Complete Guide to Trimming Cannabis
Table of Contents
“Wet Trim” vs “Dry Trim” (trimming buds before or after drying them)
This trimming tutorial is part of our “how to harvest cannabis” series:
Why do growers trim cannabis buds in the first place?
Harvest time has come! You are cutting down your homegrown cannabis buds to dry and cure them. But do growers need to trim their cannabis buds? When is the best time to trim, and why do growers trim buds in the first place?
Trimming cannabis buds – before & after
Here are some reasons to trim buds:
- “Top Shelf” Appearance – Trimmed buds are often considered higher quality. Most buds are completely manicured (or at least somewhat trimmed) when you see them in magazines, at the dispensary, and online. This is the appearance we’ve come to associate with “good weed” and so untrimmed buds may look less appealing to some people.
- Better Smell – Buds that are trimmed before being going into jars tend to gain a stronger “weed” smell over time. On the flip side, untrimmed buds take on a “planty” hay smell if they’re stored in an airtight container for too long (several weeks to months).
- Easier on Your Throat – Leaves are more “harsh” on your throat/lungs than flowers when vaping or smoking. Trimming off extra leaf matter makes buds more “smooth” to smoke or vaporize.
- Higher THC Concentration – Even trichome-encrusted sugar leaves have a significantly lower concentration of THC and other cannabinoids than the flowers. That means trimmed buds tend to have higher levels of THC gram-for-gram.
Many growers want trimmed buds but don’t want to waste any THC, so they process their trim to extract the THC in the leaves separately. You have endless options for getting the good stuff out of your leaves and other trim, but my favorite ways are making dry ice hash, butter or canna caps. I sprinkle dry ice hash on top of bowls to skyrocket their potency, I use butter for edibles, and I love canna caps for the ability to easily dose edibles on the go!
An example of well-trimmed cannabis buds
Untrimmed cannabis buds – pic by psychonaught
Trim before or after drying? (“Wet Trim” vs “Dry Trim”)
When I first started growing I didn’t know anything about trimming. I knew you could do it before or after drying, but I didn’t know the pros and cons of each. From reading online, I could see that growers successfully use both methods, so there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to do it.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to trimming cannabis. Some growers trim their cannabis buds before drying them, and some growers trim their cannabis after buds have already dried.
Trimming your cannabis before drying is known as a “wet trim” because the leaves are still wet during the trimming process. Trimming after the buds have already dried is known as a “dry trim” since your buds will already be dried before you trim off the sugar leaves.
Most growers will at least remove all or most of the big fan leaves with their fingers before drying, though some growers will hang the whole plant upside down without any type of trim whatsoever.
Wet Trim Example – all leaves are removed before buds are allowed to dry.
Dry Trim Example – little trimming was done before buds were dried
Dry Trim Example – full branches were hung (not even fan leaves were removed before drying)
Trim before drying (“wet trim”) when…
- You’re worried about mold
- You have high humidity (above 60% RH)
- There’s a lot of buds drying in a small space
- You otherwise want buds to dry more quickly
Trim after drying (“dry trim”) when…
- You’re not worried about mold
- You have low humidity (below 45%RH)
- You want buds to dry more slowly (buds drying too fast is the #1 cause of “hay smell”)
- You want buds to be “tighter” or more dense
- You don’t mind buds losing their color vibrance (dry trim buds tend to lose their green/purple/color and take on shades of brown or tan)
Here are some examples of buds from plants where I trimmed half the buds before, and half after. I wanted to help you see what difference it made. It’s really kind of different depending on each plant.
Notes on test of dry trim vs wet trim
- The untrimmed buds took 0.5 to 3 days longer to dry. The leafier the plant, the longer it added to the dry time.
- The biggest difference is I noticed the “dry trim” buds seem noticeably more dense/uniform.
- The dry vs wet trim buds smell a bit differently, but all smell good. Neither seems particularly stronger or better as far as smell.
- I noticed that the “dry trim” buds often seem browner as if they’ve been curing for a while. The effect was most pronounced on the leafiest plants, which may have taken a little too long to dry.
- As far as comparing taste/smoothness/potency. In blind tests with cannabis enthusiasts, I’ve gotten mixed results. Some people prefer the smell or smoothness of the buds one way, while others like the exact opposite. It doesn’t seem to follow any particular pattern that I can tell. I truly think it’s a matter of personal preference, and also varies from strain to strain.
