Harvesting Autoflowering Cannabis: Timing the Growing Cycle and Harvest

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Added 28 March 2023

Autoflowering cannabis plants are a gift to many growers — whether you want to grow cannabis as quickly as possible or don't want to get into the intricacies of light cycles. These plants are easier to grow and maintain.

But as easy as they may be to grow, one aspect of an autoflowering plant should not be taken for granted. And, that’s the harvesting process. It’s not as simple as cutting off the buds and rolling them into a joint.

The harvesting process for an autoflowering cannabis plant is much like that of its photoperiod cousins — it involves planning, meticulous monitoring of the buds, and efficient drying and curing. 

But, how do you do that? Worry not! Here is a guide with everything you need to know about harvesting autoflowering cannabis plants!

How Long Do Autoflowers Take to be Ready for Harvest?

How Long Do Autoflowers Take to be Ready for Harvest?

Autoflowering cannabis plants have a much shorter lifespan than photoperiod plants, but not all autoflowering strains follow the same timeline. Some grow and mature a lot faster than others. 

Keeping that in mind, most autoflowers still follow a similar timeline while growing from a seedling to a fully mature plant with ripe buds. And since they don't rely on the light period, as photoperiod plants do, they also switch to flowering independently regardless of the lighting conditions. 

In most cases, autoflowering cannabis plants reach from a seedling to a mature plant within 8 to 14 weeks, depending on strain genetics and some external environmental conditions. Here is a more detailed look at the timeline autoflowering cannabis follows. 

1. Seedling Stage

Seedling Stage

This is the first stage of your autoflowering plant, which begins with germination and ends with the start of the vegetative stage. Generally, this stage lasts for a couple of weeks, when your plant starts developing its first set of true leaves. 

2. Vegetative Stage

Vegetative Stage

The next stage that follows is the vegetative stage, which ranges from 2 to 3 weeks, depending on genetics. During this stage, expect your autoflowering plant to grow bigger and get bushier. 

3. Flowering Stage

Flowering Stage

Finally, the flowering stage, where your plant will start developing buds. Usually, this stage lasts for 6 to 10 weeks, depending on the strain. During this stage, you must keep an eye on the buds to know when the buds are ready for harvesting. 

How to Time Your Autoflower Grow for Optimal Results?

How to Time Your Autoflower Grow for Optimal Results?

Autoflowering cannabis, despite having a shorter life cycle, requires good timing if you want to achieve the best results, i.e., a good yield. Timing becomes a critical factor here. 

To begin with, you need to choose the right time of the season to start growing your autoflowering cannabis. Generally, they grow from seed to harvest within 8 to 12 weeks, depending on genetics. 

The best time to grow autoflowering cannabis relies on various factors like climate, genetics, and environment. So, here are some things you must consider to time your grow right.

1. Your Local Climate

The climate in your region plays a significant role in determining the best time to grow autoflowering plants. Generally, most autoflowering strains thrive in warmer temperatures and a lot of sunlight. 

So, if you live in a region with short summers or cold winters, start growing the plant in spring, when the weather starts warming up. On the other hand, in a hot climate, avoid growing during peak summers as the temperatures may be too high for your plant. 

2. Growing Conditions

The next factor that plays a significant role is the growing conditions your plant grows in. For an outdoor plant, you can't really control these conditions like temperature, relative humidity, or lighting. You have to let nature do all the work.

Here, you need to consider the average precipitation levels, light, and average temperatures during different times of the year to figure out a window that will work best for your cannabis plant. 

You don't have to worry much about an indoor plant since you have a lot of control over these conditions. Give your plant the ideal conditions and it will grow regardless of the outdoor climate.

3. Strain Genetics

The third factor determining the best time to grow autoflowering cannabis is its strain genetics. Every strain is unique and has varying flowering times — some flower within eight weeks whereas others may take up to 12 weeks. 

So, when selecting the strain to grow, consider its seed to harvest or flowering time. These terms refer to how long it would take for your plant to reach maturity. Once you have that figure at hand, grow your plant accordingly so it is ready for harvest before it's too late. 

Generally, the best time to grow autoflowering plants is during spring and summer. During these months, the temperatures are warm and cozy and the sunlight is bright. Your plants can take full advantage of these conditions, leading to a much better yield during harvest. 

When Should You Harvest Your Autoflowering Cannabis?

When Should You Harvest Your Autoflowering Cannabis?

Planting your autoflowering cannabis at the right time for optimal results is only one side of the coin. The other side is knowing when to harvest. Harvest at the wrong time and all your efforts may go down the drain. 

If you harvest your autoflowering cannabis too soon, the buds may not have fully developed and packed on a lot of THC (and other cannabinoids). So, the buds may not be as potent and flavorful as you’d expect. 

On the contrary, if you harvest the plant too late, the cannabinoids may begin to deteriorate, leading to a less potent result. Plus, waiting too long may even make the buds feel harsh to smoke. 

You want to harvest the buds when they have reached the sweet spot — peak cannabinoid and terpenoid levels! And how can you do that? Follow these tips to know when to harvest your autoflowering cannabis plant.

