How To Harvest Marijuana: The Definitive Guide

Harvesting marijuana is not as simple as you might think. This isn’t your ordinary agricultural species that just need sun and water to thrive.

There are lots of things you need to know regarding optimal cannabis harvesting time in order to get the best possible THC quantity. Small mistakes can be costly, which is why most growers will need some time until they’re able to maximize their gains.

Luckily, we are here to provide some insights. Make sure to read this article from top to bottom, and you will be able to get much better results with your cannabis!

When do you want to harvest marijuana?

Making this decision often comes down to personal preferences. Keep in mind that the strain you’re using will have an impact on how long the whole process takes. However, you are still able to prolong it or shorten it depending on what kind of results you’re looking for.

As already mentioned, the THC content will change over time, which is why you need to hit just the right moment when this compound is at its highest. The time of marijuana harvest will also change marijuana from a hallucinogenic drug into a medical plant.

So, if you’re growing it commercially, you need to decide how you want to sell it. 

Determining just the right type of high

Although there are more and more organizations that are focusing on medical marijuana, most individuals and companies will grow it for its hallucinogenic properties.

That being said, it is very important to determine what kind of impact you’re expecting. The type of high you’ll get will depend on the harvest type, strain type that you’re using as well as the variety. So, it is not as simple as it might seem.

Experienced growers recommend using one and the same strain over and over until you get some experience. That way, you will be able to control at least one of these 3 factors.

There are also 3 types of high that you can get: from extreme excitement to sleepiness, and somewhere in between. If you’re harvesting marijuana for your personal use, this will help you determine what kind of cannabis you need. Otherwise, you should make a decision based on your clients.

When it comes to the type of strain you’re using, you need to know that Indicas lead to a body high, while Sativas lead to a head high. Variety is also important as it determines the type of high that you will have.

Also read: Indica vs. Sativa vs. Hybrid strains

Lastly, we will need to consider the marijuana flowering stage. You will have to consider how long it has passed since flowering began. The length of flowering will affect the development of THC glands and, thus, its production. However, if you go beyond a certain point, these levels will slowly start dropping.

What do you have to know about the THC level?

If you want to know more about THC, it is necessary to learn about trichomes. They are small crystals that appear on marijuana buds and are vital for THC production. After a few weeks, they will start appearing, and it is paramount to monitor their progress. As time goes by, they will multiply and start changing their color. While there are some other things you should be mindful of, trichomes are the best way of telling whether or not cannabis is ready.

Over time, they will change their color from clear, translucent, to cloudy and amber. Keep in mind that not all trichomes will change their color at the same time; some of them will remain clear while others will turn amber or opaque. In most cases, the upper ones will mature more quickly, so if you are an experienced grower, there is an option of making two marijuana harvests (one for upper trichomes and one for lower trichomes).

Experienced growers have the option of waiting for a specific moment to check the trichomes. However, if you’re new to marijuana growing, we suggest you stay vigilant. No matter what, the flowering will last for at least 5 weeks, so you should start paying more attention after this time span. Always remember that different cannabis types will have different rates of maturity. So, it is really hard to give you the precise time when your particular marijuana strain will be ready for harvest.

Indicas mature much quicker, so they will usually need around 6 to 8 weeks from the start of flowering to harvest. On the other hand, Sativa strains need a bit longer. They usually take from 8 to 12 weeks to completely mature, so you should start checking on them after week 7.

The best way to check trichomes

Trichomes are too small to be controlled with a naked eye. Instead, you will have to buy a microscope. Getting a microscope that increases by 30x will be good enough; you don’t need anything larger. You can buy them in any specialized cannabis store.

While doing this, it is very important to be gentle with the plants. They can easily get damaged, especially if you make daily checkups. Experienced growers recommend buying latex gloves for this purpose. The gloves are important as they will allow you to prevent any damage or contamination. 

Other things to pay attention to when harvesting marijuana

Besides trichomes, there are some other factors you have to be aware of. They include things such as the color of the pistil, the size of the plant, as well as swollen calyxes. 

Let’s start with the size of the plant. During flowering, the buds will slowly increase. At one point, they will completely stop growing. While this isn’t the best indicator, it can be used with other factors to determine whether the plants are ready or not.

Pistil color is another thing you need to check regularly. Like trichomes, they will slowly change their color from white to orange and amber. Again, certain parts of the plant will change the color a bit more slowly, but this isn’t something you should worry about as it is completely natural.

