How to Trim Your Cannabis Plants for the Perfect Buds

Don't forget this crucial step!
MarijuanaBreak Staff / Updated on September 12, 2018

How to Trim Your Cannabis Plants for the Perfect Buds

Also known as manicuring your weed, trimming cannabis buds is a dreaded but necessary step of the overall growing process. When you do it correctly, you are rewarded with a much higher yield, but it is a skill that is best acquired through practice. It is a mistake to think that you can pick up a pair of shears and cut random leaves – if you have no idea what to do, it is best to leave your plants alone.

Indeed, many experienced growers avoid the trimming process entirely. This is an admirable attitude because it involves allowing nature to take its course; However, trimming your cannabis plants during the course of the growth cycle can potentially ensure you end up harvesting the healthiest plants with a potent level of THC.

If you’re ready to take the next step beyond merely growing marijuana, read this concise guide to tell you the basics of trimming marijuana in your garden for perfect, potent buds.

Why Trimming Marijuana Buds is Useful for Plants

The process of trimming your cannabis plants involves simply clipping pieces of them away. When you remove specific parts in the right quantities at the right time, you benefit from a stronger plant. It is especially important to identify and remove dead leaves. Think of it as the equivalent of removing dead tissue from a wound.

If you allow dead and dying leaves to remain, the plant wastes precious resources on a lost cause. When you clip the stems of dead leaves early, you could save your marijuana plant weeks of effort. As a result, it can focus on the healthy leaves or, better yet, turn its attention towards growing new leaves (and ultimately new buds).

There is also an aesthetic reason for trimming cannabis. Manicured weed simply ‘looks’ better, and is in line with what you’ll see when purchasing buds online or at a dispensary. It is also a fact that fan leaves contain a lower level of trichomes. By getting rid of these leaves, you allow parts of the nugs with more trichomes to gain greater exposure to light.

Have you ever suffered through a particularly harsh smoke that caused you to cough profusely? If so, there is an excellent chance that the weed came from a plant that had large leaves sticking out from the buds. During curing, trimmed buds have a more even moisture content, resulting in a smoother and more enjoyable smoke. Weed with thicker leaves fails to wick moisture away evenly, which is part of the reason for the harsh final product.

When Should You Begin Trimming Cannabis Buds?

Don’t leave the trimming process too late! Some growers begin pruning within a few weeks of the growing process. However, if you do it too early, you may interfere with your plant’s growth because it slows down or even stops growing for days afterward. It is best to wait until the final week before harvest. At this point, remove the largest fan leaves and get rid of dying foliage. However, if you spot dead leaves a few weeks beforehand, feel free to trim them.

How to Trim Cannabis Buds [Trimming Techniques]

There are a few different methods for trimming your cannabis plant, but we’ll try to keep things simple. What follows are the two best and most common (and easiest) ways for how to trim marijuana buds for a super healthy yield:

Hand vs. Machine Trimming Cannabis

Machine trimming cannabis ticks a lot of ‘convenience’ boxes and is a reasonable tactic for commercial growers. When you use these devices, the flower tends to look virtually identical from strain to strain. As a result, you end up with an aesthetically pleasing bud, but machine trimming is not the best option for flavor or potency. Unfortunately, the machines used today shave off too much bud material which includes trichomes, the crystalline structures that cover the buds and are responsible for the scent and aroma of weed.

It is a fact that every marijuana plant produces buds that are different in structure, shape, and size. Trimming machines are unaware of these differences and are unable to spot the buds crystallized in resin. Worst of all, you can’t adjust the machine to handle different shapes, which means you are guaranteed to lose trichomes and potency. When you add in the cost of hiring or purchasing machines, along with the well-known maintenance issues, you have a trimming method best avoided.

If you are a small-scale grower, you can trim the buds yourself. Obviously, commercial growers must hire skilled employees to trim the buds by hand. Just to be clear, you can’t walk in off the street and automatically trim cannabis like an expert. There is a level of focus, training, and experience required to ensure the cannabis is properly handled and processed. For instance, there is a skill in learning how to hold the bud to ensure that the shape isn’t compromised, nor is the crystallized resin shaken off.

Remember, different strains have THC-filled resin in different parts of the plant, and there are also varying densities of trichomes in certain places. On the plus side, the growth of legalization within American states means there are more skilled trimmers available than ever before. If you’re an established operation, you can create your own standards without the aid of machinery. In summation, hand trimming is vastly superior to its machine equivalent.

Wet vs. Dry Trimming Marijuana Buds

There are two periods where you can manicure your weed. The most obvious time is on harvest day (wet trimming) when the plant is still on the vine. The second period occurs 4-10 days after harvest when the plants have wicked a significant proportion of their moisture. Please note that untrimmed cannabis takes a little longer to dry properly. Also, unless you leave the unmanicured marijuana in an environment where the humidity, temperature, and light are controlled, the bud will dry unevenly, which will comprise the quality.

Wet trimming is the preferred method for most growers because removing dead leaves with your hands and a pair of scissors is much easier when the plant matter is still wet. Ideally, you will only handle the stems and rotate the buds to find the optimal cutting angles. Although you will end up with a lighter end product, it will be of premium quality.

The main disadvantage associated with wet trimming is that it is time-consuming and costly for commercial growers. You need to hire professional trimmers, and they must work quickly to correctly trim every single harvested plant while it is still wet. Ultimately, wet trimming helps the bud dry much faster because a lack of extra foliage means the moisture is not contained within the buds for as long.

It is mainly large scale growers who opt for dry trimming. The process involves hanging the plant upside for several days until the weed dries. It takes longer, and trapped moisture can result in moldy bud. It is typically an option if there isn’t enough time to trim wet cannabis because you need to transport the plants for storage almost immediately.

