Cultivation There are two main schools of thought when it comes to trimming your mature, harvested cannabis flowers. Some believe that trimming should occur prior to drying, while others believe that it should occur once the flowers have dried. Here, we will take a look at the pros and cons of each method.
What you will need
Before starting the trimming process, it is important to ensure that you prepare correctly. You will need a set of clean, sharp scissors or shears, a plastic tray or tub to catch leaves and fallen trichomes, twine or string and a clothes line (or similar) to hang the branches from, and a good set of rubber or powder-free latex gloves. The gloves will ensure that your hands remain resin-free (cannabis resin is notoriously difficult to remove from skin) as well as allowing for efficient collection of any resin you collect that can later be turned into hashish.
As well as the above equipment, it is vital to ensure that your working environment is suitably prepared. The temperature of your trimming room should be maintained at a comfortable 18-24°C (65-75°F) and the relative humidity at 45-55%. Using an oscillating fan on a low setting will ensure good circulation of air—do not use fans on high settings while trimming, as you could end up losing trichomes in the breeze.
Lastly, it is highly advisable to set up a carbon filter and extract fan to ensure that the powerful aroma of cannabis does not become apparent to neighbours or passing police officers. Most growers understand the necessity for maintaining an odour-filtration system while their plants grow, but it is surprising how many still fail to understand the importance of using filters while trimming—which is arguably the time cannabis smells the most powerful.
Trimming cannabis flowers before drying
The vast majority of cannabis growers will trim off the outer fan leaves and some of the smaller leaves prior to drying, as this ensures good airflow around the flowers as they dry. However, the question of when to trim and manicure your flowers so that the majority of leaf matter is removed is somewhat trickier.
Some growers will trim off everything prior to drying, leaving the flowers looking as they will eventually look when ready for consumption or sale (although obviously much larger, as the moisture content is still present!). This technique is known as ‘wet trimming’. Others will only trim what is necessary to ensure good airflow, and will leave the remaining leaves to dry along with the flowers; this technique is somewhat unsurprisingly known as ‘dry trimming’.
When ‘wet trimming’ leaves, great care must be taken to avoid damaging the flowers and their delicate trichomes. Expert trimmers develop a steady, careful technique whereby the leaves are removed at the petiole (the small stalk that attaches the leaf to the main stem) and the blade tips used to gently lift the leaf away from the flower. The trichome-coated inner leaves can be put aside and kept to make water hash or solvent extracts.
Wet trimming is often considered ‘easier’ than dry trimming, and is often favoured by large-scale commercial growers for this reason. It also reduces the possibility of mould growth, and increases airflow around the flowers themselves as they are not surrounded by leaves. Wet trimming also allows flowers to dry quickly, although the downside of this is that drying may occur unevenly. Many growers complain that the overall quality of the flower—in terms of taste and aroma—is severely impacted compared to the end result of dry trimming.
Trimming cannabis flowers after drying
The process of dry trimming is straightforward. First, the large fan leaves and some of the smaller (but still mostly trichome-free) leaves are removed. Then, the branches are hung with the remaining leaves still in place and left for at least 3-4 days (although some may leave them for as long as 7-10 days) so that the majority of the moisture in the flowers has evaporated.
Once the crop is dry, the process of trimming the remaining leaves can commence. As the branches are dry at this point, it is very important to trim while holding the branches over a tray or tub to catch the leaves as they fall, along with any loose trichomes or fragments of bud that may be dislodged by the movement of the scissors. When trimming wet, the trichomes are far less likely to be dislodged.
To successfully dry trim cannabis without dislodging too much flower material it is necessary to employ a kind of ‘skimming’ motion with the scissors. The leaves are so fragile when dry that it is often unnecessary to close the blades of the scissors fully to cut them away from the flower; instead, the sharp edge of the blade is enough to break through the delicate leaf matter. Experienced dry trimmers will utilize this skimming motion so effectively that it appears that the leaves are simply being ‘brushed’ off the flowers, leaving the flowers themselves intact.
The dry trimming method is preferred by many growers, and is often used in favour of wet trimming for smaller grows where quality is more important than quantity. Dry trimming allows for more even drying of the flowers, although it may take a day or so longer than wet trimming. It also results in superior flavours and aromas compared to wet trimming, possibly as the leaves act as a conduit for the flowers and allow for gradual, even loss of moisture—but total retention of terpenes. The downside of dry trimming is the increased loss of trichomes from the flowers, as well as the untidier appearance of the finished flowers.