In practice, I’ve seen a huge variation between growers as far as when they trim. Some growers trim plants immediately after harvest, some trim partway through drying, some trim after buds are totally dry, and some never trim at all. It can also vary with the local weather and even the particular plant. For example, if I had an extremely leafy plant and the humidity was high right as I was harvesting, I may opt to trim the plant before drying to prevent the chance of mold, even though I might normally prefer to trim after.
Some growers barely trim buds at all
If sugar leaves are healthy and covered in trichomes, it’s more common for growers to leave them on. This is what that might look like after the buds have been dried:
Although these cannabis buds are beautiful and the sugar leaves are absolutely covered in trichomes (so you know they have significant amounts of THC), the buds may possibly be slightly more “harsh” than if all the sugar leaves had been trimmed away.
On the flip side, there are many people who prefer seeing trichome-encrusted sugar leaves on their buds, so in the end, it’s a matter of personal preference. There’s no right or wrong way about it!
How to trim your buds like a pro!
What You’ll Need
Sharp scissors (for trimming buds)
Fiskars scissors are our weapon of choice. The blades are thin and sharp, which makes it easier to get your bud looking perfectly manicured. They also have a built-in spring to automatically open the blades after each snip. That ends up saving a lot of work for your hands by the time you’re done trimming.
Any “bonsai scissors” usually work well for trimming. These bonsai pruning shears are popular because they’re cheap, sharp, and spring-loaded.
Big pruning shears, or tough scissors you don’t mind destroying (for cutting off branches)
These will be used to actually cut down single branches as you harvest colas to be trimmed.
If possible, try to use a separate pair, and not the same sharp scissors you plan to use for trimming buds. Some branches are tough enough to destroy a pair of nice scissors in a single harvest. You want sharp scissors for trimming your buds; it will save you so much time!
Disposable gloves help protect your hands from your bud. Handling bud without gloves will make your hands sticky to the point where it becomes a constant problem. Plus, hands covered in resin are difficult to clean.
Disposable gloves keep the resin off your hands, and hand particulates off your weed!
3 Trays or Cookie Sheets
You need a tray to hold your untrimmed buds, one to hold your newly trimmed buds, and the last one to hold your ‘trim’ (the plant matter you cut off the buds).
Use cookie sheets or any clean sizable containers to keep your trimmed weed, untrimmed weed, and trim separate.
Of course, you can use anything to keep your separate piles in, but cookie sheets have worked really well for me! Baking sheets work nicely and are cheap, but honestly, any non-absorbent flat surface will work. I like cookie sheets and other wide cooking pans because they have a lip around the edges to help keep everything contained!
Once you have all of your gear assembled, move onto the steps below when you feel ready. Keep in mind that this can be a lengthy process depending on how much bud you’ve grown. However, any negative feelings you get from the labor of trimming will be far outweighed by all the bud you’ll be drying soon!
One last thing… Don’t forget to save all your leaves and other trim! You can use the extra leaves you cut off to make edibles or hash. If you can see trichomes (“glitter”) on the leaves, that means they have good stuff to extract! If a bud is very small or wispy, sometimes I’ll throw that in the trim pile as well.
Learn how to turn your trim into…
1.) Set Up Your Trimming Area
Before you start trimming your plants, you should set up a nice, comfortable place to trim your bud-laden branches. Trimming can take a lot longer than it might seem at first, and it’s a good idea to dedicate at least an afternoon to trimming. I usually try to start trimming in the morning on a day I have off with no other plans in case it goes on longer than expected.
As far as where to do your trimming, a large, clean and cleared table on a non-carpeted floor works great! You will be getting little pieces of leaves everywhere, even if you’re careful, so try to trim in a spot that’s easy to clean. If you have to trim on carpeting, put down a sheet or tarp so spare your poor carpet from trichome stickiness.
I like to get set up in front of a TV, so I can watch movies or shows in the background while I’m trimming. Music or radio can be nice too. In order to stay as comfortable as possible while trimming, I believe it’s important to make sure you get up at least once an hour, even if just to walk around the house or move to a different chair. Take a second to stretch your arms, shoulders and neck. Sometimes you can get in the zone while trimming and not move for a while, so making a point to make breaks will help keep your back, neck and hands from getting cramped up.
Put out your trays as you’ll be using them in just a moment. You’ll be using one tray to hold your untrimmed buds, one to hold your trimmed buds, and one to hold your leaves/trim. You want to keep it all separate if you can, though some spillover is inevitable.
