The best methods of trimming weed

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Trimming cannabis is crucial in creating the tastiest, most flavorful, and most potent marijuana buds. Many boutique growers would argue that marijuana trimming is an art that elevates any marijuana harvest. While there are certainly aesthetic considerations to trimming cannabis, you should always consider some important technical points to preserve maximum quality and potency. There are various methods for trimming or cutting weed, and each has its pros and cons. Furthermore, some trimming can happen before harvest as well.

In this article, we are doing a detailed study of the art and science of trimming weed. Read on for an in-depth guide on trimming cannabis.

Why Marijuana Trimming is Important

There are several benefits of trimming weed. Here are the main advantages that every grower should know about.

  • Pruning and trimming can increase your marijuana yield – As you might know by now, careful pruning of your plant can increase the yield through super cropping. However, most growers overlook the importance of trimming fan leaves during the flowering stage. This allows the plant to expend more energy on the flowers, giving you bigger, healthier, more potent buds. We have described this process in greater detail later in the article.
  • Trimming weed speeds up the drying process – Cutting off the sugar leaves and fan leaves right after a marijuana harvest dramatically increases the airflow through the buds. This is why trimming cannabis is an effective way to speed up the drying and curing process.
  • Trimming Cannabis prevents mold – Removing leaves from around the bud leaves little room for moisture to accumulate. This helps to prevent bud rot and other harmful infections by allowing more air to whisk away excess moisture. This is true for defoliation as well to a certain extent. More air circulation means healthier buds all around.

When Should You Start Trimming Your Weed Plants?

Cannabis trimming is usually done after a marijuana harvest. Cutting weed is a delicate task that is usually undertaken after the initial drying period post-harvest. However, there are some proponents of trimming weed while it’s fresh. This is called wet trimming.

As mentioned earlier, you can also cut the fan leaves during the flowering stage. Let’s take a closer look at this.

Removing Fan Leaves During the Flowering Stage

This is a high-stress training technique for increasing the yield of your plant called Defoliation. it involves systematically removing fan leaves, thereby freeing up resources within the plant. This excess energy is then redirected into producing larger, more potent buds.

This is an advanced marijuana-trimming technique that should only be tried by expert growers. The plants need to be monitored closely, and the leaves should be removed in stages. Otherwise, it might kill the plant or dramatically reduce its growth. Once done, there is no going back.

removing leaves during the flowering stage
Removing fan leaves during the flowering stage (also known as defoliation)

There is a raging debate surrounding defoliation. Professional growers and processors all have their individual opinions on whether defoliation really creates a significant increase in production, aroma, and flavor. So there are conflicting opinions out there, and the only way to find out is to test it out yourself. Needless to say, each strain and each individual plant reacts differently to stress training techniques. So you need to be in tune with your plant and take it slow to understand how it’s reacting to defoliation.

Wet Trimming Vs. Dry Trimming – What’s the Difference?

Trimming cannabis is always done after the marijuana harvest, with the due exception of the defoliation technique. There are two ways to remove the leaves – before putting them up for drying, and after. This is the essential difference between wet trimming and dry trimming.

If you want to perform wet trimming, you will cut off all the sugar leaves and the fan leaves before you hang your buds up to dry. For dry trimming, you first hang your buds with all the leaves still intact. Then once it has dried a for a week or so, you take it down and trim the leaves.

Machine trimming your marijuana harvest is something that most boutique growers will not approve. However, if you are a large-scale commercial producer or if you want to save time on trimming all those popcorn buds, machine trimming cannabis can be a game changer. There are both small scale manual trimmers and large scale, powered cannabis trimming machines that can process a pound of bud a minute and more. It really depends on the size of your operation and what kind of results you are looking to get.

Now let’s look at the ups and downs of both techniques and what you can do to mitigate them.

Pros and Cons of Wet and Dry Marijuana Trimming

Wet Trimming

Leaves are easier to take off, making for faster trimming.It may cause damage to the trichomes and buds.
Produce dries faster because of higher air circulation and lower moisture content.Quick drying can make for harsh smoking due to the high chlorophyll content that is left behind.
Easier for beginners.Fresh buds might need to be placed on a screen tray for drying, thereby ruining the aesthetics.

