by Sirius Fourside
One of the toughest parts of becoming good at growing cannabis – or pretty much any other skill for that matter – is learning how to improvise. At some point in every grower’s career, they will run into a problem that needs a custom-tailored solution. When there’s nothing available that can easily rectify a problem, being able to improvise a solution that makes both you and your plants happy is the next best thing.
But the goal of this article isn’t to teach you improvisation skills, in fact, we’re going to do the opposite! We’re going to show you how to make it so improvisation isn’t even necessary in the first place.
Today, I want to show you some weird/cool tools I’ve found that can solve some of the unique problems we growers run into. Although being able to improvise is a must-have skill, it’s just as important to know when to use the right tools. No one wants to spend lots of time and effort to fix a problem when there is a $1 solution that can do the job more effectively. So let’s get to those tools!
Plant yo-yos (also sometimes called “plant supports”) are one of those tools that you would never think of until they’re suggested. Once you’ve needed a plant yo-yo and experienced their usefulness, there’s no going back!
Essentially, plant yo-yos provide a way to have the top of your grow tent support the weight of your buds. Some heavily trained cannabis plants (such as with manifolding) can produce long colas that are so heavy that they fall over from their own weight. When this happens, you can support them from above with string or wire, but it’s messy in addition to feeling clumsy.
Plant yo-yos use a small plastic hook to gently grab onto a piece of stem, so they support the plant while touching as little bud as possible. They also extend and retract via a spring; so once they’re installed at the top of your tent, adjusting them takes only a few seconds.
If you have problems with your buds falling over from weight, this is the best solution I’ve seen so far!
Get some Plant Yo-Yos
Chip Clips/Bag Clips
You’ve probably seen these before in your house or maybe in an infomercial. Basically, they’re a softer version of a binder clip and they’re used to keep potato chip bags closed so your chips stay fresh.
It turns out they’re also great for holding together the slack in your ducting!
If your exhaust fan stays in one place (it should) and your grow light moves, you will need to leave slack in your ducting to accommodate for the distance as your light and fan move away from each other. Although managing that slack can typically be a pain, two chip clips will solve the problem within a few seconds. Additionally, most bag clips/chip clips have rubber where they actually grab on to the material. This rubber is better for ducting since it doesn’t tear the material but still keeps a good grip.
They’re also good for keeping half-used bags of coco coir closed and holding rope (from ratchets) together for easy adjusting.
Get Chip Clips
Ski / Snowboarding Goggles
There are a few different types of eye protection available to growers these days. We started out years ago with the high-priced Method-7 glasses. Later we tried the similar, but much more reasonably-priced Apollo Horticulture glasses. These days, we’ve been using ski/snowboarding goggles since they’re comfortable, they cover your entire eye-area and block 100% of UV rays which is nice when you’re growing with LECs.
Keep in mind that these are mostly for protecting your eyes. If you’re looking for glasses to correct the yellow light of an HPS, or the purple/red light of some models of LED, you’ll need the corresponding pair of glasses. Other types of lights like LECs don’t need as much color correction so specialized glasses aren’t needed as much. If you’re growing using T5s, LECs, or mostly-white LEDs, snowboarding goggles will provide great protection while being comfortable to use. Also, they look really cool!
Liquid/Water Transfer Pump
A liquid transfer pump (also called a ‘water transfer pump’) is typically used to empty out aquariums or transfer gas between containers and a vehicle. If you’re growing cannabis in a DWC (Deep Water Culture) or similar setup, this type of tool can turn the often laborious job of changing your reservoir water into a quick 5-minute task.
This type of water transfer pump pictured here is a “battery operated siphon liquid transfer pump,” and it can be used anywhere. This means that people who grow hydroponically don’t have to plan their grow area for the sake being able to empty/fill their reservoir more easily…though it’s still a good idea to plan your grow area for waste management.
It also means that there is much less lifting to be done overall; a crafty grower could potentially empty their reservoir, mix new nutrients, and then refill their reservoir without ever having to lift a single cup of water.
