Outdoor weed harvest:
Harvesting marijuana is a bit like harvesting grapes (or other fruits). The longer you wait, the more potent the grape is and the stronger the alcohol. With marijuana, the longer you wait, the more cannabinoids there will be --, and that means a stronger product.
The timing of the harvest is often one of the trickiest parts for new marijuana growers. Harvesting early will reduce the potency and effects of the marijuana, while harvesting late will make it have a narcotic effect with a too-strong taste.
In this article, we are going to look into the various ways of knowing exactly when to harvest. I’ll describe how to harvest by flowering time, the pistil colors, and the resin colors. We’ll also explain what to expect during the harvest process.
When to harvest
After your plant has gone through its flowering phase, it will begin to slide into a decline in health. There are a number of different symptoms which can flag this for you. You’ll notice that the pistils of the cannabis plant are turning red.
The stem might begin to broaden. Any resin on the buds will begin to brown and darken, and the leaves of the plant will start to yellow and die back. If your plant has flowered and you begin to notice any of these symptoms occur, chances are good that you are ready to harvest!
There’s some contention between growers on the precise ‘best’ time to harvest your cannabis. It depends in part on your own personal tastes. It’s not so different from harvesting other plants, even fruits or vegetables.
There are different ways to determine when it's time to harvest. I'll explain all of the methods further on in this article but here's a quick overview:
Indica: harvest after 8 weeks of flowering
Sativa: harvest after 10 weeks of flowering
Autoflower: 10 weeks from seedling to bud
50-70% brown - young, light marijuana
70-90% brown - ripe, heavy marijuana
90-100% brown - sharp, heavy marijuana
Clear trichomes - wait a bit longer
Milky white/amber trichomes - ready for harvest
All Amber trichomes - overripe
The best way to be able to properly see if your plants are ready for harvest is to use a magnifying tool of some sort. You should be looking for trichomes in your buds that are glittery and filled with resin. If you are seeing them this way, you will be able to harvest at the perfect time.
There are a number of different kinds of magnifying tools you can use to look more closely at your plants. Each will get the job done, but like with any aspect of growing and harvesting your marijuana plants, you need to understand what they all do and what the best tool for you is.
A Jewelers Loupe is perfect for someone working on a budget. It’s not very high-tech, making it the least helpful in seeing the details for the stage of life your buds are in. That being said, it should give you enough information to identify if it is harvest time yet or not.
Tip: make sure to download my free Grow Bible for more information about when and how to harvest
More powerful than a jewelers loupe, a handheld magnifier of some sort will zoom in enough to give you an even better idea of your buds’ status. Such high magnification can cause some problems, however, since sometimes it makes it difficult for you to focus.
If you’re someone who likes state-of-the-art technology, this might be the route for you. It’s more expensive, as these types of technologies always are, but it will give you a black-and-white answer to your question: Are my plants ready for harvest? You just need to connect it to your laptop to see the information at hand. You should read up on the methods of using it before purchasing one of these.
The latest possible harvest will net you the best results, but with cannabis, that can mean an overpowering and unpleasant flavor if you wait too long. The color of the pistils is the most common way for growers to determine when they want to harvest their plants and begin processing them for use.
Some growers harvest as soon as the pistils begin to turn red. Others wait until the pistils are almost entirely red and the resin of the plant is dark. In general, the later you harvest, the more you will get, but it is also likely to have a stronger flavor. If you wait too long, you could see decreased effectiveness of the active ingredients.
Besides the color of the pistils, examining the resin on your flowering plants is probably the best way to know if they’re ready for harvest. You will notice that the glands covered in resin become enlarged when the plant is mature, and they will also start to swell and look deformed.
The resin will darken from transparent to opaque amber as it becomes more mature. When the resin is still sticky and transparent, the plant is ready to be harvest. Once that resin darkens and becomes more amber-hued, you should make sure to harvest quickly because the plant will go through a deterioration of active ingredients.
Harvesting based on flowering time
One way to decide when to harvest is to simply base it off of timing. This timing can vary according to the specific strain that you are growing, so it’s important to read the descriptions and the comment sections of any online posts about your strain.
Note that the conditions in your grow room or outdoor climate also plays a role in the development of your plant. This is no accurate way of deceiding when it's time to harvest but it gives a an idea. There are a few rules of thumb you can stick with:
If you are growing an indica plant, you can expect the flowering time to last about eight weeks before the proper harvesting time. For outdoor growers, you can expect the best harvesting time to be around the end of September.
For sativa plants, the flowering periods lasts for about a month longer than indicas, meaning it will take about 12 weeks. That being said, several haze strains will actually flower faster -- more like 9 to 10 weeks long. Check the seeds that you ordered online to be sure. Normally sativas will be ready for harvest at the end of October.
