Trichomes & Harvesting

Discussion in 'Harvesting And Curing' started by k0ijn, Mar 27, 2012.


    k0ijn Scientia Cannabis

    Harvesting your weed based on trichomes is probably the easiest way for most growers to harvest as close to peak harvest as possible.

    The difficulty in the method comes with how to determine the state of the trichomes and what each state means.
    If you have the equipment needed it is however very easy and with experience it gets even easier.

    To explain how to harvest by trichomes properly I will go into detail as to how to determine when trichomes are at their peak and which substances these trichomes contain, which are desirable and which are not.

    The first thing you need to know is that there are 3 "states" in a trichomes development.

    The first state is clear. Clear trichomes contain precursor cannabinoids (cannabinoids are the different substances in cannabis).
    These precursor cannabinoids are not psychoactive (they do not produce a 'high') yet and harvesting clear trichomes will not give you a proper harvest.

    The second state is cloudy/milky. Cloudy trichomes contain fully realized THC (the by far main contributing substance in any cannabis high).
    You want to get as close to 100% cloudy trichomes @ harvest to get the most potency out of your plant. It's impossible to get 100% cloudy trichomes, since trichomes are always being produced and are always maturing, even after harvest the trichomes will continue to develop.

    The third state is amber. Amber trichomes contain degraded THC --> CBN. CBN represents a loss of 90% potency (from THC).
    CBN is not desirable in any harvest, since it not only represents a huge loss of potency but research into the substance has also shown that CBN does not produce a high like THC does, CBN produces a more sickly feeling not a true high.

    Understanding the difference between clear - cloudy - amber trichomes is essential in getting a proper harvest with a peak potency.

    This image is a good helper to remember the differences:


    To understand how substances change and are developed in cannabis you will need to read extensively on each substance to understand what each substance does and how they affect each other.

    This image is helpful in getting a vague knowledge of substances in cannabis and how they develop:


    I will not go deeper into what each substance (CBG, CBD, CBC, CBN, THCV etc.) do, suffice to say they all play a part in the cannabis high, albeit a minor part for most of them, since THC is the main factor in a cannabis high.
    Some provide pain relief, some reduce muscle spasm, the list goes on and research is still being done to figure out all of the benefits of these substances.

    I can however post an image that explains rather well which effects the substances have on the human body:


    Trichomes are of course not the only indicator of when to harvest.
    There are other factors that should be taken into account when determining when to harvest.

    Calyxes on the plant will swell up, these swollen calyxes are a sign of maturity.
    The pistils (what some new growers call hairs) will change colour (often to an orange tinge) and recede into the calyx.
    Receding pistils are also a sign of maturity.
    Then there is the overall look of the plant. Many experienced growers simply go by this factor, they can determine peak harvest just by looking at the plant and seeing how it looks from afar regarding colour tinge and the look of the calyxes.

    All these factors should be taken into account when harvesting. All of these factors usually align when peak harvest approaches.

    The best way to check how the trichomes on your plant are doing is by means of a loupe or a microscope.
    I would recommend getting ones that can at least go to 60x magnification.
    Getting one that can go to 100x would be even better, but the more magnification the more cost.

    All you have to do is take a small sample of a leaf with trichomes on it, or if you have a loupe or a USB microscope simply look at the trichomes on the plant to determine their 'state'.
    It's important that you check all over the plant, since trichomes will usually develop and produce faster at the top(s) of branches and slower and the bottom of the plant.

    Some people choose to harvest the tops first and let the bottom nugs grow a bit more to let the trichomes mature and develop further but also to let the buds fatten up more. It's a judgement and preference call really.

    It's almost impossible to harvest without at least some amber trichomes (and some clear), keeping the amber trichomes to the minimum is key if you want maximum potency out of your plant.
    Usually if you are careful and watchful you will end up with around 5% clear trichomes, 10% amber and 85% cloudy trichomes.
    That is a very reasonable % split and is what you should be aiming for.

