How to Harvest Marijuana Step by Step

When it comes to harvesting weed – especially if this is your first time growing cannabis – it’s hugely important that you know how to harvest weed properly. Even if you’ve grown and used your own cannabis before, there’s always the potential to improve your harvesting technique; this will allow you to get the best from every plant that you’ve grown and nurtured for so many weeks!

Harvesting Cannabis – It’s Not Quite as Easy as You Might Think!

Now, you might be wondering how hard it can be to harvest cannabis. Surely, you might be asking, the hard part is growing the plants? Harvesting it just involves picking the bud, right? Well, it might sound easy when we mention it first, but harvesting your cannabis right is not quite as straightforward as it might seem.

How you harvest your cannabis will potentially have a big impact on whether or not your weed actually delivers the effects that you want. Getting the harvest wrong can, as such, prove fatal for the fate of your future cannabis! So, we’ve written this guide today to help you get the most from your cannabis plants and ensure that your weed harvesting attempts go smoothly!

With that all being said, it’s worth noting that harvesting cannabis isn’t hard if you do so properly. Don’t skip any steps as everyone is vital for getting the best yield and harvest!

How to Harvest Weed: A Step By Step Guide

Harvesting weed might not seem like such a huge challenge – and it’s not, really – but you absolutely need to put some time into getting the harvesting process right. Even one little mistake during the bud harvesting process could put the success of your cannabis growing operation in jeopardy!

Step One – Checking Your Weed is Ready to Harvest!

The first step in harvesting your weed is to make sure that it is, in fact, ready to be harvested. If you try to harvest your plant before it has reached full, peak maturity, you might find that you don’t get the results you expected.

There are three main factors that you should look for when it comes to harvesting weed to make sure the buds are ready. These include:

  • Trichomes – when the weed is ready to be harvested, the trichomes will be cloudy or amber in color.
  • Pistils – if the pistils are amber or orange in color then the weed will be about ready to harvest
  • Calyxes – the calyxes will be swollen and large when the cannabis is ready to be harvested

If all of the above three conditions have been met then you may be at the right time to harvest your cannabis. However, if even one of the conditions is not seen in your plant’s buds, don’t bother trying to harvest it; the bud is not yet ripe and you likely won’t get the yield from the plant that you expect, and may not get the right effects when the time comes to try the weed too!

Why Getting Timing Right is Important

Timing your harvest right is essential if you are to have great results from your cannabis plants. But why is this?

There are a few reasons why you will need to focus on getting the timing right. The most obvious of these reasons is for the fact that immature buds will give a low yield; they simply haven’t had enough time to grow their yield to a worthwhile amount. If you harvest the buds too early, you will therefore find yourself short-changed for the amount of yield you actually get. In addition to this, if you don’t give the plant enough time to mature, the THC content of the buds will be lower than it should be – and so you won’t get as powerful a high as you had hoped for.

Getting THC Maturity Right

When it comes to growing cannabis, the vast majority of growers are doing so for recreational purposes. For these growers, THC concentration and potency in the buds is of optimal importance! Making sure that your cannabis plants have plenty of THC is essential if you want a powerful high, after all.

But how can you tell when the THC content is right? Well, this is actually relatively straightforward; you just need to look at the trichomes on the plant.

The trichomes are small, hair-like growths which form on the buds at the start of the flowering process and contain the THC content of the bud. To begin with, they start out looking somewhat like small icicles or water droplets; they are clear at this time. If you try to harvest the buds now, you will get a very low yield and the THC content of the buds will be very low, giving a poor result when it comes to using the weed.

As the trichomes mature, they will begin to increase in THC content. This can be seen when the ends of the trichomes turn a cloudy white color. The timing of harvest will also impact on the type of high that you experience; at this stage, the high will be energetic, although the yield from your buds will probably be about average at best.

If left a little longer, the trichomes will begin to turn amber in color – this color change represents the buds reaching full maturity. The THC content at this stage will usually result in either a couch lock or head high and will give an optimal yield; however, care should be taken not to let the buds get over-ripe!

So, when is the best time to harvest your buds? Well, based on the color of the trichomes, the ideal harvest time is usually when the trichomes are somewhere between cloudy and amber in color. This balances the need for a good yield without risking the buds getting over-ripe.

How to Check Trichomes for Maturity

So, we’ve been going on about checking the trichomes’ color – but surely this is an incredibly fiddly business? Heck, can you even see the trichomes on your buds?

