Whether you’re a novice or a veteran cannabis grower, you’re probably looking forward to the day when you can finally harvest your plants. And after weeks and months of careful care, it’s almost time to reap the fruits of your hard work.
However, harvesting cannabis is a delicate process. Do you need to consider the time of day when harvesting your plants? Below, you’ll learn how to time your harvest for maximum bud quality and why timing is such an important part of the cannabis growing cycle.
What is the best time of day to harvest cannabis?
Over the months that have passed while you’ve been guiding your cannabis plants through their vegetative and flowering stages, you’ve likely paid close attention to detail: the quality of water and nutrients used, the spectrum and quantity of light, keeping an eye on it. against pests and pathogens, among others. So when it comes time to actually cut the plant, does it really matter when you do it?
Most commercial cultivators and home growers agree that the best time to harvest cannabis plants is in the early morning hours before the next light cycle of the day begins.
Why does the time of day matter?
Apart from the major milestones in the life cycle of the cannabis plant – such as the seedling, vegetative and flowering stages – plants go through predictable daily cycles related to respiration, photosynthesis and other metabolic functions.
The concentration of terpenes and cannabinoids, the two most valuable active substances found in the cannabis plant, peaks at the end of the dark cycle and begins to decrease as the light cycle progresses. That’s why it’s generally considered the best time of day to cut your plants to maximize the terpene and cannabinoid content of your bud is to find that sweet spot right before sunrise or when the grow lights come on.
Tips for pre-harvest preparation
The time of day is just one, albeit important, detail when it comes to harvesting weeds. As you count down the days until harvest, here are some things you can do to prepare.
- Keep an eye on the trichome color. Although there are many signs of approaching harvest day, such as yellowing fan leaves and the size/shape of flower buds, many growers rely on the appearance of trichomes to precisely determine the optimal harvest time. When terpene and cannabinoid levels are prominent, trichomes appear cloudy or milky. Clear-looking trichomes are probably still too immature, and amber-colored trichomes indicate that the chemicals inside are starting to break down.
- Rinse the plants before harvesting. It is common practice to stop feeding marijuana plants for a week or two before harvesting, a process known as “flushing”. Flushing forces the plant to use both the nutrients left in the growing medium and the nutrients stored in the plant itself. Excess nutrients in the plant at harvest time can lead to a rough and bitter final product.
- Consider an extended dark cycle before harvest. Does darkness lead to potholes? This is an ongoing debate. Some believe that leaving plants in complete darkness for 24-48 hours – or longer – before harvesting causes mild stress on the plants, resulting in an increase in terpene and cannabinoid production. Others argue that the dark period before harvest simply takes advantage of the plants’ natural cycles mentioned above, causing terpene and cannabinoid levels to increase at night and decrease during the day. There is no solid scientific evidence for this, but it is something many producers do and something to consider when harvesting.
- Decide whether you want to cut wet or dry. After you have harvested your cannabis plants, they need to be cut. Now is the time to think about whether you want to wet (cut before drying) or dry (cut after drying) buds. Both advantages and disadvantagesand planning ahead is important to make the harvesting process as smooth as possible.
- Prepare equipment for harvesting and drying. Prepare everything you need to harvest. In addition to needing the right cannabis harvesting tools, consider the location and the tools you will use for curing and drying.
Although it will not be detrimental to the harvest if done early at night or during the day, most growers aim to cut their plants after they are already noticeably in the dark cycle, but before the next light cycle begins. This is because terpene and cannabinoid levels naturally increase at night and decrease during the day. If your goal is to maximize the levels of these active compounds, consider harvesting just before dawn or before turning on the plant lights.
After harvesting the plants, drying, pruning and curing are the final steps before the bud is ready for consumption. Happy harvest!