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Trimming Weed: How To Trim Your Marijuana Plant In 5 Easy Steps

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Trimming weed from a jar

Trimming weed may seem like a daunting activity. But take it from the professionals — it’s not as hard as all that. In fact, it’s pretty simple, and we’re going to teach you how.

In this article, we’ll show you the best way to trim your weed for maximum potency. We’ll even tell you how you can use all the stuff you trim off your bud to make edibles, creams, and other fun stuff.

Why Trimming Weed Is Essential

Trimming weed is essential during the harvesting process because it reduces the harshness of the finished product.

Leaves contain more chlorophyll than the flowers (buds), so they will always feel more acidic in your throat when burned. Getting rid of those leaves will make the buds smoother and easier to smoke.

Marijuana leaf

Trimming weed also improves THC concentration. Leaves, by nature, have a lower concentration of trichomes.

If you leave the leaves on the bud, gram-for-gram there will be fewer trichomes and, as a result, less THC in the finished product. That can affect potency, flavor, and the overall experience of burning down.

How To Trim Your Marijuana Plant

Supplies For Trimming Weed

  • Pruning snips
  • Pruning shears
  • Disposable rubber gloves (thin latex medical gloves, not the thick dishwashing gloves)
  • Three trays or cookie sheets (one for the cut branch, one for the trimmings, and one for your finished bud)
  • Rubbing alcohol (for cleaning)
  • Rag (for cleaning)

Trimming Weed In 5 Easy Steps

Before we begin, we’re going to suggest that you leave the pot plant standing for the time being. Cut off one branch at a time so you can get the hang of trimming weed before you go all-in and harvest the whole plant.

1a) Set Up Your Weed-Trimming Area

Give yourself plenty of room when setting up your area for trimming weed. A kitchen table works well in this regard (minus the cat, of course).

Table for trimming weed

Having done this many, many times, we recommend having some type of entertainment on hand. Trimming weed in a quiet environment can get extremely boring and tedious really quickly.

If you have a large coffee table in front of your TV, clear it off and set up your trimming area there. Or maybe you have a folding table you use for cards or puzzles. Spread your trays and tools there and go to work.

If all else fails, just sit on the floor. That said, you will need to be comfortable because you’re going to be here for a while.

This is a great time to binge watch one of your favorite shows or movie series. Preferably, something you’ve already seen since your attention is going to be on trimming weed.

1b) Ventilate

Trimming weed is a smelly job (good smelly, not bad), so it’s a smart idea to run an exhaust fan (crack a window, yo) or a carbon scrubber to reduce the dank odor. This is an optional step, but let’s just say that you’ve been warned.

2) Don Your Gloves

This step is also optional — but highly recommended. Trimming weed is a sticky job, and resin will get everywhere. If you don’t want to constantly wash your hands throughout the process, keep a box of disposable latex gloves nearby.

If you opt for the ungloved route, be sure to have plenty of rubbing alcohol on hand to cut the sticky icky off your digits. Trust us, soap and water don’t cut it.

If you trade in your used gloves for a fresh pair, set the old pair in a bowl or at the corner of your tray. Then when you’re done trimming weed, see if you can extract any of the material off the surface of the gloves.

Why would you want to go to all that trouble? Because that stuff is basically hash and will make a nice addition to your next smoke sesh.

3) Cut A Branch Off Your Plant

Now that you’re all ready to go, cut a branch off your plant and lay it on one of the cookie trays.

Some of the branches on your cannabis plant will be pretty thick. Scissors won’t do. We recommend buying a sturdy pair of pruning shears (like the ones pictured below) that you use exclusively for trimming weed.

Tool for trimming weed

These shears are made for cutting thicker branches and stems, unlike snips that you’ll use later for the finer work of cutting off the leaves and such.

In the absence of pruning shears, you can use a knife to cut a branch off the main stem, but shears will make it quick and easy. If you skip the shears and go with the knife, at least use a serrated blade to chew through the stem.

When you’re choosing where to cut, only remove branches that you can handle easily. We suggest keeping the length of the branches you cut to between 18 and 24 inches if possible.

4) Remove The Large Fan Leaves

“How can you tell the difference between a fan leaf and all the other leaves on the marijuana plant?” you ask. The fan leaves look like every picture you’ve ever seen of a pot leaf.

Chances are, they’ll look something like this:

Fan leaves on a marijuana plant

They’ll be growing out of the buds at the ends of the branches. When trimming weed, you can usually remove these leaves by hand. The stems will snap off with a little pressure from your fingers.

This is where it’s good to have on latex gloves because your fingers are going to come in contact with a lot of resin.

Don’t discard these leaves. They’re good for other things (we’ll talk about that at the end). Just pile them on one of the empty cookie trays for now.

5) Snip Off The Sugar Leaves

After you remove the fan leaves, you’ll be able to see smaller leaves sticking out of the bud. Typically, just the tips of those leaves will emerge from the bud and you won’t be able to see (or get ahold of) the stems.

This is where your smaller pruning snips come into play.

Snips for trimming weed

Pruning snips (like the ones shown above) have a much smaller blade than pruning shears and are meant for the delicate work of cutting small stems, flowers, and leaves. Pruning snips are usually spring loaded and don’t require a lot of hand strength to use.

This is a good thing because you’re going to be snipping a lot of stuff away from the bud while you’re trimming weed.

With snips in hand, cut the sugar leaves so that they’re flush with the bud itself. Do your clipping over the cookie tray that’s already holding your fan leaves. Remember, you can use all this plant matter later while you’re waiting for your harvest to be ready for consumption.

If your snips get too sticky to use while you’re trimming weed, scrape off as much of the resin as possible and save it for later. Then clean the blades with rubbing alcohol and a rag.

When you’re done trimming weed, the finished bud will look something like this:

Marijuana bud after trimming weed

Try not to cut the actual bud, but get rid of as many of the leaves as possible. It’s all right if you leave some (especially on your first try), but any leaf matter left on the bud will make for harsher smoke when you decarboxylate.

Place the finished branch on the third cookie sheet, and go back to your plant (with shears in hand) for a new piece to trim. Repeat this process until you’ve removed all the branches from your pot plant.

What To Do After Trimming Weed

Unfortunately, trimming weed is only the first step in producing a finished product (i.e., ready to smoke). We know the wait can be hard, but the next step — drying and curing — is crucial if you want a smooth-tasting product with plenty of cannabinoids and terpenes intact.

Drying and curing involves hanging your nugs in a temperature- and humidity-controlled environment for a week or so, then transferring them to storage containers to cure for anywhere from one month to six months.

But wait! That stuff you cut off while trimming weed is useful too. And it gives you something to do while you wait for the buds to cure. Here’s how you can get the most out of every part of the marijuana plant.

  • Stalks — Toss them in a grinder or chipper to make mulch.
  • Fan leaves — Juice them or brew them as weed tea.
  • Sugar leaves — Cook in cannabutter.
  • Roots — Brew into tea or prepare as a topical cream.

Honestly, there’s so much you can do with the cannabis plant that once you start looking, you’ll be amazed at the awesome things canna-enthusiasts have come up with (smoking meat with the stems!).

Do a little research and try out your favorites. It really does bring a whole new meaning to the term Reuse/Recycle.

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