Additionally, if you’re the type of grower that’s making a lot of nutrient water at once (we make 3 gallons at a time), a pump like this makes it much easier to distribute the water amongst your plants easily.
Get a Water Transfer Pump
Twist ties are what Americans formerly used to close up trash bags. Nowadays they’re used for pretty much everything except closing up trash bags! When it comes to growing cannabis indoors, twist ties are a welcome guest in our home and they are one of the most cheap and efficient tools available for LST (low-stress training) and other methods of cannabis training.
We use twist ties in two varieties:
- Regular twist tie is great for training young cannabis plants and it’s equally great at training new growth on growing plants. Bigger stems, however, can break loose from twist ties in a matter of hours depending on how fast they grow. Twist ties can also damage stems that grow too big if they’re twisted on. Make sure to not secure twist ties by twisting them; gently wrapping the twist tie is a better method because it will pop off before it ever starts “choking” stems.
Don’t twist these on because it can “choke” your plants! Gently wrap twist tie around stems like a hook, and attach the other side to your container.
Get Twist Tie
- Soft wire ties are actually the heavy duty version of twist ties despite their name. They’re called ‘soft’ because the wire they contain is coated in rubber so it won’t damage plants. Although you shouldn’t try to bend a rigid stem, soft wire ties are the better wire to use when training plants that give more resistance. Soft ties also hold their shape better than regular twist tie.
Get Soft Wire Tie
Tape (Scotch, Duct, Electrical)
Tape?! Sacrilege! Who would put tape on their cannabis?!
Any grower trying to fix a broken stem, that’s who!
Cannabis is a very hardy plant and it’s capable of bouncing back from lots of stress and damage. However, this can work against growers as a stem that’s broken and not set right will heal in the position it’s left in. In such a case, a grower can lose the top half of the broken stem when it could’ve been recovered.
That’s where tape comes in. All that’s needed is enough tape to keep the stem in its natural position until it can heal. The tape is basically acting as a temporary splint or cast you can use to support the stem while it heals.
In some cases (especially in hydroponics), broken stems that are given a ‘tape-cast’ can be healed and back to growing within the span of a week!
Think of tape as a temporary cast for your plants! Always remove the tape after the injury heals.
Much like regular twist tie, making a tight tape-cast on a stem and leaving it indefinitely can limit the growth of the stem above the cast if it’s too tight. Make sure that you check broken stems regularly and only leave the tape on for as long as it’s needed.
My first grow lights were a bunch of CFLs that I suspended from in closet with nylon rope. It did the job, but it was insanely clumsy and just as frustrating whenever I needed to move the lights up or down. Although I moved past CFLs a long time ago, I still used nylon rope to suspend my lights for way too long before I found rope ratchets.
Rope ratchets are self-locking pulleys that make moving your grow lights about 100X easier. Instead of having to untie rope, move your light, and retie rope all while possibly dropping equipment, you can make minor or major height adjustments with very little effort. Rope ratchets are a must have for any grow setup and have superior performance/ease of use compared to the all-too-common metal chain.
Get Rope Ratchets
I would guess that it’s most likely the micro-nutrients that give you the most trouble.
If you’re like me, the reason for this trouble is that the viscosity of many micro-nutrients makes them hard to pour. Instead of it pouring out smoothly, it clings to bottle and drips everywhere it can.
Nutrient pumps are a way to get around this problem, effectively making it so you don’t have to pour a nutrient if you don’t want to.
All you do is replace the standard screw on cap with the nutrient pump, and now you have more control over how the much you get and how fast it comes out.
Keep in mind that this is a solution for those who use more nutrients; these growers are likely using large containers/reservoirs for their plants. If you’re looking for something smaller, there’s a very convenient solution…
Get Nutrient Pumps
Industrial Blunt-tip Syringe (Printer Refill Syringe)
An industrial syringe can be a very helpful tool for a grower. Not only do they help make sure you’re using precise amounts of whatever liquid you’re measuring, but they make liquids easy to dispense.
In fact, industrial syringes are so helpful at this job that the only downside I see to using them is the inherent scariness that comes with something that reminds us of needles.