Well, you’ll need some sort of microscope equipment to be able to see the trichomes – they’re too small to be seen clearly by the naked eye. Using a magnifying glass or a pocket microscope will allow you to make out the trichomes and their color on your buds, so make sure you have access to one of these at the start of flowering and monitor your bud’s progress to make sure you harvest them when the time is right!

When To Start Checking for Trichomes

When it comes to harvesting your cannabis at the right time, checking the trichomes can be a good way of judging maturity – however, the trichomes won’t even begin to show until your cannabis plant begins the flowering process. As such, you can get an idea of when to start looking out for trichomes by judging when the flowering will begin.

This is largely based on the expected flowering time for your strain on cannabis seeds. Most growers will provide an expected flowering time for the strain; however, the following rules are generally about right:

  • Indica strains of cannabis are faster maturing and will usually begin flowering at around 5 weeks, with harvest time being often between 6 and 8 weeks.
  • Sativa strains generally begin the flowering process around 8 weeks, and this usually lasts until around 12 weeks in some strains.

If you aren’t sure which type of strain your cannabis plant is then it is usually easy to work out based on the plant’s characteristics. Indica strains and compact and have a high yield; sativa strains are a lot taller and give a slightly smaller yield. Hybrid strains will be somewhere between the two, and the flowering times can also be averaged.

Other Signs that the Plants are Ready for Harvest

The trichomes being the right shade of amber isn’t the only sign that your cannabis plants are ready for harvest. The color of the pistils and the calyxes being swollen should also be considered to make sure you are harvesting the cannabis at the right time. Furthermore, as a final factor to consider if you’re not quite sure whether it’s time to harvest your cannabis, you can also consider the plants’ and buds’ growth; around harvest time, the growth of the plants’ buds will get considerably slower. Some buds may even stop growing entirely; when this happens, you should harvest the cannabis buds as soon as possible!

Step Two: Planning for Harvest

As we’ve already mentioned, getting the harvesting process right is essential. If you don’t harvest the cannabis well, then you may find that your buds don’t give you the results that you desire! As such, planning for harvest is important.

Preparing the Harvest Room

When harvesting your cannabis plants, you’ll want to make sure you have a room or a space that is set aside specifically for this purpose. This is important as you will need to have specific conditions within the room to ensure the bud curing process goes smoothly and cures your cannabis effectively.

The room should, for one thing, be fully sealed so as to prevent the spread of odors. As well as this, you will also want to make sure that the room is kept below 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius) so that the oils within the cannabis buds don’t begin to volatize.

Get Your Cannabis Harvesting Tools Together

When harvesting cannabis, you will need a selection of tools to do so safely and efficiently. The tools that you will need to effectively harvest your cannabis plants include:

  • Trimmers
  • Trim Trays
  • Gloves (nitrile or latex)
  • Lines (or equipment from which to hang the harvested plants)

Step Three: Getting the Plants Ready

Harvesting cannabis is an important step that needs to be carried out with care. By properly preparing for the harvesting process, you will stand the best chance of getting top yields of high quality, potent cannabis buds. As part of this, it is important that the plants are appropriately cared for too!

Before harvesting your cannabis, you need to make sure that the plants are not contaminated. Contaminants which could impact on the quality of your weed include fertilizers, chemicals, and sprays such as pesticides and fungicides. This process is commonly referred to as flushing.

Flushing is important because contaminants such as chemicals can impact on the quality of your weed and give it an unpleasant aftertaste or aroma during use. Therefore, flushing helps to remove these prior to harvest so that the weed is kept pure.

Flushing involves removing contaminants from the environment for approximately two weeks before harvest. It’s a simple process, really; just stop using chemicals and water your cannabis plants with clean (distilled or RO) water only. In short, this is similar to organic growing methods; if you are already growing cannabis organically then you may not need to make any changes to your growing method at all.

Step Four: Harvesting your Weed!

Let’s face it – after all of the preparations, this is the bit we have all been waiting for! Harvesting your weed, especially when you’ve just grown your very first cannabis plants, is an exciting prospect for many! However, it’s still highly important that you take care during this stage so that the harvested buds don’t get damaged!

Getting the Cut Right

To start with, you’ll need to make sure you’re cutting the buds right. This is something that many new growers don’t think about much; often, they will just do whatever comes to mind first without thinking about the potential consequences of doing so.

There are two methods by which you can harvest your buds in terms of cutting: either harvest the whole plant in one go or harvest individual buds as and when they mature.

