Timing the harvest is an art growers nurture over time. And it matters because the last stages are even more crucial in bringing out the buds’ quality.
Weed’s distinct smell gets better as the terpenes mature; the cannabinoids become more concentrated in the buds.
How Long Should I Let My Buds Grow?
The time it takes for buds to mature after forming depends on the plant’s genes and the strain. For some plants, the buds will be ready for harvest 8 weeks after flowering, while others will take as long as 12 weeks after flowering.
Most plants will have their buds ready by between 8-10 weeks. The timing is crucial because when you reap the buds too early, you miss the last stages of trichome maturity. Much like wine, weed matures with time— you just have to get it right!
The buds are the main plant’s priority at the flowering stage as they want to reproduce with all the energy they’ve got left. Nourishing the plants— feeding them the proper nutrients through the process will help them wean the buds to perfect size and quality.
As the buds develop within the core 6-8 weeks of flowering, you should feed them more phosphorus, potassium, and calcium. By all means reduce nitrogen. You don’t want the plant to continue vegetating.
The first two weeks after changing the lights to 12/12 are transitory. The plant will still show rapid vegetative growth, especially in week one as it makes its stem sturdier for the weight of the coming buds. Week two will see the first pistils forming out of female flowers. The wispy hairs are what will become your buds.
The plant will show remarkable progress once the buds begin to form. The calyxes swell, and buds fill out.
At What Week of Flowering Do Buds Swell?
The buds will grow the most during weeks 3-5. This is the point when your plant will show budlets that grow pretty fast. Towards the end of week five, the budlets shall have shown much swelling, and you might have to use trellis to give the plants more support.
Still, it depends on your strains. Though you will notice much swelling happening in week 7, most growth occurs between weeks 3-5. At weeks 8-10, the buds are fully grown, and thanks to terpenes, the smell will be overpowering.
As the flowering period comes to an end, the bud’s growth will slow down. The fan leaves will begin to fade in color, turning from green to yellow. The calyxes will turn red and shrivel while the trichomes will turn from clear to cloudy.
The trichomes are the gems of flowering because they contain all the essential cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. Watch them. Your buds will be ready for harvest when most trichomes have turned cloudy, just before they turn amber.
The disparity in trichomes’ color happens because the top buds are more exposed and mature faster than the lower buds.
Use a jeweler’s loupe or a simple magnifying lens to observe the trichomes. They are pretty tiny crystals. And the color changes might escape you when you observe them with naked eyes.
The trichomes will turn from clear to cloudy before turning into amber. The best time to harvest is when most trichomes have turned cloudy but yet to turn amber. That’s when the buds psychoactive components are at their peak.
What Happens If You Flower Too Long?
If you flower for too long, your buds will lose most of the psychoactive potency leading to low THC levels. If you harvest too late, the THC will degrade to the sleep-inducing CBN.
However, the type of product you’re aiming for can also influence the harvesting time. Flowering longer is great when you want the CBD-rich buds, but it degrades your THC.
Likewise, if you flower too early, you miss the best of your buds as the cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes haven’t had enough time to mature. The THC isn’t at the peak, and the high will be less psychoactive.
Harvesting too early also means the buds shall have lost the time for the last stretch of growth. You will end up harvesting small buds that shrink even further after drying.
Are Small Buds Less Potent?
Small buds are not less potent. The size of the buds does not affect potency as much as it affects yield and aesthetics. The potency of the buds is affected by the weed’s genes and the conditions of growth.
As they are mostly known in the dispensaries, Smalls or Littles are buds that didn’t bulge out. Sometimes, their small size is caused by genetics, while other times, it could be caused by environmental factors, like heat stress.
Some buds will remain pretty small even when fully matured. As much as you get a small yield, the concentrations of the cannabinoids will still be high.
The only time when you get less from small buds is if their size is caused by environmental stress or when they were harvested from the lower parts of the plant before they fully matured. A case of early harvesting— not size— for the most part.
In summary, for the most part, flowering is influenced by the plant’s genetics. Different strains will require different durations for the buds to mature enough.
Some strains will take as short as 7 weeks of flowering, while others can stretch beyond 13 weeks. Most will take between 8-10 weeks to fully mature.
Observe the bud with a magnifying glass or a jeweler’s loupe to get the colors of the glandular trichomes. That’s how you can harvest with precision.