The harvest is the busiest time of the year for a cannabis grower and for outdoor growers it becomes a race against time; we have at most a month and a half to cut our plants down and trim them before the dreaded bud-rot takes over and turns our hard work into a field of dead flowers. For amateur growers the time-crunch is further compacted by our work schedules as we plan our harvest around our weekends and other commitments. Taking the time to set up a proper trimming station is the first step towards a successful harvest but can be intimidating for the first time grower; here is CannaDan’s guide to setting up a proper trimming station to make sure your harvest goes as smooth as possible.
Comfort Comes First
Trimming cannabis can seem like a dream come true for the first time grower; we are surrounded by fresh, fragrant buds and get to enjoy the great outdoors in the wonderful September weather. A few hours later, however, the work become mindnumpingly dull as the repetitive motions in the outdoor heat can take a toll on our bodies.
Make sure your trimming station is in the shade, ideally with a gentle breeze to keep cool. Proper clothing can go a long way as well; a long sleeved white linen shirt will protect your skin from the sun (and loose trichomes that can stick to your body) and the material “breathes” a lot better than cotton or other fabrics that can cause someone to overhead.
A standing station is ideal, if you insist on sitting than make sure the chairs are ergonomic and without arms that can restrict your movement. Passive entertainment can help the long hours go by faster; re-acquant yourself with your favorite music, old television shows that you don’t have to pay too much attention to, or make up a playlist of your favorite stand up comedians.
The Tools of the Trade
A proper trimming station will not just be a comfortable place where you can watch reruns of your favorite sitcoms, it needs to a functional an efficient space where you can work with access to all of the proper tools you will need to trim your cannabis. Having the proper tools available will prevent you from making unnecessary trips to your local hardware store or waiting a few days for your latest Amazon purchase. Make sure you have all of these ready before the harvest!
Pruners, Trimmers, Clippers, and Spinners
Harvesting involves cutting, lots and lots of cutting. A first time grower on a budget might try to get away with a standard pair of scissors but will find the trimming process to be very slow and will develop cramps in their hands within a few hours! You don’t have to spend a ton of money on pruners and trimmers and a small investment in the proper tools will save you time and energy.
A small, inexpensive set of pruning shears is essential for the backyard cannabis grower. Pruning shears are used to remove branches from a cannabis plant and to break large branches down into smaller branches; they are not used for trimming leaves. Get a set with a short handle as you will need to “get inside” the plant without rustling too many buds. Cannabis branches are not particularly strong so you don’t need anything too expensive and a decent pair will last you years!
Hand trimmers are another essential tool for the harvest and are used for cutting away fan leaves and trimming the smaller leaves that surround cannabis buds. The main advantages of hand trimmers over a pair of scissors is that 1) hand trimmers are spring loaded and 2) the blades are small and narrow enough for the precise cuts necessary for quality buds. Like pruning shears, hand trimmers are an inexpensive investment that will save the cannabis grower a lot of time and energy in the long run and every grower should have at least two in their inventory (one extra incase of breakage).
Got a bunch of large colas to trim but running out of time? A set of electric scissors, like the Bonsai Hero Testarossa, can save you! Electric scissors are sometimes frowned on by the cannabis community as they don’t have the precision of hand trimmers and the vibrations they make will shake some of the precious trichomes off the plant. It’s true that electric scissors will never produce the same quality of cut that hand trimmers are capable of but for the homegrown, time and quantity of product is often more important than the quality of a few select buds. Another thing to point out; electric trimmers are only used on fresh, “wet buds” which means the trichomes are far less likely to fall off the bud than when doing a “dry trim” that a lot of harvesters gravitate towards. Electric scissors are expensive and non-essential but are a worthy investment for the cannabis grower who values quantity and efficiency of time over quality.
Another time-saver that is looked down upon by some in the cannabis industry, spinning-trimmers are used to trim the leaves that surround smaller “popcorn” buds. Spinning-trimmers, like electric scissors, are used on “wet buds” that have recently been harvested; these buds will dry and cure quicker than a traditional hand-trimmed “dry bud” providing a less than perfect smoke but the time and energy saved often makes it worth it. Because spinning-trimmers are best used on smaller buds with dense leaf coverage, they are often used at the end of the harvest to salvage the last few buds on a plant that are too small for electric-scissors and too time consuming for hand-trimmers.