Autoflowering strains of marijuana don’t stick to any specific lighting changes, so in one way it is easier to predict because it is based solely on time. Once the first seedlings are visible above the soil, you can expect the harvest to be ready in 10 weeks.
While harvesting based on flowering time is not an exact science, it can be a good jumping off point for figuring out when exactly to harvest your marijuana plants. It also works well for planning ahead because you can see what your growing season will look like.
Red or brown pistils
This is the best and easiest method for deciding when to harvest your marijuana. Check a bud’s pistils to see what their coloring looks like -- if they’re mostly white, it is too early to harvest. If they’re all brown or red, then you missed the peak time to harvest and should do it right away before the quality of the marijuana lowers any further.
The pistils should be exactly right, as follows:
Basically, once the pistils are ⅔ brown or a bit more, then you can safely harvest. Some new growers opt to harvest their plants at different times so they can figure out exactly when is best for their personal preferences. Some people prefer earlier harvested marijuana that has more uplifting, lighter effects, while others prefer as potent as possible.
When you choose to harvest will also affect the qualities of the bud. Harvesting earlier will give the plant a more stimulating effect when the ingredients are activated, while harvesting at peak ripeness will offer a more numbing hazy effect. This is another area where it comes down to personal taste. To figure out where you stand on the matter, a good bet is to harvest some of your plants early and some late. That way you can decide for yourself which is a better fit for your style as a grower.
Watch the trichomes
There is a third method of identifying whether your plants are ready to be harvested or not, in case the pistil method isn’t quite working for you. The trichome method is actually considered the more accurate one, so read carefully for it to truly benefit your judgment around harvest time.
The concept is simple: you simply need to take a look at the trichomes on your plants’ buds to be able to establish whether or not they are ready for harvest. Trichomes are the growths that resemble mushrooms in shape. Some trichomes are known as resin glands, which have a crystalline structure or appear frosty as they grow on the leaves and buds of your plants. If you have ever noticed the stickiness of weed, this is also responsible for that texture.
The trichomes you need to be paying close attention to are the ones that have a little ball on top of them since that is where much of the THC and other fun chemicals are housed. The key is being able to determine when they are at their highest THC level, so when is the peak time for harvesting them. Since it’s difficult to see with the naked eye, you should use one of the magnifying tools listed above to get a closer look.
So when do you know that the trichomes are ready? You need to compare them with the following color and texture rules:
Clear, White Hairs
This is definitely not the time to harvest. If the trichomes are clear, they won’t be potent enough for harvest, and your final yield will suffer because of it. You should wait until nearly half of the hairs are darker in color and are no longer sticking out so straight.
Half Clear or Cloudy Trichomes
It is still rather early for a harvest. The buds have not reached their full-size potential, although they will still produce a high if you harvest them now. This type of high will most likely be more energetic or “speedy.” The strain’s odor will develop further if you wait to harvest.
Mostly Cloudy Trichomes
Congratulations, you have reached the perfect stage for harvesting your buds! This is the point when they have the highest levels of THC, so if you want to maximize your yield outcome then you have to act fast. You will know your plants have reached this stage when 50 to 70 percent of the hairs have darkened from their original white color. Because of this peak amount of potency, the high that comes with the buds harvested at this time will give you some serious euphoria and will even relieve pain. This can be considered the most “intense” high you can get.
Tip: make sure to download my free Grow Bible for more information about trichomes
Amber and Cloudy Trichomes
This is a bit later than the absolute peak time for the greatest amount of potency, but only because the buds have slightly less THC and more CBN. If you are looking for a more relaxing, anxiety-reducing high, then this could actually be the perfect time for you to harvest. This high is more narcotic and often results in a “couchlock” result. You will be able to identify this stage when 70 to 90 percent of all the hairs have darkened.
You can look even more into the effects of harvesting your buds slightly earlier and later, depending on the exact type of high you are looking for. You can even harvest some during the peak time and some later, giving you a variety of options. Just make sure to label correctly so you don’t find yourself extremely relaxed when you were looking for a more energetic effect.
How to harvest
First, remove the lamp from your grow room and hang some wire from the ceiling. Then, cut the plant from the very base, then secure it (upside-down) from the wire you just hung. Turn on a fan and aim it right beneath the buds, keeping the humidity around 45% and the temperature around 64 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure the room is dark, and the extractor fan is running.
You’ll want a heavy duty shears or scissors to handle the thickness of the plant matter, and a dish of isopropyl alcohol on hand so that you can clean sticky resin off of your scissors and hands. You’re best off wearing gloves for the cutting process, it can get pretty gooey.
