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5 Keys Steps for Trimming Cannabis Plants

By Dan Vaillancourt | Last updated: June 22, 2021
Key Takeaways

There’s more to properly trimming your buds than taking a pair of scissors and cutting off the leaves. For the best flavor, smell, and potency, check out Dan Vaillancourt’s tips to really get the most out of your grow.

Dry Trimming

The term “dry trimming” refers to a method of trimming the plant’s leaves after they have been dried on the stalk with the flowers. This insulates the flowers and allows them to dry slower, retaining the plant’s terpenes and producing the richest flavors and quality. You will want to be careful with the buds at this point as the trichomes will be more delicate and easier to knock off.

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Dry trimming is regarded by cannabis enthusiasts around the world as the best method of trimming to retain the plant’s craft-quality and flavor. It is, however, a more time consuming and delicate way of trimming compared to wet trimming, and most commercial grown cannabis will not be trimmed this way.

The best techniques for dry trimming include stripping the plant into multiple branches of flowers roughly 18-24 inches long (depending on plant size), removing all fan leaves, and then hanging the branches. The fan leaves are the largest leaves on the plant sent out to catch the light and each branch generally has a few of these unless they have been removed during the flowering cycle.

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Scissor-style cannabis trimmers

Scissor Trimming vs. Machine Trimming

Machines will make a grower’s life easier, but for the best quality, cannabis trimming machines are not the answer, unfortunately. At least, not yet. The problem lies in how precise of a job proper trimming does, considering we want to be as delicate with the flowers as possible, while also getting into small areas and precisely cutting leaves out and ideally dry trimming.

(Read also: 5 Flowering Stage Tips for Cannabis)

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For months you have been farming millions of tiny trichomes, the last thing you want to do is knock them off with a brush or aggressively tumble and cut with a machine. Of all the expensive trimming equipment I have seen the end product is night and day.

Scissor-trimmed flowers always come out on top compared to machine trimming in terms of flavor, smell, and look.

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Trimming Gear

Trimming can be a sticky business that can end up following you around if you aren’t prepared. Disposable suits are cheap and are a great way to keep the trim off your street clothes. If you don’t have disposable suits, then a change of clothes is recommended as the smell can easily stink up your vehicle or home. Powder-free gloves are always a must if you like to use your hands as well as sharp, spring-loaded scissors with rubbing alcohol and paper towels to clean them when they get gummy. Cleaning your scissors regularly will keep you trimming your best and damaging the flowers the least. A tray or bin will be useful to keep your working flowers on hand as well.

Grower handling harvested cannabis flowers

When to Trim Cannabis

The environment that your flowers are drying in is as important as how you grew them, which is why many will dry in the room they grew in. Air movement in the room should be moving well but without fans pointing directly at the flowers. Temperature for a craft-quality slow dry is ideal between 63-65°F with the humidity at 50-55 percent. Flowers will need to dry in this condition for 10-15 days on average depending on the density of the flowers. You will know the flowers are ready to trim when the stem they are connected snaps when bent. The flowers’ leaves and surroundings will feel almost too dry, but not to worry, there will be moisture inside them that will release throughout the curing process.

Curing Your Cannabis

You can spend months growing, dry trimming, and doing everything right. In the end, if you don’t cure your buds properly, you can ruin all your hard work. Curing will release chlorophyll amongst other stored chemicals, create a clean and even burn when smoked, and increase the smell and flavors. This is all dependent on a process called “burping” your cannabis while curing. Your cannabis needs to be freed of built-up chemicals regularly while curing, otherwise the chemicals your flowers release during curing will be leached back into themselves. This process is called burping and it involves releasing pressure and moisture from the jars by opening them up for a bit. Curing is best done in glass since the flowers will absorb most plastic smells and tastes. Curing needs to be airtight with the flowers filling the container to its fullest. Burping should be done two to three times for 10-15 minutes a day for at least two weeks, turning and moving the flowers around each time.

(Read also: The Art of Curing Your Cannabis Crop)

Much like aging a fine wine, trimming and curing takes time and is a crucial step to growing quality cannabis. By applying these final steps to your harvest, you will retain the most potency, smell, and taste in your flowers.

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Written by Dan Vaillancourt | Owner of 4Trees Cannabis Building Ltd.

Profile Picture of Dan Vaillancourt

Dan has designed and built hundreds of growing facilities as well as grown thousands of plants himself and spent countless hours in both the grow room and consulting. He owns 4Trees Cannabis Building Ltd., a company that designs and constructs growing facilities for both ACMPR as well as recreational (Micro-cultivation, LP). He is proud to be shaping Canada's cannabis industry.

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