Ultimately, both methods have their pros and cons. Wet trimming is probably best for small home growers while those with multiple harvests a year should consider dry trimming. In an ideal world, you will trim a reasonable amount of plant matter while it is still wet and finish the manicure after it has dried for a few days.

Tips for Dry Trimming Marijuana Buds

If you’ve just grown your first marijuana plant(s), you may be looking at the mature specimens in a fit of bewilderment as the buds probably look nothing like the stuff you’ve seen and smoked before. Basically, adult weed plants are bushy, unruly things that require a decent amount of care, maintenance, and trimming in order to get them to look like a true “finished product.” Here are three simple steps to follow for successfully dry trimming marijuana buds.

Tip #1 – Remove the fan leaves

Although the definition of dry trimming means that the buds should be almost dry before manicuring, you still have to do a little work immediately after harvesting when the plant is fresh and wet. Remove the large fan leaves from the branches.This is about the only time when it is okay to use machinery in the trimming process because it should not damage the plant. With the leaves removed, the branches and buds should dry much faster.

Tip #2 – Cut buds from the branches

After drying the marijuana in suitable conditions for a few days, it should be ready for proper dry trimming. Take the branches and remove the buds using a pair of shears or scissors. Make sure you snip the buds into your preferred size without trimming them. Experts in the field refer to this practice as ‘bucking down.’

It’s a good idea to get a container and fill it with the amount of bud you intend to trim. Also, this is a cool preparation step and gets you mentally ready for what promises to be a hard few days of work ahead.

Tip #3 – Fill your tray

The final step is to keep your container of prepared buds beside you and load up a smaller tray with a few of them. Make sure the stem is only exposed at the bottom and trim it there as closely as possible without causing the breaking down of the bud. Get rid of the tiny branches that come up from the bottom of the nugget. These branches are affectionately known as ‘crow’s feet’ because they resemble bird’s feet in appearance.

Finally, remove the additional plant matter and fully manicure your bud. Experts recommend ensuring the scissors are constantly moving, but it is essential to focus on accuracy rather than speed. We recommend using several pairs of shears or scissors because you’ll need to swap when one pair inevitably gets coated in sticky resin. Patience is key! Never trim massive sections of the nug because you will reduce your yield.

In general, you should be almost finished when the bud has been rotated 360 degrees at least once. If you’re a commercial grower, it is best to have a form of standardized trimming that your employees can refer to. This process ensures you don’t have to waste time by double-checking everyone’s work.

One final tip: Don’t get high on your own supply (while trimming). That should be your reward when you’re finished. As much fun as it is to be baked, it is likely to slow you down because you become obsessed with the perfect trim.

Tools for Trimming

Unfortunately, being underprepared when you set off to trim marijuana buds will not only do you a disservice in terms of lowering your plant’s potency and yield potential, but it’ll also probably give you a striaght up headache as working without the proper tools is a true pain in the ass. Having the right tools on hand will ensure you trim your buds effectively and relatively quickly.

1 – Scissors or Shears

Don’t even consider proceeding until you have several pairs of sharp, sterilized scissors or shears specially designed for trimming. The best scissors will have an ‘ergonomic’ grip, which basically means they conform to your grip. If you try and trim bud for several hours using low-quality shears, your hand will cramp up badly.

Eventually, your scissors will be coated in sticky, yet marvelous resin, which means you must swap for a new pair. Ideally, you will have two small pairs of scissors for intricate trimming and two pairs of large shears for branch cutting.

A lot of people tend to steer clear of standard scissors in favor of spring-loaded, but this could be a mistake. Although high-quality standard scissors take a day or so to get used to, they tend to allow you to cut faster and more precisely than you would with their spring-loaded counterpart.

2 – A comfortable place to sit

If you don’t figure this out early, it won’t take you long to prioritize! It will take several hours to properly manicure buds, so make sure you choose a comfortable seat in a cool room with a lot of light. Rooms with excess hair, dust or dirt could contaminate your produce. Some serious growers invest in a zero-gravity chair because of the support they offer and their capacity to find the perfect resting position as you work.

3 – A clean tray and surface

Trimming trays are a must-have when trimming marijuana buds. As well as offering a great place to store the bud you’re about to trim, you can conveniently place one on your lap. Invest in a marijuana trimming tray with a screen, as it helps collect kief. It is easy to find a decent standard tray, but make sure it is made from an easy to clean material such as stainless steel.

4 – Cleaning supplies

Although you should have at least a second pair of scissors with you when the first one gets sticky with resin, you can’t just dump it! We recommend using rubbing alcohol and a clean cloth to get rid of the resin.

5 – Comfortable clothing

A silk apron is the perfect accompaniment to any trimming expedition because it protects your clothes and the resin won’t stick to it. A durable pair of gloves is also essential to prevent sticky hands. Some trimmers hate wearing gloves. If you fall into this category, have a bottle of coconut or olive oil handy. Rub it on your hands at the desired intervals to avoid resin build up on your hands.

6 – Items to keep you entertained

Now that we’ve established that getting stoned on the job is a no-no, you have to find alternative ways to pass the time. Obviously, you can’t watch television, so listen to music, treat yourself to an audiobook, or tune into a podcast to keep your mind occupied. As important as trimming is, it is also extremely monotonous.

If you are part of a group, keep the noise down to an acceptable level, or else you’ll lose the precious art of conversation. Once you have enough trimming experience, it becomes easy to do a great job AND chat with Mike about his recent weekend in Vegas.

Hopefully, you found this guide on how to trim marijuana buds useful and informative. Let us know in the comments below how your next trimming adventure works out!

How to Trim Your Cannabis Plants for the Perfect Buds
September 12, 2018
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