10 Reasons Why You Should Harvest Cannabis in the Morning

10 Reasons Why You Should Harvest Cannabis in the Morning
Bush cannabis at sunset.

Cannabis cultivation is a meticulous process that requires a deep understanding of the plant’s life cycle, particularly when it comes to the harvesting stage. The timing of the harvest can significantly influence the quality of the final product, especially in terms of its terpene profile and trichome retention. Terpenes are the aromatic compounds that give each strain its unique scent and flavor, while trichomes are the tiny, resinous structures where these compounds are produced. Therefore, knowing when and how to harvest your cannabis for maximum terpene production and trichome retention is crucial.

The Importance of Trichomes in Cannabis Cultivation

Trichomes are small, crystal-like structures that cover the cannabis plant, particularly the flowers. These structures are responsible for the production of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids, which are the compounds that contribute to the plant’s therapeutic properties and unique aroma and flavor profiles. There are three types of glandular trichomes found in a cannabis flower: bulbous trichomes, capitate-sessile trichomes, and capitate-stalked trichomes.

Bulbous trichomes are the smallest and are only visible under a microscope. They are found on the stems and leaves, with a small portion appearing on the flowers. Capitate-sessile trichomes are medium-sized and contain a moderate amount of cannabinoids. They are found on the leaves and flowers. Capitate-stalked trichomes are the largest and most valuable, as they produce the majority of cannabinoids and terpenes. They are easily visible to the naked eye and resemble tiny mushrooms.

The primary reason trichomes are considered so important is that they contain cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds, all of which affect the quality and potency of harvested cannabis flowers. They also serve a significant role in protecting cannabis plants from predators. Trichome production begins when the marijuana plant reaches the flowering stage of its life cycle. When cannabis flowers begin to mature, the plant becomes increasingly susceptible to various predators. Trichomes act as a defense mechanism, as the bitter flavor and strong aroma of the resin glands serve to deter animals and insects.

Determining When to Harvest Cannabis for Maximum Trichomes

Trichomes and pistils are two of the most accurate visual indicators for determining when cannabis bud is ready to harvest. They provide insight into that perfect harvest window for your cannabis crop. Along with these indicators, cannabis cultivators can use chemical lab testing if they have access to equipment.

Experienced growers offer conflicting advice on when to harvest. There are many reasons for the differences in opinion, including personal preference. Cannabis harvested earlier will have a more uplifting, cerebral effect. Cannabis harvested later will be more calming. Moreover, cannabis flowers mature unevenly across an individual plant. The top flowers receive more light than the bottom flowers. Because the lower flowers get less light, they are often less potent and have fewer trichomes, the THC-rich resin glands. All these factors make knowing when to harvest cannabis confusing, and they can affect your harvest planning and standard operating procedures, too.

The goal in timing your harvest is to ensure maximum THC potency and trichome retention. Cannabis growers must harvest marijuana when trichome development has reached a specific point. Harvest too early and buds will contain low levels of THC. Harvest too late and buds will contain somewhat lower levels of THC and more CBN, which can lead to a more sedating effect. Because female cannabis plants spend their final days focused on resin production, cultivators must take them down during the brief window of their peak ripeness – before the medicinal compounds start to degrade.

The Trichome and Pistil Method

Knowing when to harvest weed for best trichome retention all comes down to trichome and pistil color. Using a magnifier, jeweler’s loupe or digital microscope is the best way to identify trichomes and pistils to determine if marijuana plants are ready to harvest.

Once capitate-stalked trichomes have been identified with a magnifier, you’ll want to look at their color. If trichomes are clear they still need time to mature, as they’ll contain very low levels of THC. A general guideline is to harvest cannabis only if more than half of your trichomes have turned a cloudy, milky color.

After evaluating trichomes, if most of the “tiny hairs” or pistils on your buds are white, allow the marijuana plant to continue in the flowering stage until at least 40% of these “hairs” turn an amber hue, and trichomes have gone from clear to predominantly cloudy. Trichomes that contain the most THC are cloudy or milky. When harvested at this stage, consumers tend to experience the strongest high and medicinal effects. When trichomes are cloudy and ready for harvest, you’ll likely notice that 50-70% of the white “hairs” on your buds have turned amber. Keep in mind that if you wait too long and trichomes turn amber you will lose THC potency. The key thing to look for is milky, cloudy trichomes, as they contain the highest THC levels.

Harvesting Cannabis: Machine Trimming vs. Hand Trimming

Growers have two options when it comes to harvesting cannabis: machine trimming and hand trimming. Machine trimming allows for perfectly manicured buds that can be trimmed quickly. While machine trimmers of the past would over-trim buds and destroy valuable trichomes, advances in technology have led to machine trimmers that preserve cannabis trichomes. Hand trimming has been used for years, and while much slower than machine trimming, skilled trimmers with meticulous attention to detail can preserve cannabis trichomes.

Trimming cannabis or marijuana buds with scissors.

Wet Trimming vs. Dry Trimming

Wet trimming or dry trimming is something else growers must decide on when harvesting cannabis. Wet trimming involves trimming when cannabis flowers are freshly cut from the plant before they have dried. Dry trimming involves drying cannabis flowers prior to trimming. Most growers agree that wet trimming is superior to dry trimming for trichome retention, as trichomes are more susceptible to damage when they are dry and brittle.

Additional Harvesting Tips for Max Trichome Retention

  1. Harvest in the Morning or Before Lights Come on: Cannabis spends the nocturnal period producing resin and the photoperiod (i.e., daytime) driving photosynthesis. The metabolites involved in photosynthesis may cause a suboptimal taste.
  2. Consider a staggered harvest: Because the top portions of the plant mature more quickly, you may choose to harvest those parts first and give the bottom flowers another week to build potency and trichome density.
  3. Have a complete harvest plan: For large grow ops, harvest preparation starts months in advance – long before any trichomes turn milky. Preparation includes staff training, equipment purchases, and detailed standard operating procedures (SOPs) for what will happen on harvest day.
  4. Harvesting for Fresh Frozen: If you intend to process your plants using fresh-frozen extraction techniques, harvest several days earlier than you would otherwise.

In conclusion, the art of cannabis cultivation requires a deep understanding of the plant’s life cycle and the ability to identify the signs of its readiness for harvest. For cultivators seeking to maximize terpene production and trichome retention, the key lies in observing the color of the trichomes and pistils, and timing the harvest accordingly. Whether you choose to hand trim or machine trim, wet trim or dry trim, the ultimate goal is to preserve the valuable trichomes that contribute to the quality and potency of the final product.