Smell Control: The trimming of buds creates a great deal of odor, especially if they’re fresh! The room that you trim in (and any adjoining rooms) will smell like a cannabis farm. The smell is actually stronger than in the flowering stage. Make sure to contain the smell and try to mitigate the odor if you can. I like to run an exhaust fan on a carbon scrubber (the same one I use in my tent) while I trim. While it doesn’t completely cancel out the smell, it does get pretty close.
Now that you’ve set up your space, it’s time to start harvesting!
2.) Wash your hands and put on a pair of gloves
I prefer latex gloves as they’re sturdy and it feels easier for me to change into a new pair. But any gloves you like will do the trick!
These gloves will soon be sticky with resin!
If you don’t use gloves, get some rubbing alcohol ready, because you’ll need it to get all the resin off your fingers once you’re done trimming! Soap and water won’t cut it! You can also save the resin – it’s basically hash!
3.) Using your tough scissors, cut a branch off your cannabis plant
You may want to cut just one branch down the first time so you can get a feel for trimming, instead of cutting everything down at once. That way you can get an idea of how big of a branch you want to work with at a time.
If trimming immediately after harvest, this also allows you to harvest the plant in stages. If you have to stop halfway through for whatever reason, the buds will be fine for an extra day or two as long as they’re still attached to the plant (even if the rest of the plant is completely hacked up).
When cutting off branches to trim, remember to cut them to a comfortable working size. No larger than these two or you’ll probably have a hard time handling them!
4.) Remove Large Fan Leaves with Your Fingers
These are the leaves that are easily pulled off by their long stem. Put these fan leaves in a pile to be disposed of later.
Here’s a pile of colas that still have their fan leaves
This is what buds look like after most of the fan leaves have been removed by hand
Sometimes you’ll have a big fan leaf that “goes into” the bud and you can’t easily reach the base with your fingers. Don’t worry, you’ll be able to snip those leaves off easily in the next step.
Many fan leaves do not have a usable amount of trichomes on them. If you plan to save your trimmings to make hash you may want to put these bigger fan leaves in a separate pile so you can throw them directly away, instead of mixing them in with your “trim pile”. The big fan leaves add a lot of plant matter that you have to process, but without adding much THC.
5.) Trim Off the Sugar Leaves
Make a note of the small leaves that stick out of the buds; you will be able to see the leaf tips, but usually not the stems. These are typically referred to as “sugar leaves” and don’t need to be removed, only trimmed with your scissors if they stick out.
Before & After – Trimming Sugar Leaves
Another example of trimmed vs untrimmed weed
If the sugar leaves are covered in a lot of trichomes, some growers will leave them on instead of trimming them. I personally don’t recommend doing that if you plan to smoke or vaporize because any extra leaf matter tends to make buds harsher on your lungs. You want as close to pure bud as possible for the best smoking or vaping experience. They don’t have to go to waste. Save them in your separate trim pile and you’ll be able to extract the trichomes off the leaves later to make extracts like hash, caps or weed butter, This means you’re still getting all the THC, but without the added harshness of extra leaf matter. That’s why I recommend trimming all the sugar leaves until they are flush with the buds.
Sugar leaves are cut so they are flush with the bud, giving it a round, almost smooth appearance
Some buds will always have sugar leaves you can see, even if you cut them flush with the outsides of the bud. This is just the way that some cannabis buds grow and is normal genetic variation
When it’s difficult to determine where buds stop and sugar leaves begin, just try to use your best judgment.
You should be left with a branch with trimmed bud on it. Now that you’ve got the hang of it, repeat this process on the remainder of the branches on your cannabis plant!
Do your best to make sure that all the ‘trim’ (the leaves trimmed from your bud) falls onto the tray designated for it. Not only does that let you save more trim for hash, it will help you with cleanup later! Try not to cut off any of the actual buds, but if you do by accident, throw it in the trim pile.
The whole trimming process can take a while depending on how much you ended up with, but if it’s more than you can do at once, it’s perfectly okay to harvest your plant in stages over a few days.
If the buds are already dried but you didn’t have enough time to trim them all, put them in jars or a turkey bag to prevent them from drying further, even if they’re untrimmed. You can come back to trim them later. Just don’t leave them stored like that for too long or the buds take on a hay smell.
Problem: Buds are dry but you don’t have enough time to trim today. Store them in oven bags (also called turkey bags) until you can trim, just don’t leave them too long!
Trimmed and ready
After trimming, your scissors (and fingers) will be covered in hash. Don’t throw that stuff away – it’s concentrated cannabis resin! You can vape, smoke or consume hash just like cannabis flowers!
