Growing weed can be a rewarding experience, and autoflowering strains have become increasingly popular among both novice and seasoned cultivators. Unlike photoperiod strains, autoflowers have a unique life cycle that doesn't depend on light schedules to transition from vegetative to flowering stages. This characteristic makes them relatively easier to grow, but it also presents a critical challenge: knowing precisely when to harvest these auto-flowering beauties.
In this guide, we will delve into the intricacies of when to harvest autoflowers, exploring the various methods to identify the perfect moment for chopping those resinous buds.
What Are Autoflowering Seeds?
Autoflowering seeds are a special type of weed seeds that have been selectively bred to exhibit a unique growth characteristic. Unlike traditional photoperiod strains that rely on changes in light cycles to initiate flowering, autoflowering seeds automatically transition from vegetative growth to flowering without any dependence on light schedules. This remarkable trait is the result of crossing weed plants with a wild weed subspecies calledweed ruderalis, which evolved in regions with short summers and harsh environments.
As a result, autoflowering plants have a fixed life cycle, typically completing their entire growth cycle in a significantly shorter time compared to photoperiod strains. This feature makes autoflowering seeds highly popular among growers, particularly those seeking a faster and more straightforward cultivation process. Additionally, autoflowers are often more compact in size, making them suitable for discreet and space-limited growing environments. And their ability to flower regardless of light conditions makes them an appealing choice for both outdoor and indoor cultivation, providing a convenient and rewarding option for weed enthusiasts of all levels.
When to Harvest Autoflowers?
Determining the right time to harvest your autoflowering weed is crucial to achieve the desired potency, flavor, and overall quality of the final product. Fortunately, there are several key indicators you can observe to tell if your autoflower is ready for harvest.
Trichome Evaluation: Thetrichomes, tiny resinous glands on the buds and leaves, are a reliable indicator of harvest readiness. You could use a magnifying tool such as a jeweler's loupe or a microscope to closely inspect the trichomes.
Early in the flowering stage, trichomes are clear or translucent. As the plant matures, they will turn milky or cloudy. For a more energetic and euphoric effect, harvest when most trichomes are cloudy. On the other hand, if you prefer a more relaxing and sedative effect, wait until some trichomes turn amber.
Pistil Color: Observing the color of thepistils, the hair-like structures on the flowers, can also provide insight into harvest timing. At the beginning of flowering, pistils are usually white and vibrant. As the plant matures, they will change color to orange, red, or brown. Please harvest when approximately 70-80% of the pistils have changed color. However, it's essential to consider this method in conjunction with trichome evaluation for a more accurate judgment.
Flowering Time: Autoflowering weed have a fixed life cycle, typically lasting 8 to 12 weeks from germination to harvest. Familiarize yourself with the estimated flowering time of your specific strain to anticipate the approximate harvest window. This information can serve as a guideline for when to start closely monitoring the trichomes and pistils.
Leaf Yellowing: As the plant matures and approaches harvest, it will naturally consume nutrients stored in its leaves. This process causes the lower fan leaves to start turning yellow and eventually drop off. While some yellowing is normal towards the end of the flowering stage, excessive leaf yellowing may indicate that the plant is overripe and should be harvested soon.
Bud Density and Size: Autoflowers typically produce smaller and more compact buds compared to photoperiod strains. However, as harvest time approaches, the buds should be dense and well-formed, covered in trichomes. Inspect the overall size and structure of the buds to assess their readiness for harvest.
Aroma and Flavor: The smell and taste of the buds can also provide some clues about their maturity. As the plant nears harvest, the buds should develop a strong, distinct aroma that reflects the strain's characteristic terpenes. Trust your sense of smell to help you gauge when the buds are at their aromatic peak.
Observe Resin Production: Autoflowering strains should produce a significant amount of resin on the buds and surrounding leaves. The resin should appear sticky and glistening when viewed up close. Abundant resin production is a sign of a well-developed plant and can indicate that the buds are ready for harvest.
Fastest Autoflowering Strains
Auto Northern Lights: This classic indica strain is renowned for its fast growth and high potency, with a harvest time of around 8 to 9 weeks from germination.
