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The Fine Art of Knowing When to Harvest

June 3, 2016

To harvest or not to harvest; that is the question! Any grower who is serious about their craft is willing to spend the long hours necessary to provide cannabis plants with the necessary TLC to reach their full potential. However, not everyone is aware that choosing the correct day and even the correct hour to harvest is critical to achieving peak potency. Harvesting even one day early or one day late can cause you to miss the critical peak period and lose potency.

So, how do you know when the critical hour arrives? That is an art unto itself. The first indication that harvest time is at hand is to observe the pistils. At first, these little “hairs” will appear white but, as the awaited hour approaches, they will start to turn a rusty brown. This is your first indication that your buds are reaching full maturity, although merely observing the color of the pistils is not the best indication of exactly when to harvest.

Instead, the real trick to producing a top quality crop is learning to read the trichomes. In fact, a plant’s trichomes are like an on-site manager that constantly monitors the potential potency of the plant and sends you a text message alert when it’s time to harvest. But you have to know how to speak their language before you can read the message. Therefore, the first lesson in learning to speak “trichome” is to be aware that when they first appear, they are all crystal clear.

Then, as the buds mature, these little packets of happiness and well being will slowly turn a milky white color, which is an indication that their THC level has reached its peak. However, this is where things get a bit tricky because, if you harvest before at least some of the trichomes have turned milky, you will not achieve peak potency. But if you wait too long, you will lose potency. Thus, it is best to wait until at least 50 percent of the trichomes have that translucent, milky white appearance, which indicates that THC levels have reached their peak, at which point your buds will have a pleasant balance of cerebral high and body stone.

On the other hand, if you are going for a “couch lock” effect, then wait until approximately 50 percent of the trichomes have passed the milky white stage and have instead turned a dark amber color. This is an indication that a significant amount of the THC contained in the trichomes has been converted to CBD.

However, it should also be noted that this indicator is strain-specific. For instance, pure sativas and sativa-dominant strains are best harvested when the majority of the trichomes are still milky white. Pure indicas and indica-dominant strains are best harvested after at least some of the trichomes have turned amber. But if you wait too long and allow the trichomes to degrade, then your buds will be significantly less potent than they should be.

Providing your plants with the right atmospheric conditions, the correct wavelength and amount of light, and the right amount and type of nutrients is a surefire way to produce a crop you can be proud of. But the real trick is knowing exactly when to harvest and, to do that, you need to learn to gauge the color of the trichomes.


By Bill Bernhardt

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