The difference between well-trimmed cannabis and poorly-trimmed cannabis is significant. Properly trimmed cannabis will sell more quickly because it's more aesthetically pleasing and shows off the beautiful buds you worked so hard to grow. Poorly trimmed cannabis gives off a bad first impression, if we're talking about retail shelf space. It brings down the entire quality of the bud — smoking much harsher and diluting the overall potency of the flower with not-so-potent leaves wrapping the exterior of the bud. Obviously, if you grow for your own personal stash you can trim your herb to your liking — but if you are looking to sell some extra buds to your local dispensary then trimming properly will make sure your buds stand out.
We're going to focus on the two primary methods of trimming – wet trimming and dry trimming. I'm sure you can guess the difference between these techniques — one is done while the bud is fresh and one is done after the bud has dried completely.
Wet vs. Dry
There are philosophies behind each method. Some growers are fully on Team Dry Trim while others are committed to Team Wet Trim — it stirs up quite a debate in the cannabis community. While there are pros and cons to each, I'm going to lay out both techniques unobjectively.
The biggest concern with any method of trimming is trichome damage. You've spent all of your time and energy growing this amazing plant, you don't want to lose any potency at the last minute due to carelessness.
What You'll Need:
- Sharp Pruning Scissors
- Larger Pruning Shears (to break down the large branches)
- Rubber Gloves
- Rubbing Alcohol (to keep your scissors and hands sticky-free)
- Clean Work Surface
- Plastic to cover table and floor
- Some kind of container to organize your different quality levels (Baking sheets, Rubbermaid, Aluminum tins, etc.)
- Comfortable Work Environment (TV, music, or some other form of entertainment, comfy chair with proper support, bright lighting, etc.)
Pros: Easier, Gets the trimming “over with” (only one round of trimming), when it dries it's ready to go straight into a jar, debatably faster, closer trim, less trichome loss, compatible with more machine trimmers
Cons: dries quicker (can be viewed as a pro or con) and some growers believe that it leads to a grassy taste by exposing the plants chlorophyll and not allowing the bacteria to naturally break it down.
- To begin, cut the branches off the plant using your large shears. Gently pile the broken down branches into a large, clean container.
- Once filled, transport the container full of branches back to your work area. An optional step is to hang your freshly chopped buds on a line or clothing hangers near your workstation so they don't get squished in the bin.
- Flip on a documentary or an upbeat playlist and get your scissors ready.
- I've found it's best to tackle each branch in two stages — this ensures your trim is sorted properly and makes it easier to collect all of your nice sugarleaf for edibles or hash.
- First, remove all of the fan leaves (water leaves) at the base. You're looking for the large leafy greens that have no “sugar” on them. If you used organic growing methods and didn't spray any pesticides on your plants, you can keep these leaves to juice into a superfood nectar which is a great on its own or in smoothies.
- After removing the fan leaves, it's time for a close manicure. You'll want to do this close trim over a surface to catch the excess sugarleaf trim — a baking sheet, lid or trim bin are all great options. Since these closer leaves are most likely sprinkled with trichomes, they can be used for making hash, edibles, tinctures and topicals.
- During the close manicure, you want to work around the bud, sculpting it to reveal the nugget underneath all the leaves. You're shaping the buds into their final product, so trim them into something you'd like to smoke.
- After the close manicure, you have two options: you can leave the buds on the branch to dry or you can cut the buds off to dry on a mesh rack. My personal opinion is that it's easiest to cut the buds off while you're trimming — it's one less thing you have to do later. Plus, during the drying stage, most mold develops in between the stalk and the bud so removing the buds from the stalk eliminates this problem. However, there is somewhat of a benefit to leaving the bud on the stalk during the drying process because the stalk gradually releases moisture, preventing the flower from drying out too quickly.
- So depending on what route you take — either hang up the stalks on hangers or place the buds on a mesh drying rack to finish their drying process. Your drying environment should be dark and have plenty of air movement (but avoid direct wind to your freshly chopped crop). Fans and dehumidifiers are your best friend! Check on your harvest everyday to judge the amount of moisture left in the buds. In about 5-7 days your harvest will be dry and ready to start curing! If you left it on the stalk, you can test the dryness by bending the stalk — once the stalk snaps, your buds are ready to be placed into an airtight container to begin their curing process.
- If you removed the buds from the stalk, you will notice after 5-7 days that the flowers will be slightly crunchy when squeezed. The best way to test these buds for readiness is to take a small sample and seal it in a ziplock bag. Check the sample in two hours, if the buds are wet again then they need another day or so to dry. Once the buds feel sticky but not soggy after this ziplock test then they are ready to be sealed into glass jars or turkey bags and begin curing.
Pros: slows down the drying process, excess leaves protect the nuggets if cured before trimmed, quicker initial harvest, bud has shrunken to its final form, and the natural bacteria on the surface of the plant can break down the plants chlorophyll and provide a smoother smoking experience.
Cons: Two-stage trimming process, can slow down the trimming process, more trichome damage, more humidity in the drying room.
- The process of dry trimming beings the same — with your large shears, break down the plant into manageable branches and place into a large container. Since you'll be drying these buds on the stalk, how you cut your branches is important. You want to strategically cut the branch to create a hook on the end (see below photo).
- Once you're back at your workstation with a container full of freshly chopped buds, it's time to remove all of the fan leaves. Fan leaves are the large, obvious ones with no visible trichomes. There aren't too many uses for these leaves but they are a great addition to compost piles, a nutritious alternative for livestock feed, or a potent superfood supplement for yourself.
- After removing all of the excess fan leaves, it's time to hang these babies to dry. Your drying space is incredibly important as poor conditions can result in mold outbreaks — while it's uncommon, if you overfill a closet with wet buds you might attract some mold or mildew. Don't get me wrong, a closet works fine as a drying room but you don't want to stuff it too full. And you can't forget about putting a dehumidifier or two in there. A successful drying room can be built anywhere, really, as long as it is dark, cold, has some air movement, and is not too humid. Check out our Harvest Time Grow Guide to see how to build the ideal drying room.
- And that's it for your first tier of harvesting! In about 5-7 days, your buds should be nearing optimum dryness. You can check to see if they are ready by bending the stalk — once it snaps, then you're ready to go. Since you can only trim so fast, I've found it's best to bin everything up at this point so that the rest of your harvest doesn't dry out too much while you're working on the finishing touches. This way, you can slowly work your way through trimming all of your flowers without feeling rushed.
- Once your flowers are dry, it's time to complete the job with a close manicure. You'll notice that the leaves you left on have now dried to create a shell around the bud — your job in this step is to sculpt the bud into its final, glorious product. Since the trichomes are very fragile at this point, it's important to be gentle with your scissors. Using your sharp, clean pruning scissors, remove the exterior leaves to reveal the glistening flower underneath. If you work in a trim bin or over a baking sheet, you can collect this frosty trim to make edibles or hash!
- Once you've manicured your buds to perfection, seal them up in a glass jar, turkey bag or another airtight container to begin the curing process. If you'd like to read more about curing, check out our How-To on curing cannabis properly.
Congratulations on your harvest! I hope this article gives you confidence in your trimming abilities and takes some stress off your harvest season. While some gripe about the trimming process, it's all in your perspective — I personally love trimming, you get really up close and personal with the beautiful flowers you worked all season to grow!