How To Tell When Marijuana Seeds Are Ready To Harvest

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Harvest is an exciting time when it comes to growing weed, because you finally get to see your trichomes mature. Learn how and when to harvest marijuana. Can’t fully get rid of that cannabis strain you grew for so long? Learn how to store seeds and pollen to clear space in your garden and hang onto those favorite genetics for another day. Amsterdam Seed Supply – Not sure when to harvest Marijuana seeds? Look no further – Buy Marijuana seeds – Discreet shipping

How to harvest marijuana plants

It’s been months since that little weed sprout first popped out of the ground, or you put that delicate clone into some soil. You’ve watched your plants grow and mature, getting bigger and developing buds, and can’t wait to get those buds off the plant and light up.

But not so fast—harvesting cannabis isn’t just cutting down plants and trimming buds; you’ll also need to dry and cure buds before you can smoke them.

There are a few different ways to harvest weed, depending on whether you trim buds wet, straight off the plant, or dry, allowing them to dry first:

  • In wet trimming, the plant is cut down, buds are removed off branches—called “bucking”—then trimmed, and then dried, all in one sitting.
  • When dry trimming, the plant is cut down and hung to dry for several days; buds are bucked off branches and trimmed when fully dried.

Harvesting is one of the most exciting steps when growing weed, and here’s what you need to know before cutting down your crop.

Overview of how to harvest weed

  1. Flush plants a week before harvesting
  2. Determine when to harvest based on trichome color
  3. Decide if you’ll be wet or dry trimming
  4. Prepare equipment
  5. Chop down plants
  6. Dry and trim plants

Learn more on harvesting weed

Check out Johanna’s full video series on how to grow weed on Leafly’s YouTube .

How to know when to harvest cannabis

It’s important to note that every gardener has a different opinion on when to harvest their cannabis plants—some like to harvest early while others prefer later. When you harvest can also depend on other factors in life, such as your schedule, a job, the weather, etc.

Harvesting weed a week early or late probably won’t be the end of the world, but don’t let your plants sit around much longer than that.

When to harvest cannabis according to trichomes

The best way to tell if your marijuana plants are ripe and ready to harvest, both indoors and outdoors, is to look at:

  • Stigma: These hair-like strands that cover buds will turn from white to orange and will start to curl.
  • Trichomes: The resinous glands all over the plant will turn from clear to opaque and then amber.

The color and clarity of trichomes will tell you when a plant has reached peak maturity and is ready to harvest.

Ripe, healthy trichomes will be sticky and milky white; unripe trichomes will be clear; and overripe or diseased trichomes will be amber or brown. You want to look for milky white trichomes before harvesting.

Keep in mind that top colas might reach maturity faster than bottom buds because they receive more light. You may need to harvest a plant when some buds are ripe and others are under-ripe.

Additionally, information from the breeder or grower can be helpful in getting a rough estimate of when a particular strain should be harvested.

Outdoor marijuana

Weed is a warm-season annual, so if growing outdoors, harvest time comes between September and November in the Northern Hemisphere.

There is some variability—growers in Northern California may be able to harvest into November, whereas growers in the Pacific Northwest will likely need to pull their crops down by mid-October, before fall rains set it.

Know your local climate and talk to other growers in your specific area to see when they harvest marijuana.

Tips for determining when to harvest outdoor weed

Strains from regions close to the equator—sativas—need a long, seemingly endless summer to fully ripen, while strains from harsh, cold climates—indicas—tend to finish earlier. That being said, some indicas take a long time to finish and some sativas finish on the early side.

The best time of day to harvest outdoor marijuana plants is in the morning, before the sun blasts them. Ideally, you don’t want them to be wet and dewey, but you don’t want them to under the bright light of the sun, which can degrade terpenes.

You can also harvest at night when the temperature cools off, but the morning is better as plants haven’t been sitting under the sun all day.

Follow the weather

As cannabis buds pack on weight and the season changes from summer to fall, there will be fluctuations in the weather. Depending on your climate, there might be cold snaps or rainstorms.

