Every plant including hemp has an ideal harvesting time or window when its fruits or buds are at their peak. Knowing when the right time to harvest however can be a challenge since it tests a grower’s patience. Environmental factors affect when a plant completes its growth cycle as well. The three popular methods of determining when to harvest is timing, inspecting pistils, and inspecting trichomes.
Timing simply involves waiting until the breeder-specified flowering time is up. This however is also unreliable since timing is subjective and can always change depending on the environment in which your plant grows. The pistil method is a bit more cut-and-dry; the earliest time to harvest is when at least 60% of your plant’s pistils have darkened and curled in. Using this method may result in leaving greater yields on the table because harvesting early results in lower potency. So if either of these inspection methods aren’t ideal, why is the trichome method the best one?
The best indication we have to determine whether a bud is ready to be harvested is the condition of the trichomes. These are the substances that give your hemp plant a frosty appearance, coating the buds and occasionally the tri-tip leaves. The color and level of murkiness of the trichomes will tell you how potent your plant is.
Clear trichomes indicate the least amount of potency, appearing clear like glass while sticking up straight. Harvesting your buds at this point will result in lesser yields, cutting off their growth cycle by several weeks when they haven’t fully matured yet.
The ideal time to harvest is when the trichomes take on a milky and cloudy appearance, indicating the buds’ peak potency and readiness to be picked. You will also know when the harvest window opens when your plant has mostly stopped producing new white hairs or pistils. 40% of the existing white hairs will have darkened and curled in, and 50-70% of the pistils will have darkened as well.
While this method is the most accurate, it is also the most difficult because trichomes are small so you will need to magnify them. You can use a wide range of magnifying glasses such as handheld ones, pocket microscopes, and even your smartphone. But to inspect trichomes, we recommend using a jeweler’s loupe. This tool provides the best value out of most other magnifiers; it is low cost, easy to use, durable, and has two levels of magnification with accompanying LED lights for improved vision.