The basic idea is that the moisture needs to evaporate from the plant matter while the chlorophyll in the plant breaks down. You don’t want to dry the plants too quickly because it will mean there being some chlorophyll left, which negatively alters the taste of your weed. That is why you keep the room dark and the temperature moderate.
You can expect the drying process to last somewhere between 10 and 14 days. You should keep a close eye on your plants as they are drying, making sure that no mold is growing or developing. The humidity needs to stay low for this reason. Maintain the temperature as well.
The harvest is another crucial stage in your plants’ lives; in some ways, it’s the most important of all. The harvest makes or breaks your end result, making it the deciding factor of whether or not your entire growing season will be considered a success.
You would be making a serious mistake if you planned on going into the harvesting time without doing the proper amounts of research ahead of time.
You need to understand the seasons and the sun, your personal security, what to do to prepare for the harvest, and what exactly happens during the flowering period. Read on to gain a better understanding of these elements of the all-important harvest.
Change of seasons
Throughout your cannabis plants’ lives, you have been monitoring a fundamental tool for measuring energy intake and time: the sun. It is the most consistent and important element of any kind of gardening.
It will be equally important at the end of your plants’ lives as it was at the beginning. Once the summer is coming to a close, you should start to again keep track of the sun and the amount of light that it is providing to your cannabis plants.
During the middle of the summer, your plants are probably receiving 14 hours or more of sunlight. In the northern hemisphere, the turning of August to September is around the time that the amount of sunlight decreases dramatically.
For instance, within the month of September the loss of as much as 90 minutes of sunlight per day can be expected. This is exactly the change that causes your marijuana plants to change their energy focus to flowering instead of vegetation.
If you remember, the process of sex selection involved manipulating amounts of light in order to trick mature cannabis plants to begin flowering. This strong reaction in the plants is no accident; all plants have the strong ability to distinguish day from night. So when summer turns to fall and there are only 12 or 13 hours of daylight per day, the flowering process initiates within days.
Tip: make sure to download my free Grow Bible for more information about harvest time
Because of this sensitive reaction in marijuana plants, you can manipulate them fairly easily so that they start to produce buds exactly when you want them to. They react this way to artificial lights the same way they would the natural sunlight.
This sensitivity is also why you should never plant your marijuana plants in a location that is exposed to any street lights or other artificial lights. They require properly dark nights, just as they would experience in nature during the fall.
This is why growing marijuana is the easiest in a place that has four distinct seasons. If you decide to grow cannabis, you will soon see that fall is your favorite time of year. For more details on growing outdoors you can also read this article from Howtogrowmarijuana.
Are you prepared to harvest?
When this time rolls around, you will probably have been looking forward to the harvesting time for months already. You have managed to keep your plants happy, healthy, and secure during the whole season, and now you can reward yourself with a high yield and a good harvest.
Just like with any other step in the process of growing marijuana, there are a few tricks to harvesting successfully.
You need to keep an eye out for very specific signs, and you need to know which potential mistakes are best avoided. The last thing you want is to ruin everything from a silly mistake after getting through a full season of growing.
The first most important element in successfully harvesting your plants is making sure the timing is right. This requires a careful monitoring of both the weather and your plants.
If you are feeling eager and harvest too early, the potency as well as the yield could be greatly reduced. If you are too hesitant and wait until after the plants’ peak time to harvest, the potency will begin to degrade as well.
This is why it is important to keep a close eye on the details to determine when your plants are at the perfect harvesting time. In order to know exactly when to do it, you will need to have a very thorough understanding of the flowering period’s rhythm. When in doubt, be more patient.
As soon as the flowering phase has begun, start paying attention to the sun’s timing and strength as it correlates with the seasonal changes. Use this as your means of understanding when the best time for harvesting is.
You should also look at the plant itself for signs of being ready for harvesting. You should also know the weather forecast pretty well, as the weather conditions of the actual day of harvest are also crucial.
Before harvesting, you should know how exactly you are going to go about it. It will always include cutting and moving your plants, but will you move the entire plant or cut them while they are at their growing site? How will you transport them? These questions are generally a matter of security.
You can place the plants or cuttings in sealed bags so that the odor isn’t noticeable within your car. You should consider having a friend drive the route with you shortly behind, making sure the whole way is safe. You should have your drying room ready to go before you harvest your plants so you can safely begin to dry them as soon as you are there.
When to harvest outdoors
The best sign that you're ready to harvest bud will be apparent all over the marijuana plant in the leaves and the buds themselves. The physical characteristics of the plant will change considerably.
