll notice they are dry on the outside and slightly moist on the inside.
This is the moisture content you should be aiming for.
Now, back to where we left off. When you’ve finished the initial phase of harvesting your cannabis flowers, it’s time to hang-dry buds. Since you cut from the base of the main branches, you can easily hang them from clothes hangers.
You may be wondering – why haven’t we told you to trim off the secondary leaves yet. Don’t worry, we’ll get there soon enough.
Once again, turn off the lights and make sure your drying room is well ventilated. Monitor the temperature and relative humidity to ensure proper drying. The ideal temperature range is from 72-78 °F. For relative humidity, keep it between 40-50%.
If you have an oscillating fan, make sure that it’s not blowing directly on the cannabis flowers. Allow airflow below or above, but never directly on the flowers themselves.
If you allow constant airflow on the buds, you’ll notice uneven drying that occurs far too fast. You want your cannabis flowers to dry uniformly for the best result possible.
Harvesting Cannabis Seeds
If you’re a breeder, then your end goal is to harvest cannabis seeds – not the flower.
If you want to learn how to harvest marijuana seeds – look no further.
Hopefully, you’ve followed up to this point. Your marijuana flowers should be dry. Grab a large flower and place it into a bowl.
Begin breaking the flower into small pieces and allow the seeds to fall out.
Voila! Do this to each flower and collect the hundreds (or thousands) of viable marijuana seeds.
Trimming Cannabis Flowers
Now that your cannabis buds are dry, it’s time to give them their final trim.
This step requires you to break out the harvest tools again and remove all of the secondary leaves that encompass the flowers.
It’s essential that you use a fine hand trimmer because these allow you to manicure the bud to perfection. Simply cut in a circular motion and remove any part of the secondary leaf that sticks out of the flower.
In some cases, you can remove the entire secondary leaf, but this is normally not possible.
It’s at this point that you will remove the manicured buds from the branches. You will need to break the branches down to have full access to cannabis flowers.
Throw away the branches, but make sure to save the secondary leaves since they should be covered in trichomes. You can use this trim to make cannabis edibles or even cannabis oil.
Once you’ve manicured and cleaned up your marijuana flowers, it’s time to place them in a large glass jar. If you close the lid, they will rehydrate due to the moisture that’s still inside them.
Place this jar without the lid on inside your drying room for 1-2-days (depending on yield and size of buds).
The curing process is just as important as the drying process.
This is the stage that brings out the aroma and flavor of your cannabis buds.
This is the most likely stage for growers to trip-up on because they didn’t have proper guidance or had no clue.
The curing process is the stage that allows volatile gases from the cannabis flower to dissolve. Volatile gases, such as CO2 and the reaction of chlorophyll dissolving, result in a hay-like taste.
To prevent this, growers must “burp” their jars every 6-hours for the first 1-2-weeks of the curing process.
Ensure that the relative humidity in the jars is between 55-65% at this point. After 1-2-weeks, you may seal your jars for longer periods; however, it’s essential to check them periodically to ensure that they are not too moist or too dry.
If you notice that they are too moist, it’s a good idea to have a large cardboard tray on hand. You can gently remove all the flowers from the jar and onto the cardboard tray. Allow 1-2 hours to air dry and place the buds back into the jar.
Do this until the flowers offer a perfect balance of dryness and inner moisture.
Overall, the curing process should take between 2-weeks to 2-months. Ideally, you should aim for a 2-month curing process to allow your flowers to bloom with flavor and aroma.
If you cut the curing process too short, you won’t experience the maximum potential of your flowers.
Although the curing process adds a large amount of time to your overall grow operation, it’s well worth the time and effort.
You’ll be glad you went through this long and tedious process – especially as you experience a unique terpene profile and wonderful taste that cured weed provides.
Lastly, to ensure that your glass jars retain the ideal humidity level, we recommend using RH packs, such as Boveda packs. Place a Boveda pack at the bottom of the glass jar, underneath the cannabis buds.
By doing so, you can rehydrate buds that are too dry or keep them at the optimal humidity level.
By knowing how to harvest marijuana plants and properly cure them, you’re already two steps ahead of most cannabis cultivators.
Growers spend too much time and money to fail at the end of the journey, which is why we’re here to teach you how to harvest marijuana.
How to Harvest Marijuana
Now that you understand how to harvest marijuana plants, seeds, and flowers, tell us about your experience!
Join us at The Highest Crop and share your harvest stories – good and bad.
Do you have any helpful harvest and curing tips?
Join in the discussion and help professionals and beginners alike grow the best weed possible.