How To Get To Harvest Faster
“I need to harvest as soon as possible. What’s the fastest growth method? What can I do to speed up the time to harvest?”
How to Speed Up Harvest Time
Many of our readers write in to ask about speeding up the time to harvest.
So, how long does it actually take to grow marijuana?
Short Answer: From Day 1 of your marijuana plant’s life to a smokable harvest, you are looking at a window ranging between 3 and 7+ months!
Many factors will affect the total time, but the average grow takes 3-4 months. Learn more about the marijuana growth timeline.
Long Answer: These factors have the greatest impact on total time to harvest:
Plant strain – strain has the largest impact on growing time.
Desired yields – do you want to grow a few grams, a few ounces, or a few pounds?
Growing method – differing grow methods/setups can add or subtract a few weeks or even months!
7 Tactics To Get To Harvest As Quickly As Possible
Faster is not always better, but there are ways that you can speed up the time from seedling to harvest without sacrificing quality, potency or yields.
So today I’d like to share a short guide on how you can reduce the time to harvest, and how you can reduce the amount of time you actually spend tending your plants, and still get outstanding results.
If you’re serious about getting yields as quickly as possible, then these tactics will get you there the right way! Let’s get to it!
1.) Fewer Hours of Light Each Day in Flowering Stage
With photoperiod (regular) strains, you can manipulate the light schedule in the flowering stage to get buds to mature faster. Although most plants will start flowering when they get less than 13 or 14 hours of light a day (that’s when plants usually start flowering outdoors), it can take them a long time to “finish” and be ready to harvest with days that long.
Because of that, it’s recommended to give plants 12 hours of light each day, and 12 hours of dark to get the plant to start flowering, because plants usually finish maturing in about 8-12 weeks after the switch to 12/12.
However, some Sativa and Haze strains are from the equator, and they may not flower properly under a 12/12 light schedule. In that case, a grower can give a plant 10 or 11 hours instead of 12 hours of light a day, like a 11/13 or 10/14 schedule. This will cause the plant to finish flowering faster. In fact, this can be done to any strain to get it to finish flowering faster.
Give plants only 10 or 11 hours of light a day to get buds to mature faster
The one downside is that a shorter flowering stage with less hours of light each day mean that buds get less time to fatten and you will end up with smaller yields. Therefore it’s not recommended to try to get a plant to finish flowering in less than 8 weeks, as you’ll end up with very small yields. This technique is best used if you have a plant that’s been flowering for 2-3 months and doesn’t look like it plans on stopping any time soon.
How can this technique reduce yields? The less light you give your plant overall during its life, and especially in the flowering stage, the less your yields will be in general. A strain that takes longer to finish flowering usually produces bigger yields than a short-flowering strain because it gets so many extra light-hours where it’s making energy and fattening buds.
On a similar note, an auto-flowering plant gets pretty great yields considering it goes from seed to harvest in just 3 months. A big part of that is because they get 18 hours/light a day during their entire flowering period (compared to only 12 a day for regular plants)/ This gives the plant more light each day to produce buds, resulting in bigger yields.
2.) Choose A Quick-Finishing Strain of Marijuana
As you probably know, the life cycle for all marijuana plants is separated into two parts: the vegetative stage and the flowering stage.
The vegetative stage can be shortened by getting the plant to grow faster when she’s young. Yet the length of the flowering stage (the time between when flowers first start forming and when the plant is ready to harvest) is pretty much strain-specific.
That means that once you’ve started flowering a specific strain, there isn’t a whole lot good options to speed things up during the flowering stage.
Note: There are special light schedules, that involve lowering the amount of light each day in the flowering stage, which can sometimes get harvest to come a little quicker. For example a 10-14 schedule (10 hours light, 14 hours dark each day) during the flowering stage may get plants ready to harvest a week or two sooner for some strains, but lowering the amount of light each day combined with harvesting sooner really hurts your yields.
Many Indica hybrids (such as AK-48 and Northern Lights) naturally have very short flowering periods of only 7-9 weeks, which is a shorter flowering time than most other strains.
Hazes and Sativas often take much longer. For example a haze strain (like Haze 1 from Nirvana) can take 3-4 months in the flowering stage before being ready to harvest.
