As all years change through the never-ending cycle of the seasons, fall has once again arrived here in the mid-western United States.
This is a busy time of year for the general area I reside and any short or long trip into the countryside shows you harvest season is here. Combines mowing down crops, tractor-trailer 18 wheelers full of commodities on the way to the processing facilities. This is a sure sign my harvest is close at hand. This is where the rubber meets the road per-say when it comes to getting a quality product. A great crop can be ruined in days, or hours if something goes wrong, or unnoticed.
I've invested a lot of effort into getting my plants to the place they are at, now comes the time to take them when they are in the perfect window. A cannabis plant has a window of ripeness that lasts usually for an extended period. Take it early on in the ripeness stage and the buds will be more psychoactive, take them towards the end of the ripening stage and you are sure to have some knock out sleeping medicine.
It is sort of like tomatoes, some people like a firm tomato, and pick when the tomato is more on the orange-ish side, other people like a softer tomato and will pick them more towards the deep red color. However, pick your tomatoes to early and they will be bitter, or wait just a bit to long and have liquefied goo. This process is picking your tomatoes in the window.
When it comes to my medicine, I like to take my cannabis right in the middle to try to balance the strains effects, some body some cerebral, so I look for the trichomes to be starting to amber but not much past that.
That was pretty easy to type, and it sounds pretty straight forward, just look at the trichomes. Well, its never that easy. The amber color is the breakdown of the THC, which is a naturally occurring phenomenon and happens in real-time from my experiences. I still think one of my biggest mistakes in some of my first crops was just looking at the trichomes. Everyone that has ever looked up: "How to tell when my weed is done" has seen all the articles telling you to look at the trichomes...20% amber, no 15% amber, no no 24.78% amber and on and on the arguments contradicted site to site.
So what is some new grower supposed to think? Look at them chomes, Aright! I got some amber, I'm done, yonk! Wait! there's more to it.
I have a saying, "Show me a bud that has month old trichomes on it, I'll show you some amber!
Look at it like this, using hypothetical numbers, if THC broke down in one month, a photo plant will run you into 3 months of flower. Trichomes begin to form within the first month with quality genetics, so theoretically the first produced trichome would amber within the first half of the flowering cycle. This caused me to pull my plants way to early when I first started growing, even though my plants were far from finished.
It is commonly accepted that 25% or more of the plants yield is produced in the final two weeks of growth. This means pull to early and your pound just turned into three quarters of a pound. That's why you want to look at more signs than just the trichomes.
The hairs of your plant are a good indicator to the ripeness of the plant as well, but can also run you astray. It is generally accepted that 50-75% of all the hairs have shriveled and turned red indicate a ripe plant. This is great for someone that has the perfect growing conditions. Grow outdoors though, a nice rain can turn hairs red in my experience, well before the plant is even ripe.
Another indicator is the crowning of your bud tops. This is where you notice your buds have begun to plump up, and after some time, the bud shoots up a cone that appears to again start to grow up but really isn't plumping out. This is the crown, and generally your bud is really close to being done.
Any one of these indicators are better than nothing, but any one of these indicators can steer you wrong. The best attack is to put them all together. Yes, my buds are crowning, yes, my buds hairs have really begun to turn, yes, my trichomes are just the amount of amber I like.
That's when you get out that axe and take her down, but wait... You can't smoke that, that needs to dry, and a particular way too, but that's for the next post. Until then, keep your plants happy.