The larger leaves will turn a yellow-brown color which tells you that the marijuana plant is dying. The stigmas of mature plants will wither at the base of the buds, while remaining a healthy white color on top.
Another sign, and one in which there is a bit of latitude, is in the color of the marijuana buds themselves. It is a good idea to pick them at the first sign that they are losing their rich green color. If they turn brown, a sign that they've withered a bit, the buds will smoke more harshly.
The one benefit to waiting until you near this point is that the resin glands will contain more resin, and some people don't mind the harsher smoke since they bargain that they are receiving a stronger, more intense high. This is a personal decision and one that you'll learn more about over your successive harvests.
The changing hours of the sunlight are of course the most important aspect of your marijuana plants' lives. Plants are naturally in tune to the changing amounts of light and darkness that they are receiving, and the increasingly longer hours of darkness sends a signal to a plant that it must mature.
Depending on where you grew your marijuana plants, and whether or not they were started indoors and then replanted, the sun will be the most important predictor in knowing that harvest is approaching.
Some cannabis growers, like those in many parts of Australia, Hawaii, and the southern parts of North America, can often get two or more harvests a year, because the sun provides plenty of light throughout the year. In that case, the marijuana plants will grow large, flower as if to reproduce naturally and then begin again. But since they are already quite large, and have plenty of leaves to catch the sunlight, the second harvest occurs in much less time than did the first.
Tip: make sure to download my free Grow Bible for more information about when to harvest outdoor
For the rest of us though, cannabis growers in areas in which it is important to have your marijuana plants removed by the end of summer and the onset of the first frost, the sun is a lifeline to our finished product. The middle of the summer, which in the Northern Hemisphere falls on the 21st of June, has as much as 15 hours of sunshine.
Marijuana plants will not typically flower unless they receive at least 12 hours of darkness a day. Indoor cannabis growers are typically able to harvest more often because they control the light.
The trade-off for the outdoor grower is receiving more in less frequent harvests. If you only have a few marijuana plants, it is some- times possible to cover them completely and induce harvesting, but this is not a functional reality for most cannabis growers.
The light and darkness factor works 170th ways though. Some growers will actually shine very bright lights, like halogens, on their marijuana plants during the night in order to reset the internal clock. This is useful if you wish your plant to grow in size and not begin its flowering.
In Australia some Sativa varieties can grow to 16 feet with internodes around 3 to 4 inches in variety. Obviously a plant of that size will produce a large amount of recoverable crop, but getting it that size requires a year-round growing season.
To get it that size they may need to convince the marijuana plant that it is not quite time to flower, and that perhaps it should continue using its energy toward leaf production and upward reaching.
Another good way of identifying a general time for harvesting your plants is thinking about the September Equinox. This is not a clear rule, however, so don’t blindly harvest on this day.
It is a good point in the calendar for knowing when to stop watering. You should cease your regular watering schedule a few weeks before the September Equinox.
As the date gets closer, be extra careful to notice any differences in your cannabis plants that might mean they are ready for the harvest. Your plants should stop growing taller and should begin flowering instead. Focus on how fast your plants are flowering and the other physical aspects of the plant.
The most important part of choosing the correct harvest time is the flowering period. You can expect six to twelve buds per plant once their flowering phase has begun after the light has decreased. The rate will begin slowly, but then will increase rapidly (like when you make popcorn).
More buds will appear, and the already existing buds will also continue to grow. When you can see that the rate of bud production is decreasing by a large amount (like when the popping rate decreases in popcorn), the flowering phase is complete.
Mark your calendar for one week after the last day of the flowering period. This is when the plants have grown as much as they are going to, making it the peak time to harvest your plants. Once again the popcorn metaphor can be useful - if you leave the popper or microwave on for too long, the kernels will start to burn.
Even if there are kernels that remain unpopped, it is the right time to turn off the microwave. The same goes for marijuana plants. Although you might be missing out on a couple new buds, letting it go on too long will be a worse consequence when considering the entire yield. You never want to jeopardize the first few buds in order to get a couple more.
The most crucial element of harvesting your plants is your security. Don’t let your excitement to harvest the marijuana make you forget about your personal security.
This is perhaps the important time for ensuring your safety since you can’t exactly deny the fact that you own the plants if you are caught in the act of removing them. Therefore, you need to be extra cautious in the days before and on the day itself. Don’t inform a single person that you are about to harvest, and on the actual harvesting day you should be extra careful about telling people where you are.
Until the harvest, security is mainly a matter of diverting unwanted attention away from your marijuana plants. All of this changes as the flowering period ebbs, because now you must concern yourself with your actual yield. In this situation, cannabis growers have been known to resort to some very elaborate and even over-the- top means to protect their buds from prying eyes.