Every different strain has pros and cons, but if time is a factor for you, pay close attention to the length of the flowering stage when deciding which strain to grow. The majority of seed banks list the length of the flowering period as part of their stats for each strain.
Some strains are ‘auto-flowering’ and go through their whole life cycle regardless of light cycle or anything you can control. These strains tend to be ready to harvest in only 2-3 months from seed (though you should definitely expect smaller plants with relatively small yields when choosing an auto-flowering strain).
Auto-flowering strains of marijuana contain higher levels of CBD, a cannabinoid which has been associated with many medical benefits. So they may be the perfect choice for a medical marijuana user who needs to harvest quickly.
Also, check out my recent autoflower grow if you want to see autos in action…
In this auto-flowering grow, I harvested more than 6 ounces in less than 3 months!
3.) Give Plants 24 Hours of Light per Day During the Vegetative Stage
As long as you give your plants more than 14 hours of light a day, they will stay in the vegetative stage. But if you give the plant more light than that, they have more time in the day to grow!
Some growers believe it’s better to give marijuana plants 18 hours of light a day max, with a 6 hour dark period during the vegetative stage.
This is because plants grown under 18/6 tend to be more resilient to problems. If you have a sick plant, just reducing the light period and/or light intensity a little bit can help it recover faster.
Regardless of which is best for plant health, it’s a proven fact that marijuana plants given a full 24 hours of light a day will grow at least a little faster during the vegetative stage (however, you may consider back down to 18/6 if your plant is sick to help it recover from problems faster).
Therefore, if a short time to harvest is of the utmost importantance to you, you may want to consider going with the 24 hour light period during the vegetative stage for fastest growth. Again, this won’t make the plant’s flowering stage go any faster, but it enables you to start the flowering stage a little bit sooner. Speaking of which…
4.) Initiate The Flowering Stage Sooner
You may not realize that regular (non auto-flowering) marijuana plants can be flowered directly from seed.
When I say “flowered,” what I mean is that you can change the light schedule so that it forces your young seedlings to start making buds right away.
You can get a marijuana plant to start flowering by ensuring that it gets 12 hours of uninterrupted darkness each night, often referred to as the 12-12 light schedule.
This makes the plant “think” winter is coming, and it’ll start making buds as soon as it’s able. This means that your “flowering stage countdown” begins within about a month from the seed being planted.
So for example, Northern Lights has a flowering stage length of about 8 weeks. If you flowered a Northern Lights strain plant from seed, your buds would be ready to harvest in about 11-12 weeks.
Some growers will also flower marijuana clones as soon as they have formed roots, for basically the same effect, though clones tend to start flowering a little faster than a plant put on 12-12 directly from seed.
That being said, flowering from seed is a very inefficient manner of growing. Plants flowered from seed don’t get enough time to grow stems where buds form.
If you want to initiate flowering early, it’s better to do so after after waiting just a bit, so you grow plants that are relatively small but can produce more than a couple of grams worth of bud. This is known as the “Sea of Green” (SoG) technique. A bunch of smaller plants is easy for new growers to manage, plus it gives you the option of trying different strains instead of getting of lot of one strain.
5.) Grow Indoors
Growing outdoors can be more convenient and vastly cheaper for those who happen to live in a place with great growing conditions since the sun and nature are doing a lot of work for you. But outdoor growing isn’t the fastest way to grow and harvest your crop. Though there is an exception….
Outdoors, you must plant in the spring, and wait until late fall to harvest. That means that oudoor grows can take 6+ months. Given the right conditions (high-yielding strain, direct sunlight all day, good soil, avoid pests, etc) you can grow huge plants in that time, that produce pounds of buds.
Yet growing indoors gives you the ultimate control over how big your plants get, how long to keep them in the vegetative stage, and exactly when they start flowering amongst other things. You also have a lot more control over how much bud you’ll end up yielding.
With a well-chosen strain and a good setup, one can harvest several ounces of buds in less than 4 months indoors, which is nearly impossible to do outdoors in the same timeframe.
On a similar note, you might want to consider hydroponics over soil.
You can get faster vegetative growth with almost all hydroponic methods compared to what can be achieved with soil. That means that you could speed up time til harvest by using Deep Water Culture (DWC), Coco coir/perlite, or pretty much any non-soil growing medium. During the flowering stage, this isn’t as important, but this can shave weeks off your vegetative stage time (get straight to growing buds sooner!)
