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Ok, so now you have spent several months growing some big, beautiful, and smelly weed plants. It’s almost like raising children, except weed plants actually provide you with some benefits in the end! All jokes aside, once your weed is done growing, it has big stinky buds, and it smells fantastic, it is time for harvest.
This is our detailed guide on how to harvest cannabis step by step. We do want to make things as easy as possible for you, so we are going to tell you everything you need to know to harvest your weed plants as fast and easy as possible.
We will talk about the tools you need to harvest cannabis, how to know when your weed plants are ready for harvest, and of course, we have a quick step by step tutorial on how to harvest your plants too.
Harvesting Cannabis – What You Will Need
Before you can begin the harvesting process, there are a few essential tools and items you need to gather. You really do not want to trim, cut down, and harvest your cannabis plants without these tools.
Sure, it might be possible to get away with ignoring some of these cannabis harvesting essentials, but they do certainly help make life a lot easier.
So, what do you need to harvest cannabis?
Powder Free Gloves
One of the most important things you will need to harvest your cannabis are powder free gloves. These could be plastic or silicone gloves, just as long as they do not have that white powder on them. You do not want that powder getting on your weed plants.
The reason you want to wear these kinds of gloves for harvesting weed is so that all of those TC crystals don’t stick to your fingers. The more of those awesome THC crystals stick to your fingers, the less of it will be on the buds, and therefore decrease the potency of your weed.
Good Trimming Scissors
The next and very important tool you will need for harvesting your marijuana plants is a good pair of high quality trimming scissors (we have covered a great buyers guide here).
Spring loaded trimming scissors tend to be the best for this, as they will open up on their own, and this helps make life a lot easier.
A good pair of trimming scissors will allow you to cut off the branches and manicure the buds for drying with relative ease.
Another thing that you are going to need to harvest your marijuana plants is a few plastic containers. You will want to have at least one container for all of the trimmings.
On a side note, while you can throw the trimmings in the trash if you choose, they do still contain some active compounds and can be used to make hash, bubble hash, THC oil, and edibles.
You will also need a couple of plastic containers to hold the trimmed buds and branches, as you get them ready for the drying process.
99% Rubbing Alcohol
Now, this is not 100% necessary, but all of that THC and resin can really make your scissors sticky and gunk them up real bad.
If you have a good few plants to work your way through, you will need the rubbing alcohol in order to clean off the scissors periodically. If they get too sticky, using them will quickly become a real pain in the neck.
A Jeweler’s Lens
Yes, what also comes in handy here is a good jeweler’s lens or magnifying glass. As you will see later on, this can come in very handy in terms of determining whether or not your marijuana is ready to harvest.
Although here today we are not going to cover the weed drying and curing process, you will want to set up a good drying space for your weed, so you can dry it as soon as you are done harvesting.
A good air fan, a dehumidifier (we have covered our top 10 here), and some strings or racks to hang up the buds and branches will be needed for the weed drying process.
How To Harvest Cannabis – Step By Step Tutorial
Now that you know what tools and items you will need to harvest your marijuana plants, we can move on to the most important stage, the harvesting stage. So, how do you harvest cannabis for the best results?
1. Flush Your Plants
The first step in the cannabis harvesting process actually starts about 2 weeks before the weed needs to be harvested. Most professional growers will stop feeding their plants fertilizer and nutrients about 2 weeks before the harvest. This is what is referred to as flushing your marijuana plant. This is indeed a very important step.
All of those nutrients and fertilizers you have used while growing your cannabis plant have built up inside of the buds. This is not great for health, as these are not substances you want to inhale or ingest, plus they also create a funky taste that nobody likes.
Flushing your weed plants out with nothing but pure water for 2 weeks prior to harvesting will flush out all of the nutrients and fertilizers, thus producing a much better end result.
2. Cut Off The Large Fan Leaves
One thing you can do before you begin harvesting, as much as 1 week before harvest, is to cut off the large fan leaves. The fan leaves are those big classic marijuana leaves that we are all familiar with.
When you are about a week away from harvest, these fan leaves do not have a purpose anymore. In the beginning, they held some nutrients and other beneficial properties which helped the buds mature and become strong.
However, the fan leaves become useless, especially in the couple of weeks leading up to harvest. You might notice that they start to wilt and turn yellow. Now, you do not have to cut these off before harvest if you don’t want to.
However, they just get in the way and are useless anyway. Cutting them off beforehand will save time on harvest day, plus they won’t be in the way either.
