Harvesting cannabis is a crucial moment for cultivators. Most beginners cut the cannabis buds too early when the THC content is still too low, while some cut the buds too late when the plant is already yellowing and dying. There are significant signals that tell us exactly when to harvest indoor cannabis.
In this article, you will learn more about indoor cannabis harvest, as well as the drying and curing process of cannabis flowers. You will know the most common mistakes to avoid if you experience an excellent yield.
Before Harvesting Weed
An entire plant must be free of pests and damage caused by fungi or insects. Inspect all hemp or marijuana plants and remove damaged parts. Cut the fan leaves if they have pests. Finally, flush the cannabis plants at least two weeks before harvest.
Stop Fertilizing the Plant
Two weeks before you harvest marijuana or hemp, stop fertilizing the plant. Fertilizers help indoor cannabis grow, but using too much will affect the quality of the flowers. Hence, start using plain water with no added minerals and salts around two weeks before harvest.
What Is Flushing?
Flushing means running water through the soil or the growing medium to get rid of excess mineral nutrients and salt. Flushing the soil with plain water forces the homegrown cannabis to use up the nutrients it already has absorbed. Any excess fertilizer that is not flushed will make the cannabis buds too harsh when smoked. The resulting buds will produce a better aroma and flavor when adequately flushed.
Flushing requires clean water to eliminate any excess nutrients left in the soil. The entire process takes around 7-10 days but sometimes two weeks. Flushing too early will starve the plants, and flushing too late will affect the taste and aroma of the buds.
Flushing Indoor Cannabis
For indoor cannabis plants, place a container under the pot to collect the excess water to avoid messing in the grow room. A good rule of thumb is to use enough water that is approximately three times the volume of the plant pot. If you use a 5-liter pot, flush it with a maximum of 15 liters of water. Add the water gradually into the pot, making sure not to drown the plant. Get rid of the wastewater.
During the first few days, the water coming out of the bottom of the pot should have a dark color. The wastewater will gradually turn lighter. Run the process once a day for each plant until harvest time. Most salts and excess nutrients should be flushed away around 7-14 days.
When to Flush and When Not to Flush
Is it necessary to flush your plants before harvest? It depends. If you grow your weed organically, you may not need to do the flushing process. Pouring excess water into the organic soil will strip all the nutrients and the natural ecosystem you have built for your plants.
However, if you use pesticides and chemical fertilizers to grow your weed, the chemicals can go into the plant material and the individual buds. These plants will need flushing for around two weeks to remove the chemicals and salts. The buds will burn harshly and taste awful if the plants are not flushed.
Stop Watering the Cannabis Plant Before Harvest
Stop watering the plants around 1-3 days before harvesting weed.
The Best Time to Harvest Weed
There are several key indicators that your indoor-grown cannabis is ready for harvest. The signs vary for each specific strain, but most cannabis plants often show the following:
- The leaves start turning yellow, and some start falling off
- The buds become fully developed and do not appear to grow any larger
- As the buds become plump and heavy, they tend to hang due to gravity
Each cannabis strain has a different flowering time. Some can go from 8 to 12 weeks, but autoflower strains may take shorter. Sativa strains of cannabis usually have a more extended flowering period than Indica strains. However, due dates vary depending on your location, cultivation methods, and type of plant. Therefore, time is not a good indicator for the perfect harvest date. It is much better to pay attention to the condition of the cannabis trichomes.
When you use a magnifying glass to look into cannabis flowers, you will find shiny lollipop-shaped crystals that smell good. These are trichomes, resin glands that play an essential role in the plant’s defense mechanism. More importantly, they contain the beautiful cannabinoids that cannabis is famous for.
Trichomes are the delicate appendages on cannabis flowers and other plants. It comes from trichoma, a Greek word that means ‘growth of hair.’ These very tiny mushroom-like outgrowths look very alien when magnified. However, these plant factories produce unique cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. Without them, we would not be as interested in marijuana at all.
How Trichomes Signal that Plants are Ready to Harvest
You need to inspect the appearance of the trichomes to determine the condition and the stage of all your plants. You have to pay close attention to the trichomes’ color and opacity. These resin glands are tiny, and you will need a magnifying glass or a similar tool to make them look larger. When the plant enters the flowering stage, you should start focusing on them. The trichomes will gradually change from clear to cloudy and brown or amber.
Clear trichomes signal that the production of resin has not yet peaked. The plant is still young and requires more time to develop more potent cannabinoids, such as THC. Harvesting your crops this early will result in a less smooth user experience.
The best time to harvest is when the trichomes become milky white or cloudy. It is during this time that the cannabinoids have reached their full potency. The cannabis buds are now fully mature and should be harvested before the cannabinoids degrade.
