How buds are handled at harvest makes a difference in the quality of what's in the bag at the end of the day. For mega-producers of medicinal buds, machine trimming may be the only practical solution, especially when there is high demand. But automatic trimming -- no matter how well designed the machine -- knocks some of the quality off the buds.
To a newb, there may not be an apparent difference when looking at a commercially processed nug versus one that is hand trimmed and hang dried, but it doesn't take long to learn how to see, taste and experience the difference.
When buds are hand trimmed and hang dried with skill, less resin is knocked off the harvest and a greater potency, flavor and aromas result. Further, when buds are carefully hung, they tend to dry slower, which means a better tasting, scented and smoother product.
When hung, air circulates around the buds more freely than it does in rack drying. The result is buds with a nicer look overall.
Besides yielding a potentially higher quality bud, hand trimming and hang drying allows harvests to be tracked more easily: the inventory can be counted easily by stems per line in the drying section, versus racks of piled-on weed.
Trimming by hand may take a little more time, but by following a proven process with a decent level of organization, it can be a very efficient way to handle your medicinal harvests and ensure top quality.
During the last few days before the harvest, growers should pull the big fan leaves (“water leaves”) from the plants.
Depending on how big the harvest is, the next steps may be delegated into teams or done by one person.
Cut the plant material into 16” "budsicles." With gloved hands, pluck any of the larger leaves that don't have a lot of crystal. Plucking by hand often proves quicker than using scissors or shears.
DO handle the buds and branches gently. DON'T leaves buds in bins for more than 30 minutes before hanging or racking.
Next, carefully trim any remaining foliage from the buds with scissors. These trimmings can be very resinous and are ideal for further processing. Place the trimmings on drying screens immediately.
A good ratio for a mid-scale harvest is to have two people cutting down the branches and plucking fan leaves, and four people quarterbacking the careful final trim. An additional person is needed to carry the trimmed branches to the drying lines, and assisting the trimmers with things like fresh gloves, bottled water, sharpened scissors, etc.
Make sure drying lines are anchored solidly and leave some room between branches for air circulation.
DO keep the air warm and dry for the first few days after hanging, then gradually allow room temperature cool for the remaining days required. DON'T blow warm air directly onto the buds/branches.
When branches “snap” it usually means the buds are dried and ready for curing.