Don’t toss out all your leaves! Learn how to turn your trim into…
6.) Dispose of your plant
If you haven’t yet, it’s time to securely dispose of the remainder of the plant!
Cut your plant up into pieces and double bag all the plant matter left over after harvest. Do not throw this bag away until the day your trash is picked up. This means there is less time where someone could go through your trash and find it!
Gadgets, tools & shortcuts to help you trim your cannabis better!
For Trimming Cannabis by Hand
Sharp Scissors – Any “bonsai scissors” work great, too!
Fiskars scissors are one of the most popular scissors for trimming buds by hand. They are thin and sharp with a spring to automatically open after each snip. That saves your hands a lot of work over the course of a trim session. These are what I use to trim my buds 🙂
Any “bonsai scissors” usually work well for trimming. These bonsai pruning shears are popular because they’re cheap, sharp, and spring-loaded.
To actually cut off branches from your plant you want something stronger, like these big pruning shears. If you use your Fiskars scissor to cut through stems they will become dull quickly!
Disposable gloves keep the resin off your hands, and hand particulates off your weed!
3 Trays or Cookie Sheets
Use cookie sheets or any clean sizable containers to keep your trimmed weed, untrimmed weed, and trim separate. You can use the 4th pan (or a trashcan) to capture the big fan leaves that don’t have trichomes and are often tossed.
Other Ways to Trim Cannabis
Electric Handheld Scissors
There are a few different types of these to make trimming easier. The Bonsai Hero electric trimmer used to be the most common option, but it’s now been discontinued. There are similar options like the Trim Daddy, but it seems to be of questionable quality.
The cool thing about electric trimmers is they let you trim far faster than if you were doing it with regular scissors. They are also easy on your hands since the scissors do all the opening and closing themselves – you just guide them!
The downside is you just can’t get as close a trim job with electric pruning shears compared to regular scissors. They’re just not precise enough. It’s common for growers to use them quickly to trim off most of the leaves and use scissors to tidy the buds up afterward. The other downside to electric scissors is you will end up cutting off more bud by accident than if you were hand scissoring.
However, sometimes the time savings is worth losing a little bud and leaving a little extra leaf matter. In large-scale growing operations, it’s common to give buds a rough cut with electric trimmers and just sell them that way. It gets 90% of the work done in half the time!
Be warned, these are all obscenely expensive! (Seriously, stick to Fiskars!)
Bowl Leaf Trimmers
These have many of the same pros and cons of electric hand trimmers, but there are differences.
First off, they’re quick! With a bowl leaf trimmer, you will be done trimming faster than with pretty much any other trimming method. But on the flip side, you will also lose more bud matter (it will be trimmed away) than other methods, because these basically work by “smoothing” out the outsides of the bud, whether it’s taking off leaf or bud.
One thing about these trimmers that makes them unique is you have to remove the buds from the branches before using the machine, which means you’ll probably also want to use a mesh hanging rack to dry your buds.
And since the buds will be removed from the stems, it may be more difficult to get them to dry slowly. Another option is to trim them with the machine after they’ve already dried.
If you have a whole lot of bud to trim, the ease and quickness of the bowl trimmer method may be worth the reduced flower yield (plus you get higher quality trim)
Now that you have trimmed your buds, it’s time for the cure! You’re almost there!
Continue to the next article to learn about curing your buds
This trimming tutorial is part of our “how to harvest cannabis” series:Learn how to trim your buds so they look like the ones at a dispensary!
Harvesting Cannabis: 11 Essential Tools for a Successful Marijuana Harvest
By Cheri Sicard
It’s that time of year when outdoor cannabis gardeners get to enjoy the fruits of their labors and bring in the marijuana harvest. Of course, if you grow indoors, you likely get to experience the thrill and joy of harvesting your marijuana crop many times in a year.
Regardless of where and how you grow, every experienced cannabis cultivator knows that they can’t truly count a crop as successfully finished until AFTER is it dried and properly cured.
Until then things can go wrong.
I speak from personal experience when I say there are few things more heartbreaking than to gaze on what was a big beautiful jar of perfectly manicured nugs that are now covered in mold.
Even if nothing so dire happens, taking the time to properly cure your cannabis will reward you with far better quality weed. The differences can be dramatic, especially when it comes to flavor and the smoothness of the smoke.
Organizing for the Marijuana Harvest
To increase your chances of a successful harvest and to keep the job as stress-free as possible, be sure to organize in advance:
- Set up your drying space — hang lines, set up fans, humidity control, etc.
