When to Harvest 101
HARVEST….It’s the time you have been waiting for! In preparation for your big day, you will want to be sure to flush your plants with water only for at least 7 days prior to harvest
to ensure the removal of any salt build up and remaining nutrients from the soil to reduce
the harsh sensation that may be experienced when smoking finished product. Ideally, by
the time of harvest, your plants will be yellowing, further aiding in the reduction of any harsh
flavor. Remember, flower will burn to white ash as an indicator that your plants have been
properly flushed. Please note that if you are using living soil as your selected medium,
you will not experience any salt build-up and therefore will have no need to flush your
Knowing when to harvest your cannabis does not need to be scary or overwhelming. As
a grower, you have just spent the last 90 to 120 days taking care of clones or seedlings
to create strong roots, vegging your plants to perfection and finally, flowering your plants
for peak performance. So, when is the right time to harvest? There is no definitive answer
as everyone has their own metrics and ideal characteristics for determining the best time
for harvesting plants. The technique that I have developed through years of experience,
is a combination of trial and error and the knowledge that has been bestowed upon me
by masters of the craft.
Please utilize the following information as a basic guideline for monitoring your plant’s
trichomes as you experiment to find what works best for your desired preference of your
end-product. Trichomes (traɪkoʊmz or trɪkoʊmz), from the Greek τρίχωμα (trichōma) meaning “hair”,
are fine outgrowths or appendages on plants, algae, lichens, and certain protists that are
of diverse structure and function. On the cannabis plant, they are the source of the
cannabinoids, the molecular chemical compounds such as THC, CBD, CBG, and CBC
among others. In the final flowering stage trichomes appear clear like a
Step 1. Examine the trichomes, using a magnifying glass or scope for an enhanced view,
to observe closely enough to allow you to see the full spectrum of color contained within.
Step 2. Through your magnified observations, trichomes should ideally appear as either
clear, milky or cloudy in color, indicating that the plant is ripe and is ready to harvest. By
contrast, clear color is a sign that trichomes are not yet ripe and are not ready for harvest.
An amber color means the trichrome is naturally converting to CBN, which provides for a
calming relaxing effect.
Step 3. Everyone has a different ideal trichome ratio, however, I look for at least 75%
milky trichomes with roughly 5% to 10% turning amber in color, and the remaining
trichomes being clear. Depending on the desired end effect when consumed, you can let
the trichome ratio go up or down on the amber scale to give you a more relaxed experience with more amber trichomes versus a less relaxed experienced with fewer
The white and/or red hairs, known as pistils, on the flowers are another vital indicator to
identify when harvesting. These hairs will appear as white throughout most of the flower
cycle, turning either yellow, orange and then finally red as the plant begins to mature.
Most experienced growers will harvest at the plants’ peak potency when the hairs have
turned 70% to 80% red. For new growers who are not sure when to harvest, wait for at
least 50% of the hairs to turn red before harvesting. This will give you enough
understanding of how to improve your process for the next harvest by adjusting the
ratios for your desired results from the effects, taste, and experience.
Harvesting plants can be the most exciting time for a grower. Ensuring you harvest plants
at their peak potency can be a calculated process with minimal trial and error. Get to know
each strain and the unique characteristics and nuances that make each one unique and
learn when the best time is to harvest for peak yield, cannabinoid profile, terpene
expression, and overall performance.
Stay tuned for “How to Harvest” and “How to Cure”.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ellis Smith is co-founder and Chief Development Officer of American Cannabis Company (ACC). He has more than 20 years of horticulture experience in the specialty cut flower market, operating indoor gardens which helped him understand complex growing systems. As a cannabis grower, he developed an all natural soil medium known as SoHum Living Soil which is used by hundreds of commercial cannabis operations. As CDO of ACC, Mr. Smith is also responsible for the design and construction of more than 1 million square feet of cannabis grow space in the U.S. and Canada.