Whether you’re a novice or a veteran cannabis grower, you’re probably eagerly awaiting the day when you can finally harvest your plants. And after weeks and months of careful tending, it’s almost time to reap the rewards of your hard work.
But harvesting cannabis is a delicate process. Is the time of day something you should even consider when harvesting your plants? Below, learn how to time your harvest for maximum quality bud, and find out why timing is such an important part of the cannabis growth cycle.
What’s the best time of day to harvest cannabis?
Over the months it’s taken to usher your cannabis plants through their vegetative and flowering stages, you’ve probably paid a lot of attention to detail: the quality of water and nutrients you’ve used, the spectrum and quantity of light, keeping an eye out for pests and pathogens, among many others. So when it comes time to actually cut the plant down, does the time of day you do it actually matter?
Most commercial cultivators and home growers agree that the best time to harvest your cannabis plants is in the early hours of the morning before the next light cycle of daytime begins.
Why does the time of day matter?
Aside from the bigger milestones in the cannabis plant’s life cycle — the seedling, vegetative, and flowering stages, for example — the plants are also going through predictable everyday cycles related to respiration, photosynthesis, and other metabolic functions.
The concentrations of the two most prized active compounds in the cannabis plant, terpenes and cannabinoids, peak by the end of the dark cycle and start to wane as the light cycle progresses. So finding that sweet spot just before the sun rises, or when your grow lights go on, is generally regarded as the best time of day to cut the plants down in order to maximize the terpene and cannabinoid content of your buds.
Tips for pre-harvest preparation
Time of day is just one, albeit important, detail when it comes to harvesting your weed plants. As you count down the days until harvest time, here are a few things you can do to get ready.
- Keep an eye on trichome color. While there are a number of signs that will tip you off to the approaching harvest day, like yellowing fan leaves and the size/shape of your flower buds, many growers rely on the appearance of the trichomes to pinpoint the optimal harvest time. When terpene and cannabinoid levels are prime, trichomes will appear cloudy or milky. Clear-looking trichomes are probably still too immature, and amber trichomes signal that the chemicals inside are starting to degrade.
- Flush plants before harvesting. It’s standard practice to stop feeding your marijuana plants for a week or two before harvest, a process called “flushing.” Flushing forces the plant to use up both the remaining nutrients in the growing medium and the stored nutrients in the plant itself. Excess nutrients in the plant at the time of harvest can lead to a harsh and bitter final product.
- Consider an extended dark cycle before harvest. Does darkness lead to dankness? It’s an ongoing debate. Some believe that leaving your plants in complete darkness for 24 – 48 hours — or longer — before harvest will create a mild level of stress for the plants, the response to which is an increase in terpene and cannabinoid production. Others claim that a dark period before harvest is simply taking advantage of the plants’ natural cycles mentioned above, whereby terpene and cannabinoid levels increase during the night and decrease during the day. There is no solid scientific evidence for doing this, but it’s something that many growers do and something you might want to consider for your harvest.
- Decide if you’ll be wet or dry trimming. After you’ve harvested your cannabis plants, they will need to be trimmed. Now is a good time to think about whether you’d like to wet trim (trim before drying) or dry trim (trim after drying) your buds. Both have advantages and disadvantages, and planning ahead is important for making the harvest process as seamless as possible.
- Prepare equipment for harvest and drying. Get everything you’ll need for harvest ready and close at hand. In addition to the proper cannabis harvesting tools you’ll need, think about the space and the tools you will use for drying and curing.
While it won’t be detrimental to your harvest if it’s done early on during the night or during the day, most growers aim to cut down their plants after they’ve had an appreciable dark cycle but before the next light cycle begins. This is because terpene and cannabinoid levels naturally increase during the night and decline during the day. If your aim is to maximize the levels of these active compounds, consider harvesting just before dawn or before your grow lights go on.
Once you’ve harvested your plants, drying, trimming, and curing are the final steps before your bud is ready for consumption. Happy harvesting!