Nico’s Nuggets: Beginner Harvest Tips for the Fall Season

Hello Nico,
Thanks for all the grow advice you give out to noobs like me! I have a few plants outside, my first crop ever, and I’m not sure about the harvesting process. I have heard about people “cutting down” their planets to harvest. I wonder why this is necessary, as you only “smoke” the flower, would you not just prune the flower, leaving the stems and leaves to grow another cycle? If not, couldn’t you just leave a node placed in the ground (soil) to start up new roots and another plant? Thanks for any help you can lend and keep up the good work! 
— Eddie L. submitted via Nicosnuggets!

Howdy, Eddie and thanks for writing in! Indeed, it is that time of year again, and depending on where you are living on this planet, it may be harvest time—or harvest time may already have ended!

It's that time of year... But when exactly is the right time to harvest ripe buds?
It’s that time of year… But when exactly is the right time to harvest ripe buds?

Here in the U.S., outdoor harvests in California and Oregon begin as early as late September and continue on through to early November. Of course, this all depends on the strains being grown and the seasonal weather. Still, many new growers get to this time of year and begin to panic about their outdoor plants, wondering how and when exactly to harvest. Fear not, the process is easy—and is the best part of growing your own!

To start, once the first ground frost hits your area, it is time to take a hard look at your plants and consider whether or not the time has come for harvest. If heavy rain and wind come to your area this time of year, this is another important consideration. Excess moisture can bring bud rot (mold or botrytis) to your plants, ruining your entire crop and all your hard work. Strong winds can topple plants and destroy flowers as well.

The best method for determining if your plants are ready for harvest is to use a loupe or magnifier of about 60x and take a look at your trichomes. Trichomes are the crystalline resin glands that coat the outside of your buds (containing most of the plant’s THC). These trichomes start their life as clear and translucent. Slowly they turn to milky white and eventually begin to fade to an amber color. When 25 to 50 percent of these trichomes are amber, your flowers are ready for harvest.

This bud has a mix of translucent, milky and amber trichomes. Another week and she's ready for harvest.
This bud has a mix of translucent, milky and amber trichomes. Another week and she’s ready for harvest.

That being said, and to answer your question more specifically, generally you do cut down the entire plant for harvest. This does run counter to most fruit bearing plants, as we do not chop down orange trees to harvest oranges. However, cannabis is a different and unique plant species. The flowering phase and subsequent harvest mark the end of a cannabis plant’s life cycle. The natural reason cannabis flowers is to attract pollen from male cannabis plants in order to create seed. The plant itself knows—by the length of daylight hours and by the temperature outside—that a change of season is coming. Thus, Mother Nature triggers the flowering phase in order for the plants to ensure its lifeline through to the next spring by disseminating its seed over the earth before the winter snow. Left outdoors during the winter months, a cannabis plant would not survive like an orange tree would.

Now this does not mean a cannabis plant cannot be revived after flowering. Some advanced growers can and will do this from time to time, however, it does not make for vigorous growth and development the second time around. The primary reason a grower might do this would be to preserve a favorite genotype, or for use in a breeding project, or because they are desperately out of seeds or clones.

Cloning a plant that has already gone into her flowering stage, as you also mentioned in your question, is again a risky proposition. If you desire to re-propagate, or clone, your favorite plant, it is advisable that you do so during her vegetative stage, not during flower (or harvest). Once a plant goes into flower, her biological process and rhythm change significantly. She is focused solely on producing fruit and ensuring her genetic line’s survival. Attempting to clone this plant and revert back into a vegetative phase will stress and shock a plant, making for slower growth and development and likely a lighter yield and potency in the flowers.

Reaping the rewards of harvest!
Reaping the rewards of harvest!

For more information on harvesting, simply click in the search field above and type “Nico Harvest” for a whole bunch of good reads.

Thanks for reading everyone and remember: Grow… And help the world grow, too!

Follow Nico on Social Media: @Nico_Escondido (Twitter) & @Nico_High_Times (Instagram)

Got questions? Email ‘em over to Nico at and be sure to put “Nico’s Nuggets” in the subject line! (Tip: Before sending a question, try the new Search feature on the HIGH TIMES website. Simply click the “magnifier” icon at the top right and type “Nico + your subject topic” to see if your question has already been answered!)

Don’t miss the previous Nico’s Nuggets: Plant Food Basics for New Growers

1 comment
  1. Hey when I’m drying bud what do I want to cut out the leaves out of the bud and what size leaves should I cut out how big or how little should I leave them in if they’re covered in the fingers or should I leave it

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