Today, we’re talking about trimming buds.
This is a crucial step during the harvesting process to give you the best end product possible, so it deserves its own discussion.
In today’s harvest guide, we’ll cover:
The best place to start is at the beginning, so let’s kick it off by discussing what bud trimming is.
Bud trimming is just as the name suggests — pruning your buds. Perhaps a better way to think of it is that you’re manicuring around your buds.
In short, you’re trying to remove all the excess plant material that is not your buds.
Many growers dread the idea of trimming, because it can admittedly be a lot of work and a tedious task. Beginner growers may wonder why trimming buds is even necessary at all.
However, expert growers who produce quality product know that it’s an essential undertaking.
The simple fact of the matter is, you must trim your buds. Here are the three most important reasons why…
1. Appearance: Because high-value plants are often displayed in glossy magazines, in jars at dispensaries, and at other places for sale, well-manicured buds have become necessary to give your product the appearance of being potent and desirable. So yes, trimming makes your buds more visually appealing and, like it or not, it’s now the new standard.
2. Smoother product: When your final product is ingested, excess leaves on the buds can make for a harsher experience when smoked. But when you trim off the excess, you create a much smoother product to consume, which your customers will thank you for.
3. Trichome concentration: The fact is, the highest concentration of trichomes are found on the buds and much less so in the small leaves surrounding them. Trichomes are like tiny factories that produce the hundreds of known cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids that make for potent, unique, effective, high-value plants. Gram for gram, there are more trichomes in the buds than the leaves, so trim the leaves for maximum potency.
Having said that, you don’t want to waste the trimmings from your plants. Indeed, these offcuts can be valuable.
In fact, many strains have trichome-encrusted so-called sugar leaves that are attached to the buds. And some are so short, you can’t even see the stems, just the tips.
Even these trichome-heavy, tiny leaves will give your buds a harsher experience, so it’s best to remove them — but definitely don’t waste them!
Why? Because if you collect all the plant matter you cut off your buds, you can later use them to create other products such as hash, teas, butter, tinctures and edibles. And depending on how big a harvest you’re trimming, you can stretch your dollars and really do some amazing things with all the excess you prune.
Some growers, especially those who are just getting started, wonder about the differences between dry and wet trimming, and which is best for them.
It’s pretty simple.
Wet trimming means that you trim your buds directly after harvesting them and before they dry, whereas dry trimming refers to drying your buds first and then trimming them.
There are a lot of different ways to look at which is better, but to simplify things, here’s what we recommend:
In this article on harvesting, we explain how to do a wet trim. For the first-time grower who is primarily working solo, this is a great option.
Likewise, if you’re trimming a big harvest and you’re using a trimming machine, you might be using one that requires you to trim wet. In that case, your choice is made for you.
If for whatever reason you need to get the product out the door as quickly as possible (i.e., you need to trim plants in your current location and move all your buds somewhere else for the longer time it takes to dry), you’ll be doing it wet, too.
You may not have a choice in the wet vs. dry debate. However, if you do, we recommend dry trimming.
1. New dry trimming machines: If you insist on using a machine for trimming, there are now dry-trimming gadgets on the market to aid in this task. So you no longer have to trim wet, just because you’re using a machine.
2. Consistent weights: Many growers aim for well-manicured, hand-trimmed buds for maximum visual appeal. And once you’re getting bigger harvests, you’ll need to hire workers. The best way to keep track of how much to pay your workers is by how much they’ve trimmed in weight. For this reason, you’ll need to dry trim to better keep track of how much weight is lost through trimming compared to the weight lost from plant matter simply drying out.
3. Easier on buds: If you trim while your plants are wet before placing your buds somewhere to dry, this process can cause plants to become misshapen. Plants are softer when wet, and as a consequence laying them on their side will likely cause them to flatten on the side facing down. Likewise, some strains can take on different colors while drying. Wet trimming often dries buds faster because there’s less foliage to dry. You’ll want a somewhat slower drying period, so if you operate in a low humidity environment, you’ll definitely want to dry trim. Finally, if you’re curing before you trim, then the excess leaves can somewhat protect your nuggets while drying and curing.