These aren’t disasters but you do need to keep an eye on the weather and possibly make a game-time decision on when to chop down plants, balancing peak ripeness with conditions that could compromise your harvest.

Harvesting weed in cold temperatures

Most cannabis plants can sail through a light freeze—28-32°F for up to three hours—with no trouble. But a hard freeze, any temps lower or for longer, can spell disaster.

Frost can cause ice crystals to form in plant tissue, damaging their cells. Leaves will appear wilted before turning dark and crispy. The deeper the frost, the more of the plant that will get damaged.

Note that potted plants experience more severe temperature fluctuations than plants in the ground, making the cannabis more susceptible to frost damage.

Rainy harvests

Similar to a cold snap, rain itself isn’t a huge problem, but the duration and severity of the storm is. If it’s going to warm up and dry out quickly, you can leave almost ripe cannabis to weather the storm. If the rain will be there to stay, mold awaits—cut your losses and harvest before things get soggy.

Covering your plants will help, but there will still be moisture in the air. You can cover plants with a few tall stakes and a tarp, just be sure to remove the cover when the cold or rain passes to let plants warm up and get the sun and air they need.

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Indoor marijuana

When growing indoors, plants generally get harvested about 7-9 weeks after flipping them into the first stages of flowering. Some strains may take longer, some shorter; it depends on the strain. Indicas usually finish quicker, while sativas longer.

How often do you harvest weed?

Harvesting indoor marijuana

When growing weed indoors, you can harvest as much or as little as you want. The sky—rather, your grow room—is the limit.

Weed can take anywhere from 3-8 months to grow from seed to harvest, so you can fit in as many as four harvests of smaller plants, or one or two harvests of bigger plants each year.

More harvests mean you’ll have fresh, homegrown weed to smoke more often, but it will also be more work in cleaning up the space between harvests, trimming, etc.

You can even fit in more than four harvests a year if you start with clones or autoflower seeds, both of which shave off some weeks of the grow cycle.

Harvesting outdoor marijuana

By and large, cannabis grown outdoors gets harvested once a year. In most climates, seeds or clones will start in the spring, and you’ll harvest in the fall. In some tropical regions, you can squeeze in a second harvest in a year because of the climate.

Autoflowers

You can set up your outdoor weed grow to have more than one harvest a year if you grow autoflower seeds. Autoflower weed plants have a shorter life cycle—they “automatically flower” when they get to a certain age, instead of beginning the flowering stage when sunlight starts to decrease in the sky outdoors.

Because of this, you can start growing a set of autoflowers early in the season, around March or April, harvest them in June or July, and then start growing a second set for harvesting in the fall. You’ll be able to have multiple harvests, but keep in mind that your plants will be smaller because they’re autoflowers.

Light deprivation

Light deprivation, or light deps, are another technique to get multiple outdoor harvests in a year. A tarp is placed over a greenhouse to cut off the amount of light outdoor weed plants receive, giving you the ability to control the flowering cycle of plants. As with autoflowers, this will allow you to fit in multiple outdoor harvests in a season.

The drawback to light deprivation is you have to have a greenhouse and other equipment, and you have to place and remove the tarp every day. If marijuana plants receive too much light on even one day, it can confuse them and ruin their flowering and bud production.

Preparing to harvest marijuana

Check out Johanna’s full video series on how to grow weed on Leafly’s YouTube .

If you’re growing the same strain, you’ll want to harvest all your cannabis plants in the same window of time because they’ll all ripen at the same time.

If you’re growing multiple strains, they may ripen at different times. But you may still want to harvest all strains at once to get trimming done all in one sitting, just keep in mind that some strains might get harvested on the early side and some on the late side.

Before you harvest, you’ll also need to know if you are going to trim wet or dry. Wet trimming involves trimming buds immediately after the plant is cut down, and with dry trimming, chopped plants are hung up to dry for several days before trimming.