1. Consider the Life Cycle of Your Plant 

The first step is to know the rough time your plant will be ready for harvesting. Refer to your strain or seed's seed to harvest time. At the same time, maintain a grow journal or diary so you can keep a track of your plant's growth. 

With this dataset, you will have a good understanding of your plant's age and how close it is to maturity, helping you keep the general timeline handy. 

2. Keep an Eye on the Trichomes

Once you have a rough idea of when your plant will be ready for harvest, you can start looking at the trichomes, which is perhaps the most accurate indicator of the plant's maturity. 

Trichomes are tiny, mushroom-shaped glands on the buds, and these compounds contain terpenes and cannabinoids in resinous form. 

During most of the flowering stage, these glands are translucent, but when your plant is close to maturity, they start turning cloudy, followed by amber. This color change is a reflection of their chemical composition. Here is what each color means:

  • Clear or transparent trichomes: The flowers are still immature and do not contain enough cannabinoids — it is too early to harvest
  • Cloudy trichomes: The buds are rich in THC, making it a perfect time to harvest if you want your buds to produce a cerebral high
  • Amber trichomes: The THC levels have reduced and the buds are now rich in CBN — harvest now if you want the buds to produce a more balanced high

You can use a small magnifying glass or a jeweler's loupe to take a look at the trichomes. 

3. Look at the Pistils

Next, you need to look at the pistils, which are another reliable indicator of your plant's maturity. These tiny hairs on the calyxes are the female reproductive organs of your plant, and their color indicates the plant's maturity.

When the pistils are white, the buds are still immature. You must wait until they start turning orange or red. If you want your buds to contain maximum THC, harvest the buds when 70% of the pistils have turned orange or red. Wait further for 90% of the pistils to turn amber if you want a more balanced high.

For the best results, it is recommended to look at trichomes and pistils at the same time so you can get a more accurate idea of your plant's maturity.

4. Smell the Buds

When your buds are mature, your nose will be the first to know — cannabis buds are aromatic and they fill the air with their scent. When the buds start developing, they will release a pungent smell, which will only get stronger with time as they close maturity. 

So, keep an eye — or nose? — on the buds and their peak aroma. That's generally the time when it is a good time to harvest. 

5. Look at the Leaves

Finally, you should also take a closer look at the leaves to know the best time to harvest. When your plant gets closer to maturity, the fan leaves will start turning yellowish; some leaves on the lower sections of the plant may even fall off. 

It is recommended that you don't rely on one method to know when it's the best time to harvest. Follow multiple approaches and you’ll be able to figure out the best time for harvest more accurately. 

How to Harvest Autoflowering Cannabis Plants?

How to Harvest Autoflowering Cannabis Plants?

You started growing your autoflowering plants at the right time and even figured out the best time to harvest them by looking at the trichomes and pistils. The next step is to finally harvest your plant. 

Arguably, this is the most important step where you must be meticulous as even simple mistakes can harm your plant's yield. Harvesting doesn't mean you start snipping off buds — it's a long process that requires time and planning. And there's a method to this madness. 

Follow these steps to harvest your autoflowering cannabis.

1. Keep the Temperatures Low Before Harvest

If you’re growing a strain that tends to show different phenotypes, especially colorful hues in the buds, you should keep the temperatures low before harvest. Of course, some strains develop colorful buds without any help, but some require cooler temperatures for the same. 

This doesn't mean you drop the temperatures way down to get purple buds — that would be harmful to the plant. Only a slight difference of 1 to 2 degrees Fahrenheit is enough to make a difference and bring out this colorful phenotype in some buds

2. Keep the Plant in Darkness Before Harvest

One way to boost trichome content in your cannabis buds, and sometimes, even fatten up the buds, is to leave your autoflowering cannabis plant in darkness two days before the harvest. 

By doing this, you are tricking your plant to think winter is here and, as a survival mechanism, the plant will boost trichome production in the buds and fatten up the calyxes. 

3. Flush the Plant Before Harvest

The two steps mentioned above are optional, and so is flushing. You have probably used many nutrients to support your plant's growth, but you need to make sure your plant uses up all the nutrients. 

Otherwise, the nutrients may deposit in the buds, making them harsher to smoke and even affecting their flavor. This can make your buds taste acrid. 

This problem can be avoided by flushing your plant before harvest. Here, you have to use plain water to flush the nutrients from the soil and stop giving your plant nutrients around 10 days before the harvest to remove excess ionic salts from the soil.

If you’re using coco coir as a growing medium, you only need to flush it for 4 to 7 days since it flushes much faster than soil. This is because coco coir in itself is inert and does not contain any nutrients. 

As for hydroponic growing mediums, a few days is all you need. This is perhaps one reason why many growers refer to hydroponically grown cannabis as the best-tasting specimens. 

Once the plant uses up nutrients in the soil, it will be forced to use up all the nutrients it has stored within. This will remove the salts from the buds, making them smoother to smoke and better to smell and taste. 

