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By Andrew Gordon and Ayad Maher
After months of attention, patience and effort to grow your beloved crop, it is time to decide whether you will trim, and if so, how you will trim your harvest.
Many people fear the process of trimming cannabis buds (also known as “manicuring” your cannabis). If you trim, how close do you trim? Do you leave a little leaf like a fringe on a skirt? Or do you trim only for the full bud experience? My friend's hubby has no use for trimming. He's a “trim before you grind” kind of guy, and I say, why not? No need for mix!
Some growers believe that trimming your buds results in a better look. Trimmed cannabis buds have a more uniform appearance, showing off the calyces, pistils, and their trichomes. Consumers tend to prefer a presentable and aesthetically pleasing product. If you’re trying to move away from consumer and toward producer status, you are probably familiar with “bag appeal,” or a product that looks enticing all on its own. As you can see in the picture above, the manicured nug looks a lot more appealing, to most people, than the untrimmed beside it.
As of recently (especially after legalization in numerous states), a good trim is associated with good bud, and untrimmed buds tend to be less appealing for many users.
Many smokers believe that when trim leaves are smoked, they impact the overall flavor of the smoke/vapor, and cause the smoke quality to be much harsher. There is a general consensus that trimmed buds are widely preferred, but when you’re growing for your own consumption, prepare your buds however you please! The sugar leaves, in particular, are covered in trichomes. If you’re not planning to use them to prepare extracts, you may as well be putting them to use by smoking them.
If you were living in a state where marijuana is legal, trimmed buds are much like what you find in your local dispensary. They are also what you’ll see in magazines and online photos.
Finally, cannabis buds, particularly their calyces, have greater cannabinoid concentration than the rest of the plant (such as the trichome-encrusted sugar leaves). That means that you will have a less potent product, gram-for-gram, if your buds remain untrimmed, compared with manicured buds. The trade-off, however, is that you lose a small amount of weight from your buds when you trim them. But you were going to use your trim for extracts anyway, so it’s hardly a loss.
Related Article: 1 Gram Cannabutter Recipe - How to Make Quality Marijuana Butter?
Trimming your buds is the typical course of action for most hobby growers and there are few different methods you can use to get the job done.
If you are growing weed as a hobby, hand trimming should suffice. However, if you have a large-scale grow, i.e. 100 ft.2 of canopy or more, you may want to consider investing in trimming machines.
Before purchasing a trimming machine, be aware that there are some common issues with them: they're not only expensive, but also have list of maintenance issues, and due to that, they haven't completely replaced hand trimming practices in most markets.
Based on my experience, trimming your bud calls for individual attention to each nug. Each strain is unique in terms density, shape, size; although the general idea is always the same, each strain, individual plant, and nug is unique, and needs to be trimmed precisely for the greatest bag appeal and smoke quality. The trimming machine, unfortunately, almost certainly results in damaged trichomes and consistent, but imperfectly manicured, buds.
Related article: Top 10 Best Bud Trimming Machines: Which Is Right for You?
So, in conclusion, hand trimming is the best option for the typical hobby grower. It's an integral part of the experience of growing your own weed. As for those who are running a large operation, hiring people to trim your harvest can be expensive, and a machine trimming method might be feasible, but if you are the type of person who cares about producing high quality bud, it’s totally worth it!
There are two school of thought regarding when trimming should take place:
Wet trimming is possibly the most chosen method, widely used among growers new and old. Wet buds are much more voluminous, thus easier to process; trimming wet often results in a tighter and more precise final product. On top of that, it's easier to trim the sugar leaves when they are wet, as they are still extending outwards. Once dry, these leaves will curl up and may be more difficult to trim closely with precision. Wet trimming your buds may reduce the duration of your drying process as well, as the trimmed leaves are no longer present to hold moisture.
Related article: Top 7 Online Stores for Marijuana Growing Supplies and Equipment
One of the cons of wet trimming is that it can be a bit messy. The process can turn clean scissors into a sticky mess (due to the resin that deposits on the blades as you trim), which can require frequent cleaning breaks.
On the other hand, dry trimming is prefered by many growers because the process is less sticky and messy despite the buds being smaller and more difficult to handle.
Dry trimming can be helpful in lower humidity environments. You want your buds to dry slowly after harvest; leaving fan and sugar leaves should slow down the drying process to some extent.
You won't be able to trim your buds properly without the right supplies. Here is what you will need:
Some things to consider when choosing your trimming scissors:
An article that evaluates some of the best options on the market: Top 10 Best Precision Trimmers Pruning Shears
As you will be holding those scissors for a long period of time, try them out before you buy them if possible. They should fit comfortably in your grip.
Keep in mind, as we said earlier, those scissors will get sticky due to the residue from the marijuana plant, so make sure to buy pair of scissors that will be cleaned easily. It’s worth considering buying multiple pairs, so that you can have friends help with your trim, and so that you can have a pair soaking in ethanol or another cleaning agent while another pair is in use.
Once resin start building up, your trimming scissors start slowing down and your cuts will be less precise. This is when it's time to switch them up with the other pair, and soak/clean the used one simultaneously. I usually dip them in ethanol or rubbing alcohol (isopropyl) for up to 15 minutes (which will dissolve the resin), take them out, wipe them with a rag, and leave them to dry.
It can be a good idea to invest in two pair of scissors and a larger pair of pruning shears. The larger pruning shears will help for branch cutting and the smaller ones for more precise trimming.
