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Complete Guide to Trimming Cannabis

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“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

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

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!

What Do I Do With Weed Trim?

Weed trim is a common term used to describe the excess parts a cultivator must trim from their plants post-harvest in order to fully maximize a plant’s bloom and, in turn, get more desirable crystals. In short, a good trim will get the grower a bigger, higher quality plant yield. With a varying amount of states now allowing marijuana-users to legally grow their own crops, cultivation and harvesting techniques are, arguably, more important now than ever before. When it comes to the excess scraps that come from a fruitful harvest, an inexperienced (or in some cases, even an experienced) grower might not know what to do with weed trim. Luckily, there are several ways you can utilize your weed trim, rather than simply dump it in the garbage and call it a day. So let’s go through and look at what to do with trim leaves after a successful harvest.

What To Do With Trim Leaves — What Are Trim Leaves?

First, let’s go into a little more detail about weed trim, before getting into how to best utilize it.

Typically, weed trim is collected after harvest. In fact, it plays an important role during the growing process, as it serves as an indicator for your plant’s health. The leaves, which are commonly referred to as fan leaves before they are trimmed, can help a cultivator determine if the plant is lacking nutrients, water, or even sunlight depending on the colors of the leaves.

Removing trim helps make the plant’s buds achieve the classic nug look, but it also helps remove some unnecessary parts of the plant, at least in terms of smoking. But some of these parts, although low in potency, can still be consumed. And yes, you can still get high. Or, at the very least, achieve a higher level of physical and mental wellness.

Make Cannabutter

Basically, any part that still contains trichomes can be saved for later use. Luckily, some of these trichomes still contain some of the basic ingredients to get you high, such as terpenes and cannabinoids.

One of the more popular uses for weed trim, at least for those still trying to achieve that psychoactive high we all know and love, is simply making cannabutter for edibles. So it’s no surprise that cannabutter is first on the list of what to do with weed trim.

When using weed trim for cannabutter, you might find yourself with a more CBD-heavy edible, which is one that won’t necessarily get you high. However, if you happen to get lucky and score a trichome-heavy trim leaf, you might get a decent amount of THC in your cannabutter.

The first step is to decarboxylate the trim. This is necessary to gain the maximum potency in your edibles.

Our suggestion would be decarbing your bud straight from the jar, courtesy of High Times’ simple instant pot method.

This method is fast and easy. All it requires is a fat of your choice, either a pair of pantyhose, an old t-shirt, or ideally, a piece of cheesecloth, and of course, a canning jar.

To decarb, stretch your pantyhose or cheesecloth around an opened jar to create a makeshift filter. Grind your buds and pour them into the filter. Then place the lid on the jar and screw the ring to secure the jar shut. Put it in the oven at 225 degrees for around 30 minutes, and it should turn a deep green.

From there, you add fat—whether that be traditional butter or coconut oil— into the jar. The jar shouldn’t be more than 3/4 full.

Then, simply place the jar in the Instant pot and fill it with water until it’s halfway up the jar.

Click the “pressure cook” button and lock the lid. In this mode, the pressure cooker will automatically set itself to a half hour—the perfect time allotment for this endeavor.

When the 30 minutes is up, pull the pressure release valve and remove the jar from the pot carefully with tongs or some other sort of device. Finally, unscrew the lid and strain your cannabutter from the filter. We’d suggest simply squeezing all of the cannabis-infused back into the jar you used. You also might want to wear gloves for this part—unless you’re trying to live up to your high school football nickname, “butterfingers.”

One thing to keep in mind when making cannabutter out of trim—make sure it’s ground to a mulch-like texture. In this case, a food processor or blender would be ideal, as a regular grinder might not work in this instance.

Once you have it properly blended, you can begin to use it for your cannabutter. For our recipe on cannabutter, take a look here.

Put It In Your Tea

Here’s a little bit of a simpler solution when wondering what to do with trim leaves: just put it in your tea!

This method won’t get you stoned, but it can unlock some of the powers of CBD, such as anxiety and stress relief.

So if you’re looking for more of a subtle, relaxing method of utilizing your weed trim, you might want to just go ahead and put in in your tea. It might prove to be the perfect combination.

Make Your Own Hash

Hash, or hashish, is one of the oldest forms of marijuana concentrates in the book, and that could be partially attributed to the fact that it’s easily made out of weed trim. So if you’re looking to get as high as possible, and still don’t know what to do with trim leaves, hash could be your best bet.

The tricky part about making hash is separating the trichomes from the weed trim. However, extracting it is similar to a standard decarboxylation process.

First, grab your weed trim and place it on a silk screen over a piece of wax paper. Then, simply use your hands to physically move the trim around so that the trichomes come apart from the leaves. When the trichomes fall off, use a scraper or some sort of similar tool to scrape it all together. Then, with the use of a pollen press, you can compress it into hash. Easier said than done, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll always have a fool-proof plan for what to do with trim leaves.

Cannabis Milk, Anyone?

When thinking of what to do with weed trim, making your own cannabis milk could be another viable option.

And yes, cannabis milk is a real thing.

Making cannabis milk is actually super easy to do. First, heat up your milk until it begins to simmer. Then, add your cannabis trimmings.

This part might require a bit of stamina, but it’s well worth. Stir the milk for about 30-40 minutes, until the complexion turns into a yellowish-green. Strain the trimmings out, and put it in a container. You can store in the refrigerator for as long as the original milk-expiration date says.

Skin Topicals

Skin topicals and creams have become a huge part of the retail cannabis industry, and fortunately, you can make your own at home—without even using any of your own weed.

After decarbing your weed, grind it up into a fine powder. You’re then going to want to mix in other essential oils like lavender, rosemary, clove, or lemon—whichever you prefer. Mix all ingredients together, and then begin the cooking process, which unfortunately takes 3-4 days. It’s a simple recipe, but definitely pretty time-consuming. However, it’s worth it in the long-run.

Juice

Our final suggestion on what to do with weed trim is another simple and super-healthy way to consume your cannabis leaf trim—juicing it!

Cannabis leaves are known to possess high levels of protein, in addition to Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.

Again, just throw your decarboxylated weed into a juicer with some of your favorite foods and/or veggies and blend away. You’ll get a bunch of the natural benefits associated with CBD, for the cost of essentially, ziltch.

Voila! Now you know what to do with weed trim. If you have any additional suggestions, feel free to drop us a line.

Weed trim is a common term used to describe the excess parts a cultivator must trim from their plants post-harvest in order to fully maximize a plant's bloom