Growing cannabis at home can be a super rewarding process, both because the final result is a great stash of home-grown weed, and because it could spark a lifelong love of gardening. Once your plants reach the right age of maturity, one of the final steps in the home-growing process is to trim the plants. Here, we are going to talk about how you know the time is right to start trimming cannabis plants and offer up a few tips, tricks, and bits of advice for fast, efficient cannabis trimming techniques. 

How to Tell When Your Plant is Ready to be Trimmed

Harvest time might be one of the most exciting moments for cannabis growers since this is the first step in the final process of growing cannabis. Cannabis plants should be harvested when their fan leaves begin to turn golden yellow, the pistils turn to bright orange or red, and the trichomes frosting the buds begin to turn a milky white. These are all signs that the cannabis buds are at full maturity, but that doesn’t mean you can just pluck them straight from the branches of the plant. 

To harvest, growers clip the branches of their plants, then hang them with buds still intact to begin the drying process. Depending on the strain, size of buds, the temperature of your drying room, and humidity levels, the initial drying process can take anywhere from 7-12 days, so it is important to check the buds daily to determine when you can begin the next step: Trimming.

Cannabis buds need to be trimmed for a few reasons. Firstly, trimming and removing the excess sugar leaves helps to create a more refined appearance, making the buds more visually appealing. Second, removing excess leaves and overgrowth helps to improve the potency of the buds, since the sugar leaves contain less THC, and can reduce the overall quality of the batch. Despite containing less THC, the leaves tend to be harsher and therefore more difficult to inhale. Removing the leaves helps to create a smoother smoking experience. 

Some growers prefer to wet trim, meaning that they remove the leaves early in the drying process, or before it has even begun. Other growers prefer to dry trim and wait until their crops are fully dried and more brittle before beginning the process of trimming. In our opinion, somewhere right in the middle is the perfect way to get all the benefits of both wet and dry trimming, so we suggest waiting until your buds are mostly dry, but still contain enough moisture to remain flexible to prevent breakage during the trimming process.  

Tools You Will Need for Trimming

Trimming cannabis is a relatively easy process, but you will need a little patience if you want to get it done right. Here are a few essential tools you will need to trim your cannabis plants: 

  • Debudder bucket lid: The Debudder bucket lid features six holes to accommodate different stem sizes and bud shapes, and is used to speed up the process of removing the dried buds from their stems in preparation for trimming.
  • Trimming scissors: Trimming scissors should be small, sharp, spring-loaded, and comfortable in your hands. Bonsai scissors, herb scissors, and kitchen shears are popular choices for hand trimming, and many are inexpensive and durable. Some popular options include Fiskar Softouch Micro-Tip snips, Grow1 titanium coated curved blade scissors, and basic bonsai pruning shears.

  • Gloves: Handling cannabis buds with bare hands can damage the outer coating of trichomes, leaving you with sticky fingers and less potent weed. Lengthy exposure to the oils of your fingers can also degrade the quality of the buds, so wearing plastic gloves while you trim is essential to producing the highest quality end product. 
  • Isopropyl alcohol: Like your fingers, the blades of your pruning shears will eventually become sticky with residue, making them less effective and more difficult to use. A quick wipe with isopropyl alcohol is all that it takes to fix the issue, so having a bottle on hand during trimming season is highly recommended.

  • Trays: A tray of some kind can be very helpful for keeping your trimmed and untrimmed buds organized. Rather than spreading your buds across a table, using a tray (or even a shallow cardboard box) helps to contain the flower and keep any dropped kief, bud, leaves, and shake.

  • Storage containers: Once your bud is trimmed, keeping it in an airtight container will help to preserve its freshness. Mason jars, ziplock baggies, vacuum-packed bags, and air-tight plastic containers are just a few of the many storage methods commonly used by home and commercial growers, so feel free to get creative when choosing your preferred method. 

How to Trim Your Cannabis Plant

Once you have your trimming station set up with all the supplies you need, you have turned on a good podcast, movie, or playlist, and you are ready to start trimming, you will need to follow a few basic steps. 

  1. Dubud your cannabis plants. ‘Debudding’ refers to the process of removing the buds from the long stems of the plant; this process can be done manually with pruning shears, but clipping each bud one by one can be quite time-consuming. To speed up the process, we recommend using a Debudder Lid or Edge.

  2. Add a few handfuls of bud to your tray. Avoid overfilling, since this will make keeping your trimmed and untrimmed bud separate more difficult.

  3. Remove the stem by trimming as close to the bottom of the bud as possible.

  4. Trim the sugar leaves sticking up from the bottom of the bud.

  5. Trim any excess sticking out from the bud – this includes any plant matter not coated in trichomes, leaves, and excess stem while being careful not to shave off the outer layer of the buds. 

Tips on Speeding Up Your Trim Time

By far the most tedious process of trimming is debudding – or, removing the buds from the stems of the plant. We love Debudder lids and edges because they turn the several minute long process of trimming a single branch into a second-long job that won’t leave your hands feeling tired or result in clumsily cut buds. Debudder lids perfectly strip the buds from the stems, preserving the natural shape and size and preparing entire plants for trimming in just minutes. 

Trimming Machines vs. Hand Trimming

Theoretically, cannabis trimming machines could speed up the trimming process, helping larger growers to process more efficiently and get their products to market faster. That said, trimming machines have yet to overtake hand trimming in the cannabis industry since hand-trimmed buds tend to look better and remain more intact. 

Trimming machines tumble and process buds into uniform shapes and sizes, often shaving off the edges and tips of the buds and removing potent trichomes from the surface, and destroying the unique beauty of the particular strain. Because of this, many growers prefer to hand trim, resulting in higher crop yields and more aesthetically pleasing buds. 

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Common Trimming Mishaps to Avoid

Want to have the most successful cannabis harvest possible? Do your best to avoid some of these common mistakes when trimming cannabis: 

  • Unsanitary conditions: You spent the whole growing season protecting your plants from pests and molds, so why should harvest be any different? Keeping your crops clean and processing them under sanitary conditions is super important for preserving quality, so be sure to keep your work surfaces clean, and to always clean scissors using isopropyl alcohol to eliminate bacterial contamination.

  • Discomfort: Something that will seriously slow down the trimming process is feeling uncomfortable, so be sure to have a comfortable chair and a table at an appropriate height to avoid physical fatigue.

  • Dull blades: Your scissors and shears need to be sharp, otherwise, you’ll just be crushing and tearing your buds. Sharp shears make precise, delicate cuts, and are vital for successful bud trimming. 

What To Do With Your Trimmed Plant

Once every bud has been removed from your cannabis plants, there are several basic things you can do with the bare plants. Our top choice is to uproot the plants and add them to your compost pile to create nutrient-rich compost for next season’s crops or your veggie garden. Leftover ‘shake’ or ‘trim’, the material removed from your buds during trimming, should be saved and used to infuse butter, to make teas, and to create other cannabis products.

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