Aug 7, 2017 12:50 PM

The Art of Trimming: How to Make Your Cannabis Buds Beautiful

When the growing part comes to an end, the process of trimming, also known as “manicuring,” starts.

While it is more or less clear how to care for your plants while they are growing, the trimming part makes some growers terrified, especially if they have to do it for the very first time. No need to be scared! Indeed, you do not apply this method to any other flowers in your garden. That is why cannabis is so special―it requires a special attitude and unique treatment. Cannabis flowers may look beautiful on the plant, but trimming makes them look (and taste) amazing.

Why should you trim buds?

Honestly speaking, if you do not trim your buds, it will not be a tragedy. The taste of the flowers will be a bit harsh and bitter, and they will also look shaggy, but they will still be good for consumption. But what is the reason for investing so much effort into grow your plants and then ruining the final product? Trimming makes your buds taste and look better. It makes their appearance uniform, tight, and more aesthetically pleasant. If you offer someone your untrimmed buds, it will immediately reveal your amateur attitude toward growing the herb. High-quality buds are always trimmed.

Trimming weed is almost like showing your respect to it. You help the buds show their best qualities. Large leaves are thicker and harder to dry and, therefore, to burn. That is why the extra foliage can make the smoke harsher, spoiling the aroma and taste. Getting rid of all the unnecessary leaves (and trimming is actually all about that―removing the extra foliage that does not have enough trichomes) is to let the flowers reveal all the flavor nuances and effects to the fullest.

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When should you trim buds?

With a large garden, it might be too time-consuming to trim cannabis buds while the plants are still growing. That is why the buds are often trimmed already after they have been collected from the plants.

However, for home-growing cannabis, it is better to do it earlier. Sometimes, much, much earlier—several days or even weeks before the harvest. First, you should remove the large fan leaves: they will soon wither away anyway, and by removing them you will push the plants to direct all their energy toward the flowers. As for the smaller leaves, it is recommended to cut them off a few days before the buds completely ripen.

What trimming techniques are there?

Hand-trimming or machine-trimming

If you grow cannabis just for yourself, there is no reason to waste money on a trimming machine: after all, this process does not take long, and it is possible to do it with bare hands or scissors.

Growers who have a large-scale garden might want to hire people or buy a trimming machine. Both ways will cost you money: you either pay salary to workers or invest in a tool that is actually quite expensive and requires lots of money for maintenance.

The biggest problem with a trimming machine is that it is not flexible and requires some skills from a person to do the work without damaging the trichomes or shaving buds off the stems. Hiring people for trimming buds might be the most expensive, but, at the same time, it is the best way to transform your flowers into a high-quality product. You can find more information on the subject here.

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Dry trimming or wet trimming

Wet trimming is manicuring your buds while they are still on the plant. Dry trimming, as you might guess, is removing the unnecessary foliage after the flowers have been harvested and dried.

The wet way of trimming is the most popular. It gives you better access to the leaves so that you do not need to hold the colas in your hands and therefore risk ruining the precious trichomes. Many growers believe that wet trimming allows to manicure buds much better and faster than dry trimming. Moreover, in the end, it guarantees a better, more aesthetically pleasing product. However, this opinion is quite debatable since cutting the leaves off from the growing plants is a “dirty” process: both your hands and the shears/trimming machine quite soon become covered with resin. Sometimes, there is so much resin that the shears cannot work properly anymore until you clean them, so you often have to make breaks.

Dry trimming does not have this problem since the weed is already dry and less sticky. This way of manicuring will be better for those growers who live in hot and dry climates. You might want your buds to dry a bit slower, otherwise you risk to get extra-dry and brittle trichomes and dank and unaired inside parts of the buds. Unmanicured buds let the humidity evaporate more slowly and evenly.

Both ways have their own pros and cons, so you should decide according to your individual situation.

What do you need for trimming?

A light room and a comfortable chair

Unless you grow three-meter-tall monster plants and you want to apply wet trimming, you will not need a ladder or any peculiar tools or furniture. In most cases, a comfortable chair and a good source of light are enough. If it is possible, bright the colas to a place where there is enough natural light, for instance, to a table next to the window or to a terrace. Artificial light can make your eyes tired faster.

Try to avoid places that have lots of dust or particulates (carpets, old furniture, lots of small tools, etc.) as small particles may eventually rest on the buds and contaminate the final product.

The chair should be comfortable and ergonomic. Soft armchairs and sofas are not good for this work as they will put extra pressure on your lower back after several hours. It is better to choose a firm standard folding or classical chair that fits you and provides great support to your back.

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What Should You Know About Trimming Cannabis?
Experienced growers know that even the best crop may be ruined if it was trimmed in a wrong way. A well-manicured bud looks way better and usually has a higher potency than a bud that has some leaves left on it.

A clean and stable tray

If you do not want your cannabis to be everywhere in the room, it is better to use a tray. They are easier to transport and have an even surface that is usually easy to clean. That is why it is better to choose Pyrex glass or stainless steel trays instead of the plastic ones with a ribby surface. The simpler the tray, the better.

You can also opt for special trimming trays that have a screen for collecting kief. However, even regular sprouting trays can serve you well in this situation.

An apron and gloves

Working with resin for a long time will inevitably make everything around you dirty and sticky—first of all, your hands and your clothes. That is why it is better to put on an apron. If it is possible, choose a silk one as resin does not stick to this material. Rubber gloves will help protect your hands from both resin and blisters from working with scissors for too long. For those of you who do not like wearing gloves, it is recommended to use olive or coconut oil: just rub it on your skin, and washing your hands afterwards will be much easier.

