Smoking flower is one of the most popular methods of cannabis consumption and for good reason. The effects of flower (aka buds) are almost immediate, it’s easy to pass around and share, plus smoking is simply the traditional way to enjoy cannabis. Whether you prefer to roll a joint, smoke a bowl, or even vape flower, you’ll typically feel max impact in 30 minutes and see the effects dissipate in 1-3 hours.
Slip-ups during the flowering phase can significantly affect the size and quality of your harvest. With a few simple tricks, however, you’re guaranteed a great harvest every time.
Week 1-3: transition to flowering
When the flowering period starts, it isn’t an abrupt change in your plants’ growth. Cannabis won’t just stop growing and then go into flowering right away. In these first weeks of flowering, many cannabis strains may indeed undergo a considerable growth stretch. This is important to know when it comes to feeding your plants properly, but also if you want to give them sufficient space to grow.
In the very first weeks of flowering, your cannabis plants will be in the transition stage. Thinking that winter is not far away and that she will soon have to carry a big load of bud, your plant will likely grow rapidly. Some strains can almost double in height during this time. Because of the fast growth that your plant is undergoing now, this early flowering phase is also known as the stretch phase.
While your plant is putting in quite some overtime to gain size and height, she will grow a number of new leaves mostly at the top of the main colas. Your cannabis plant is busy growing “green stuff,” like leaves and stems so she can become stronger and sturdier. Important things to know in this early stage of flowering.
Although your plant has officially entered the flowering phase, she will now have an increased need for growing nutrients. You should not abruptly change your nutrient schedule and use flowering nutrients from one day to the next. It is usually recommended that you continue to give growing nutrients for at least one more week once flowering starts.
With the stretching of cannabis in early flowering, you may possibly want to think about training techniques such as low stress training (LST). This is where you bend the stems down and away from the centre of the plant so you can get an even canopy for a more efficient use of your grow lights. This can help you obtain much better yields later on.
At the locations on the plant where you previously saw some hairs, you can now see the first signs of real buds developing. There still won’t be many resin glands and trichomes on your plants, which means that the smell won’t be too pungent yet either.
This phase of flowering where your plant is starting to spend increasingly more energy on growing flowers is particularly critical. Make sure that the nutrients you give are appropriate and check the labels for the recommended dosages.
As your plants become more picky, you should check for potential deficiencies that could manifest in various ways, such as discoloured, yellowing leaves or loss of leaves entirely. At the same time, you should also check your plants for signs of possible overfeeding (“nutrient burn”) that could show up around this time as well. Nutrient burn will usually show in the tips of the leaves becoming discoloured. If this happens, you need to cut down on feeding.
Week 3-5: budlets form
Your plant is going to start getting a little picky about the environment and nutrients in week 3-5 so it’s important to keep a close eye on your garden. You need to make sure your plant stays healthy all the way to the end of the flowering stage, and you’ve still got more than a month to go so you don’t want your plant to run into any major health problems now!
Be especially aware of leaf symptoms, for example: discolored/yellow leaves, or if your plant starts rapidly losing leaves. It’s completely normal to lose a few leaves at this stage, especially leaves that aren’t getting light (which often look like they may have a nutrient deficiency and then fall off, but it’s just your plant cannibalizing the leaf since it isn’t getting any more light). That being said, overall your entire plant should still be lush and green in week 3-5 while your budlets are forming.
Weeks 6, 7 and 8 (late flowering stage, right before harvest)
Not all cannabis strains require the same amount of time for their flowering, but many varieties will be ready to harvest in these last three weeks. There are, however, not too many strains that will be ready before week 8.
Depending on the flowering time of your particular strain, the time for flushing your cannabis plant is normally two weeks before harvest. When you “flush,” you stop administering nutrients and give the plant only plain, pH-balanced water in these final weeks. This will get rid of (flush out) salts and minerals in the soil which will make for a better and more pure-tasting bud. Otherwise, your smoke will be quite harsh and can have an unpleasant, chemical taste.
To find out when it’s time to harvest your plant, you can use a jeweller’s loupe or a small microscope to regularly check your plants’ trichomes. You can observe whether the trichomes turn from clear to a milky white colour. If many of the trichomes you see are still clear and transparent, it means it’s still too early for harvest. But when most of the trichomes have an amber colour and an opaque clarity, this means that the THC content of the buds is at its maximum and the plant is ready for harvest.
Week 8+: flowering ends, final flush, harvest
Home stretch! You’re so close! To make sure things go smoothly until harvest, treat your plant like a movie star and attend to its every need! Very few strains of cannabis are ready to be harvested before week 8, but now we’re at to the point where some short strains are getting close to being harvest-ready!
Many growers do a final flush, which involves giving only plain water to your plants (for a few days up to a few weeks) before harvest.
Once you’ve reached week 8, buds are fattening quickly. Trichomes and pistils are maturing, though new pistils may continue to develop on the buds as they grow.
You are basically just maintaining your plant until harvest. Different strains are ready at different times, but from now on you’re going to pretty much treat them all the same. Keep a close eye on the buds, pistils and trichomes as a whole to help you figure out the best time to harvest to get the effects you are looking for.