Lastly, you will have to check whether the calyxes are swollen. If they are swollen, this is an indication that marijuana is completely mature and ready for harvest. When checking the overall maturity of a plant, you will have to pay attention to all these factors at the same time. If some factors are off, this is a sign you should wait a bit longer.

Preparing for the marijuana harvest

Now that you’ve done the hardest part, it is time to prepare for the marijuana harvest. You will have to buy all the necessary tools and prepare the area. If this is a one-time thing for you, you can borrow the tool from a friend or a family member.

However, if you want to grow cannabis on a permanent basis, it is much better to get your own equipment as it will save you a lot of hassle in the future.

  • Prepare the harvest area

There are lots of different ways to grow marijuana. People who have a big backyard or a country house can easily grow cannabis outdoors. However, most growers prefer doing it indoors. It is very important to plan things ahead of time. Make sure to create a designated area where you can place the plants. Ideally, this should be one isolated room or a glasshouse. Isolation is important as it localizes the strong odor. The ideal temperature for cannabis is around 21 degrees Celsius or 70 degrees Fahrenheit. You might also consider getting a ventilation system as it will help out as well. Keep in mind that your plants also require proper lighting to thrive

  • Getting the right tools

As previously mentioned, you will have to pay close attention to the tools. If you have experience with agriculture (which most growers do), you will likely have some of these in your shed. They are really inexpensive, and you can get them in almost any hardware store. First, you will have to get the trimmers such as your regular scissors, as well as electric and mechanical trimmers. They are the first and the most important thing on this list. Unlike the trimmers, trim trays are not that important, and you can avoid buying them. However, they make things much easier. Furthermore, they will help you squeeze some extra from your weed plants. You might think that the gloves are not that important, and you would be wrong. It is really easy to contaminate the plants and jeopardize the whole cannabis harvest. Besides that, gloves help you with stickiness as well as the odor that persists on skin. Lastly, you will need lines to hang your weed plants on.

  • Preparing the marijuana plants

Of course, it is also necessary to create the proper conditions for your cannabis plants. You will also have to do several things before harvesting marijuana. Start by removing the old, yellow leaves. They are taking a lot of energy from the plant, but don’t have enough impact to justify their presence. However, you will need to be careful during this step. Remove only the leaves that are on the bottom. Growers should stop spraying 2 weeks before the cannabis harvest. This way, there will be no residue on the buds, and you will be able to prevent the appearance of mold. You will have to pay attention to flushing as well as it will have a major impact on how the product turns out.

Flushing your marijuana plants before the harvest

Cannabis harvesting time will be different depending on the strain and your personal preferences. Once you decide when you’re going to harvest marijuana, you will have to start flushing cannabis. Flushing is a pretty simple process: all you need to do is pour water on the leaves. This way, you’re making sure there aren’t any nutrients or chemicals left on them.

Oftentimes, fertilizers will remain on the leaves. This will affect the quality of the product once you start smoking it. Your marijuana might smell like chemicals when you lit it (if you manage to lit it because unflushed buds have trouble burning). The process is even more important for growers who use synthetic fertilizers. 

Although we mentioned that flushing is easy, there are still a few things you need to know. First of all, you will have to stop fertilizing in order to start flushing. There is no point in watering down the leaves if you keep adding fertilizer on top of them. You will have to use clean, distilled water for this process. Distilled water is neutral, and it will remove all the agents that are affecting the quality of the product.

Flushing will be a bit different depending on where you keep your cannabis plants. If you’re growing them in soil, you will just need to water them down. But, if you’re using a hydroponics system, you will have to replace the water reservoir with distilled water. Make sure to repeat this every 2 or 3 days until the cannabis harvest.

Marijuana Harvesting

After all these preparations and technicalities, it is finally time to harvest your marijuana plants. Even though you’re close to achieving your goals, it is very important to proceed carefully. Small mistakes can be costly, so you will have to be very patient.

Cannabis harvesting should be done in a closed, isolated environment, without any outside interference. Some inexperienced growers will damage their pot plants during this last phase as they might think, there is nothing to mess up.

There are so many things that can interfere with the process. You have to keep the light and the temperature on the same levels. You must pay attention to humidity as there is always a chance that mold starts appearing on the leaves. Marijuana needs to be handled with care. You might’ve bought the right gloves, but you will still have to be attentive.

