Are you growing your own cannabis plants at home? Widespread weed legalization means many states now allow people to grow a limited number of plants at home.
As exciting as it can be to legally grow your own, learning how to harvest cannabis properly is key to ending up with a good product. Cannabis has to be harvested at a peak point of maturation for cannabinoid potency and terpene quality. Missteps during harvest could easily ruin the bud you’ve been working on. To help you as a newer home grower, we've pulled together this brief guide to harvesting cannabis.
First, How to Tell When Cannabis Is Ready to Harvest
There is a bit of an art to knowing when it’s time to harvest cannabis. Every experienced grower develops their own idea of when the peak point of maturation is, and every strain can reach maturity at a different point. Some plants may be ready after just six weeks, while others may take up to 16 weeks. So, don't feel too intimidated by not finding a direct answer. The fact is, harvesting a little late or a little early probably won't make a huge difference, but there are some important guidelines to remember.
There are two main things to look at when deciding if cannabis is ready to harvest: the trichomes and stigmas. Stigmas are hair-like structures nestled into the bud that start out as white or pale green. At harvest time, stigmas transform and change colors. They may become deep amber/orange or reddish purple and will start to curl. Trichomes (the sticky resinous material that covers the bud) will transform from clear to more opaque or even golden at harvest time.
You're usually ready to harvest when these two important things occur:
- Roughly 70 percent of the stigmas (pistils) have turned and started to curl
- Roughly half or more of the trichomes are the desired milky, opaque color
How to Harvest Cannabis
Before getting prepared for your marijuana harvest, decide whether you want to do a wet or dry trim. Wet trimming means you will be taking the buds from the plant when the cannabis is just-chopped. You may even decide to harvest buds while the plant is still standing or planted.
Dry trimming means you will take down the full plant, hang it to dry for a few days, and then harvest the buds.
Choosing between wet and dry trimming can be a matter of personal preference and circumstance. For example, if you're not working with a lot of space, wet trimming will likely be more logical. Likewise, some people claim that allowing the full stalk to hang and dry for a few days allows additional valuable components to make their way into the buds, even though there is far from a consensus among growers on that point. For the sake of clarity, we will cover the process for a wet trim, even though many of the same steps will apply.
The Flush Week Before Harvest
When you see that the trichomes and stigmas are starting to change, it is a good indicator to start flushing the plant. This sounds harsh, but all you are doing is switching from using nutrients to watering the plant with only water for about a week. This will flush from the plant any growth hormones or nutrients you have used during the grow.
Note: whether or not to flush has gotten a little controversial in recent years. Most growers agree that it isn't necessary when using organic fertilizer, but there isn't much scientific research around whether or not it is necessary when using chemical fertilizer. Given the lack of research, flushing chemical fertilizer seems like the safest option if you're unsure.
What You'll Need for Your Cannabis Harvest
Generally, there are two ways to trim: wet trimming before drying, and dry trimming after the harvest has been dried, but before curing. Most home growers we talk to prefer to trim wet, so that's the method we'll explain here.
Slip into clothing you don't mind getting sticky, dirty, and saturated with the smell of weed. Trimming cannabis can be a messy job due to the sticky resin that comes from the plant.
You will need:
- Sharp scissors to trim the buds
- Plant pruners to cut larger branches
- A clean table or surface
- Gloves to keep your hands from getting coated with resin
- A large glass or metal bowl or tray to hold the buds after trimming
- Cleaning rags and rubbing alcohol to periodically clean your scissors
Trimming Your Cannabis Plants
With your tools in place, you're ready to get started trimming your marijuana:
- Use your pruners to cut branches from the plant with the buds still intact
- Either cut or pull the larger fan leaves off the plant so you can see what you're doing when you start pulling buds
- Use your scissors to snip (often referred to as "bucking") the buds from each branch
Once you have removed the clusters of buds from the stalk, they will need to be further trimmed so they will cure evenly and properly. For each bud, you will want to take off any extra stem at the base, take off tiny leaves on the bottom, and trim away the excessive plant parts that are not coated in trichomes until the bud looks nice and neat. Place each bud in your bowl or tray as you trim it. As an alternative, the final manicuring process can be saved until your buds are dry if you want a cleaner process.
After the trimming and drying steps are complete, the curing process can begin. To find out more, check out our curing cannabis overview.
Protect Your Harvest with Help from Evergreen
From planting the seeds to curing your buds, a lot of work goes into growing your own cannabis. Before it’s time to harvest, make sure you have well-designed weed storage solutions on hand. Evergreen offers everything from airtight stash jars that can be used for storage of cured buds, to humidification pods to make sure your stored harvest lasts for as long as possible, preventing mold and keeping your harvest fresh! Be sure to take a look at our full collection of weed storage solutions to get prepared for your DIY cultivation process.