It’s also a good idea to flush your plants a week before harvesting—give them only water to clear out the nutrients.

What do trichomes look like when they’re ready to harvest?

Trichomes will be sticky and milky white when ready to harvest.

When looking at trichomes you’ll need a microscope. Handheld microscopes ranging from 30x-100x will work and can be purchased at any growing supply store.

During their change from clear to opaque to amber, trichomes reach their maximum THC content. After that, they begin to break down due to exposure to oxygen and UV rays.

What happens if you wait too long to harvest?

Waiting a week or two after a plant’s peak maturity to harvest isn’t the end of the world, the plant might just lose some THC. Busy schedules or too many plants to harvest and cause growers to delay harvesting plants for a little bit.

If you wait for a long time, several weeks or more, the plant will likely dry out and the buds shrink. The plant may start to rot and develop mold, especially in an outdoor environment and in cold climates.

Equipment needed to harvest cannabis

To harvest weed, you’ll need the following tools:

  • Scissors (for trimming buds)
  • Pruners (helpful for big branches)
  • Comfortable chair and area
  • A clean surface, like a table
  • Tray or bowl
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Rags
  • Clothes that can get dirty and sticky
  • Entertainment
  • Optional: Non-powdered latex gloves

Scissors

Make sure scissors are ergonomic and will fit comfortably in your hand, as you will be holding these bad boys for quite a while. With time, these scissors will get very sticky, so get a pair that will clean easily, or buy two pairs so you can switch between them.

There are many types of scissors you can buy; some are spring-loaded, some not. Beginners often go for spring-loaded ones because they seem quicker.

However, a lot of trimmers recommend Chikamasa scissors—these are not spring-loaded and might take a day or two to get used to, but you will soon notice the precision and speed they provide.

Pruners

You may also want to invest in a larger pair of shears for cutting branches. Save the scissors for the more precise work.

Comfortable chair and area

Give yourself plenty of space and have an ergonomic setup so you can settle in for a long trim. Pick a cool place with plenty of light, and try to stay away from places with excess dust, hair, or particulates, which can contaminate the weed.

The longer you sit, the more work you get done, so find a comfy chair. Avoid anything that makes you hunch over and compresses your lower back.

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Tray/bowl and a clean surface

Many trimmers opt for trimming trays because they are much easier to transport and can make a great lap companion. We recommend something that has a screen for collecting kief. The simpler the design the better.

You can also just trim onto a flat table and put your finished buds in a bowl.

Whatever you choose, make sure the surface is easy to clean.

Rubbing alcohol and rags

Trimming scissors will inevitably get gunked up with resin, so you’ll need to clean them or switch them out with a fresh pair periodically. Keep a rag and a cup with rubbing alcohol handy.

Clothes that can get dirty and sticky

Wear old clothes you don’t care about or an apron. Better yet, wear a silk apron—the resin won’t stick to silk and your laundry will thank you.

Gloves are also great to keep your hands resin-free. If you don’t like trimming with gloves on, you can rub coconut or olive oil on your hands to prevent resin buildup.

Entertainment

A long trim session can seem even longer without anything to pass the time. Staying entertained is crucial to your sanity when trimming. Anything that doesn’t require visual attention is recommended, such as music, podcasts, audiobooks, and stand-up comedy.

Tips for a successful marijuana harvest

Once your plants are ready for harvesting and you have all your equipment, it’s time to chop down your plants.

With dry trimming, chopped plants are hung up to dry for several days before trimming.

Wet trimming involves trimming buds immediately after the plant is chopped down.

Either way, to chop down plants, grab a large pair of shears and start cutting off big branches, making sure to be delicate with the buds. If plants are small, you may be able to cut them directly at the base, above the soil.

If dry trimming, it’s helpful to cut branches in a way to give them a hook on one end, making it easy to hang them. If wet trimming, cut branches so they’re easy to handle and snip buds off of.