Auto Sweet Tooth: This indica-dominant strain is known for its sweet flavor and can be ready for harvest in just 7 to 8 weeks from germination.
Auto Blueberry: A well-loved strain for its fruity flavor, Auto Blueberry typically has a quick flowering time of around 8 to 9 weeks.
Auto Jack Herer: Named after the weed activist and author, Jack Herer, this sativa-dominant strain can be harvested in approximately 8 to 9 weeks from germination.
Auto White Widow: A classic and popular strain, Auto White Widow is known for its balanced effects and can be ready for harvest in about 8 to 9 weeks.
Auto Critical: This indica-dominant strain is favored for its high yields and rapid flowering time of around 7 to 8 weeks from germination.
Auto Amnesia Haze: Loved for its powerful and uplifting effects, Auto Amnesia Haze can be harvested in approximately 10 to 11 weeks from germination.
Auto Gorilla Glue: Known for its sticky and resinous buds, Auto Gorilla Glue has a relatively fast flowering time of around 8 to 9 weeks.
Auto AK-47: This sativa-dominant strain is cherished for its potency and can be harvested in about 9 to 10 weeks from germination.
Auto White Widow x Big Bud: A potent hybrid strain, Auto White Widow x Big Bud can be ready for harvest in approximately 8 to 9 weeks.
Slower Autoflowering Strains
Auto Mazar: This indica-dominant strain is known for its heavy yields and powerful effects, but it generally requires around 10 to 11 weeks from germination to harvest.
Auto Sour Diesel: Renowned for its potent and uplifting effects, Auto Sour Diesel has a relatively longer flowering time of about 10 to 11 weeks.
Auto Blue Amnesia: A cross between Blueberry and Amnesia Haze, this strain has a longer flowering period of approximately 10 to 12 weeks.
Auto Bubble Gum: Loved for its sweet and fruity flavor, Auto Bubble Gum can take around 9 to 11 weeks to mature and be ready for harvest.
Auto White Russian: This hybrid strain, known for its balanced effects, may have a flowering time of about 10 to 12 weeks.
Auto Lemon Haze: With its zesty citrus flavor, Auto Lemon Haze tends to have a longer flowering time of approximately 10 to 12 weeks.
Auto Gelato: A popular strain for its delicious dessert-like flavors, Auto Gelato typically requires around 9 to 11 weeksfrom germination to harvest.
Auto Purple Haze: Named for its stunning purple hues, this strain may take approximately 9 to 11 weeks to complete its life cycle.
Auto Green Crack: Known for its energetic and uplifting effects, Auto Green Crack can have a flowering time of about 9 to 11 weeks.
Auto Critical Orange Punch: This fruity and potent strain usually has a flowering time of around 10 to 12 weeks.
1. What Happens If I Harvest My Autoflowers too Early Or too Late?
Harvesting Too Early:
Reduced Potency: Harvesting autoflowers too early means the trichomes, the resinous glands containing cannabinoids and terpenes, are not fully developed. As a result, the buds may have lower THC and CBD levels, leading to a milder and less potent effect.
Immature Flavor Profile: The terpenes responsible for the unique aroma and flavors in weed develop during the later stages of flowering. Harvesting too early can result in a less developed and immature flavor profile, missing out on the full potential of the strain's taste.
Underdeveloped Buds: Prematurely harvested autoflowers may have smaller and less dense buds, as they haven't had sufficient time to fully mature and fill out.
Harvesting Too Late:
Diminished Potency: Allowing autoflowers to stay in the flowering stage beyond their optimal harvest window can lead to overripe buds. This can cause a decrease in THC levels, resulting in a less potent and potentially sedative effect.
Change in Flavor Profile: Overripe buds may experience a degradation of terpenes, leading to a change in the flavor profile. The once vibrant and desirable flavors may become more muted or even unpleasant.
Decreased Yields: As the plant continues to age, the energy it needs to produce new flowers declines, which can lead to a reduction in overall yields.
Risk of Mold and Pest Infestations: Leaving autoflowers to flower for too long can increase the risk of mold development and attract pests, especially if humidity levels are high.
