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Is wet or dry trimming better for your cannabis?

August 6, 2019
(FatCamera/iStock)
You grew your weed to maturity and now it’s time to tackle trimming. Surely you already know the why: Getting rid of fan leaves (the larger leaves with stems connecting straight to branches or stalks) and removing excess sugar leaves (the smaller ones that protrude from flower clusters) ensures a smoother smoke.

But what about the age-old question of when? Do you trim wet, when it’s freshly harvested, or dry, after you’ve hung your plants for a week or two? Is there an in-between? (Spoiler: There is!)

Any approach has pros, cons, and a group of fanatics telling you their way is right. Read on to decide what’s best for you, or better yet, experiment with all methods. Note that with any method, trim—the stuff you cut off—can be saved and used for edibles, tinctures, or hash.

Related

How to trim your cannabis plants for beautiful buds

Wet trimming

When you trim your weed wet, you do it immediately after you cut down a plant and before you dry and cure.

Pros

  • With less moisture-filled foliage attached to the flowers, the dry will naturally speed up. This can be helpful in a humid climate in which you’re fighting mold problems and need to keep things moving along quickly.
  • Tight on space? Wet trimming is the way to go. Once you’ve removed all that extra greenery, stems, and stalks, the remaining buds will have a lot less volume and take up a lot less room.
  • While plants are still this fresh, trichomes, a.k.a. the THC-filled glands that get you high, are super sticky. Handled at this time, that stickiness helps them stay better connected to the plants, preserving them for later enjoyment.
  • Wet trimming is probably the easiest for novices. Before leaves dry up and curl inward, it’s easy to navigate your snips inside buds to remove full stems of leaves.
Related

Cannabis anatomy: The parts of the plant

Cons

Did we mention how sticky plants are at this time? In addition to sticking to the plants, trichomes will also get on your fingers, your trimming shears, your everything. You’ll need to plan ahead.

  • Keep a jar of rubbing alcohol and a rag at the ready to clean both your hands and your tools. Many trimmers wear latex gloves they can slip off to not get covered with the mess.
  • It’s a lot of work to clump harvesting and trimming together. Depending on your stamina and what else you’ve got going on, wet trimming can make your cannabis hobby all-encompassing for a stretch of time, depending on how many plants you’ve got to process.

Dry trimming

Another option is to hang your freshly harvested cannabis plants to dry straight after cutting them down. Once flowers are dry and stems snap—ideally 10 to 14 days later—you clip off the excess plant material that won’t get you high.

Related

Hand-trimmed vs. machine-trimmed cannabis: Which is better?

Pros

  • Keeping on more leaves initially increases humidity around the flowers and slows down the dry. In an extremely arid climate, this can be a godsend, as too quick of a dry causes excess terpene loss.
  • Trichomes harden as weed dries, reducing the amount of get-on-everything stickiness. Dry trimming is a lot less messy.

Cons

  • Those less-sticky, less-messy trichomes are also more brittle and prone to breakage. You’ll have to handle your crop with care to preserve THC levels.
  • While the bounty will eventually dry up and shrink down in volume, hanging flowers—leaves and all—takes up a significantly larger amount of space than if you chopped it off in the first place. Make sure you have adequate drying space before going this route.

As-needed—the best of both worlds?

It doesn’t have to be so cut-and-dry (see what we did there?) when it comes to cannabis trimming. There’s a middle-of-the-road path that is a great option for the homegrower. In the as-needed method, you’ll remove the fan leaves while leaving the smaller sugar leaves intact.

Related

What to do with cannabis stalks, leaves, & stems from harvest

When buds are dry, cut them from their main stalk into smaller nuggets—a process known as bucking—and store, sugar leaves and all. When you are ready to dip into your stash, gently trim the excess sugar leaves.

Pros

  • This splits the labor into parts. There’s no one moment—either after harvest or after drying—when you’ve got a mountain of buds that need trimming.
  • The sugar leaves serve as built-in trichome protectors. Snip away to reveal beautiful, uncrushed flowers full of THC.
  • If you can get past the unconventional look, untrimmed flowers are actually quite a beautiful thing stored in a glass jar or metal container. Think: less turd, more dried flower.

Cons

It can be a pain to find the trimming shears and spend a few minutes giving a haircut when really all you want to do is smoke some weed.

Johanna Silver's Bio Image

Johanna Silver

Johanna Silver is the former Garden Editor of Sunset Magazine. She lives with her husband and young son in Berkeley, CA. In her garden she grows fruits, veggies, a little weed, and as many cut flowers as she can possibly fit.

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  • Honus finishes

    Dry trimming seems to preserve the terpene profile of your flowers. More leaf matter around your flowers while drying slows the process, which keeps those volatile terpenes from gassing off

  • ISRAEL BARAJAS

    In my experience, trimming before leaves become dry saves me a lot of labor intensive work. I also get to find any bugs, mold, or half eaten buds before the drying process. Don’t be lazy put in the work early. Trimming and curing is the hardest and the most boring part of cultivating cannabis. Do the right sacrifice early in the process and get rewarded with optimal smell/taste. My optimal drying room Temp. 70-75F, Humidity 60-65%, in a dark room-sealed.

  • BruceIshikawa

    No! Do NOT wear gloves or clean up with rubbing alcohol! Rub and scrape the goo off your hands, roll it into balls and make finger hash. This Himalayan delight is what they consume in Nepal and Afghanistan, though production is on a larger scale. Smoke in a hash pipe. Don’t be in a hurry, don’t be efficient. Slow down and enjoy EVERYTHING your plants are giving you.

  • Dave R

    Yes, scrape the heavy stuff off and roll it into balls. But for cleaning up your hands, use Olive Oil!
    Number one best thing to remove sticky THC from hands. AND ITS NATURAL!

  • Dianne Yonan

    I like to trim wet, much easier, also the sticky stuff on my scissors gets scraped and saved as a very tasty hash. Pay attention to some vaporizers as they sometimes have chambers where you can scrap up some good gooey hash oil. I just did that with my Mighty. The top section collects some really good goo. Happy trimming!

  • les

    I don’t understand the appeal of trimming off the sugar leaves, they are called that for a reason… and every bit as smokable/vapeable as the bud itself. And the buds look so much nicer untrimmed! Also, there is no more chlorophyll in those leave tan in rest rest of the bud.

  • CATRYNA49

    I wet trim leaving on the sugar leaves. I have 4 pairs of trim scissors and when each becomes too sticky to use, I change out for another pair. I scrape as much of the heavy stuff off, as possible, and put it on a little bit of parchment paper for later use and slip my scissors into a solution of lemon EO for later cleaning. To dry my larger buds, I put them in a dehydrator at the lowest setting, about 85° – 90°. They dry beautifully in about 12 hours and then I store them in 1/2 gallon canning jars. The leaves and smaller buds, that I trim off and don’t dry, I put in gallon zip lock bags and freeze for adding to my daily smoothies.