    References & sources:

    Marijuana Chemistry:
    Genetics, Processing And Potency

    KINGEBK1 Member

    thanks this help me

    Supersoul Active Member

    Awesome what a thread with pics and all. But i do have one question. I am not sure if you are familiar with purple kush and what the despensary preffer. I read somewhere that they preffer purple kush to be about 60% amber and the rest milky and clear. if you have any knowledge of this please inform me. This is my first grow and i will be having some left overs. i am also using it for my arthritist. And also read it was suppose to give a couch lock high when it is 60% amber. I have recently started using cannabis to relieve pain and muscle tension. i am at day 56 into flowering and everything is sticky.

    k0ijn Scientia Cannabis

    The strain phenotype (wether it's a Sativa or and Indica) determines overall wether you get an energetic high or a couch lock high.
    It's a common misunderstanding that amber trichomes produce a couch lock high, it's mainly because wrong information has been spread around and people keep perpetuating it, in the end everybody believes it's fact when in reality it isn't.
    As already stated in the thread; amber trichomes contain degraded THC --> CBN.
    CBN does not really produce a high, it does affect the high but not in a positive way.
    CBN is pain relieving (as are most cannabinoids) but it does not reduce muscle tension/spasm.
    Cannabinoids like CBD, CBG and CBC affect the high more than CBN does.

    If you are looking for pain relief I would suggest you grow Indica strains and preferable ones with a decent % of CBD and CBC.
    CBD is not only analgesic (pain relieving) it also reduces muscle spasm and it's a muscle relaxant (a very relevant cannabinoid for you).
    CBC is also analgesic and it has a sedative effect as well.
    THC however is also analgesic, therefore CBC should not be the end all of your search for a perfect strain.

    FrostyTheBudMan Well-Known Member

    Not exactly newbie here, but first grow in a long time, trying to find just the right time to chop. Borrowed a friends digital microscope and have attached the images. Seeking expert advise. I have learned so much here.
    PICT0024.jpg PICT0025.jpg PICT0026.jpg
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    k0ijn Scientia Cannabis

    Seems to be a combination of cloudy and clear trichomes as far as I can see from the images.
    You should let your plant(s) flower a bit more, hard to be specific without more info (length of flowering so far, strain etc.) but I would say at least 2 weeks as I see no amber trichomes and still quite a few clear.

    FrostyTheBudMan Well-Known Member

    So far they have been 57 days flowering, it is some sort of Blueberry, got as clones from a friend. They were vegged 12 weeks prior to the 12/12. Thanks so much for your help, I am hoping to get a few more weeks out of them.
    Superfen likes this.

    k0ijn Scientia Cannabis

    Alright, well let them flower for a few more weeks but keep a close eye on them, sometimes the trichomes can 'change' rather quickly :weed:

    FrostyTheBudMan Well-Known Member

    That was my plan, I had read elsewhere that they can change quickly, but good to confirm that directly from someone that has the knowledge. Thanks so much!
    Superfen likes this.

    FrostyTheBudMan Well-Known Member

    Looks like time, got a chance to check this morning and seeing amber! Darkness for two days then chop chop, so close I can taste it now!
    View attachment 2102387

    Supersoul Active Member

    hi, i just took these pics of purple kush and they are in day 60 of flowering and just turn the lights on from a 2 days darkness. I dont have a loupe microscope and this is my first grow. Should i chop today? Like now?...i waited so long because i was away on a vacation. I dont want to lose potency and not sure on the color of the trichs without a microscope. maybe a veteran can eye ball the pic and have a good guess. DSC05167.jpg DSC05135.jpg DSC05163.jpg DSC05159.jpg DSC05156.jpg
    719Chavez420 likes this.

    panhead Well-Known Member

    One bit of additional info,you mentioned being at 60 days flower,when did you start the day count ?

    If you started counting as soon as you went 12/12 then you skipped a step,all strains have a transition period where the plants metabolism switches gears from veg to bud phase,this is also when the plants will stretch out,you shouldnt start a day count until the plants fully transition from veg to bud.

    Keep in mind most strains have a different length of transition,some as fast as 5-7 days & others as long as 14-18 days,most indica dominant strains are around 7 days & the more sativa in the strain the longer the transition period.