  • Make sure to flush your plants with only water, no nutrients, for about a week before harvesting
  • Check trichomes on plants to make sure they’re ready to get chopped down
  • Wear clothes that can get dirty—harvesting weed is sticky
  • Keep shears and scissors sharp
  • It’s good to harvest before plants get too hot—outdoors, this means harvesting in the morning; indoors, harvest soon after the lights come on
  • If growing different strains, some plants may be ready to harvest before others
  • If wet trimming, be sure to trim buds immediately after chopping down plants

Now that you’ve harvested your weed, what comes next? Learn how to trim, dry, and cure your marijuana harvest.

Preserving Cannabis Genetics: How to Collect and Store Seeds and Pollen

Sometimes a grower has to move on from a certain strain. Maybe you’ve been growing the same strain for a long time and it no longer makes as much money as it used to, or maybe you just want to mix it up and start growing something else and don’t have the space for it.

It can be bittersweet saying goodbye to old genetics, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. You can take clones or keep a mother plant, but those aren’t ideal because they require a lot of care and maintenance, especially if they aren’t producing flower.

Fortunately, preserving genetics for long-term storage is easy and will save time, money, and space in the long run. Through seed and pollen collection, you can hang onto those genetics that you can’t fully get rid of and safely store them for future use.

The Benefits of Long-Term Storage

Cannabis genetics are often sourced from external companies and organizations such as nurseries and seed banks. For the individual grower, saving seeds and pollen removes this reliance on external companies. This is especially true with pollen, as very few (if any) companies offer pollen to the public.

Saving space is a big reason to consider long-term storage of seeds and pollen. Mother plants lay dormant in a vegetative state and take up lots of space. Maintaining this extra space is time-consuming and takes extra resources like water, soil, nutrients, light, and other costly elements, all for something that doesn’t produce flower. Even keeping clones of an old strain around will take up space and resources.

A grower or breeder can also freeze the progress of a breeding project for months or years without losing any of the long, hard work. Endeavors such as phenotype hunting and maintaining desired mothers for breeding and cloning can all be saved for later through genetic preservation. This process is like backing up work on a hard drive.

How to Collect Seeds

Cannabis is for the most part dioecious, meaning that the male and female reproductive organs exist on two separate plants (although hermaphroditic plants do occur). It is also a wind-pollinated plant, so pollen must be transferred from a male stamen to a female pistil via the air in order for pollination to occur and seeds to form.

A female cannabis plant that has received pollen from a male will produce many seeds over the course of its maturation cycle. Upon senescence, when the female plant is fully mature and ready for harvest, its seeds will be ready for stratification and collection.

To collect seeds, it’s important to wait until they are fully mature and ready for harvest. Cannabis with seeds takes longer to mature than cannabis that only produces flower.

To tell if a seed is mature, take a look at its shape and color. Premature seeds will be small and light in color, taking on a beige hue. Fully mature cannabis seeds are more full in shape and size and have a much darker brown hue, sometimes accented by black tiger stripes.

Deseeding cannabis can be done by hand or machine. This process typically takes place after the plant has been dried for one to two weeks after harvest. This way, seeds will have reached their maximum maturity and plant material will be brittle enough to break apart with minimal effort.

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When collecting seed by hand, use a fine screen to help catch trichomes that will break off during the process. This material is valuable and it would be a shame to waste.

To release the seeds, simply break up the dried buds over a screen and they will fall out. You can release the seeds en masse by rubbing the flower between your fingers and lightly breaking it apart.

Separate or sift seeds over the screen to remove any unwanted plant matter from the seeds themselves. Brush off the seeds—they should be completely free of any remaining plant material such as leaves, stem, or trichomes, as these elements put seeds at a higher risk for contamination and spoilage during long-term storage.

Collecting Pollen

Male cannabis plants will produce pollen several weeks into their flowering cycle. Once their pollen sacs have opened up and released, the plant will begin to senesce and eventually die. It is important to collect pollen right as the sacs are beginning to open up, as this is the time pollen is most viable.

