Harvesting—specifically when to harvest—is probably the decision that growers, especially inexperienced ones, fret about the most. In this article, we’ll relieve some of that anxiety by covering the ideal time to harvest as well as the rationales for harvesting leaves, males, seeded buds and, most importantly, sinsemilla.
There’s a lot of misconceptions and false “facts” out there about harvesting that threaten to become accepted truths—for example, the misnaming of bracts as “calyxes” and stigmas as “pistils.” This article aims to provide not only corrections to the cannabis nomenclature, but also true facts on harvesting every part of the world’s most miraculous plant.
LEAVES AND SHOOTS
In the 1960s and ’70s, leaves and vegetative shoots were an important summer stopgap while consumers awaited the fall harvest. Leaves, but especially shoots, can be surprisingly potent. The potency of leaves increases from the bottom of the plant to the top, from older to younger leaves, and from larger to smaller ones, culminating with growing shoots, which are the most potent.
Growers routinely pruned females of shoots, culled the male plants and stripped the males’ smaller, younger leaves. This mixture of younger leaves and growing shoots supplied the market until the seeded import marijuana—or homegrown sinsemilla—arrived. With the higher THC levels of today’s varieties, leaves and shoots are more potent than the typical imported pot of the ’60s and ’70s, and they can still play a role in a market drought and be useful for newbies—both medical patients and recreational users—who might be overwhelmed by potent sinsemilla. Still, leaves and shoots are most often used these days to make lower-quality hashish.
Harvest the male plants as soon as they’re identified, since their removal opens up garden space for the females and conserves resources. Trying to fully flower male plants for marijuana is pointless: Although the males have large resin glands lining both sides of the five anthers in each flower, the flowers’ combined weight is negligible—even in a large male bearing hundreds or even thousands of flowers. Males have their place in breeding programs and seed production, but not in harvesting usable bud.
Harvest seeded buds when the seeds begin to “shell out,” meaning when you can see seeds with good color splitting their protective bracts. Once you’ve assessed that the seeds are fully mature, wait no longer, as the bud’s potency and weight peak concurrently. With rain or high humidity, mature seeds can actually sprout right inside the buds, and while it may look amusing to see little plants growing in your buds, those are seeds gone to waste. Once shelled out, seeds may soon fall to the ground and sprout.
I believe seeded buds can be as potent as sin-semilla, but the physical act of removing the seeds diminishes the buds’ potency; during seed removal, resin is lost on the fingers and glands are broken, exposing the resin to air and light and, consequently, THC degradation. Once the buds are well pollinated, new flowers no longer form, as the plant’s priority is now to nurture the seeds, while sinsemilla (i.e., seedless) plants will continue to form flowers and, by harvest time, yield much more marijuana than seeded plants. For maximum production of seeds and marijuana yields, pollinate only after the buds are well formed and the older stigmas begin to curl—an indication that the flowers will soon become infertile because their stigmas are dying.