What Happens if You Harvest Marijuana Too Late?

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When is Cannabis Ready for Harvest?

You can always spot a newbie grower by the questions they ask, and this is almost always the first one. It’s the equivalent of the “are we there yet?” chorus from the back seat on a long road trip.

Patience, young one! Fortunately, there are some surefire signs that every new grower can look for to determine if their plants are harvest-ready.

The most reliable of these signs is the color of the trichomes. You may need a magnifying glass to see them, but these are the pointy, hair-like, resin-bearing glands that encircle the buds.

Early on they will appear clear or opaque, but as they approach maturity, some will gradually turn a cloudy or milky white while others an amber color. This is an indicator of the THC content of the plants.

The optimum time for harvest is when about half have turned white and the other half amber. The buds will also become firmer and tighter at this time.

Long Bud on Indoor Marijuana Plant

Another indicator is the change in color in the large fan leaves. Once green, they will begin to turn yellow, curl and dry, and even fall off. In photoperiod cannabis–and here you’ll need your magnifying glass again–plants are ready for harvest when about 50 to 70 percent of the pistils have turned brown.

On a side note, it’s only natural for first-time growers to become anxious about their plants and concerned if something may not seem right. Therefore, this may be a good time to alleviate one common worry – the idea that you may have harvested too early or too late because your weed smells like hay.

This should not be a concern and has nothing to do with incorrectly harvesting your crop. Rest assured, it will go away during the curing process.

The Difference Between Early and Late Harvesting of Marijuana

When it comes to harvesting marijuana, timing is everything. If you’re growing plants for your own use, it’s important to consider the type of high you want to achieve from your crop.

An early harvest when THC is at peak potency will give the user a euphoric, cerebral high. A late harvest, after peak THC production has passed, will have a higher cannabinol content providing a more sleep-inducing, narcotic effect.

When is the Best Harvesting Time to Achieve Maximum Yield?

If you’re growing a crop outdoors, an onset of inclement weather may make it necessary to harvest early to avoid bud rot and mold. In this case, a smaller yield is better than no yield at all.

Marijuana green fresh large leafs

However, whenever possible, it is always better to avoid harvesting too early. Allowing plants more growth time in the vegetative state will ultimately produce more buds and more yield.

Harvesting when about half of trichomes are white and the other half amber should provide the optimum balance between a THC high and a relaxing CBN effect.

What Happens if You Harvest Cannabis Too Late?

Growers who harvest cannabis well beyond THC peak production will experience a degradation of THC to the point it won’t provide the cerebral stimulation they may have looked forward to in their weed. The overripe product loses its aroma and may even taste unpleasant.

Additionally, some strains of cannabis may start to self-pollinate causing them to become unisex.

Indica vs. Sativa Harvesting Time

In the world of cannabis, particularly medicinal marijuana, the two most common plants are indicas and sativas. Generally speaking, indicas have a higher CBD content and may be prescribed for muscle relaxation, for pain and for nausea.

Compared to sativas, these plants grow faster and produce a higher yield. Their flowering period lasts on average about eight weeks allowing growers a greater number of annual growing cycles.

Marijuana plant close-up

Sativas, on the other hand, tend to generate an uplifting, cerebral experience, and they are often prescribed to treat anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. These plants have a shorter vegetative cycle than their indica counterparts, but after they begin to flower, it can be as many as ten to twelve weeks before they are ready for harvest.


How Long Does Cannabis Take to Grow from Seed to Harvest?

Oh, they grow up so fast, don’t they? While this is a common expression about children, the same can be said about marijuana plants.

But how fast cannabis plants grow is contingent on a variety of factors, such as the medium they are planted in, the strain, and the desired yield. The quality and quantity of sunlight or fluorescent light exposure, the amount of water and airflow also play important roles.

Cannabis Buds. Medical marijuana

In the broadest of terms, it takes on average three to five months for photoperiod plants to be ready for harvest. (Autoflowering strains are generally faster.) Most plants germinate in one to seven days, then spend another four to eight weeks in the vegetative stage.

Growers who want a larger yield tend to allow more time during this stage to produce a greater abundance of stems and leaves. The flowering stage can then take another eight to ten weeks leading up to the harvest.

Does Harvesting Cannabis Kill the Plant?

Typically the top buds on your plants are going to be ready to harvest before others further down, so it is not uncommon to take those buds early. The harvesting process is easy enough.

As each branch matures, simply clip them individually and prepare them for curing by hanging them up to dry. Although each cut is a wound, harvesting won’t necessarily kill your plants, and you can conceivably take them back to the vegetative state.

However, the benefit of doing so is minimal. Marijuana is an annual plant, not a perennial, so when you want to start a new crop, you’re going to have to start all over again from seeds or from clones taken before your plant has flowered. But isn’t the growing part half the fun anyway?