Now that growing cannabis recreationally has been legalized (refer to this post for the general rules on how much you’re allowed to carry) it’s important to understand how a pot plant is grown.
One of the main things that makes things interesting is that, while growing cannabis is framed as a horticultural task, the plant is rooted as a pharmaceutical issue. The main regulating body concerned with the production of pot for legal use and sale in Canada is the Cannabis Act 2018 – the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations.
As with agricultural crop that can be grown at mass scale, growing marijuana is an involving process – outside of the logistics and techniques that determine the crop’s potency and yield, other things, like pest management, timing of harvest, understanding and energy consumption, or sanitizing your space to protect a crop sensitive to outside elements and make an ideal growing environment are hugely influential in growing a plant that is often tricky to manage.
A marijuana leaf has a very unique growing behaviour. Knowing how to manipulate it determines the chemical results it produces, embodied by two significant elements, among others: pistils (long hairs that grow from inside the calyxes of flowers) and trichomes (sticky glands of resin that cover the flowers and produce the cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids and hundreds of other chemical compounds present in a cannabis crop’s unique chemical profile). Both things darken and transform as the plant matures over time.
A slight difference in knowing when to harvest can make a huge difference: if you harvest too soon, you’ll miss out on the highest production of resin, but if you harvest too late those same resin glands start to degrade.
Once you’ve made the call on when to harvest, the work has only just begun. Trimming (also known as manicuring the flowers) removes excess leaves and makes cannabis easier to bag.
Remember to follow these critical steps before beginning the trimming process…
- Sharpen the scissors, pruning shears, or tweezers you will use to trim marijuana flowers.
- Sterilize your cannabis trimming equipment. This should consist of scissors/shears, tweezers, an apron, and a trimming tray at a minimum. Some marijuana trimmers opt for ergonomic shears of multiple sizes (for switching out sticky scissors quickly and for trimming leaves of various sizes sizes) and lap trays fitted with a screen for collecting kief (tiny crystals that of pollen that coat the leaf, also known dry sift. Ensure you have plenty of rubber/powder-free latex gloves to keep your hands and fingers free of resin.
- Clean and prepare your trimming space for receiving cannabis flowers by controlling the temperature (65-75°F) and humidity levels (45-55%). Install fans to ensure efficient air circulation and set up a carbon filter/extraction fan to dissipate the distinct odor of marijuana.
Below we’ve broken down the main differences of wet vs. dry trimming, and explained the benefits and potential drawbacks of each.
Wet trimming is when you separate cannabis flowers from the stalk and trim away all the vegetative “fan” leaves and smaller “sugar leaves” from the flowers immediately after harvest.
- A simpler method, as it is easier identify what’s unnecessary and trim it away while the plant is plump with water.
- Takes less space as you don’t have to dry entire stalks.
- Speeds up the entire harvesting process, since you don’t have to wait for the stems and fanned leaves to dry.
- Easier to apply handheld trimming machines while the flowers are wet.
- The flowers typically look better.
- Can result in marijuana flowers that aren’t as flavorful or aromatic.
- Requires more physical manpower, immediately required within hours of harvest.
- Mold can develop due to excess moisture.
Dry trimming is when you hang and dry harvested cannabis plants for a short amount of time before manicuring the flowers.
- Results in a more pleasant smoking experience. (The drying process gets rid of chlorophyll, the source of “grassy” taste/aroma present in cannabis.)
- When hung on stalks for 1-2 weeks, the flowers dry out much more evenly.
- Requires a much smaller and less involved workforce.
- Time-consuming, tedious, and less efficient. It’s harder to trim away leaves from dried marijuana flowers, as they will curl up and stick to the sides of the buds as they dry.
- More difficult to use handheld trimming machines on dried marijuana plants.
- The chance for both mold developing (particularly where the flowers meet the stalk) and parching your marijuana harvest (particularly in smaller buds) increases.
- Requires a dedicated, climate-controlled space.
Of course, no process fits all. Harvest and choosing which method to trim your crop with all depends on your needs and situation.