Growing cannabis ain’t easy. The entire process consists of about 7 stages, from germination to vegetation to flowering— and that’s only until the harvest stage, as trimming, curing and drying make up the after harvest processes, and that’s without factoring in the question of when to harvest weed. 

All in all, you’re looking to invest at least 2 and a half months, and much, much more if you’re particular about the quality. 

Not a walk in the park, by any means.

However, if you have time to invest, enjoy horticulture and you’re motivated by saving hard-earned shekels that would otherwise be spent at your “money-grubbing” dispensary, then learning how to grow weed is well worth the effort. 

And within this gargantuan effort, is learning when to harvest weed at the right time. In this article, we’ll focus on the harvesting stage of growing cannabis by breaking down what it’s about, why it’s important and how you can develop the skills yourself. 

Why Is Learning When To Harvest Weed Important?

The short answer is that it’s all about cannabinoid and terpene profiles, meaning the more your plants have of each, the better they are. 

As for the long answer, these chemical profiles in your plant fluctuate throughout its flowering stages, eventually reaching a peak level, where the ultimate goal is to harvest when these levels are reached. 

Think about it, why waste all the time, effort and money into growing mediocre buds that don’t meet your needs? Or the needs of the thriving cannabis community? When you know when to harvest weed at the right time, you’re ensuring your cannabis has the ideal chemical composition for whatever purpose you so choose it for. 

Got it?

But wait, where does trimming your plant’s leaves come into play?

Should You Trim Before or After Harvest?

Let’s get a little bit of marijuana leaf anatomy out of the way — there are 2 types of cannabis leaves: fan and sugar leaves. 

Fan leaves are your plant’s largest leaves, not having any glistening trichomes on them, thus they have no psychoactive purpose; while sugar leaves are generally smaller, closer to the bud and are usually filled with trichomes. 

If you’re not familiar, trichomes on leaves are not the same as trichomes on buds, as the former is non-glandular while the latter is glandular. Either way, trichomes are where cannabinoids and terpenes reside, so it’s probably a great idea to save them when you can. 

With this in mind, should you trim before or after harvesting your plants? To answer this, let’s introduce 2 types of trimming: wet and dry trimming. 

Wet trimming involves trimming your plant’s fan leaves, the sugar and fan variety, 1-2 days before harvest. This option is great if you’d like to minimize mold and when you’re working with humidity levels above 60%, not to mention if time isn’t on your side. 

In contrast, dry trimming is worth partaking if you want a more gradual drying process; not worrying about mold or the color of your plants, while prioritizing the density of its buds. This approach is all about removing the fan leaves only 1-2 days before harvest and then the sugar leaves once your buds have dried. 

So, the answer to should you trim after or before harvest really depends on your goals. With this out of the way, how do you know when to harvest weed at the right time.

When To Harvest Weed Right

So you want high-grade flower power buds, do you? 

Then, learning when to harvest is a skill that must be developed. Lucky for us, it doesn’t require advanced esoteric knowledge, nor NASA certified technology, although tools do exist that allow you to measure your plant’s chemical composition– this is not our focus, unfortunately. 

Instead, we’ll take a pragmatic approach by relying on our five senses that emphasize: stigma color, trichome color, the firmness of your plants and its smell to determine ideal harvesting times. Here are the 4 factors that let you know when your bud is ready for harvest. 

Stigma Color

We’re not talking about stigmas in a cultural sense, rather we’re talking about the reproductive components that make up the pistil of your marijuana plants. When flowering, stigmas are white, but during later stages, they transition into orange, brown or red. When these are in their more colorful stages, it’s an indicator telling you that it’s time for harvest. 

Trichome Color

Like stigmas, the color of your plant’s trichomes changes when they’re maturing, changing from clear to amber or cloudy-white. When these ever so important cannabinoid and terpene producing glands are in their secondary colors, your plant’s telling you that peak levels are present. Therefore, it’s time to harvest.

Firmness

Just as important as the color of your plant’s anatomy is also the arrangement of your leaves, buds and stems. That is, how do they look? Are they flowering? If they are packed, condensed and relatively firm to the touch, they’re inflorescent and likely ready for harvest. Put them to the test by pinching your buds lightly, if you feel a firm resistance, then it’s a green indicator. 

Smell

This when-to-harvest indicator is a given as cannabis is widely acknowledged to stimulate the nose in unique ways– we’re talking about its aroma, in case you had other ideas. However, what most people don’t know is that cannabis’ trademark aroma comes from terpenes, not from cannabinoids like THC and CBD, which are scentless. With this in mind, you can tell when your plant is at peak terpene levels by performing a scent-test, where the more intense its smell is, the more likely it’s an ideal time to harvest. 

There you have it! The pragmatic, practical observation approach to knowing when to harvest weed at the right time. Tools? Who needs them!

When To Harvest Weed: Is That All?

Relying on your senses to determine when to harvest weed reinforces the intuitive aspects to horticulture that draw so many to it in the first place. It’s a primal thing!

However, growing cannabis is both an art and a science, thus to ensure your harvesting your weed at ideal times, you need to track and monitor these 4 indicators we’ve outlined. Doing so allows you to practice the art of horticulture based on your goals, and not aimlessly, as fun as that might be. 

Remember, why put in all the effort if mediocre, cough-inducing, throat itching and flavorless buds are the result? Use these indicators to ensure that isn’t so. 
Good luck!