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Timing Your Harvest

Timing your harvest can be one of the trickiest aspects of marijuana growing. Too soon and your marijuana won’t be very potent. Too long and you end up with an overly narcotic effect and too strong of a taste.


The Basics Of Marijuana Harvesting

Harvesting marijuana is a bit like harvesting grapes (or other fruits). The longer you wait, the more potent the grape and the stronger the alcohol. With marijuana, the longer you wait, the more cannabinoids there will be.

That means a stronger product.

See, after the flowering phase, your plant starts to die…

But, guess what?

There are many signs that will alert you of this upcoming event. Such as:

  • The pistils turning red
  • The stem broadening
  • Resin on the buds browning and darkening
  • Leaves starting to yellow and die

If your plant has flowered and you notice any of these symptoms, the chances are good that you are ready to harvest!

Pistils are turning red, and the leaves are turning yellow


When To Harvest Marijuana?

There are many ways to determine the best harvest time. 


Flowering time

  • Indica – Harvest after 8 weeks of flowering
  • Sativa – Harvest after 10 weeks of flowering
  • Autoflowers – 10 weeks from seedling to bud


  • 50-70% brown – young, light marijuana
  • 70-90% brown – ripe, heavy marijuana
  • 90-100% brown – sharp, heavy marijuana


  • Clear trichomes – wait a bit longer
  • Milky white/amber trichomes – ready for harvest
  • All Amber trichomes – overripe


Looking at Pistils and Trichomes

A magnifying tool is the best way to see if your plants are ready for harvest.

How do you know it’s time? Look for glistening, resin-filled trichomes on your buds, like the ones in the photo below.

Magnifying tools for harvesting

With the right magnifying tools you can clearly see these details.

There are a few magnifying options to choose from:


Jewelers Loupe

  • Perfect for those on a budget, this low-tech tool is the least helpful. However, it’s still good enough to provide somewhat of a gauge.



Handheld Magnifier

  • This option steps it up, but it can be cumbersome to use. You’ll really need to get the focus right to view those trichomes.



Digital Microscope

  • Although expensive, this is the best option, as it will give you a clear answer as to rather your plants are ready to harvest. The main downside is that you’ll need a laptop to see the results. If you go this route, you’ll definitely need to read the instructions.


Longer Is Not Necessarily Better

Although a longer flowering period may lead to a greater harvest, letting your plants flower longer doesn’t always lead to optimal results. You must time it correctly.

I can’t say this enough:

If you wait too long, you could experience an overpowering and unpleasant flavor. You may also experience decreased effectiveness of the active ingredients – and yes, I mean THC!

The easiest way to keep from reaching that point is to pay attention to the pistil color. In fact, it is the most common approach.
Some growers harvest as soon as the pistils begin to turn red. Others wait until they are almost entirely red, and the resin is dark.

The right color of the pistils

As I said earlier, you can examine the resin on your flowering plants to see if they are ready to harvest. Under magnification, the glands will be enlarged and covered in resin when mature. They may also swell and look sort of deformed.

That’s exactly when you should harvest.

That resin will darken from transparent to opaque amber as it matures. Harvest when the resin is still sticky and transparent. Once that resin darkens and becomes more amber-hued, there’s not much time left before the plant’s active ingredients start to deteriorate.


Harvesting Based On Flowering Time

Looking at your flowers is just one way to know if it is time to harvest. You can also simply time it based on the plant’s typical flowering time. As a rule of thumb, all marijuana will be ready to harvest around the same time, with some variation based on the specific strain. You’ll need to know your strain to effectively use this method.

Successful marijuana growers do these two things before timing their harvest:

  • Read the strain descriptions

  • Read comments from other growers

If you purchased your seeds from a reputable source (like me) chances are someone else has already shared some ideas about when it is typically ready to harvest.
Now, of course, there are other variables that could impact when your harvest will be ready. The specific conditions in your grow room, or outdoor climate also plays a role in the development of your plant.

To summarize:
There is no accurate way of deciding when it’s time to harvest. However, there are some guidelines that give you an idea of when it is time.
While harvesting based on flowering time is not an exact science, it can be a good jumping-off point for figuring out when exactly to harvest your marijuana plants. It also works well for planning ahead because you can see what your growing season will look like.

Look For Red Or Brown Pistils

Observing the pistils is the best and easiest method for deciding when to harvest. Check a bud’s pistils to see what their coloring looks like. If they’re mostly white, it is too early to harvest. If they’re all brown or red, you’ve missed the peak time – harvest right away before the quality of the marijuana lowers any further.

If using this method, be precise. Here is a picture guide:

0-49% of the pistils are brown, it is not ready yet.

50-75% of the pistils are brown. Harvest time has come, but it is still early. These will have a lighter taste and mellower high. Waiting might be your best option.

70-90% of the pistils are brown. You can harvest your marijuana plants because they are as strong and heavy as they ever will be.

When 90-100% of the pistils brown you’re almost too late for harvest. The taste will be heavy, and the effect will be narcotic. Harvest right away and don’t wait any longer

Watch The Trichomes

If the pistil method doesn’t work and you have one of the magnification tools mentioned above, you could look at the trichomes to determine if you are ready for harvest. This method is actually considered the most accurate, so it’s a good idea to know what you are looking for.

Clear trichomes

The concept is simple: look at the trichomes on your plants’ buds. Trichomes grow on the buds and look like little mushrooms since they have a little ball on top. Some of those trichomes are resin glands. They will have a crystalline structure or appear frosty as they grow on the leaves and buds of your plants.

Why does this matter?
Trichones are responsible for the stickiness of weed. They are also where much of the THC and other fun chemicals are housed.
When we harvest based on trichomes, we are determining when those trichomes are at their highest THC level. This is difficult to see with the naked eye.

Harvesting based on trichomes
So, when do you know that the trichomes are ready? You need to compare them based on these guidelines:
Clear, White Hairs
This is definitely not the time to harvest. If the trichomes are clear, they won’t be potent enough for harvest, and your final yield will suffer. Wait until nearly half of the hairs are dark in color and not sticking out so straight.
Half Clear or Cloudy Trichomes
It is still too soon to harvest. The buds haven’t reached their full potential, although they will still produce a high if harvested now. This type of high will most likely be more energetic or “speedy.” You’ll get a stronger odor and flavor if you wait, however.
Mostly Cloudy Trichomes
Congratulations, you have reached the perfect time for harvesting your buds! This is when they have the highest levels of THC; so, if you want to maximize your yield, you must act fast. You’ll know your plants have reached this stage when 50 to 70 percent of the hairs are no longer white.
I can’t say this enough:
Harvesting now is ideal. This is when your plants are their most potent. As a result, the high that comes from buds harvested at this time will provide some serious euphoria and pain relief. It will be the most “intense” high you can get.
Amber and Cloudy Trichomes
If your plants have made it this far, it is a bit after the absolute peak time for the greatest amount of potency. However, this is only because the buds have slightly less THC and more CBN. If you are looking for a more relaxing, anxiety-reducing high, this could actually be the perfect time to harvest.
A high from marijuana harvested at this time will be more narcotic and often result in a “couchlock” effect. You’ve reached this stage when 70 to 90 percent of the hairs have darkened.


Don’t Stop Here

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