2. What Role Does the Overall Plant Health and Nutrient Status Play in Determining the Harvest Time?
A healthy autoflowering plant will exhibit vigorous growth throughout its life cycle. It will develop a robust root system, strong stems, and lush foliage, which all contribute to better nutrient uptake and overall plant health. This healthy development allows the plant to reach its peak flowering stage more efficiently and signals the onset of the harvest window.
3. What Can I Do to Optimize The Drying and Curing Process after Harvesting My Autoflowers?
Drying the Buds:
Trim the Buds: After harvesting, carefully trim away any large fan leaves and excess foliage surrounding the buds. This helps improve airflow and prevents mold development during drying.
Hang the Buds Upside Down: Hang the trimmed buds upside down in a dark and well-ventilated space with a temperature of around 60-70°F (15-21°C) and humidity of approximately 45-55%. A drying rack or string can be used to suspend the buds.
Monitor the Drying Process: Check the buds daily during the drying process. Buds are adequately dried when the smaller stems snap, and the outer leaves feel dry to the touch while the inner stems remain slightly flexible.
Avoid Rapid Drying: Rapid drying can lead to uneven moisture content within the buds and result in harsh-tasting weed. Slow and controlled drying allows for a more even and thorough process.
Curing the Buds:
Use Airtight Containers: Once the buds are sufficiently dried, transfer them into airtight containers, such as glass jars or food-grade plastic containers. And fill the containers to about 75% full to leave enough room for air circulation.
Burp the Containers: During the first week of curing, open the containers daily for a few minutes to release any excess moisture and allow fresh air to enter. This helps prevent mold growth and ensures a smoother curing process.
Maintain Stable Humidity: Aim for a humidity level of around 58-62% inside the curing containers. Use humidity packs (such as Boveda packs) to help maintain consistent humidity levels.
Store in a Cool, Dark Place: Keep the curing containers in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight and temperature fluctuations. Proper storage ensures the preservation of terpenes and cannabinoids.
4. What Are the Best Practices for Harvesting Autoflowers to Achieve The Highest Quality Buds?
Harvesting autoflowers to achieve the highest quality buds requires careful planning and execution. Following these best practices will help you optimize the harvest and ensure you obtain the most potent, flavorful, and visually appealing yield:
Timing is Key: Harvesting at the right time is crucial. Monitor trichome development and pistil color to determine the ideal harvest window. Most autoflowers are ready for harvest when trichomes are mostly cloudy with some amber hues, and pistils have changed color.
Observe Plant Health: Ensure your autoflowers are in good health before harvest. Address any nutrient deficiencies or pest issues during the flowering stage to prevent negative effects on the final yield.
Flush the Plants: About one to two weeks before harvest, begin flushing your autoflowers by providing them with plain water. This helps remove any excess nutrients and promotes a smoother smoking experience.
Timing the Light Cycle: Some growers choose to give their autoflowers a brief period of darkness (24-48 hours) just before harvest. This practice is known as "the dark period" and is believed to improve resin production and terpene levels.
Harvesting Technique: Choose whether to harvest the entire plant at once or harvest individual buds as they become ripe. And harvesting individual buds allows you to stagger the harvest and focus on the most mature buds.
Proper Trimming: Trim the buds carefully, removing any large fan leaves and excess foliage, but be cautious not to remove too many trichome-rich sugar leaves, as they contribute to the overall resin production.
Drying Environment: Ensure proper drying conditions in a dark, well-ventilated room with a temperature of around 60-70°F (15-21°C) and humidity of 45-55%. Avoid rapid drying, as it can compromise the flavor and potency of the buds.
Controlled Curing: Transfer the dried buds into airtight containers for curing. Burp the containers daily during the first week to release excess moisture. Aim for a humidity level of 58-62% during the curing process.
Store in Optimal Conditions: Store the cured buds in a cool, dark place, away from direct sunlight and temperature fluctuations. This ensures the preservation of flavors and cannabinoids over time.
Keep a Grow Journal: Maintain a grow journal to record observations, techniques used, and any adjustments made during the cultivation process. This information will help you fine-tune your future harvests.