Additionally, since cannabis uses nutrients to produce chlorophyll, a lack of nutrients will remove excess chlorophyll from the buds, too. This will further prevent your buds from smelling or tasting like chlorophyll.

The leaves may turn yellow during this time, but that is normal. As mentioned earlier, as your plant nears maturity, it will lose some of its leaves and some others may turn yellow or brown. 

4. Defoliate the Plant (Optional)

One way to speed up the flushing process is to defoliate your cannabis plant by cutting off bigger fan leaves. This not only makes the trimming process easier later on but also aids the flushing process. Fan leaves store nutrients, and cutting them off removes excess nutrients from the plants.  

Note that if you plan to defoliate your plant, use sharp scissors and keep your grow room sanitary. This may be stressful for your plant, so you also want to monitor your plant closely for any signs of stress.

It goes without saying, only cut a few bigger fan leaves. Do not make your autoflowering cannabis leafless!

5. Harvest the Plant

Use the guidelines mentioned above to know the best time for harvest and, when it's time, get yourself some pruning scissors and start cutting away the buds. Always use sharp scissors to prune your buds and avoid touching the buds directly; hold them by the stem to protect the trichomes on them.

If your autoflowering cannabis is bigger than average or you have a unidirectional light source, it is recommended to use a partial harvesting approach. Sometimes, the lower buds may not develop as well as the buds at the top. Thus, snip away the buds on top of the plant and wait for the lower buds to get just as big as the ones at the top.

Most growers prefer to cut off the buds from the plant, but some growers simply cut off the entire plant before taking off the buds. This depends on your climate. If you live in a humid region, cutting off the buds straight from the plant is better.

On the other hand, if you want your cannabis plant to dry gradually, you can cut off bigger branches or stems with a few buds on them and trim and dry them accordingly. This method is ideal for colder regions with low humidity conditions. 

6. Trim the Buds

The next step is to trim the buds after you have harvested them. There are two ways to trim your freshly harvested cannabis buds: wet and dry trimming. In wet trimming, you trim the buds before drying them; in dry trimming, it is the other way around. 

Generally, dry trimming is recommended for most growers since it is easier, but if you live in a warm or humid region, it is best to trim the buds wet to reduce the risk of mold or fungi during the drying process. 

Whichever method you use, use sharp pruning scissors and hold the buds from their stems to avoid damaging the trichomes. Then, start trimming off the sugar leaves from the buds — they give your buds a harsh flavor, so it's better to trim them off. 

Don't worry, you don't need to throw them away just yet. These little leaves are covered in resin, so you can use them to make concentrates or edibles! 

7. Dry the Buds

Drying is a crucial stage of the harvesting process where you get to bring out the full potential of your cannabis buds. During this stage, your buds will lose about 75% of their weight (which is mostly moisture) and turn try, making them much easier to burn and smoke. 

You can dry your buds in an enclosed space, like a room or a growing tent, but even cardboard boxes can work in a jiffy if you’re short of options. As long as the buds are not exposed to light and the humidity and temperatures are controlled, you can use anything you want. 

For drying your buds, you need to maintain the temperature between 60°F to 70°F(15°C to 21°C) and relative humidity between 50% to 60% for around 1 to 2 weeks. Make sure your buds don't dry up too fast as it may make them harsh to smoke. 

8. Cure the Buds

The final stage of the harvest is curing the buds, where you leave your buds in jars for some time. This process will further enhance your buds by making them more aromatic, flavorful, and potent. 

For this, you need some glass mason jars with sealable lids. Fill them up to 75% with your freshly dried buds and place the jars in a cool, dark place. Every 24 hours, burp the jar to keep the air fresh and prevent mold. 

You need to do this for around two weeks but don't hesitate to experiment with longer durations. Some growers even cure their buds for a year! Typically, you will know your buds are ready for consumption when the smell of chlorophyll has disappeared. 

Once your buds are cured, store them in sealable glass jars and place them in a cool, dark place. 

Summary: Harvesting Autoflowering Cannabis: Timing the Growing Cycle and Harvest

Harvesting autoflowering cannabis is a multi-faceted process, but once you understand it well, it is quite straightforward. It begins by, of course, planting your cannabis at the right time so they are ready for harvest at the right time.

The next step is to monitor the buds closely, especially the trichomes and pistils. Once they turn the right color, you can start the harvesting process. Of course, planning and keeping a grow journal help can help you keep track of things.

Once your plant is flushed and ready for harvest, you need to cut away the buds, trim them, dry them, and cure them. That's it. And don't forget to store them well. Follow this guide and enjoy autoflowering cannabis buds that produce a terrific high while smelling and tasting delicious!


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Most of this is based on false information, tell a lie enough times people take it as truth. Study some horticultural people !
Putting plant in dark stops everything .trichomes are synthesized by photosynthesis , light on cool temperatures yes .flushing no ,same as a photo plant really all I ment
@Candog, que parte por ejemplo es falsa? La información compartida es la misma que en otros varios sitios webs