- Clear and clean your trimming workspace
- Have clean tarps handy to set plants on and to catch trimmings
- Arrange for some friends to come and help, harvesting is a BIG JOB
- Have the proper tools and accessories on hand before harvest day comes
Essential Marijuana Harvest Tools and Accessories
Disposable Gloves — Unless you like having sticky hands, have plenty of disposable gloves on hand for your trimmers and for anyone handling the plants.
Tarps — Have clean tarps to lay the cut plants on while you trim and ready the branches for drying. Yes you could lay plants on a clean sheet or blanket, but leaves and trimmings tend to stick to fabric, so a tarp just works better.
Heavy Duty Garden Shears — How heavy duty will depend on the size of your plants, but many outdoor gardens grow monsters that will require substantial torque to cut them down.
Trimming Scissors — A good pair (or better yet several pairs) of spring-loaded, ergonomic trimming scissors are a must for any harvest. Straight tip or curved is a matter of personal preference. I tend to lean towards curved tipped trimming scissors as I like the extra control they give when manicuring delicate sugar leaves and buds.
90 Plus Proof Alcohol — High proof rubbing alcohol of 90% or more (find it at your local drugstore) will help clean scissors, hands, and anything else covered in sticky resin.
Hanging Drying Racks — If you are short on space to dry your crop, consider these handy hanging drying racks. They’re lightweight, velcro onto any hanging rod, and provide for lots of air flow. For a small amount of real estate, they hold a LOT of drying cannabis. When not in use, they fold up for compact storage.
Portable Fans — Portable fans will keep the air moving and help your newly harvested cannabis dry.
Humidifier or Dehumidifier — You may or may not need to adjust the humidity in your drying room. If you live in an extremely dry climate, a humidifier can help things from drying too quickly. Conversely, if you live in a humid climate, a dehumidifier may be necessary to help the drying process. Ideally, you are aiming for 50-60% percent humidity in the drying room.
Essential Cannabis Storage Accessories
Once your cannabis is dried, it will need to be cured. Curing refers to the process of slowly removing the moisture from the plant and preserving the volatile terpenes — the chemical compounds in plants that give them their aromas (terpenes also have medicinal effects).
Proper curing will allow you to store your cannabis harvest, long-term, without the fear of mold. Proper curing also preserves potency. While a lab test might have shown a little loss, I have smoked some highly potent, well cured, 4-year-old weed that seemed every bit as potent as when it was new. I am not recommending you hold on to your stash that long as cannabis does not improve with long aging. However, if you do, know that it is still perfectly usable.
This article is not a tutorial on curing and cannabis storage (coming soon), but rather about the tools and accessories to help you store your properly cured cannabis for maximum shelf life.
Boveda — These little packets work like magic and are a must for long-term cannabis storage. Put a packet in your jar and you have turned that jar into a small humidor with automatic 2-way humidity control. Meaning regardless of whether the climate where you live is too dry or too moist, inside your jar of marijuana, you will always have perfectly controlled humidity. I like to use the 62% for freshly harvested cannabis.
Boveda packs are inexpensive and last a LONG time (ours from last season are still going strong). It’s almost silly NOT to invest in a few Boveda packs, even if you do nothing else.
Whether you grew it yourself or you buy from a dispensary, you can protect your investment in your cannabis stash by putting small Boveda packs in your storage jars.
Cannavault — While they are a little pricey, it’s hard to find better storage than Cannavault Portable Humidors. You put a lot of time, effort, and expense into your cannabis garden, so it makes no sense to skimp when it comes to storage.
Made of food-grade stainless steel, these containers will last a lifetime. Cannavaults are lightweight, stackable, and come in a variety of sizes. They’re also smell-proof, and there’s even a place to keep a Boveda packet on the underside of the lid.
Infinity Jars/Dark Glass Jars — I am always on the hunt for dark glass jars at thrift stores and garage sales. They make great cannabis storage containers that protect your stash from harmful UV light. That’s why premium cannabis, such as Swami Select, always comes packaged in dark glass jars.
Granted my hunts for low budget dark glass do not always yield big results. If you find yourself in a similar situation, check out Infinity Jars for a high-quality new alternative. The opaque black glass will keep things protected from light damage (add a Boveda pack to keep it humidity controlled) while storing your stash in style.
If you don’t have dark glass, I still recommend glass jars with a Boveda pack for cannabis storage, just keep them tucked away in a dark cabinet when not in use.Harvesting Cannabis: 11 Essential Tools for a Successful Marijuana Harvest. Have these things on hand before harvest to insure success. ]]>