However, it’s very important to note that industrial syringes aren’t needles – they’re actually called ‘blunt tip industrial syringes’! These industrial syringes are purposefully made to be blunt since they aren’t made for injections. They’re about the same level of danger as a butter knife in that they have a pointier side.
Watch me poke my hand with one! [Spoiler: Nothing happens!] (5.5MB .gif)
I was initially hesitant to try this tool since I’m not a huge fan of needle-shaped objects. But a reader named ‘JP’ got me to try it and now I can’t go back to using measuring spoons. It’s not that measuring spoons aren’t useful…in fact, they’re great for measuring! However, some liquids become easier to use with a bit more control. pH Up, pH Down and micronutrients are great examples of liquids that let industrial syringes really shine.
Being able to accurately measure the amount of pH up/down you use (down to the mL) makes it easier for growers to quickly adjust their water to the right pH level. And since a little bit of pH up/down goes a long way, this can help to prevent growers from overcorrecting pH. More importantly, it helps make the next pH correcting much quicker. For example, I know that I can put in 4.5mL of pH down to bring my tap water to about 6.0. With a measuring spoon, it had a good general amount to use (about 1tsp), but using a syringe makes for much more consistent pH measurement in addition to taking less time.
We took the above video using a USB microscope hooked up to a smartphone with an adapter. So far this seems to be the most accurate way to look at trichomes and you can make the picture big so you’re not squinting through a tiny jeweler’s loupe.
Important: USB microscopes like the one above require a phone with OTG technology. Unfortunately, this means no iPhones/iPads 🙁
For more information on using magnifiers and microscopes to look at trichomes like in the picture above, make sure to check out our article: How to Look at Trichomes with a Microscope
Get this USB microscope on Amazon
Zip Ties/Velcro Straps
Keep the cords in your grow tent from becoming a rats nest! Velcro straps and zip ties are awesome for bundling your cords together, as well as keeping a group of cords out of the way. Zip ties are easier to use, but harder to remove later; Velcro straps are the opposite in that they’re harder to put on, but much easier to remove when needed. Chip clips – from the earlier example above – can be a great substitute for this purpose…if you have enough of them.
Pipettes are useful for taking a small sample of water. If you have trouble getting water into the included test tube when testing pH with a ‘drop kit’, this is a tool that will completely eradicate that problem. Pipettes are also very cheap so you can stock up on them once and have enough for many grows. I think of these as the low-budget version of the blunt-tip syringe.
Get some Pipettes
If you’re the type of grower that likes to foliar feed, a mister is a much better alternative to washing out a spray bottle and using that. In addition to it being easier to measure in, it creates a much finer mist (that can be changed) which is much better than a regular sprayer can make. Although I don’t do foliar feeding personally, a mister is an acting general in my White Powdery Mildew Eradication Army.
Mister (also called a “One-Hand Pressure Sprayer”)
Now that you know about some of these off-beat tools that can make growing so much easier, get your hands on the ones that will benefit your grow! The best part about these tools is they’re cheap, so they’ll pay for themselves quickly!
Plant Yo-Yos – Keep your heavy buds from falling over with an easy-to-use support system!
Chip Clips – Keeps chips fresh and ducting in place!
Snowboarding Goggles – A cool way to keep your eyes safe from powerful grow lights
Twist Tie – An absolutely essential tool in plant training! Don’t go without it!
Soft Wire Twist Tie – The softer, but heavier duty cousin of the standard twist tie!
Rope Ratchets – If you are currently hanging your lights with rope or chain, these will make the job 10x easier.
Nutrient Pump – A nutrient pump takes the messiness out of pouring micronutrients or using large nutrient bottles.
Blunt Tip Industrial Syringe – Measure your nutrients, pH up/down and supplements with ease and precision.
USB Digital Microscope – A digital microscope that displays video on-screen (using an adapter and a compatible smartphone) is one of the best ways to look at trichomes so you know exactly when to harvest.
Pipettes – Move small amounts of liquid easily so pH’ing your plants is a breeze.
Mister – (also called a “One-Hand Pressure Sprayer”) – Create a fine mist of water and get the most from foliar feeding.