In my experience, top-fed Deep Water Culture hydroponics (also called ‘bubbleponics’) has given me the quickest growth of any hydroponics system I’ve tried.
6.) Pay Attention To Your Plants and Quickly React to Problems
I know this sounds like it doesn’t need to be listed, but it’s a more important job than people think. Every time your plants get sick, it slows down their growth while they try to recover. Every problem your plant runs into can add days or even weeks on to your total grow time.
Simply put: fixing a problem quickly equates to shorter time to harvest.
Plus, by reacting quickly to problems, you will save yourself the stress of trying to deal with a huge problem that’s gotten out of control since you’ve been watching out and adjusting along the way. We all know that problems tend to get much worse when left unchecked!
The more you tend to and baby your plants, the better they will grow, and the faster you will be able to harvest.
For example, the following plant problems will add time onto your grow
- nutrient problems or a pest infestation can dramatically slow down growth, especially for young plants
- heat stress or light burn can not only slow down growth in the vegetative stage, they can prevent buds from maturing properly in the flowering stage
- accidentally re-vegging your budding plants will stop buds from maturing
7.) Make Sure You’re Feeding Plants The Right Type of Nutrients During Each Stage of Growth.
In the vegetative stage, it is important that you give your plants the right nutrients needed to get optimal growth.
Now if you’re starting with a good soil (Fox Farms Ocean Forest soil is a proven choice), you may not need to supplement any nutrients for the first 3-4 weeks, as the nutrients you need are already in the soil.
If you’re growing hydroponically (directly in water, or in a soil-less medium like coco coir), it is essential that you provide all the nutrients your plant needs right from the beginning.
You’ve probably seen ‘N-P-K’ numbers on the bottles of pretty much every nutrient line there is. These number are important to know since cannabis plants use more N (nitrogen) in the vegetative phase, and relatively more P & K (phosphorus & potassium) in the flowering phase. Conversely, giving your plant too much N in the flowering phase will actually slow down bud production. This means that you will harvest smaller yields of less-dense buds in addition to waiting longer for said buds!
This is why you need to either mix your nutrients by hand, or choose a nutrient system that is specifically formulated for the flowering stage of a plant like marijuana. By providing the right nutrients at the right time, you’ll reduce your overall time to harvest.
How Much Time Per Week Does It Take To Grow Cannabis?
Now that you’re equipped with the information to get you to harvest as soon as possible, let’s quickly address another common question we receive about time.
Growers often write in to ask us how much time it will take per week to grow a marijuana plant. We understand that many of you have busy schedules, and want to know if growing your own weed is a realistic goal for you.
The amount of time spent growing varies greatly depending on the method you use to grow, the size you let your plants get and the skill of the grower. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a growing method that’s conducive to spending less time plant-tending.
The truth is, you can grow weed in only 20-30 minutes a week when you use the right techniques and get used to the process of growing. The following article reveals the best way we know to grow lots of potent bud while using a minimum amount of time to do so. We make this happen using a hydroponic style of growing known as Top-fed DWC (aka “bubbleponics”).
Keep in mind that this is a fairly advanced technique, and should only be attempted by intermediate-advanced growers or particularly brave newcomers.
About Nebula Haze:
Medical m arijuana has had a huge impact on my life, and I’m dedicated to showing you how easy it can be to grow your own medical-grade buds.
I have made it my mission in life to make growing information available to anyone, both new and advanced growers, while also working to get marijuana legalized for all adults.
Learn 7 tactics to harvest your weed as quickly as possible…
Shortest Cannabis Grow Guide Ever
Are you looking for the shortest and most simple marijuana grow guide ever? Or maybe you just want a quick overview of the growing process. This super condensed version of the 10-Step Quick Start Grow Guide is probably the quickest grow guide out there. You may also enjoy our marijuana life timeline or complete beginner’s guide to growing cannabis. The following tutorial is very basic, but if you follow just these steps you will be harvesting your own weed in 3-5 months! Choose an auto-flowering strain for the fastest harvest (harvest in as quickly as 3 months).
Easiest Cannabis Grow Tutorial Ever!
Table of Contents
Step 1: Choose Your Place to Grow
Indoors or outdoors? A spare room? A closet? Learn more about different places to grow weed indoors. One simple way to get started is to put your plant inside a cheap grow tent.
