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 pot 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 to 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 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!
Plant yo-yos are also helpful for hanging buds from the inside of your tent during drying
Yo-yos make it easy to adjust as needed to keep all the buds spread out evenly
Get some Plant Yo-Yos
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 (version for HPS, blurple LEDs, or full-spectrum LEDs). Later we tried the similar, but much more reasonably-priced Apollo Horticulture glasses (version for MH/HPS version and LED version). 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 high-UV lights like MH and 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 (listed above). Other types of lights appear “full color” like some LEDs and LECs. These don’t need as much color correction so specialized glasses aren’t necessary. 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 cool!
After over a decade of indoor growing, my eyes have gotten pretty sensitive to grow lights. These days, I always put on my goggles before checking on the plants when the lights are on!
Liquid/Water Transfer Pump
A liquid transfer pump (also called a “water transfer pump” or “battery-operated siphon liquid transfer pump”) is typically used to empty aquariums or transfer gasoline 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.
Water transfer pumps make it easy for people who grow hydroponically to empty/fill their reservoir without having to do any heavy lifting. 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.
They can also help water your plants or any time you need to move water between different containers.
A transfer pump is great for watering plants. I mix my nutrient water in 3 or 5-gallon containers, and this pump makes it easy to water plants directly from the tub
The hose is relatively short so it will only reach about two plants deep, but for small grows this is much more convenient than a watering can!
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 cheapest and efficient tools available for LST (low-stress training) and other methods of cannabis training.
Plant twist tie is great for training young cannabis plants and it’s equally great at training new growth on growing plants. Twist ties can also damage stems that grow too big if they’re twisted on too tight. Make sure to not secure twist ties by twisting them around and around a branch. 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 a bunch of times because it can “choke” your plants! Gently wrap twist tie around stems like a hook like this, and attach the other side to your container.
What to attach the twist ties to?
In hard-sided pots, there’s usually a “lip” you can use to hook the twist-tie
In DWC/hydro, I recommend hooking to the edges of net pots or the lip around the edge. Whatever you do, make sure it’s attached to the lid directly (as opposed to the floor or a pole in the tent) so that you can easily take the cover on and off without disturbing the plants.
When it comes to fabric pots, Hair clips work on small stems but will come off as plants get stronger. Some growers use binder clips, which are more sturdy but can still pop off. Another option is safety pins, which work excellently and won’t come off, but they rust over time.
If you’re using fabric pots, a simple and easy solution is simply to use pointy scissors to poke a hole and thread through that. I use Fiskars scissors since I use them for trimming and I have a pair lying around, but anything sharp and pointy should work.
Once you’ve made a hole, you can easily hook your twist tie onto it
Maximize yields by growing wide and flat plants like this!
Get a Spool of Plant Twist Tie
Tape (Scotch, Duct, Electrical, Painters, Masking)
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 acting as a temporary splint or cast you can use to support the stem while it heals.
Sometimes you accidentally break a stem while bending
No worries! Broken stems that are given a ‘tape-cast’ will heal within a week or two as long as the wounded parts are held closely together.
Think of tape as a temporary cast for your plants! Always remove the tape after the injury heals. This knuckle that formed by DrWeedington may be the most impressive save I’ve seen with tape 🙂
Similar to twist tie, a tape-cast that’s on too tight can limit the growth of the stem above the cast. Make sure that you check broken stems regularly and remove the tape once it’s no longer needed.
Most common types of tape work great:
- Duct tape
- Electrical tape
- Painters/Masking tape <– My favorite because it’s easy to work with and peels off easily without hurting the plant
Get Tape for bending accidents
My first grow lights were a bunch of CFLs that I suspended from in the 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 the rope, move your light, and re-tie rope at the new position (all while possibly dropping equipment), you can make minor or major height adjustments with very little effort. I also use them to lift heavy objects like carbon filters instead of trying to lift them myself.
Hang rope ratchets from the bars at the top of your tent
Use them to hang your grow lights, carbon filter, or anything awkward or heavy to lift or move up and down
Carbon filters (used to get rid of smells) are surprisingly unwieldy and heavy. Rope ratchets let you lift them, one click at a time, from the floor. Save your back!
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 or plain rope.
Get Rope Ratchets
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.
Syringes are more accurate than spoons and are great for measuring nutrients in mL (for nutrient schedules that use the metric system). Plus it’s harder to spill nutrients all over your floor!
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 called “blunt tip” syringes because they’re not sharp. They’re about the same level of danger as a pointy butter knife.
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. Measuring small amounts of liquids like PH Up, PH Down and micronutrients are where 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.
Chip Clips/Bag Clips
You’ve probably seen these before in your house or maybe in an infomercial. 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 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
We took the above video using a USB microscope hooked up to a smartphone with an OTG adapter. So far this seems to be one of the most accurate ways to look at trichomes. You can make the picture big so you’re not squinting through a tiny jeweler’s loupe, or take video to look at more closely afterward.
Important: USB microscopes like the one above require a phone with OTG technology.
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.
Bigger zip ties can be used to hold up heavy objects like carbon filters.
Velcro straps and smaller zip ties are great for bundling cords because you can easily take them on and off
Large zip ties are surprisingly strong. The exhaust system in this tent is being held up purely by large zip ties
If plants get too tall, you have to raise the grow light up. But sometimes you run out of height and rope ratchets can’t get any closer. Zip ties are the best way to get around that problem and bring grow light as close as possible to the top of the tent. Those few extra inches can make a big difference!
This LEC grow light needs to be kept about 2 feet away from plants but plants were getting too tall. The rope ratchets were left on so the grow light wouldn’t fall, but zip ties were used to bring the light just inches from the top (if your grow light gets hot, make sure to still leave a tiny air gap to help keep things cool).
Quick Tip: You can string multiple pieces together if you need a longer tie!
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
Mister / One-Hand Pressure Sprayer
If you’re the type of grower that likes to foliar feed or need to spray your plants for bugs, 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.
Get a 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!
Snowboarding Goggles – A cool way to keep your eyes safe from powerful grow lights
Plant Twist Tie – An essential tool for plant training! Don’t go without it!
Masking Tape – If you accidentally snap a stem, you can use masking tape (or any tape) as a “cast” until plants heal
Rope Ratchets – If you are currently hanging your lights with rope or chain, these will make the job 10x easier.
Blunt Tip Industrial Syringe – Measure your nutrients, pH up/down, and supplements with ease and precision.
Chip Clips – Keeps chips fresh and ducting in place!
USB Digital Microscope – A digital microscope that displays video on-screen (using an OTG USB 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 or spraying plants for bugs.