Dry Trimming

Slower drying makes for smoother smoke due to lower chlorophyll content.Not feasible if you are in a hurry to dry the buds.
Trichomes get time to dry out and become more resilient, causing less damage to buds and trichome loss during trimming.The drying room needs to be extra secure against mold because of the slower drying and higher moisture content.
Produces beautiful and great tasting buds because of the moisture modulation offered by the leaves during drying.Leaves might stick to the bud if drying isn’t done properly.

Machine Trimming

Faster and able to scale up to large quantities.The tumbling or brushing movement loses a lot of trichomes.
Saves on labor cost.Reduces bud quality. Buds may need hand finishing to prepare for selling.
Great for small buds that are difficult to hand trim.No control over the aesthetics of the buds.
Great for wet trimming.It might not work as well or at all on dried buds.
Great for mass trimming before extraction processes.Buds lack proper trimmed finish.
Good for large to medium buds.Small wet buds might get squashed. Small dry buds might get pulverized.

Mitigating the Cons of Wet Vs. Dry Marijuana Trimming

Trimming weed is a delicate process, as must be evident by now. Wet trimming is faster and easier, but you don’t want to damage the buds and reduce the trichome content. Dry trimming is slower but usually produces better results. However, it might increase the chances of moldy buds.

The solution? Take a hybrid approach. A lot of growers will take off the fan leaves right after harvest but will stay away from the buds and sugar leaves, leaving them for dry trimming later. You might even leave some fan leaves in place to slow down the drying process in a controlled manner.

Most boutique growers and processors will swear by dry trimming. This is because there are fewer chances of damaging the buds and trichomes. So once the semi-trimmed buds have dried to your liking, it is time for a second round of trimming.

This will be the true trimming because it will get rid of the sugar leaves and allow you to give the bud its shape and aesthetic appeal according to your taste.

As always, you need to try it out before you can decide how much or how little of each technique you like.

Getting the Best Results Out of Machine Trimming

Machine trimming is ideal for quickly getting through a large amount of bud. This makes sense if you are left with a lot of popcorn buds and don’t want the extra time and labor cost of hand-trimming the whole lot of them. Depending on the size of your operations, you can opt for a small manual machine or larger, powered options.

Because of the way these machines works, there is no way to save the trichomes from falling off during all the tumbling and brushing. However, you can easily collect the trim and shake to create your extracts or sell them separately. This is common practice for most growers and sellers.

If you want to sell the buds, you will likely want to hand-finish them to give them that quality look and bag appeal. Mechanized trimming is certainly not advisable for top-shelf buds. Those should always be hand processed from start to finish. It is also not great for dry buds, especially small ones. It works well when wet-trimming.

Tools You Need for Trimming Your Bud

Here are the essential tools for trimming weed. There’s a lot of variety and personal preference involved. So try out the available options to find the ones that you like the best.

Gloves – You should use gloves to prevent contamination and moisture transfer onto your buds as you handle them. The gloves should ideally be thin, non-slip, and well-fitted to give your fingers their natural range of dexterity and accuracy. Most professionals use medical or surgical gloves or similar for this purpose.

Environment – An enclosed area with gentle ventilation is ideal so your trays and drop sheets can catch all the trichomes and stray sugar leaves. This way, you can add it all to your extraction process or just sell good-quality trim to your customers.

Music – I know it sounds silly putting this in the list of equipment, but having a playlist prepared before you start trimming is essential for me. Trimming cannabis plants is a monotonous task that can take anywhere from hours to days depending on how big your yield is so having some form of entertainment really helps to keep you focused.

Two men Trimming a recently cut cannabis plant on a table to prepare it for drying

Cutting tools – There is a wide variety of cutting tools that are meant for trimming and pruning plants. Use the one that suits your needs and preferences the best. Whatever you use, it must be thin, long and sharp with a fine, pointed tip. The fine tip will allow you to make tiny cuts without touching your buds unnecessarily. Some people prefer to use spring-loaded shears. These will get strenuous when used over longer periods. For large operations, high-quality, steel trimming scissors are the best option. They reduce hand fatigue and are more accurate. Also makes sure that the handles are comfortable to grip and use over long periods.

Storage – You will need to separate your trim from your bud and also keep the untrimmed lot together in one place. So you must plan out your work area carefully with appropriate storage containers, trays, and hanging racks.

If you are using a trimming machine, you will likely need large vats to load and unload the buds. Most machines will come with their own bins or bowls to catch the trim, which you can then transfer at your convenience.