3. Turn Off The Lights
On a small side note, you want your last light cycle to be dark before the harvest. In other words, you want to let the weed plants rest without light for at least 12 hours before you harvest the cannabis.
Do not turn your grow lights on after this 12 hour dark period, at least not until you have cut the plants at the roots or harvested all of the branches, or the buds off the branches. Keep the lights off for this.
4. Cut Off The Branches With Buds
Now it is time to cut the branches and buds off of the plant. Some people do this by cutting full branches right off the stalks and then trim the branches as wholes. Make sure to use your trimming scissors to cut the branches away right at the stalks. However, if you have a really large and bushy plant, dealing with a whole branch at once can be a bit of a pain, as there can be too much to handle.
Yet, what can be said for this method of cutting and trimming whole branches, is that it does make the drying process easier, as you can hang up whole branches of the plants, buds and all, without having to worry about hanging up or supporting smaller and individual buds.
On the other hand, for really big and bushy plants, if you cut away whole branches, it might be a bit hard to get to the individual nugs for manicuring.
If it sounds better to you, you can cut away the buds at the stems where they connect to the branches, thus leaving you with individual buds or small branches with a few buds, rather than full size branches. Which route you take is totally up to you here.
5. Manicure The Branches & Buds
The next step in the weed harvesting process is to manicure the buds. Here, you need to take your trimming scissors, preferably after they have been cleaned, and you will want to cut away all of the sugar leaves.
These are the smaller leaves which also look like those classic marijuana leaves we are all familiar with. You do not want these to be on the buds for the drying process, plus these leaves do not smoke that nice either.
Whichever method you go, full branch or bud by bud, you want to start at the top of the cola, and work your way down the buds, cutting away all of the leaves that are sticking out.
Now, for this, to make the drying process easier, especially when it comes to hanging the buds for drying, we would recommend leaving larger stems on, as they can always be cut off after drying.
However, if you choose, you can also trim down the stems here.
6. Wash The Buds
This is an optional step, but a lot of people will wash their buds after manicuring them, as it is said to create richer, creamier, smoother, and potentially more potent buds.
This washing process also helps to wash away any lingering contaminants. For this, you want to fill a large bucket with room temperature water, plus 1 cup of baking soda, and a cup of lemon juice.
You will also need a bucket of warm water, and another bucket of cold water. Take your buds or full branches, buds and all, and then dip them in the room temperature, baking soda, and lemon juice mixture, then pull them out and let them drip off.
After this, briefly dip the buds or branches in the warm water, let it drip off, and then dip them in the cold water bucket, and then let them drip off. If you do this, you will need to let the branches or buds hang above a bucket for about a day, just so they can drip off enough for you to start the drying process.
7. Begin The Drying Process
Ok, so the drying process does qualify as a new stage, and is not really a part of harvesting cannabis, but it is the next stage.
Check out our articles on drying and curing marijuana for the full scoop on how to effectively, safely, and efficiently dry your cannabis so you can get it ready for THC extraction, smoking, or to make edibles with it.
How To Know When Marijuana Is Ready For Harvest
Something that is very important to keep in mind is that you cannot just harvest your buds at will and expect them to be as potent and tasty as they can be. You can be either too early or too late when it comes to harvesting your marijuana plants.
If you do not wait long enough, until they are mature and the THC has built up, they won’t be as potent or tasty as they could otherwise be.
On the other hand, if you wait for too long to harvest the plant, the THC will begin to degrade and disappear. Now, there is a certain window here. Waiting too long will decrease THC, but will also increase the CBD levels in your buds.
With that being said, if you wait way too long to harvest your buds, both the CBD and THC will eventually dissipate and disappear totally. Do also keep in mind that there is roughly a 2 week window from when the cannabis is ready to harvest and when it will technically be too late.
So, what does weed look like when it is ready to harvest? There are a few different ways of telling when it is the optimal time to harvest your marijuana buds. Keep in mind that there are two main methods for identifying when your marijuana plant is ready for harvest.
One method involves looking at the pistils or hairs on the buds, and other method involves examining the trichomes or THC crystals on the outside of the buds. Let’s talk about each method in some detail right now.
Method 1 To Identify Harvest Time: The Pistil Method
The first method you can use to identify when your cannabis is ready for harvest is by using the pistil method. The pistils are those long hairs that you can see coming out of your buds.
