When to Harvest Cannabis: The Beginner’s Guide

Posted on May 15th, 2023 to cannabis by

With the advent of legal cannabis here in Maryland, many folks with green thumbs are taking advantage of the recent changes in state law and looking to grow their own weed at home. Starting from July 2023, adults over 21 can grow up to two plants (four for medical marijuana patients) as long as they’re kept out of public view. With a bit of horticultural skill and the right equipment, that’s enough for most cannabis consumers to completely skip the costs and hassle of dispensary shopping. But first-time weed growers often have one vital question – when is cannabis ready to harvest? Read on as we answer this and explore everything you need to know to ensure you grab your buds at the perfect time.

The Stages of Marijuana Plant Growth: A Brief Guide

Knowing when to harvest cannabis is much easier for those with at least a basic understanding of the life cycle of a marijuana plant. As with every plant, it all starts with the cannabis seed, which is produced by a pollinated adult female cannabis plant. They germinate and become a seedling, which continues to grow throughout the vegetative stage. Eventually, cannabis begins the flowering stage, where female plants produce the flowers that, over time, become the familiar bud we know and love. At a certain point, the flavor, potency, and other essential factors reach their peak. Determining this point is the key to figuring out how to know when to harvest cannabis.

How to Know When to Harvest Cannabis: Tell-Tale Signs

Luckily, you don’t need a Ph.D. in botany or a lifetime spent in grow houses to know when to harvest weed plants. The main and most important step is simply looking at the buds. First, examine the pistils and stigma, the hairlike structures emerging from the plant. As harvest time approaches, these will change from white to darker colors like brown or orange, as well as curl inward. Then, look even closer (maybe with the aid of a magnifying glass) to examine the trichomes, those little sticky crystals that cover quality buds. These start clear and turn cloudy as the plant matures. You’ll typically notice these two indicators progressing together. Additionally, many strains may see their fan leaves shrivel and yellow somewhat towards harvest time, as the plant’s resources are concentrated in the buds.

It’s also possible to have specialized labs analyze the chemical content of bud samples. This can give exceptionally precise results that break down many additional factors, though the simpler visual methods are typically good enough for most home growers. Finally, those less concerned with fully optimizing their harvest can simply ballpark it based on the expected maturity date of the strain, which can be found from the seed supplier or online.

When to Harvest Outdoor Cannabis

Those looking to grow their weed outdoors will face additional challenges and considerations. For one, you’ll have less control over the light cycle, temperature, and watering schedule, meaning you have limited ability to speed up or slow down the plant’s development. Therefore, timing your planting is crucial, especially here in Maryland, where late spring or early autumn frosts can act as hard barriers for outdoor growers. Harvest time should occur by the end of September at the latest to be safe.

What Affects Weed Harvest Timing?

The natural next question after “When is weed ready to harvest?” for many is what factors determine that harvest period. A primary one is the strain being grown. For example, plants with strong sativa lineages will generally take a few weeks longer than purely indica varieties. At the same time, certain strains within these categories may have been optimized for quicker maturity.

Growers can also exert some influence over when plants are ready to be harvested. For indoor plants, this is typically done by changing the light cycle of the plant and adding more hours of darkness to trick the plant into speeding up development. Nutrient feeding also affects maturity, and it’s usually eliminated altogether in the final few weeks. Additionally, cannabis grown outdoors faces hazards like pests, larger animals, fungi, and other unexpected issues that could slow the plant’s development and harvest date.

How To Tell When Cannabis is Ready to Harvest: It’s Easier Than You Think!

While figuring out the perfect harvest date to harvest cannabis isn’t an exact science for most folks, it’s still a critical factor in producing quality marijuana. But how to tell when cannabis is ready to harvest is truly just as straightforward as taking a look. So keep these tips in mind, along with the ways to speed up or slow down development, and you’ll have a powerful new tool in your weed-growing arsenal.

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