When the cannabis plants grow too long, the trichome color will change from milky white to amber. The resulting harvest will produce a lazy high that is more beneficial for sleep. This may not be the best time to harvest cannabis if you are looking for a more energetic high. However, some people specifically harvest late to benefit from the sedative properties of stale cannabis.
Sometimes, growers are unsure if the trichomes’ cloudy appearance is a good enough signal. To prevent harvesting early, you may want to wait until the trichomes appear primarily cloudy with a bit of amber or slightly yellow color.
How to Determine Harvest Time for Autoflower Strains
The harvest time for autoflower is more challenging because these strains do not usually lose their leaves. Also, their trichomes may change their color from milky to amber but not as obvious or as evenly as other strains. Some strains have trichomes that do not change their color to amber. There must be another way to judge the harvest time for these oddballs.
Fortunately, breeders of autoflower strains and sellers of autoflower seeds provide average timeframes for their specific products. For example, a particular strain may take around 12 weeks for the seed to turn into a mature plant ready for harvest. Some fast phenotypes take only nine weeks, while most take 10-11 weeks. Other strains with heavy yields take longer, around 12-15 weeks.
Sometimes, the plants grow more extended than the predicted time frame. Hence, if the timeframe is 12 weeks, sometimes it may take 14 weeks. You have to look at the buds and see if they are already plump and swollen. Monitor the trichomes to see if they are cloudy. Let them be cloudy for at least a week and start the harvest.
The rapid growth of autoflower is an exceptional property, making it a popular choice among home growers. Autoflower strains are perfect for those who want to grow weed that matures faster. However, you need to monitor the whole plant at the predicted time frame and inspect the buds to determine if they are ripe for harvest.
Harvesting plants early means that the flowers produce a more energetic buzz. Some people love to feel more lively and are more likely to choose cannabis flowers harvested earlier. However, there are some disadvantages to this practice. First of all, the flowers have not reached their maximum weight, which is a commercial disadvantage. Second, the flowers have not reached their peak THC potency. Nevertheless, some people love the overall effect of less potent flowers.
People who grow indoor cannabis plants may not worry about the less potent THC and the slightly lighter yield. Aside from THC, early harvested weed contains minor cannabinoids such as CBG, which may help provide beneficial effects to the body. Hence, some people are not as concerned about sacrificing THC potency. Although early buds have clear or nearly clear trichomes, they are perfect for some people.
Cannabis harvested a week earlier is best for medicinal purposes rather than recreational enjoyment. It has less THC and more of the other cannabinoids. The lower potency of the weed makes it more ideal for medical use. If you wish to harvest earlier, it should be a personal preference, not a commercial benefit.
Most growers harvest the weed when the trichomes are cloudy and do not show any amber or yellowish coloration. The pistils have now turned red or orange instead of white. Mid harvest is when the buds have reached their THC peak levels. They are also quite plump because they have reached their full maturity, which is excellent for business. It is the best time to harvest the plant before the trichomes turn amber. At this optimum stage, the flowers will deliver a good high that is energetic and not too heavy.
There are reasons that you may want to harvest late. The trichomes have already reached the maximum cannabinoid production and are degrading. Some growers leave their plants on the pots longer until the trichomes turn amber or reddish.
The pistils are red or amber, and the buds look slightly overripe. The leaves start to become yellow and are ready to fall. When harvested late, the buds deliver a more lethargic or heavy high that affects the entire body. Some growers purposely harvest late to produce buds that provide a sedative effect.
Older cannabis contains more CBN, a cannabinoid that causes the passive effect. It is mildly psychoactive and has a more sedative effect on the body. When the THC gets oxidized or exposed to heat, it degrades and becomes CBN. Hence, late-harvested weed is perfect for people looking for a remedy for insomnia and other sleep issues.
When is cannabis ready to harvest?
It depends on your preference and goals. If you want to grow cannabis for commercial purposes, the best yield is when the buds are fully plump and ripe. Their trichomes should be as milky white as possible. The THC content is at its peak as well.
However, not all people have the same goal. Some grow cannabis indoors for personal use. If you want a more energetic high with more medical benefits, harvest early when the trichomes are still clear and not as cloudy. You can benefit from the higher CBG content of the buds.
Buds harvested late are best for people with sleep issues. The trichomes should be amber or reddish. At this point, the buds contain more CBN, which has sedative properties perfect for sleep issues.
Hence, it all depends on your goals and preferences. If you want lower potency, harvest early. If you want the best potency, harvest mid.
The average amount of THC in most weed strains is around 15%. With other strains, you can get as much as 25%. Suppose you want to reach maximum THC potency, harvest when the trichomes turn cloudy or milky white. If you want to make sure that the buds are fully ripe, wait for the trichomes to be cloudy but with a bit of amber or yellow color.