2 Bins, 1 Bucket
There are many stages to cutting and trimming cannabis and it’s important to keep your buds organized. Another factor that many first-time growers sometimes forget is that every time you move a cannabis bud trichomes will innevitably fall off, decreasing the potency of your bud. For a simple trimming station you will need at least 2 bins and 1 bucket.
A standard 5-gallon bucket is the ideal tool to transport the large branches you cut off the plant to your trimming station. Cut your branches down to 2-feet in length at a maximum; they will fit in the bucket better and will be easier to trim. If you are doing a progressive trim you will focus only on the largest buds at the end of the branch and most likely be cutting the branches at about 1-foot length maximum. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on anything fancy, it is just a bucket after all! Most hardware stores will carry their own generic brand at less than $10 a bucket and it will last you for several years.
The 2 Bins
Your trimming station will need 2 bins; one to trim in and one to place the trimmed buds in to transport to your drying rack. Your bins should be at minimum one square foot, any smaller and you will find the workspace cramped and you will likely drop a lot of buds to the ground. Most hardware stores will have plastic bins at an inexpensive price but you may already have some extra lying around the house; just make sure you clean and sterilize it before using! Specialized bins like the TrimBin have a screen on the bottom to catch loose trichomes are available; these bins are significantly more expensive but can be worth it for kief lovers with an abundant harvest.
Handling fresh cannabis plants is a messy experience; after a few hours of trimming your fingers will be so sticky from the trichomes that it will become difficult to handle. The solution? Food service gloves! Food service gloves are relatively inexpensive, disposable, and don’t have the layer of powdered cornstarch that medical gloves usually have. A box of 100 gloves should easily last for one harvest of 6 plants.
Rubbing Alcohol and Paper Towels
As you trim through one branch of cannabis after another your trimmers will collect a layer of trichomes that will gunk up your trimmers and cause them to get jammed. While hot water and soap can remove the trichomes the amount of effort it takes to clean your shears with this method will add a lot of unnecessary time to your harvest.
Dipping your shears in a bowl of Isopropyl Alcohol (aka, “rubbing alcohol”) while making the cutting motion and then wiping the extra gunk off with paper towels is the quickest, easiest method and it is regularly available at any grocery or drug stores.
Cannabis growers who want to salvage the trichomes that they clean off their sheers may want to use a high-proof grain alcohol such as Everclear instead of Isopropyl Alcohol; the trichomes will sink to the bottom of your cleaning and the alcohol can be safely evaporated leaving behind and potent sludge of kief!
The Drying and Curing Station
Once your buds are trimmed you need a place to dry them. When doing a “dry trim”, whole branches are typically hung upside down in a shed for a week or two as they slowly dry and are trimmed later. Because we are focusing on “wet trimming” which allows us to use electric trimmers, this method will not work. Instead, we will place the already trimmed branches into an herbal drying rack placed in a dark room with plenty of ventilation (a tool shed is ideal, do not dry in a greenhouse as the sunlight will damage your trichomes). After a week or two of drying, the branches will be brittle enough to snap rather then bend when pressure is placed on them, they are ready for curing! I like to cure my cannabis in plain brown paper grocery bags that can be found at any grocery store.
There are as many methods to harvesting, trimming, drying, and curing as there are cannabis growers; every grower will adjust their set up to their own needs based on climate, amount of time they have to trim, and what products they want to produce. Growers who want to focus on prime smoking buds will spend more time hand trimming their cannabis and will want invest more in an elaborate drying and curing station rather than fancy clippers that can plough through large colas; growers who focus on processing their cannabis into tincture or edibles will prioritize the tools that provide a fast trim at the expense of investing in the time and money for a professional cure. Don’t invest in all of the big fancy toys for your first harvest as you might not be using them the following year! Instead, invest on the basic tools first and then adapt your trimming station based on your own needs.