While some will sleep near their ''babies'' for the days immediately leading up to the harvest, others will set up trip wire that rings a bell if anyone approaches. If their site is close to home, they might keep a dog that barks a lot outside all night.
Other cannabis growers simply watch the known entrance routes like a hawk. During these days the growers are irritable, cranky, and extra paranoid, but with a year's supply (or oftentimes, even more) of cannabis at stake, can you really blame them.
It is also important to remember that all of the other security concerns still apply and the same level of care (if not more) should be taken. It is not unusual for marijuana plants to be staked out by potential thieves who are waiting for them to grow big buds so they can reap the benefits of your time and effort.
The police could also have detected your plot weeks ago and be waiting for you to walk into a trap that you yourself have unwittingly set. When you show up at your site with shears, bags, and a backpack, it is hard to claim ignorance.
Therefore it is important to do the following things: pick as secure a grow site as possible, and if you suspect that something is wrong, relax and walk away. After all, it's just marijuana, it is not worth going to jail, or getting into a fight about.
How to harvest outdoor marijuana
Bring sealable bags. And if you bring like ziploc bags, make sure to bring a holdall because ziplocks are transparent (these bags are not transparant and odor free).
Cut your plants into lengths that are easily transported - cut the stalks so they fit into your bags. Make sure you are not spending too much time at your site when harvesting; be efficient and fast. Just remember: all that matters is the removal and safe transport of your plants; however you do that is up to you.
Make sure your harvest outdoor is done a safe amount of time before the first frost has a chance to damage your plants. It is best to harvest on a beautiful fall day with clear skies and lots of sun. Don’t overthink this, however, as harvesting in the rain won’t be the end of the world.
It will increase the drying time only by a fraction, and it will have no effect on the buds and resin glands. Don’t relax until you’re home safely with all of your plants. Once you have accomplished this, you will have very little to worry about from now on.
There isn’t a black and white way of being able to know what your yield will be like ahead of time. You can identify a few signs that will give you a basic idea of whether the yield will be really good, decent or poor. All of the factors that you have already worried about (sunlight, water, and soil) will have an impact on the final result of your yield.
You can expect a few specific quantities. For instance, if the plant is five feet tall, you should get a minimum of between two and six ounces of bud. Taller and bushier plants will produce more, of course. If any changes took places after the peak harvest time, you can expect a significantly worse yield.
Harvest twice per year
Some skilled marijuana growers are able to accomplish a double yield during a single season. One method is buying autoflowering marijuana seeds because it takes only 10 weeks for them to grow from seed to harvest.
There are some specific methods that can be used to be able to get this second harvest. A successful second harvest depends not only on how well you perform these techniques, but also where you live.
If you are in a climate that is further north, your cannabis plants are most likely already vulnerable to an early frost or other seasonal changes. In that case, accomplishing a second harvest will not be as easy.
If you live in a more temperate zone where early fall is fairly mild, you might be able to successfully harvest your cannabis plants more than once during the growing season. It all depends on your technique of harvest in this case.
You can’t harvest plants normally once and then later decide you want to try a second harvest - the process begins already during the first time you harvest. Once you have removed most of the harvest (allowing only the tiny buds and most of the leaf to remain), you are ready for the next step.
Immediately start up the same process that led to the first growth cycle that your plants have already been through. Add lots of water and some fresh fertilizer to stimulate another round of growth.
Make sure to buy autoflowering marijuana seeds in our online seed shop
You basically are just trying to get the cannabis plants back into their flowering phase so they produce more buds that you can harvest. If you leave most of the leaves, you will have a higher chance of the second flowering phase to be activated since they are what absorbs the sunlight that the plants need for growing energy.
Because the timing and intensity of the sunlight have already changed, the plants are already in their flowering phase. If you are living in a location that continues to have mild temperatures through the beginning of fall (such as in tropical climates), then you should be able to continue your plants’ vegetative phase even longer.
You do this through light manipulation - simply have a light of some sort shining on the entire plant in the nighttime. This can be done with a flashlight.
If you have successfully interrupted their period of darkness normally required for the flowering stage, you will have started the plants’ growing back up again. When you want the plants to begin their second flowering phase, simply stop interrupting the darkness with your light.
Keep in mind that flowering takes a couple weeks, so don’t keep the plants in their vegetative phase for too long. For instance, if the first frost or colder weather will be there within two weeks, then you should have already started up the flowering process three weeks prior.
Thanks for reading. Please leave comments or questions below and don't forget to download my free grow bible