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The Homegrower’s Guide to Trimming Cannabis

Cannabis homegrowers are well aware that the practice requires an intuitive green thumb and a good amount of patience. A plant’s growth cycle can take anywhere between 4-8 months depending on the strain and environment, but once you’ve made it through the long haul of germination, seedling, vegetation, and flowering, you’re almost at the finish line.

The next and final labor-intensive stage of cannabis plant growth is trimming, the process of clipping and manicuring your flower to ensure any “unnecessary” bits of the plant are removed before it’s cured and consumed. If you’re new to homegrowing and are wondering how to trim cannabis buds, you’ve come to the right place.

Why do we trim weed?

Trimming weed isn’t necessarily essential, but it definitely makes for a smoother smoking experience with cannabis buds that are less susceptible to molding over time.

The trimming process typically involves clipping the buds from the dried plant branches and discarding the branches, stems, sugar leaves, and fan leaves. These plant elements are known for rendering a smoke session harsh and uncomfortable. While the non-flower parts of the plant do have cannabinoids and terpenes, they are produced in far fewer amounts and better suited for steeping in teas or juicing to reportedly boost immune systems, reduce inflammation, improve bone metabolism, and increase neural function.

Trimming your plant prior to harvesting is also helpful for promoting further growth, boosting bud production, encouraging a faster drying process, and improving airflow and sun exposure—both of which lead to better yields and higher quality flower.

Dry Trim vs. Wet Trim

Long before you get ready to start trimming your cannabis plants, you need to decide if you’re going to trim them before or after drying – a.k.a., dry trim versus wet trim. Wet and dry trimming each come with their list of pros and cons, but your decided approach as a grower essentially boils down to your environment, grow room space, tools at hand, and your personal preference. 

Wet trimming is accomplished by cutting down the plant immediately after the flowering stage is complete, quickly manicuring those buds, and setting them on a rack for a few days of drying time before you cure. 

Wet trimmed buds tend to be stickier than their dry counterparts, which can make them more difficult to handle if you aren’t prepared. However, a wet trim renders sugar and fan leaves a lot easier to remove, speeds up the subsequent drying process, and tends to result in a tighter and cleaner looking product. 

But many growers opt for dry trimming, which means you don’t trim your buds until after they’ve been hung up to dry for a few days. This method is arguably less messy than wet trimming and is known for preserving terpenes a little better, but the buds might also be more prone to breakage. Dry trimming also requires quite a bit more grow room space to tackle properly, so if you’re working in tight quarters, this method probably isn’t ideal for you.

A photo of hands trimming cannabis plants with scissors

Cannabis Trimming Tools

Whether you’re trimming your marijuana plant wet or dry, you’re going to need some tools to get the job done right. Here’s a list of what you should acquire when stocking up for this stage of the growth cycle:

  • Scissors for bud trimming
  • Pruning shears for bigger branches
  • Gloves 
  • A clean and flat surface
  • A tray or bowl
  • Rubbing alcohol or wipes for cleaning your scissors and shears
  • Rags or cloths
  • Clothes you don’t mind getting sticky

How to Trim Cannabis by Hand

Hand trimming is the same whether you’re working with wet or dry plants, and as soon as you have the above tools on hand, you’re ready to get started.

You’ll start trimming by grabbing your pruning shears and cutting off your plant’s branches, breaking the elements down into smaller pieces until you reach the plant’s main stalk. For dry trimmers, this is where you pause the process and hang the plants up for about 3-7 days, but if you’re wet trimming, you can move along to the next step: snipping off the fan leaves.

While they’re certainly nice to look at, fan leaves barely contain any trichomes, which means they’re pretty pointless for consumption. You can easily remove these traditional-looking marijuana leaves with a pair of scissors.

Once those fan leaves are out of the picture, you’ll begin removing the buds from the branches – also known as “bucking” your buds. This is where that clean, flat surface comes into play, as you can create a little pile of buds as you work to ensure everything is in the right place.

After you’ve removed your buds, you’re ready to start trimming them. Begin by paring down the stem and little leaves at the bottom of the bud as closely as possible, and then slicing off any extra plant matter. This will result in buds that are sharply polished and stunningly photogenic.

If you’re unsure how to trim weed or are wondering whether or not you’ve gone too far with your shears, a good rule of thumb is to always think about the trichomes. Anything that isn’t covered in trichomes can go. But don’t be too quick to get rid of your trim; although it’s less aesthetically pleasing, it can still be used to make edibles or tinctures.

Trim with Machine Assistance

Interested in learning how to trim cannabis plants but not too keen on doing it by hand? You’re in luck: there are quite a few affordable, consumer-focused trimming machines on the market that will save you a ton of time and manual labor. 

GreenBroz’s Harvest Bucket is designed specifically for the homegrower. This trimming machine mimics gentle hand-trimming to ensure your flower’s potency and quality isn’t compromised. It’s also easy to use and won’t take up too much space in your grow room or garage when it’s not in use.Some other choice options include the Twister Batch One for dry bud, the Centurion Pro Tabletop Trimming Machine for wet, or the VIVOSUN 16 inch Bud Leaf Bowl Trimmer, which is a homegrower favorite for both trimming approaches.

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