You will need to find a comfortable and well-lit space to lay out your trimming tools when settling in for a long trim. Important to stay away from dusty places with excess hair, or any type of particulates to avoid contaminating your buds.
You will be sitting for quite some time while trimming your bud; it’s very important to find a comfortable chair. I suggest a zero gravity chair. This type of chair can provide phenomenal support for your back, while allowing you to recline up to your preference. For your the well-being, it's highly recommended to avoid hunching over and stressing your lower back during your trimming session (such as by sitting on camping chairs, couches, etc.).
Most trimmers prefer using trimming trays. They're easy to move around and can provide a lot of utility for your session. Check out Top 5 Best Trim Trays for Weed. We recommend any simple designed tray that provide a screen to collect kief. But if you are on budget, sprouting trays will be sufficient.
One last thing you should consider before buying a tray is how easy it will be to clean. We recommend either stainless steel or pyrex glass, but most polyethylene designs will suffice.
A solid color apron will help you identify and brush off any excess trim leaves or pistils that wind up on your lap. A silk apron won't cohere with the resin, making it easier to brush off the trim debris.
Gloves will keep your hands resin-free. My to go gloves are BudGloves, but any disposables will suffice. Gloves are useful to protect your hands from the sticky resin, which can be a pain to clean off. They will also protect your buds from any dirt and oils that are on your hands while trimming.
A trimming session may take a long time. It’s a good idea to have a plan to keep yourself entertained. Any audio based material is recommended over visual; music, stand-up comedy, podcasts, audio-books, or even a good conversation with your follow trimmers are all great ways to pass the time.
I actually sometimes "watch" TV - Usually the type of TV shows I'm familiar with, which I don't need to actually watch, such as Family Guy, Seinfeld, and sometimes CNN.
Step 1: Remove the Fan Leaves: when initially harvested, the branches will be covered in fan leaves. Before starting the drying process, remove all the large leaves that do not have trichomes on them.
Step 2: Cut Buds From the Branch: also known as “bucking down," once your marijuana plant is dry, you can go ahead and start trimming. Without trimming the buds, cut them from the branches into the desired size.
Step 3: Fill Your Tray and Trim Away: collect the prepared buds in a paper bag, and put the bag next to your workstation. Grab a seat and a handful of your buds, and place them on your tray. Don't overload the tray - it may get too messy and eventually will slow down your work, or you may end up with trim or buds on the floor or your lap.
Step 4: Manicure the bud: cut off the extra plant matter, i.e. sugar leaves. Angle your scissors towards the nug and keep the scissors moving while making detailed cuts.
Trim with the scissors' tips, not the sides. This will keep your tools resin-free for longer time.
Save the trim. It can be used for edibles and/or tinctures. Those trims still have some cannabinoid, and if you are a frugal person, as I am, you will make good use of it.
Make sure to store your manicured buds in a proper container, preferably airtight containers such as glass jars.
Cannabis users all over the world have been judging their ganja by looks for years. I've even heard some people tell me they can decipher the strain just by looks. I giggle to myself each and every time I hear that. Truth is, a good trimmer can take four buds from the same plant and trim them so differently, you'd swear they were different strains.
As it stands today, there are likely 1000's of different strains of Cannabis and more being bred as I type. And of course there are similarities. I mean, they don't call it purple for no reason. The problem, however, is that we do indeed ingest with our eyes first.
The culinary industry uses this fact every single day. Presentation is everything! Chefs believe very strongly that when you make a judgment on a dish based on looks, it definitely affects how you will perceive the taste. The same thing is happening with our Cannabis.
Magazines and books only show the cream of the crop and we have new users believing that anything less than sparkly white coated nugs is inferior. This could not be further from the truth. I've ingested some pretty shabby lookin' buds and made friends with them quickly.
Looks don’t tell the whole story, and the idea that you can visually profile a strain before you even touch, taste, or smell it is a fallacy in my opinion..
Much of our legal Cannabis is getting visually profiled. Patients open up the bottle - a new experience for many who are used to the Ziploc entry method - and immediately make a judgment. Those poor little buds have had a long trip! Let them freshen' up a bit! They were jostling around in their plastic jars for hours trying to get to you, the least you can do is try them! But no, some judge by looks and deem them of lesser value. Even after ingesting, those bad looks remain in their memory, affecting their opinion of the strain and the hand that grew it.
The term "hand-trimmed" is a seal of quality not always offered anymore. I've had buds that were each carefully manicured by a human, and I've had buds that looked like hard green moon rocks: hand-trimmed vs. machine-trimmed. The truth comes out in the grind every time. We have to remember that these are flowers and flowers differ vastly sometimes. If you open your order of Cannabis and don't recognize the flower inside, don't panic! It may never look like the one in the magazine but that is no reason to shun it.
Grind it, vape it, smoke it! Experience your receptors' reaction to it. Feel the aroma-therapeutic action of the terpenes opening you up and motivating your thoughts. You may find that the ugliest duckling fits your system best. And you'll never know, unless you try.
Andrew Gordon is from the northeast USA, currently resides in Vermont with his wife, and has over 5 years of experience with cannabis cultivation. General interests include cultivation, extractions, skiing, reading books and playing video games. Professional experience includes mostly laboratory work in biotech. For any questions, you can reach to Andrew through his email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ayad Maher is a Cannabis Industry Entrepreneur, Blogger & Activist. eCommerce Specialist and Owner of a 420 Life Style Website; Monroe Blvd, an online smoke shop; 421Store, and an online CBD store; GoodyCBD.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in Jan 2018 and has been revamped and updated as needed for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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