I personally think grow tents are a cheap (under $100) and easy way to set up the perfect grow environment, but there are lots of great places to grow!
The main thing to remember about your growing environment is that when the temperature, humidity and overall airflow feels nice to you, it’s probably good for your plants, too! Learn more about setting up the perfect environment.
Step 2: Choose Your Grow Light
If your goal is to harvest…
Step 3: Choose Your Growing Medium
There is no best way to grow pot! Each option has its own pros and cons.
- Soil – Close to nature, especially if growing in amended and composted soil without any liquid nutrients. Slightly slower growing but buds tend to have a stronger and more complex taste/smell.
- Coco Coir – Coco is a hand-watered medium that looks and acts a lot like soil, but is actually made out of broken up coconut husks. Plants grown in coco grow a little bit faster than in soil, and coco has properties that soothe plant roots. As a result, coco tends to be more forgiving than most other grow mediums, and plants are more resistant to heat. Another advantage is pests are much less likely to attack plants in coco because many bugs need soil to live. If you’re not sure which medium to start with, I highly recommend starting with coco! That’s what I did and I’m so happy because it was also a perfect way to train for moving on to either soil or hydro 🙂
- Hydroponics – Setting up a hydroponic reservoir takes more work than soil or coco but hydro grown plants get the fastest growth of all grow mediums, meaning you get to harvest more quickly with the same amount of electricity. Hydro-grown buds tend to be very potent.
Step 4: Get Nutrients
If you’re starting in composted, amended soil, you don’t need to worry about adding extra nutrients. For regular soil growers, you want to supplement your plant with extra nutrients after it starts using up the nutrients in the soil. For coco and hydro growers, you provide all your nutrients directly to your plants from the beginning. Luckily all quality nutrients come with an easy schedule to follow, so you don’t have to think about it!
What Nutrients to Get for Each Stage of Life
- Vegetative Stage – In this stage you should use nutrients that are high in Nitrogen (N). Almost any general plant food will work. The extra nitrogen will provide what your marijuana plant needs in the vegetative stage
- Flowering Stage – Plants need a low-Nitrogen (“Bloom”) formula that is high in Phosphorous (P) and Potassium (K) in the flowering stagea. In a pinch you can use cactus or succulent nutrients, because they use a similar nutrient ratio.
Step 5: Get Your Cannabis Seeds
If you don’t have access to live plants or seeds, the best way to get started growing is to order seeds online. You can get seeds delivered anywhere in the world, including Canada, Australia, the UK and every state in the USA.
Learn more about researching strains to figure out which one you might like best! Choose an auto-flowering strain for the fastest harvest (harvest in as quickly as 3 months).
Step 6: Germinate Your Seeds
One of the simplest ways to germinate your seeds is to plant them in a starter plug like a Rapid Rooter. These already moist when you get them and are designed to give your seed everything it needs for the first few days of growth. Just put your seed in the pre-cut hole and leave in a warm place until your seedlings appear! (Here’s more info if you would rather germinate the seeds first, and then put them in the Rapid Rooters). Add a few teaspoons of water if they start to dry out but don’t add so much water the rooters actually look shiny wet. You don’t want to drown your seedlings! Unless your air is really dry, seedlings like the open air and don’t need a humidity dome like clones do. They get all the water they need through their roots.
Simply put your seeds in the pre-moistened plugs and wait for seedlings to appear 🙂
After germination, you place your Rapid Rooter directly into soil/coco, or insert into a net pot if you’re in hydro. The Rapid Rooters make it so you can’t really mess up transferring seedlings!
If you see roots out the bottom, it’s time to transfer plant into its next destination!
There are other ways to germinate seeds if you don’t have or don’t want to use Rapid Rooters. For example you could use the popular “paper towel method” or even plant your seeds directly into the growing medium! Learn about other ways to germinate your seeds here.
Step 7: Vegetative Stage
Your Main Duty: Water Plants & Adjust Grow Light
In the vegetative stage a marijuana plant really does grow like a weed! It can recover from a lot even if you mess up. You can almost even think of it as a regular houseplant, just a really fast growing one!
At this point your main job is to water your plants and check the pH regularly (to prevent nutrient problems). If you are using high levels of nutrients and supplements, try to give plain water sometimes to prevent nutrient build-up.