How to Harvest Cannabis
Many growers cut the whole plant when the plants are suitable for harvest. However, you can do it in sections if some branches ripen faster than the others. Chopping the plant section by section allows you to space out the time and effort to dry and trim, especially if you are harvesting large plants.
For the process, you are going to need the following tools:
- Scissors or shears
- Plastic gloves
- Plastic tray for branches
- Drying rack
- 70% Ethyl or isopropyl alcohol
Before working, clean your tools and disinfect them with alcohol. Wear your plastic gloves to avoid getting your hands too messy.
Start by cutting the whole plant or branch by branch. If the plant is relatively small, cut it at the base and cut the individual branches. If the large fan leaves have pests or show signs of infestation, cut them off and throw them away. Put the branches in the plastic tray.
Work on the branches and separate the individual buds. You can leave them smaller or bigger depending on the size of the buds. Make sure to work on a clean surface that provides enough space for you to work on.
Dry the buds in a dark, ventilated space. Be sure that the drying room has enough ventilation for the buds to dry appropriately. If you use a drying rack, you may have to rotate the buds once in a while to speed up the drying process. The procedure may take at least 5-7 days or 10-14 days, depending on the climate.
You can trim the buds before you dry them or after you dry them. You have the option to keep the sugar leaves intact if you wish. These leaves that have trichomes in them may help in the drying process. However, they may produce harsh smoke when left unchanged. You can trim them after the drying process, though.
After drying, you can proceed with the curing process. Place the buds in jars and seal them. Before curing, you can weigh the yield since most of the moisture has already dissipated. Open the jars once a day for at least 10-15 minutes. Do this for the first two weeks. The curing process may take three weeks or more.
Be sure to label your jars with the specific strain, harvest time, and curing date. You can also log in the weight.
Harvesting is a tedious process but a very fulfilling experience in every grower’s cannabis journey. Given the information above, you can now tell when the indoor cannabis plants are ready to harvest.
Let us get into more detail about drying, trimming, curing, and storing harvested cannabis.
Trimming the Cannabis
Tools to Use
Precision trimming snips make the job of trimming a lot faster and easier. You can use a pair for other garden purposes, as well. Choose the non-stick option to avoid making too much of a mess. If you have none, you can start with a pair of scissors.
You can work a nice clean surface, but you may want to invest in a trim bin to make the process a lot more efficient. The upper part of the bin catches the debris you want to throw away. The lower part collects the kief and trichomes that fall through the screened upper section. You can use the fallen trichomes to infuse food or oil.
Wet Trimming Vs. Dry Trimming
Some growers choose to trim before drying cannabis. This process is called ‘wet trimming’ because the plants contain a lot of moisture. However, some growers prefer to trim after the plants have dried. This process refers to dry trimming. Depending on your schedule or preference, you can do either one or both.
Keep in mind that trimming buds is a tedious process and consumes time. Therefore, choose to trim whenever it is convenient. You can even decide to trim while the branches are still drying. Drying the cannabis can take as quickly as 5-7 days or as long as 10-14 days, depending on the climate and drying conditions. Use the time to trim as much necessary plant material as you can.
How to Trim Cannabis Buds
Before drying, it is best to cut off the large fan leaves while they are still wet. Trimming these bulky leaves earlier allows the other plant parts to dry faster. Besides, they are a lot easier to cut while they have not curled around the buds. After the buds have dried, you can trim the leftover leaves that have become loose and brittle.
You do not have to trim too perfectly if you grow for yourself or family and friends. You can leave the sugar leaves intact if that does not bother you. These leaves have trichomes in them and will contain some amount of cannabinoids. Remember to cut off any of the larger leaves attached to the stem. These leaves may also have trichomes, but they have less potent cannabinoid content. Also, they are harsh to the throat when smoked.
Drying the Cannabis
How to Dry Cannabis Plants
Once you cut down the plants, you can dry the cannabis. The traditional way is to hang them upside down by clipping them to a clothesline or something similar. You can also place them on drying racks. The THCA content transforms into its psychoactive THC form when the plant dries.
Do not rush the drying process because THC degrades too quickly when exposed to heat. It is best to dry the buds more slowly. The ideal drying time is around 5-7 days, but it can take 10-14 days in cooler climates or colder rooms.
Best Drying Conditions
The dry room should be relatively dark and temperate. Ensure not to expose the plants to sunlight because it may degrade the THC and turn it into CBN. The best way to speed the drying process is to airflow inside the room. You can use a fan if there is insufficient natural ventilation inside the room.
