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It’s Trim Time: A List of Everything You Need to Properly Trim Cannabis

PHOTOS Swami Select


It’s Trim Time: A List of Everything You Need to Properly Trim Cannabis

One half of the dynamic duo behind Swami Select breaks down all the tools and gear you’ll need once it’s time to take down your crop.

Once again it is that season when the days grow shorter and harvest is completed, and so our thoughts turn to trimming. Not just the trimmings for Thanksgiving dinner or trimming the Christmas tree, but to trimming the cannabis crop! Now that you have grown your plants to perfection, you’ll need to redirect your energy to manicuring the flowers which is the final step to show off the beauty of the bud.

After harvesting and drying them until the stems snap and excess moisture is evaporated, we like to wrap the bud covered branches in unbleached Kraft paper. We roll them into big “burritos” and stand them up in plastic tubs so they stay fresh – not too dry and not too moist –  and maintain temperature and humidity at 60º and 60 percent.

The next step is to prepare your trimming area, making sure it is clean and comfortable. I recommend putting plastic sheets on the floor, so you’re not grinding extra leaves and waste into your carpets, and also a plastic tablecloth on the large table you’ll be using. Some people prefer to sit on a couch with a trim tray on their lap but I find that it’s preferable to be able to spread out on a table and keep my back straight while sitting in a chair

Bucked cannabis rolled in Kraft paper.

Gear You’ll Need to Get the Job Done & How to Use it

Trimming scissors  

I recommend the orange handled Chikamasa brand, but if you’re trimming a very large amount you may want to have other styles on hand as well to switch between in order to avoid repetitive stress injury. I also suggest that if your hands start to feel tired, stretch your arms in front of you, turn your palms upwards and stretch your fingers wide. This is a good relaxation technique to employ occasionally.

Trim Bin or Large Tray

It is well worth the investment to buy a Trim Bin online or at your local grow shop or headshop. They are ergonomically designed to rest your hands in a comfortable position. Best of all, the built in 2-level screened system allows the kief to strain through to the tray below so you can collect the resinous trichomes that accumulate. They can be used to make cannabis butter, hash or simply sprinkle onto your joints for an extra boost. You can also use a simple flat tray or even a plate, but whatever it is, be sure to keep it clean.

Good Lighting

You’ll want a desk lamp with an expandable range such as this one. I like it because it offers natural daylight as well as a built-in magnifying glass and clamp-on mounting options. Always have good bright light, and be sure to protect your eyes with glasses or goggles. Another tip about your eyes while trimming: Be aware. Do not put your fingers in your eyes or the resin from trimming will sting like crazy! A magnifying glass is beneficial so you can observe the buds closely if you have reason to believe they have mold or powdery mildew.


In the old days, no one wore gloves of any kind while trimming, and then we’d wonder why we were so high by the end of the day! Cannabis resin will gather on your fingers and seep through your pores, so not only will you have super sticky hands that take lots of scrubbing with oil to clean, but you’ll get too stoned to focus. There are several types of gloves on the market and people have their own favorites. Some trimmers prefer the ones with powdered latex while I like the textured nitrile varieties that are powder free. Sample a few to find what is to your liking.

A Reynolds turkey bag full of trimmed cannabis.

Turkey Bags

I wonder who it was that figured out that turkey oven-roasting bags hold in the smell of their contents so very well. Hence, back in the days of the “traditional” illicit market, growers used them so that no skunky smell gave away the clue of what was in their car as they drove the buds to their final destinations. At one point in the late nineties, the small village of Laytonville, situated in the heart of the Emerald Triangle, actually won an award from Reynolds Company for selling the most turkey bags! Over the years, it has become obvious that these bags really do contain the terpenes and freshness of your cannabis. I recommend you don’t buy the small expensive boxes of them at the grocery store, but go on-line or to your local grow shop where they are considerably less expensive in bulk. Also available now are “Ostrich Bags” which are really huge for larger plants.

Ziplock Bags

I use these for the shake and smalls leftover from trimming, and am sure to label them according to their cultivar. The shake, aka trim, can be used for making edibles or hashish. The smalls are what the farmer traditionally keeps and smokes while selling the full flowers. If this is your personal crop, and not for sale, you can just include the smalls with the full flowers, but you may still want to separate them as you don’t need to trim the smalls as finely.

Smalls Bowl

Just something funky will do – I  set this to the side of my trim bin to hold the small buds if you are separating them from the fully trimmed flowers.

Masking Tape & Sharpies

It’s always smart to label your cannabis as much as possible, especially if you have several cultivars. Use a dark black Sharpie to label the Kraft paper “burritos” once you take the branches down from drying. Then be sure to also label your bags with finished trimmed flowers so you never lose track of which strain is which.


It’s best to wear some covering as your clothes will otherwise be covered with weed! Avoid knits, flannel and woolens that seem to have a magnetic attraction for leaves.

Plastic Tubs

Once trimmed, you’ll put your flowers into a turkey bag. Then store them in large plastic tubs in a cool and dark place. You may also want to take out some buds to place into well-sealed glass jars, preferably of a dark or opaque color, and again place these in a cool and dark place for storage.

Water Mug

Place a mug next to your trim space for dipping your scissors to keep them clean. This trick is not widely known but it really works. After every few buds, depending on the stickiness of the strain, just dip your scissors into the water, shake them off and continue. The dampness is just fine for the buds and it will keep your scissors so clean and smooth that you’ll never have to switch them out or dip them in alcohol.

Trim scissors being dipped into a mug filled with water.

Audiobooks and Podcasts

While you are snipping away, it really helps to listen to something entertaining. You’ll be surprised how fast the time goes. Best to avoid videos, as you need to keep your eyes on your work. I like to find some juicy, really long books that entice me to keep trimming away.

Trimming Techniques

Now that you are all set up, put on your apron and gloves and sit in your favorite trimming chair. First, you’ll have to “buck” the branches, which means removing any large stems and fan leaves — the large leafy matter that protects the buds but doesn’t have any real cannabinoids — and take each and every bud off of the branch. You’ll be left with individual buds that now can be manicured with your scissors.

Cut off any extra leaf and remove the small stem pieces so that only the bud remains in all her glory. Be careful not to trim it too closely as there is beneficial resin on some of the smallest leaves which serve to protect the bud. No one wants a “mowed down” look. Our rule for top shelf flowers is that no bud smaller than a nickel goes into the full buds bag – they go into the smalls bowl to be consumed in-house.

Take your time and get into a meditative rhythm. Remember to dip your scissors into the water mug after every couple of buds to keep your scissors clean so they don’t get sticky. Before you know it, hours have passed and you’ll have a nice pile of beautiful buds. Whether for commercial or personal use, now is the time to showcase to perfection the months of work it took to grow these plants.

So get your girls ready to greet the world and enjoy the trimming season! 

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