    Transition from veg to bud is complete once most of the stretching out of the plant is finished & when the plant starts putting out new pistils.
    I dont start a day count till see new pistils comming out of most bud sights.

    If you started counting as soon as day 1 of 12/12 then you still have atleast 7 days.

    Supersoul Active Member

    Feb 4 was when i took them out of 3 days of darkness to get them to flower then went to 12/12 that should be 53 days and purple kush is an 8 week strain. And they all showed sex around the 8th of feb. Question: since i am not able to cut and manicure all of them in one day. where should i put the plants that i cant get to? the darkness or cfl's 24/7 or leave them in the flowering room with 1000 watt hps with the 12/12

    k0ijn Scientia Cannabis

    Yeah I see three amber trichomes there.
    Have you checked all over the plant? Chop chop if you have :)
    tomuch and JustAnotherUser like this.

    k0ijn Scientia Cannabis

    I think you still have a week or so left, based on the images and the info.
    If you can, I'd advise you get a loupe or a microscope, they are fairly inexpensive and they can really help a lot.

    I'd leave those plants you can't harvest and process in the flowering room.
    I usually harvest my plants in stages if there are large differences in trichomes from top nugs to bottom nugs.
    That is to say I harvest the largest and most advance calyxes first and the lower bottom popcorn ones later.

    You can easily leave the plants in the flowering room for a day or two without causing any problems.
    Superfen and panhead like this.

    FrostyTheBudMan Well-Known Member

    I have and amber is slowly popping up all over so chop chop time tomorrow!

    Supersoul Active Member

    • I usually harvest my plants in stages if there are large differences in trichomes from top nugs to bottom nugs.
      That is to say I harvest the largest and most advance calyxes first and the lower bottom popcorn ones later.​

    Did you mean chop off the top part of the plants first? Like cut the stem where there is amber or the whole stem? and take it as it comes and work it downward? and leave the unready ones in the soil? if so would you split a bud?
    I have a veg area that is lit with cfl's should i move the plants that i am working on there?, since my clones are now ready for bigger lights and move them to the flowering room and adjust the time to 18/6? or should i leave the ready plants in the flowering room at 12/12 until i start chopping it? I should beable to get a loupe by tommorrow i hope

    k0ijn Scientia Cannabis

    No I don't chop of any part of the stem really (if possible).
    I take off the top nugs, damaging the plant as little as possible.
    You can easily harvest the top part (leaving as many branches and stems intact as you can) without killing the plant.
    Thereby retaining branches where I can and leaving the bottom calyxes to still develop.

    I would not split a bud no. I'd harvest all the mature buds and leave the underdeveloped ones to develop for a few more days or maybe even a week.
    It depends on how much time you have and how you prefer harvesting really.
    It's not as easy as just harvesting the whole plant and if you're very new to growing I would not recommend you do it but it is a viable option.
    If it's small plants it's usually not worth doing this, this method only works on large plants where there can be huge differences in how the bud sections develop.

    I would leave the plants in the flowering room to avoid light stressing them.
    Light stress is some of the worst stress there is.
    You can manhandle plants, cut them, split them, top them without much trouble.
    Change the light schedule or move them from flower to veg and you could end up with huge problems rather quickly.
    kayasgarden and usernamereview like this.

    Supersoul Active Member

    I got a 10x loupe scope this morning and most of them are cloudy but i did one or two amber ones but to look hard for guessing i have to wait before chopping. How much longer would you say the wait will be?? Also i cut one of the lower branch with some small buds to practice manicuring a bud. Could you tell me if this looks right, i tried to get all the surrounding leaves off. DSC05391.jpg

    k0ijn Scientia Cannabis

    If you see hardly any clear, mostly cloudy and a few amber it's a good time to harvest.
    You might be able to let your plants flower a few days to a week more or so, but I wouldn't let them flower more than that if you are seeing mostly cloudy a few amber.

    You can leave some of the smaller leaves (sugar leaves) on the buds.
    These leaves can help avoid a too quick dry and they can also add some good properties to your buds (flavour etc.).
    But it's a preference call, if you prefer without leaves, do it that way, just make sure you don't dry too quickly (you want a dry period of ~6-7 days (slow & steady)).
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