There are 2 main approaches to harvesting marijuana. You can either harvest the whole weed plant, or only the upper, mature buds.

So, what is the difference between the two, and why should you choose one over another? Basically, the cannabis buds will mature at a different time. The upper ones will mature quicker, while the lower ones will remain relatively underdeveloped. This is why you can get just the upper ones and wait for the lower ones to mature so you can harvest them as well.

Harvesting the whole cannabis plant at once is much easier and quicker. It is a recommended way of harvesting marijuana if you’re an inexperienced grower. However, this means that you will get a lower yield.

If you decide to harvest only the mature cannabis buds, you will be able to get a higher yield. It also means that the whole marijuana harvesting process will take a bit longer. You will have to wait for an additional 5 to 10 days until you can harvest the rest of the weed plant. Buds are highly dependent on the light; those that are getting more of it will mature quicker and vice versa. 

Now that you have the basic information, it is time to learn how to cut the main stalk.

You will have to get your scissors for this step. A lot of the process comes down to personal preferences. No matter what you do from here on, make sure to have your gloves. THC will stick to your hands, and as they get sticky, there will be increased chance stuff will be transferred from your hands to the marijuana plants. This is how you contaminate stuff. 

Leaves that don’t have trichomes can either be cut or left alone. If you decide to remove them, it will hasten the drying process. On the other hand, if they stay, buds will take more time to dry.

What you choose depends on the humidity. If the humidity is too high, the removal of these leaves will prevent the formation of mold. On the other hand, if humidity is low, it will allow buds to dry slower. You might also want to consider getting a fan as it helps the process.

Time to manicure the buds

At this point, the majority of the process is over, and you have to deal with some minor stuff. This is when you need to perform manicuring. There are two main ways to do it: either dry the leaves or trim them.

If you decide to go for trimming, you have to keep in mind that the leaves will dry faster. It is also much easier to trim the plant if you do it outright. Keep in mind that at this point, leaves are very humid and full of water. This makes them really easy to cut. They are also much stiffer, which means you are less likely to rip them out as you handle marijuana plants.

If there are fewer leaves on the cannabis plants, it means that the buds will dry much quicker. Such an approach is ideal for humid environments or if you need to dry your buds quickly.

The second option at your disposal is drying on the line. This is a slower process during which a grower will let the buds slow naturally. Just put your weed plants on the line and watch out for stems. When they start bending a bit, this is a good indication that the buds are now dry and ready for trimming. Drying on the line takes about a week to finish. If you choose to dry your marijuana on the line, the leaves and branches will be easier for trimming because the whole pot plant will be closer to snapping. Unfortunately, this also means that you will have to be extra careful as any movement can lead to irreparable damage. You might want to try this approach is you are a bit more experienced.

Trimming your marijuana plants

Although you might think that trimming is easy, there are a few things you need to know about it. Basically, you will have to cut all the additional material surrounding the buds. While there is some leeway regarding how much you can trim, most growers (and clients) will want tightly trimmed buds.

You will have to focus on the biggest leaves that are coming out of the buds. Prioritize brown and yellow leaves as they look really bad. They are also no necessary, so they will only hinder your efforts. Needless to say, a grower will have to remove all the leaves that have no trichomes as they will have no THC in them.

Trimming can be really easy. In fact, it is easier than most of the other processes where experience is paramount. The main thing you need to keep in mind is efficiency. While trimming is not that hard, it can be quite arduous, especially if you have a lot of marijuana plants. So, you will want to ease the process as much as possible.

You can start by getting curved trimmers. They are ideal for cannabis plants as they allow you to cut leaves regardless of plant shape or leaves’ position. While this might sound gimmicky to an inexperienced grower, it definitely saves a lot of time.

You can also get trim trays. They will gather everything that you’ve trimmed and will hasten the whole process. It is also possible to improve the process by trimming just the right areas.

Don’t do things randomly, but instead, start trimming leaves strategically. You will have to leave a few inches of stem to hold on to as you trim. It is also recommended that you continuously clean the scissors during the process. There will be a lot of stuff on them, so you should remove all this material to make trimming more efficient.


Like any other process relating to marijuana, harvesting can be a lot of work. It is very important to prepare in advance and try to cover all the blind spots. Even then, there will be certain things you’ll struggle with.

Anyway, we suggest that you bookmark this page, and once you need to harvest your cannabis plants, just open it for reference!

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