After months of irrigating, organically fertilizing, and caring for your cannabis plants with LED grow lights, you expect a sizeable harvest. To optimize the productivity of your cannabis plants, only harvest full-grown flowers with ripened trichomes. Trichomes are the sticky resin glands on your cannabis flowers, rich in cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes.
You won’t get the maximum beneficial compounds when you harvest cannabis flowers before the trichomes have attained optimal maturity. Similarly, harvesting the flowers weeks or months after the recommended harvesting time produces over-ripe trichomes with less desirable therapeutic compounds, unimpressive flavors, and unfavorable aroma.
As a marijuana farmer, you must fruitage your harvest at the peak ripeness of the flowers. Traditionally, growers harvest cannabis when the trichomes have a cloudy color, the buds look and feel ripe, and the pistils are red/orange.
Researchers, medical experts, and scientists have continued to research and create different wellness and medical products. The flavonoid, cannabinoid, and terpene content are often contained within the trichome heads. And so, to ascertain the ripeness of your trichome, you must possess the tools, knowledge, and skills to check the structure and condition of the trichome heads.
The Importance of Harvesting at Uttermost Ripeness
If you’ve come across trichomes ready-for-harvest pics, you would have discovered the trichomes had milky or amber colors. If you fail to fruitage the trichomes after attaining full maturity, the cannabinoids will decrease in value and quantity.
Cannabis plants will generate trichomes with maximum resin quality and quantity when fully ripened. Basically, full-grown cannabis flowers develop solventless extracts with optimal therapeutic effects with exceptional levels of:
- THC, CBG, CBD, and other cannabinoids
The trichomes in your cannabis flowers carry essential compounds, including aroma, flavor, and therapeutic and psychoactive effects. But before you think of harvesting your cannabis flowers earlier or at a later date, realize that you could be risking getting substandard trichomes. Talk with other growers or cannabis experts, and you’ll realize that trichomes are ripe, under-ripe, or overripe, depending on when they made a harvest.
How Long Should You Wait Before Harvesting Your Cannabis Flowers?
Many factors determine how long your cannabis flowers and trichomes take to achieve peak maturity. However, most growers have different experiences growing cannabis plants, depending on the environment and plant genetics. The flowering time frames will vary, and production and resin quality will often be optimal in the final days of the flowering cycle.
Indica growers and breeders will tell you that the flowering time is often between eight and nine weeks. However, you shouldn’t harvest your flowers immediately after they hit this period. Instead, wait a bit to ensure they achieve peak maturity.
Let’s talk about trichomes and when to harvest your plants. Sativa-heavy genetic plants will take more time to attain ripeness, approximately 12 weeks. It’d take you longer, roughly two weeks after the flowering stage, to harvest your trichomes.
It’s never recommendable to harvest cannabis flowers outside the ripeness window. Doing it earlier or later gives you flowers with diminished medicinal value. Additionally, the quality of the flowers will be substandard, and extracting valuable contents out of them won’t be easy.
Here are the likely results when you harvest your cannabis flowers earlier than expected:
- Lower flower quantity and yield
- Undeveloped cannabinoids with lower potency
- Unripe terpenes
After your trichomes attain the ripeness windows, waiting too long will leave you with the following:
- Substandard and low-potency cannabinoids
- low-quality and fewer terpenes
Common Types of Trichomes per Ripeness
Some strains yield more when grown indoors, while others yield more outdoors. However, the cannabis world is dominated by three key trichomes, characterized by bud color, CBD quality, and other compounds. Higher trichome content in your cannabis flowers won’t necessarily give you more THC or CBD. Every strain will obviously generate a varied amount of THC and CBD blend, so be watchful. You should know these key types of trichomes when determining the ripeness of your cannabis flowers.
- Transparent/Translucent Trichomes
The early stage of trichome ripening starts when the trichome bulbous heads become transparent. The stage takes place 56 days following the flowering stage. Harvesting and consuming your trichomes at this period will give you a citrus taste with a less sedative and more stimulating sensation.
This kind of effect is due to the limited amount of cannabinoids and terpenes in the trichomes. Additionally, the bulbous head is pellucid, which triggers lower psycho-activity.
- Cloudy/Milky Trichomes
Pictures of trichomes ready for harvest will show that as the flowers age, they will become cloudy or white. At this stage, most hybrid cannabis flowers are appropriate for harvesting. The milky color indicates that the trichome’s internal cells have been converted into valuable compounds such as cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids.
The presence of cannabinoid molecules will subsequently make the trichome bulbous heads have a yellow color. The effect of trichomes harvested at this stage is usually psychotropic and cerebral because of the low THC and CBD amount.
- Golden/Amber Trichome
At the final flowering and peak ripeness stage, your cannabis trichomes will be fully mature, and the bulbous heads will develop a golden and amber hue. Most trichomes may develop a full yellow color, while some maintain a golden or milky tone. However, don’t be quick to harvest your weed. Wait until 70% of the trichomes have developed an amber hue.
The amber coloring in trichomes indicates optimal THC and CBD concentration. Waiting until the trichome’s ripeness hits over 80% is a disaster in the making, as you’ll ultimately get marijuana with lower CBD and THC concentrations. Above 90%, the bulbous heads start to burst and shrink, with the lower and larger leaves turning yellow or wilting.
Methods to Tell the Ripeness of Trichomes
The traditional approach to testing trichome ripeness involves monitoring the growth stages of the buds and taking note of the color changes. As mentioned above, you can easily tell when your trichomes are ready for harvesting by checking the three stages.
However, the traditional trichome ripeness-checking approach is not one-size-fits-all, and many growers may find it inconveniencing and demanding. If you can’t keep an accurate record of the cannabis flowering stages to avoid harvesting too early or late, here are some tricks to try:
- Handheld Magnifying Glass
Cannabis trichomes at all stages are miniature and almost impossible to differentiate with your naked eye. They can be as large as 500 micrometers and small as 10 micrometers. A magnifying glass presents trichomes as tiny hairs placed on the top surface of the cannabis plant. But that’s not all. Your work is to use magnifying glasses to identify the trichomes with a mushroom shape. Mushroom-shaped trichomes have attained all stages of growth and contain the highest amounts of medicinal and psychoactive compounds.
- Jeweler’s Loupe
For cheaper alternatives to checking the maturity of your trichomes, you can use a jeweler’s loupe. Fit it to your smartphone’s camera lens to take clearer images of your cannabis buds to know if the trichomes have attained optimal maturity.
You wouldn’t miss a smartphone when planning the best vacation, so don’t lack one when checking trichome ripeness. Use your camera to take trichomes ready-for-harvest pics that stand out in clarity and quality. Use your smartphone to take bud and flower shots that give precise details of the hue and condition of the trichomes.
You might need to use a pocket microscope to shoot clearer and more detailed photos of your cannabis buds or trichomes. It can be attached to USB cameras and smartphones and is pretty affordable.
Growing cannabis is an extremely delicate and costly procedure. The last thing you want is to harvest your buds late, getting substandard trichomes with low-quality or insufficient cannabinoids and flavonoids. You need to gather cannabis buds containing the highest quantities of valuable compounds. For that reason, try the tricks mentioned above to monitor trichomes’ ripeness to ensure timely harvesting. Likewise, don’t neglect the importance of setting your LED grow lights at the proper levels.