The best way to harvest pollen for storage is to remove an entire male flower cluster and place it in a sealed storage container for several days. After the cluster has dried, place it over a micron screen with parchment or wax paper underneath, and give it a light shake. This will allow the pollen to separate from any remaining plant matter and fall through the screen and onto the wax paper.

Moisture is a death sentence for pollen viability. Because of this, many breeders opt to mix flour into their pollen at a ratio of 4:1 (flour to pollen) when storing it long-term. This additional step will help keep pollen dry for a longer period of time.

Seed and Pollen Storage

Long-term storage requirements for seeds and pollen are similar. Both require cool, dark, dry, and oxygen-deprived environments for optimal preservation.

When storing seeds, place them in an air-sealed container that doesn’t have any light leaks. Film canisters, medicine bottles (non-translucent), and any sealable storage jar will work fine. The idea is to reduce the amount of oxygen present in the storage space as much as possible. You can also add uncooked rice to the storage container, which acts as an absorbent, to reduce moisture content.

For a cool environment, store seeds in either the refrigerator or freezer. Seeds need a consistent temperature without fluctuation to remain dormant long-term.

As mentioned above, the best way to reduce moisture in pollen is to mix it with flour. For long-term storage, it can be kept in a sealed vial or freezer bag. You can keep it in the refrigerator or freezer, though for optimal long-term storage, the colder the better.

The Shelf Life of Seeds and Pollen

You can expect cannabis seeds that have been sealed and properly stored to last for several years, and in many cases, longer. Seeds may be dormant, but they are still alive. Over enough time, they will lose their viability.

It’s important to continually practice germination testing to be sure your stored seeds haven’t lost all viability. To test this, periodically plant a seed and document its ability to germinate.

Fresh seeds should have a germination rate close to a 100%, whereas older seeds will see a significant drop off over time in their ability to germinate.

Out in the open, pollen may be viable for one or two weeks under normal conditions. However, when frozen and sealed, it can last up to a year and even longer. Pollen is more unstable than seed and even under the most optimal conditions, it isn’t expected to have as long of a shelf life.

For both seeds and pollen that have been frozen long-term, it’s important to avoid defrosting until they are ready to be used. Fluctuations in temperature and moisture content will quickly destroy their viability, so maintain a steady temperature for as long as possible. Warming and freezing multiple times isn’t good.

When it comes time to use frozen seeds, remove them from their container and let them sit out on a dry surface for several hours. Letting the seeds reach room temperature will help ensure a successful germination.

Pollen should also be placed at room temperature before using. Since pollen can be much messier to handle, it’s best to carefully transfer a sample from its long-term storage container to a fresh container before using it to pollinate a plant. This way, you don’t have to use all of the pollen and saved pollen can go back in the freezer with minimal exposure to warm air.

When To Harvest Marijuana Seeds?

After the whole process of germination, growth and flowering, a lot of growers ask themselves when to harvest Marijuana seeds. Usually, the breeders will include a suggested flowering time for each strain, but as a rule of thumb, Indica marijuana plants harvest in 6-8 weeks while Sativa Marijuana plants take 10-12 weeks.

Look for these signs for when to harvest Marijuana seeds

You can also judge the ripeness of the Marijuana by taking a look at the trichomes; or little hairs/crystals on the flowers and surrounding areas of the Marijuana plant. If they are transparent its still too soon, if they are milky white they are ready and if they turn brown they have become over-ripe. It is also advisable to follow the instructions to harvest Marijuana seeds on the packet since most reputable breeders also have a tried and tested flowering time for optimum ripeness, potency and flavour of a Marijuana strain.

If you meant when to harvest seeds from cross-pollinated Marijuana plants, then the seed will fall from the flower by itself once it is mature and ready to germinate into another Marijuana plant. Usually, as a best practice to harvest Marijuana seeds, some growers wait for the whole flowering cycle to end just as if they were harvesting the flower.

You might find our FAQ Submission How Do I Harvest My Plant? useful

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