1. Big pruning shears: These are necessary for cutting through the tough stalks and branches of the plant.
2. Sharp trimming scissors: Smaller, sharper snips, like Fiskars Softgrip Micro-Tip Pruning Snip, are ideal for trimming buds and the smaller leaves around buds.
3. Gloves: While not a must-have item, a pair of gloves will make things cleaner and more sanitary while you’re handling your buds — otherwise your hands will be covered in sticky resin.
4. Rubbing alcohol: Used to clean resin from your hands, tools and work area.
5. Containers: You’ll need containers like cooking trays or bowls, but we highly recommend the Trim Bin by Harvest More. You’ll need several — one for the branches you cut off, one for final trimmed buds, and one for all the other trimmings you remove.
It’s harvest time, and you’re ready to trim your plants. Here’s our easy-to-follow guide on how to do a wet trim…
1. Cut the branches with buds into manageable sizes. You’ll use your large shears to cut through the thicker branches. It’s pretty simple — to easily handle them, just make sure the branches attached to the buds aren’t too short or too long. Place them gently in a container and bring to your workstation where you’ll finish trimming.
TIP: Because your buds are still wet, they are softer and so laying them down can flatten them. To protect the buds, some growers will hang them from a line, similar to hanging wet clothes.
2. Remove fan leaves. First, you’ll want to remove any large fan leaves, a.k.a water leaves. These are the larger leaves that are bright green and with no “sugar.”
3. Close manicure the small leaves. Next, you’ll want to go ahead and trim the so-called sugar leaves, which are the small leaves that stick out of buds. How you trim these and how much is up to you. Some people like to leave them on if they’re covered in trichomes instead of trimming them. The more you remove, the less harsh your product. We recommend removing all of them, but trim your buds closely over your separate container that’s going to collect all these trichome-covered sugar leaves, so you can use them later for other products.
NOTE: You’ll need to decide how much of the stems you want to remove during this step, which is based on how you’re planning on drying your buds. If you cut the buds entirely off the stems, you’ll have to use something like a drying rack to place the buds on to dry. If you leave a little stem, you can instead hang them from a line to dry.
4. Time to dry. At this point, your buds should be trimmed and looking the way you want them to. You’ve either removed all the stems and placed buds on a drying rack, or you’ll have enough stems left attached with which to hang buds to dry.
Here is the ideal environmental conditions and timeline for drying:
5. Time to cure. You’ll want to use airtight jars, similar to glass Mason jars, for curing your buds. After they have dried (i.e., they pass the snap test), put your buds in the jars and follow your curing process.
Again, we start at harvest time…
1. Cut the branches with buds into manageable sizes. Similarly to wet trimming, you’ll start by using your large shears to cut through the thicker branches. It’s pretty simple — just make sure the branches attached to the buds aren’t too short or too long for you to easily handle them. Place them gently in a container and bring to your workstation where you’ll finish trimming.
2. Remove fan leaves. Again, the first step is to remove any large fan leaves (a.k.a. water leaves). These are the larger leaves that are green, and with no “sugar.”
3. Hang to dry. Following are the ideal environmental conditions and timeline for drying:
Now you’ll have a short break between the first steps in the trimming process and finishing your buds, so keep that in mind for planning purposes. You’ll continue to let your buds dry until they pass the snap test. When that stem snap is audible and crisp, they’re dry and ready to be trimmed.
4. Close manicure small leaves after drying. Time to trim the so-called sugar leaves, which are the small leaves that stick out of buds. Again, we recommend removing all of them to make a less-harsh product. Plus, it makes buds look better. But don’t forget to trim your buds closely over your separate container, which will collect all the trimmings to be used later. This is basically the last step of the trimming process, so continue trimming until your buds are the desired shape. They should look how you want your final product to look when displayed on the shelf.
5. Time to cure. This is the final step, where you seal the buds inside your airtight jars.
We’ve covered a lot of information today, and we hope it helped.
The steps to trimming are not much different between a wet trim vs. a dry trim. The main difference is of course the timing of when you dry your buds.
For some growers, the tedious task of bud trimming is not something they look forward to.
But hopefully, armed with this information, you won’t dread it quite as much and will learn to enjoy it, because you know you’re one step closer to bringing your buds to market.
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