When it comes to nutrients, follow the nutrient schedule or recommended dosage for “vegetative” growth. However, it’s a good idea to start at half-strength at first since most nutrient recommendations are often a bit too strong for marijuana right away.
When the top inch feels dry to the touch, water your plants well and remove runoff water. Avoid watering too often! You should be watering vegetative plants every few days. If they’re drying out in less than a few days, transplant to a bigger pot or give more water at a time. If they’re taking more than 3 days to dry, give less water at a time until they’re drinking faster.
During the vegetative stage your plant only grows new stems and leaves, and overall the plants will keep getting bigger and bigger.
Many indoors growers choose to train their plants in the vegetative stage to grow in a flat, table-top shape, as this will increase your yields under indoor grow lights in the flowering stage. But even if you don’t do anything your plants will still grow just fine.
Try to make sure you keep your grow lights a good distance away so they’re not burning your plants, and other than that just wait until your plant has reached half the final desired size.
Plants in the vegetative stage only grow stems and leaves, no buds!
Plants in the vegetative stage can grow several inches a day after they get going!
pic by Froctor Dankenstein
If you don’t watch out, your grow space can get out of control 🙂
If want to know more about what to expect (and what to look out for) in the vegetative stage, check out the complete vegetative stage tutorial!
Step 8: Flowering Stage – Buds Start Growing!
When your plant has reached half the final desired size, it’s time to tell it to start making buds! After you do this step, your plant on average will about double in size (more or less depending on the strain), so don’t wait too long!
Switch to the flowering stage when your plant has reached half the final desired height. Your plant can double in size after the switch!
You “tell” your plant to start making buds by putting your grow lights on a timer that is set on a 12/12 light schedule. This means the grow light is on for 12 hours, but the plant spends the other 12 hours a day is in uninterrupted darkness.
This daily dark period is like a message that tells your plant winter is coming. Plants will typically start growing buds within 2-3 weeks after the switch to a 12/12 light schedule.
The first few weeks after the switch to 12/12, your plant will be growing fast! This extra fast growth period is known as the flowering stretch.
Here are two plants right after they are given a 12/12 light schedule. Notice how both get taller, but one gets far taller than the other. The amount of “stretch” after the switch is determined by strain/genetics. Hopefully this animation gives you an idea of how plants develop in the flowering stage from 12/12 to harvest. Learn more about growing different strains together.
Male vs Female
When your plant starts making flowers, you need to double check that they’re all making buds (female) and not pollen sacs (male). Learn where to look on the plant to figure out the plant gender as soon as possible.
You can skip this step if you started with feminized seeds (since all plants will be female and make buds).
If your plants are female they will start growing wispy white hairs that eventually turn into buds. If your plant is male, it will grow pollen sacs that look like little bunches of grapes, and these will open up into flowers that can pollinate your buds and make them full of seeds.
It’s important to identify any male plants as soon as possible and remove them from your grow room so your female buds don’t produce seeds from being exposed to pollen.
Around 6 weeks after the switch to 12/12, your plant will stop growing bigger and focus completely on bud growth. Although that’s true for most strains, some long-flowering or Sativa strains can continue growing taller for longer.
Your Main Duty After Week 6 : Watch Buds & Leaves Closely For Problems
It’s hard to be patient for harvest after week 6 because eventually the plant stops making much new vegetative growth while buds fatten and mature. You usually aren’t seeing a lot of new growth any more, so it might seem like buds are done. But even though you might not see it, your buds are getting bigger and more potent each day!
Although plants mostly stop growing around Week 6, buds still need time before they’re “ripe” enough to have reached peak potency. Buds will continue to fatten and get more dense right up until harvest.
Watch plants closely so you can react to any problems quickly so you cruise to the finish line 🙂
Most plants are ready to harvest about 9-13 weeks after the switch to 12/12 though some strains take more or less time.
Next, learn how to determine when your plant is ready to harvest!
Step 9: Harvest Your Cannabis
When plants are ready to harvest, the white hairs on the buds will have darkened and will have mostly curled in. What if my plant keeps making new white pistils over and over?
Here are examples of marijuana buds that are ready to harvest
This is a super-condensed version of our Beginner Guide! The following tutorial is very basic, but if you follow the 10 steps you will get to harvest!