Each of these methods has benefits and drawbacks. Harvesting the whole plant, of course, is the quickest option for harvesting your cannabis; by cutting the stem of the plant when the buds are ripe, you can then simply hang it up to begin the drying process. However, you should always take care to check that the vast majority of buds are at the required maturity level.

This method poses a problem for growers; not all buds mature at the same rate. As such, if you harvest the entire plant in one go, some buds could be overripe while others might not even be ripe at all. This will impact on the consistency of your weed as well as reduce your yield.

The alternative method, then, is to harvest individual buds. Harvesting individual buds can be effective as it allows you to cut only the ripe buds – in turn meaning that unripe buds are given time to mature. Because of this individualized harvesting method, you can be confident in the consistency of your harvested buds. You will usually get a better yield from your plants, too – but naturally, this method requires a huge amount more time and TLC for your plants, with individual buds requiring individual attention and care during the harvesting process.

So, which method is better? Well, neither – both methods are good. It really depends on how much time you want to be putting into your buds and the quality of the harvested weed. If you’re growing on a larger scale, the first whole-plant harvest method will likely be more practical; if you’re growing just one or two personal plants, by contrast, then you might be able to afford to spend more time individually checking the buds for optimal ripeness.

Should I Remove the Leaves?

After you have harvested your cannabis plants, you may want to consider removing the leaves of the plant to keep the buds healthy and safe. If the leaves themselves don’t have trichomes on them, they can be safely removed depending on the environmental conditions.

What do we mean by this? Well, whether or not to remove the leaves of your harvest should depend on the humidity and temperature of your harvest room.

We’ve already mentioned how temperature and humidity should ideally be controlled in your grow room, however, this may not always be possible. If this is the case, you should follow the following rule:

  • High humidity environments won’t dry the buds very quickly and so removing the leaves won’t impact much on the drying process. This will also help to prevent mold from developing on the leaves of your harvested plants.
  • Low humidity environments have very little moisture in the air and so the buds will dry quickly; removing the leaves in this sort of environment would make the buds dry too quickly and so the leaves should be left on for best drying and curing results.

The Drying Process

When you have finished harvesting the plants and have decided what to do with the leaves, you’ll want to hang them up in your harvest and drying room. This is easily achieved using a single wire to hang the plants from. If the plants have most of the excess leaves left on, still, this will create the ideal conditions for the buds to begin the curing process while controlling the environment.

Give them plenty of space per plant and ensure that the room is well ventilated; this will help with temperature and humidity regulation and regulate the drying process. You don’t want your buds drying too fast or too slow – slow drying buds will not cure well, however, fast-drying buds often develop a bitter and harsh flavor and aroma.

The plants should be hung and left to dry until the stems begin to break – note that we say begin to break here because they should not be so dry that they are snappable. When this stage has been reached, you’re ready to trim the plants further and remove the buds. It usually takes between 3 and 10 days in total, depending on the environmental conditions in your drying room; so, look out for the signs as opposed to relying on a certain number of days.

Step Five: Curing the Buds!

So, your cannabis plants have been harvested and left to dry – this will have started the curing process, however, you’re not finished yet. Now you will need to trim the buds so that they’re ready for curing and storage.

Trimming the Buds Before Curing

Remove the buds from your plant and trim off excess leaves from your buds. It doesn’t really matter how much you trim if you are doing so for personal use, so long as the buds are tight and neat; however, if you are selling the cannabis you are cultivating, most customers will prefer that their buds are well-trimmed and neat. They’re paying by weight usually, after all.

During the trimming process, you should remove all fan leaves around the bud which don’t have THC on them – these leaves won’t contribute to your high and so are largely useless. In fact, leaving them on the bud may even impact the taste of the weed.

You should always make sure that you’re using strategic trimming methods for your buds – don’t just hack at the buds, as you will almost certainly remove THC leaves too (and where’s the fun in that?) Instead, always take care and use a steady hand to trim your cannabis buds. You should ideally use a pair of trimmers that fit your hand comfortably, too, and which are easy to maneuver and use; we highly recommend curved trimmers as this makes it easier for you to get the angle right without risking cutting the good leaves.

Starting the Curing Process!

Curing cannabis needs its own article because the process is just as important to get right as harvesting weed. However, once you have trimmed the buds and removed THC-free leaves, you can continue the drying and curing process for your cannabis buds.

Doing so will preserve the buds for use down the line. As well as this, it will also help enhance the flavor, aroma, and potency of the buds; as such, it’s important that you don’t overlook this final stage in your cannabis cultivation journey!

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