A pair of trimming scissors

It will be the main tool for your work, so you should choose your trimming scissors very carefully. Make sure they are ergonomic and fit comfortably into your hand. You are going to work with scissors for quite a while, so good scissors can help you avoid getting blisters on your hands.

Most growers recommend having not one but at least two pairs of scissors as they quickly become so sticky that it is not possible to work with them any longer until you properly clean them. If you have a few pairs of scissors, you can switch them once they become covered in sticky resin and wash them all at once when you finish the whole cola.

You can also invest in shears of different sizes: a small pair for trimming and a large pair for cutting branches and big fan leaves.

When it comes to the type of scissors, you can choose any kind you like more, either Chikamasa scissors or spring-loaded scissors. They both work well, so the only factor you should think about is how comfortable are they for you.

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Cleaning supplies

If you do not want to waste your time, you had better have at least two pairs of scissors, a rag, and a cup or bowl with rubbing alcohol next to you. You can put sticky scissors into the bowl so that the alcohol loosens the resin and makes it easy to remove while you are operating with the clean pair of scissors. When it is time to switch again, you will simply take the scissors out of the bowl and wipe the blades with a rag. After being in contact with alcohol for several minutes, the resin will be removed with almost no effort.

Something to help you pass the time

Working on your buds may not be all that tiring physically, but it sure is boring. If there are at least two of you, the best option is to engage in a conversation. It can be a perfect time to tell all your favorite stories and share your ideas.

If you are trimming cannabis alone, listen to music, podcasts, stand-up comedy, or audiobooks. Everything that does not require your visual attention is great. However, you can still “watch” some old movies that you know so well you do not need to follow what is going on on the screen.

Practical guidelines on dry trimming

If you think all this information is way too theoretical and you are still in doubt how to do everything right, here is an example of the process of trimming, step by step.

1. Harvest cannabis and remove the large leaves

After you harvest your cannabis (here you can find out how to know whether your plants are ready to be cut off), remove the fan leaves from the branches. Even if you live in a dry climate, there is no reason to dry your buds together with foliage: the smaller leaves will do their work well enough. The fan leaves do not have the precious trichomes on them and should be removed completely. If you have a trimming machine, this is where you can apply it.

2. Hang your colas for drying

Between the first and second steps of the trimming process, your flowers should dry until the right condition. It means that you should trim the buds in such a way that are ready for use but require additional steps toward making them more aesthetically pleasing.

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3. Cut the buds from the branch

This step should be performed on a table or anywhere with an even surface. Take the dried branches and start cutting off the buds. The size of the buds should be comfortable for you to trim them later. They should not be too big, or else you risk missing some parts and leaving them untrimmed. At the same time, they should not be pea-sized either. This is what is called “bucking down.”

In this step, it is also recommended to pack the buds into brown paper bags—fill each bag with the amount you plan to manicure during one session or one day. This way, you will see how much work you need to do and how long it will take you to finish the whole harvest.

4. Prepare your working place

  1. Put an apron and gloves on.
  2. Sit in a comfortable chair.
  3. Place an additional pair of scissors, a rag, and a bowl with rubbing alcohol next to you.
  4. Put the bag with buds, the working scissors, and the tray into your lap and start trimming cannabis.

5. Trim the prepared amount of buds

Once you sit comfortably and have everything on hand, start removing all the extra foliage from your buds. Take a handful of flowers and slowly rotate them 360 degrees to see all the parts that should be cut off. Trim the leaves carefully so that you do not break the buds.

First, remove the stem at the bottom, then cut off the crow's feet that look like tiny pitchforks. Only after that start manicuring the bud itself. Try to make precise snips that do not break the trichomes. If you feel that your moves have become less precise because of fatigue, it is better to make a pause.

Do not forget to swap your scissors once they become dirty. The tools covered in resin are not sharp anymore and tend to damage the flowers instead of performing their job.

If it is your first time trimming the buds, take your time and let yourself do the work at your own pace. You will learn how to do it quickly within one day, but it is important to learn to do it carefully and precisely.

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Try to trim all the buds in the same way so that you have more or less similar buds in the end. You should be satisfied with your work.

Lots of growers or trimming workers consume what they are trimming while they are working. However, you may risk being either too sedated or hyper-focused on the quality, and both of these situations lead to wasting your time. It is okay to consume a bit of weed, a small amount that would not affect performing your work, or even separate work from fun completely. See what works better for you and what makes you more productive.

Some tips on trimming cannabis

  • Try to operate with the tips of your shears/scissors while trimming. It will let you keep your tool cleaner for longer and help avoid cutting off the necessary parts of the buds.
  • Trim away all the parts of the buds that are not fully covered in trichomes. All leaves and pistils that can be removed should be trimmed. Do not be afraid of cutting the pistils off, they do not have trichomes, and therefore do not contain cannabinoids. You can keep the pistils for aesthetic purposes though.
  • Do not throw away the trimmed material. Even though it contains smaller amounts of trichomes, it still has some (sometimes, a lot), so you can find a good purpose for it. After all the trimming work is done, you can use it for edibles, tinctures, or budders.
  • The ready trimmed buds should be placed in airtight containers. The best option is glass mason jars stored in cool dark places. You can find the information about curing cannabis here.
  • The hash from fingers and scissors can be used as a post-trimming treat. You can sprinkle it over a bowl of flowers and roll a joint, or you can dab it and celebrate the end of another hard-working day.

We hope your harvest will be gorgeous and our tips and instructions will help you make your buds as beautiful as they can be!

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