How to Trim Weed Plants?

Here’s the step-by-step guide to trimming cannabis. The steps are mostly the same for both dry and wet trimming, with a few significant differences.

Dry Trimming

  1. Cut the branches in equal sizes after the marijuana harvest. If you want to use a weed wash, do so gently and then dry the plant before you cut the weed.
  2. Hang them upside down with all the leaves in place.
  3. For optimum results, maintain an atmospheric humidity of about 60-65% in the drying room. Make sure it is sanitized and sealed against insects and contaminants.
  4. In about 7 to 10 days, your cannabis flowers are ready for trimming.
  5. Prepare your trimming area and bring in the hanging rack. Putting the racks on wheels makes this process easier.
  6. Go one branch at a time and always hold them by the stem. Avoid touching the buds as much as possible.
  7. Start from the bottom, where the smaller buds usually are, and work your way to the top.
  8. Get rid of the fan leaves first by cutting them as close to the stem as possible.
  9. Manicure the sugar leaves next to get the look and coverage that you want.
  10. Drop the manicured buds into their designated storage for the curing process. Avoid multiple transfers of freshly trimmed buds to preserve as much of the trichomes as possible.
  11. Make sure you are collecting all the sugar leaf trims to sell or use for extraction.
  12. You can leave the fan and sugar leaves on the smaller buds for machine trimming if you have a lot to go through.
Dry Trimming weed plants
Dry trimming weed plants

Wet Trimming

  1. Prepare the marijuana harvest by gently washing (optional and usually meant for outdoor plants) and drying them completely. Be gentle because the freshly cut weed is fragile, and the trichomes can easily fall off.
  2. Cut the branches in appropriate sizes for easy handling and drying.
  3. Prepare your trimming area with the appropriate storage, work surface, trays, and drop sheets.
  4. Hold the stem and avoid touching the flowers as much as possible.
  5. Start from the bottom and work your way to the top.
  6. Trim the fan leaves first by cutting them as close to the stem as possible. They stick out and away from the buds when the plant is fresh, making wet trimming easier compared to dry trimming.
  7. Trim the sugar leaves after the fan leaves are gone. You can also leave them for dry trimming later.
  8. Leave the buds on the stem to make it easier to hang dry and cure the buds. Fresh, loose buds can only be dried on a screen, and that flattens one side. This reduces the aesthetic appeal and also results in uneven curing. Turning them is difficult because the buds are uncovered and will shed a lot of the trichomes when moved in any way.
  9. Make sure to segregate the fan leaves and sugar leaves while trimming.
  10. Collect your trims in one place for selling or extraction.
Wet trimming marijuana
Wet trimming marijuana plants

What Can You Do With the Leftover Weed Trim?

The leftover after trimming cannabis is often sold by the pound so that customers can use them for rolling joints or filling their bowls. They are also great for extraction processes such as making bubble hash, cannabutter, canna oil, tinctures and more.

How long does it take to trim a weed plant?

The length of time that trimming takes is simply dependant on the size of the yield, quality of your equipment, space available and how experienced a trimmer you are. Lets say you are experienced at trimming weed and have all of the suitable equipment to hand, it is possible to get through around 1lb of bud (wet trimming) in around 5 hours of continuous work.

What’s Next After You Have Trimmed Your Cannabis Plant?

After dry trimming, the next stage is to cure the manicured buds to achieve the perfect flavor. This is a process of slow and controlled drying to reduce the amount of chlorophyll present in the flowers. This smoothens the smoke or vapor produced by the flower.

If you are wet trimming your flowers, the next step is to dry them. Once they have dried, you can give them a final dry trim to manicure them to perfection. Then it is time for the curing process to begin.

While you watch over your harvest as they cure, you can take the trim/shake and start the extraction process. Or dry them out and prepare them for selling to processing units or customers.

Parting Notes

Trimming is a critical step in the journey of the bud from farm to consumer. It affects both the quality and the visual appeal of the end product. Once you get the hang of it, you will quickly start to notice the nuances and subtleties that set the best buds apart.

Want to continue learning about growing and harvesting cannabis? Check out our articles on defoliation, drying, curing, and more!

Joe Musgrave

Joe Musgrave is a keen 420 blogger who writes about all things cannabis. After harnessing his green thumbed skills through years of working on cannabis farms, Joe now shares his knowledge with the rest of the online 420 community.

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