- The outdoor marijuana growing season is winding to an end, and many growers are preparing to reap the fruits of months of work and fill their pantries with succulent buds to enjoy on cold winter days.
- If you were one of them this season, keep in mind that choosing the right time to harvest your marijuana is important, because doing it too early or too late can really make a difference when it comes to the quality of your cannabis.
- If you want to choose the best time to cut your marijuana plants, keep reading, because we are going to reveal the keys to determining the best time to harvest your marijuana.
Choosing the best days to harvest your cannabis plants will depend on several factors (weather, pests, genetics ...). Thus, we are going to cite different situations so that you know what to do in your particular case.
Genetics: autoflowering or feminized seeds?
The genetic is a factor that will impact the right harvest time: depending on the type of seed you have planted, you will need to take into account the following variables:
If you have grown...
- Autoflowering cannabis seeds: one might say that, from the moment you germinate this type of seed, a race against the clock begins. Automatics feature a fixed harvest date and, as a result, are programmable.
- Feminized cannabis seeds: the right harvest time will depend on the strain; there are genetics that are faster, and others that need a few more days, or even weeks, to mature. If this season you have planted feminized cannabis seeds, find out when the optimal harvest period is according to the seed bank (the supplier usually offers guidance in this regard).
Depending on the geographical area where your cannabis crops are located, you must take weather factors into account. Although the ideal harvest time tends to fall between 10 and 15 October, if you see that the rains have fallen, or the forecasts are calling for bad weather, we recommend that you move up the harvest. It is better to do it a little early rather than let months of work go to waste due to humidity, fungi, etc.
Health status of your crop
If your plants are completely healthy, and the climate remains sunny, you'll be able to wait until the ideal harvest date. But if, despite the sun, your plants are infected with some type of pest or fungus (red spider, botrytis ...), this would be a factor justifying an early harvest, even if your cannabis plants are autoflowering.
If you are forced to move up your harvest...
If due to any of the above factors you decide it is best to cut early, it would be reasonable to do so no more than 10 days before the optimum date. If the situation is very serious (a severe pest problem, or disastrous weather), and you have to move up your harvest by two weeks, the cannabis will not be fully developed.
It is feasible to do so, and you may consume it, but the result will be a decrease in flavour quality; the flowers will have more chlorophyll, and the taste will be "greener". The concentration of terpenes will be lower. Although they will still be on the rise, they will still not have completed their cycle, so the plant will not exhibit its full aromatic potential.
How to compensate for an early harvest
For both the flavour and the effect to be a little more mature, you should prolong the drying and the curing so that your cannabis loses that "greenness."
What happens if you harvest your cannabis late?
It is more common in drier climates for outdoor harvests to be deferred until late October. The Mediterranean and inland Spain offer growers more peace of mind in this regard than along the Atlantic coast, where rainfall and humidity in the months of September and October are much more frequent and intense.
During the plant's maturation process the buds swell and, above all, at the end of the flowering stage, the main leaves begin to turn yellow because sugars concentrate on the flower.
If a cannabis plant overmatures what happens is that the secondary leaves also begin to yellow. If you were not paying attention, and you let your cannabis plants grow past the optimal harvest date, the flower will be freer of waste, as the plant will have been better able to better remove accumulated traces of fertiliser. This will soften the taste, and it will not be necessary to stretch out the curing.
The classic literature mentions that the effects of this marijuana will surely be more narcotic, as part of the THC (not all) present in the plant will have degraded, becoming CBN (a cannabinoid with narcotic properties). It will, therefore, be a cannabis with a psychoactive effect (since the THC will remain in its composition), but with a heavier, more sedative effect, to be consumed at night, ideally. You'll notice that its flavour is milder because the chlorophyll will have metabolized. It will be as if the plant had been cured live.
You can obtain different effects, tailored to your tastes, with the same strain of marijuana, depending on the maturity level at which you decide to harvest it.
When is the best time to harvest your cannabis?
To judge the optimal time for the harvest you will need to observe the development of the resin on the buds. To do this you will need a magnifying glass to observe the morphology of the trichomes.
What is a trichome?
Trichomes are present on the cannabis flower and are responsible for developing the plant's THCA, CBDA and other cannabinoids. These small glands have a life cycle, and by looking at what point of this cycle they are at you will be able to determine how mature your marijuana plants are.
At the beginning of the cycle the trichomes are only little balls, called basal trichomes. As the plant matures other, more elongated trichomes appear, featuring a lollipop shape.
As the process advances the trichomes take on a translucent milky white colour, followed by amber.
If you let the optimum harvest date slip by, you will notice that the trichomes feature a darker, candy brown colour. The ideal time to harvest your marijuana plants is when most of the trichomes are milky white, and some (about 25%) are amber.
Therefore, to decide on the optimal time to harvest, you'll need to confirm that...
- The resin production has peaked
- The flowers have stopped growing
- The secondary leaves have begun to lose colour, and most of the main leaves have fallen
- Observing the trichomes with a magnifying glass, most of them are milky white, and some are amber