When the plant is not yet mature, and therefore not ready to harvest yet, these hair-like pistils will be more or less straight, stand right out from the buds, and will be white in color. If there are still new hairs growing, and they are all white and straight, it will be at least a few more weeks until your cannabis plant is ready for harvest.
However, as harvest time draws nearer, these pistils will begin to curl, get more compact, and turn darker in color. When at least 50% of these hairs have curled inwards and darkened in color, you know that your harvest window is close, but they will still have a couple of weeks left to go until the optimal harvest time.
If you are going for the very highest THC level possible, you want about 65% of the pistils to be dark and curled in. However, if you want a bit more CBD and less THC, wait until about 80% of the pistils have darkened and curled in.
However, keep in mind that if 100% of these pistils are dark and curled in, you have missed the opportune harvesting window. It can be hard to tell with some strains, and we would always recommend asking someone who has already grown the same strain before.
Method 2 To Identify Harvest Time: The Trichome Method
The other, more reliable and more accurate way to determine if your weed plant is ready for harvest is by using the trichome method. Trichomes are these miniature mushroom-looking growths that you will see all over the buds.
Keep in mind that they are very small and you will need a high powered magnifying glass, a jeweler’s lens, or even a microscope to see these (If you don’t have one then take a look at our helpful buyers guide here).
They look like little stems with balls on top, so kind of like mushrooms. These trichomes are what many would call the crystals. To the naked eye, they look like powdery white crystals, and this is where the majority of the THC is contained, or in other words, the main active ingredient which you want as much of as possible.
These are also called resin glans. On a side note, there are little glands like this which do not have the mushroom head on top. When examining the trichomes, you can ignore these, as they do not have an effect on potency.
What you are looking for here is the clarity or transparency of these trichomes, as well as their color. If the trichomes are clear, your buds are not yet ready for harvest or potent at all. If the trichomes are half clear and half cloudy, or in other words, if about half of them are milky white, the buds are still growing in size and potency, and are not yet ready for harvest.
If you are looking for the maximum THC yield, you want about 65% of the trichomes to be milky white, and these buds will produce the most intense highs. If you would rather go for a bit more CBD and less THC, so a more pain killing and anxiety reducing high, you will want about 80% of the trichomes to be milky white.
What you do need to keep in mind here is that if 100% of the trichomes have turned milky white, and if they have even started to turn a dark red or amber color, you have missed the opportune harvest window and will be left with subpar marijuana buds.
Harvesting Marijuana – Important Tips & Facts To Keep In Mind
Here we just want to provide you with a few extra marijuana harvesting tips, especially when it comes to knowing when your cannabis plants are ready to harvest. The more information you have in your weed harvesting arsenal, the better off you will be.
The pistil method for identifying harvest time does work alright, but the trichome method is the far more reliable of the two. However, if you want the best possible results, you will want to combine both of these methods.
Something to know here is that most marijuana strains need to remain in the flowering state for about 2 months before they are ready to harvest. Some may take 6 weeks and some may take 10. The point here is that after about 1.5 months or 6 weeks, you should start examining your weed plant for the various signs that harvest time is approaching. If you are past the 10 or 12 week mark, and still have not harvested, there might be some issues.
If all of the trichomes have turned amber, you have most likely missed your opportune harvesting window, but do remember that some cannabis strains have trichomes that never really turn amber. If the majority of the trichomes have turned milky white, but are not turning amber, it is definitely time to harvest. Remember, the cannabis harvest window lasts roughly 2 weeks from the beginning to the end of the most ideal time to harvest.
Never harvest your weed plants with bare hands, because all of those THC crystals or trichomes will stick to you, this reducing the potency of your weed. Also, never forget to flush your weed plants for 2 weeks before harvest, because smoking or ingesting a variety of plant food, plant nutrients, and fertilizers is neither healthy nor enjoyable.
You will know that harvest time is getting close when your weed plants start to really stink. Yes, all weed plants get really smelly, but of course, it is a smell that we all enjoy. Either way, the more potent the smell gets, the closer you are to harvest time.
There we are folks, literally everything you need to know about harvesting marijuana. Remember to keep track of time, especially the amount of time your weed plant has been in the flowering stage.
After about 6 weeks in the flowering stage, make sure to start examining the trichomes and the pistils for the telltale signs that your plants are ready to harvest.
Don’t forget to get the right cannabis harvesting tools, and always follow the proper marijuana harvesting procedure which we have gone over today, at least if you want the very best results possible!