Humidity is best at 45-55%. If humidity is low, omit the fan or set it to low. If moisture is particularly challenging, you can use dehumidifiers, humidifiers, or air conditioners to achieve a climate-controlled space. The temperature inside the room should be around 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can use a spare room as a drying room. You can hang the branches of cannabis along clothes lines or ropes. It is better to cut the plant into branches and hang them apart to aid in drying.
When is Cannabis Dry Enough?
As long you follow the best drying conditions for cannabis, you can achieve the drying process in as little as 5-7 days without compromising THC potency. Before moving to the curing process, you have to check the humidity level of the cannabis buds using a hygrometer. Your goal is to reach a humidity of 62-68%. When it comes to this point, you can now start curing cannabis. If the humidity is still at 70%, there is a high chance that mold will develop in the curing jars.
If you think that the cannabis is dry enough, take a sample and place it in a sealed jar with a hygrometer in it. Seal the jar to get an accurate reading. If the humidity is at 70% or higher, wait for a few days. If the humidity is ideal, let it stay in the jar for another 24 hours to get a more accurate reading. Let the plants dry for at least a day or two if the humidity rises.
Curing the Cannabis
Although the taste and texture of cannabis smoke may depend on the growing conditions and the strain, the main factor is the curing procedure. Curing is a crucial process in making great cannabis flowers. It was cured to perfection if you have experienced smooth and fine-tasting flowers before. Also, curing gives the cannabis flower a longer shelf life while retaining its quality.
Curing occurs for three weeks up to two months. It continues the drying process in a more controlled environment, specifically sealed glass jars. After the cannabis reaches ideal dryness, it is not yet quite ready to provide an enjoyably smooth experience. It has to cure a bit longer to produce smooth and flavorful smoke.
Additionally, curing prevents the degradation of terpenes and cannabinoids. Keep in mind that the compounds in the buds continue to transform even after harvest, especially when subjected to less favorable conditions.
Lastly, curing allows bacteria to break down chlorophyll. Although this compound gives the plant its lovely green color, it helps produce harsh smoke.
How to Cure Cannabis
Place the trimmed buds in sealed mason jars or glass containers as soon as you obtain a 62-68% humidity level. Store them in a temperate place away from sunlight. Open the jars at least once or twice a day for 10-15 minutes before resealing them. Do this for the next two weeks to introduce new air into the containers.
You can leave the jar open for a maximum of one hour, especially if you missed opening the previous day. The important thing is you do it consistently. After doing this for at least a week or two, you can open the jar only once a week.
Important Notes to Consider When Curing
Monitor the humidity of the buds by keeping at least one hygrometer in one of the sealed jars. You can place the device in other jars when necessary. When the humidity starts to rise to 70%, take the buds out for at least a day to get them to dry.
While opening the jars, smell the aroma and determine any ammonia odour. If the ammonia aroma is strong, it indicates that the buds are still too wet and may spoil or cause moulds. Take them out to dry for a day or two.
After curing the cannabis, you have to focus on long-term storage. As long as the cannabis buds are cured perfectly, you can let them stay in the jars for storage. You can also place cured buds in air-tight containers and store them in a temperate location away from sunlight. If the jars have not been opened for a month, it is good to open them for 10-15 minutes to reintroduce new air.
Some people freeze their cannabis buds or vacuum seal them. If you are growing your weed indoors for your consumption, you may not need any of these techniques. The buds remain fresh if they are placed in temperate locations. They are also easier to monitor.
Do not use plastic as much as possible. Plastic may affect the quality and taste of the buds. Unless you give your weed away to someone else, it is okay to use plastic. Never vacuum-seal your weed if you do not want to crush the buds. Taking the air out of a vacuum package can damage the cannabis within.
Enjoy Your Indoor Cannabis Harvest!
You can make your joints or spliffs with your homegrown cannabis if you want to smoke your weed. However, you can also use a dry herb vaporizer to deliver a smoother and flavorful vapor.
Combustion or burning weed is harsh on the throat and may have adverse long-term health consequences. The best way to enjoy your weed is to use a high-quality convection-type herb vaporizer. It will not overheat the cannabinoids and terpenes.
It is fun to plant cannabis indoors. You can do it for personal consumption or commercial purposes. Harvesting cannabis is the most fulfilling because you get to reap the rewards of your efforts. It is a tedious process but an exciting experience.
Harvesting does not only entail cutting the plant and separating the buds. Proper harvest also involves drying, curing, and storing. As long as you follow the process carefully, you can develop cured cannabis that stays fresh and potent for at least one year.
We know that not all people have the means or the time to plant indoor cannabis. Hence, if you are looking for cannabis flowers ready to consume, check out our BLACK ICE or CHOCOLOPE strains in our shop.