Having just finished my annual cannabis cultivation season, I was doing my customary grow-room cleanout and sanitization, when it dawned on me how many little gadgets, tools and super-cool grow-centric gear I have in my collection. No, not the big-ticket items, like grow lights or hydroponics systems — I’m talking about the inexpensive materials and gadgets every grower should have in their arsenal. So, here’s a list of those helpful items and the reasons why you need them.
Cannabis Manicuring And Pruning Tools
To manage your cannabis crop, you need different types of cutting tools. One such tool is a pruning or shearing cutter that can slice through the plants’ main stalks. If you grow outdoors, you might even need a full-size lopper big enough to grasp stalks several inches in diameter. Indoors, your stalks are likely to be less than an inch in diameter, so you can make do with a simple bypass shear.
You’ll need a much smaller manicuring trimmer for removing leaves, side branches and buds. If you get cheap off-brand tools, they tend to blunt quickly. And some are so small or poorly engineered that they can hurt your fingers if you’re manicuring pounds of bud. Some of the best-quality and easily available gardening tools are made by Fiskars. You can also find quality pruners, trimmers and manicuring tools from bonsai supply outlets. This Tinyroots Ultimate Package – Stainless Steel Tool Kit from Bonsai Outlet makes a perfect gift for serious growers.
And while we’re talking about sharp things, get yourself an X-ACTO knife, which is the most precise, effective tool for taking cuttings from mother plants. Believe me, your future clones will thank you.
Reliable pH, EC Meters And Meter Support Fluids
If you’re using pH Perfect hydroponic base nutrients — plus an array of quality cannabinoid, terpenoid and weight-boosting supplements — and you’re also using reverse osmosis water, then the pH of your nutrient water should be at 5.7. This is the ideal sweet spot for nutrient absorption.
However, there are still times you need to measure your pH, such as when mixing a foliar spray; when you want to measure runoff pH to see what’s happening in the root zone; when you’re not using reverse osmosis water; or when experimenting with nonstandard nutrient combinations.
Problem is (and I speak from unfortunate experience), most brands of pH meters simply aren’t up to snuff. Their inaccuracy can cause a litany of crop failure frustrations. After struggling with inherently defective meters made by such brands as Hanna, Oakton, Apera, Vantakool and Vivosun, I now rely solely on Bluelab and Fisher Scientific. Not only are these two manufacturers professional and trustworthy, when properly maintained, their meters give you years of reliable measurements. This is also true for EC meters and total dissolved solids (parts per million) meters that tell you the concentration of particulates in your nutrient water.
Speaking of EC meters, along with pH readers, they can be used in conjunction with several essential liquids, including those used for:
- Cleaning meter probes
- Calibrating meters
- Adjusting nutrient water pH up or down
Most liquid brands are as unreliable as the meter brands. They’re inconsistent, give you inaccurate readings, or may even develop molds. I recommend buying the pH-adjusting liquid pH Up from Advanced Nutrients, which lab tests and inspects each batch of fluids to ensure precision and consistency. So, I recommend buying your calibration fluids from Bluebab or Fisher Scientific, and cleaning your pH and EC probes with a Bluelab Probe Care Kit.
Using reverse osmosis water will further optimize your plant feed program. Quality reverse osmosis units cost from $250 to $500, but will ultimately save you time and trouble in the long run.
An Accurate Hygrometer And Thermometer
In my search for cost-effective temperature and humidity monitoring devices, I learned the hard way that you can’t rely on most hygrometers and thermometers. I lined up eight analog and digital units from several manufacturers and not one of them read exactly the same; some deviated significantly from one another or from the digital sensors on my climate control humidistat and grow-room monitoring systems.
I used hygrometer calibration kits on my freestanding hygrometers, but that’s not going to work for everybody, because only a small cigar humidor hygrometer/thermometer fits inside the kit. What I have to do instead is calibrate the small hygrometer that fits inside the bag, then use the small one as a benchmark to see if my other units are accurate. Note that this hygrometer/thermometer combo is small enough to fit inside curing and drying containers, so you can precisely monitor how dry your buds are.
Thermometer and hygrometer inaccuracy can be a serious detriment to your cannabis crop, especially when you’re micromanaging humidity in bloom phase or when drying and curing. If you rely on an inaccurate hygrometer for how you measure and manage your relative humidity levels, then your grow-room humidity might be too low, which stresses plants due to vapor pressure deficit issues, or it might be too high, which facilitates gray mold.
Ultimately, I’ve found that digital readout units are slightly more accurate than analog ones, especially when at the low end of the price spectrum. One easy, albeit rather costly and tech-savvy way to be assured of precision grow-room readings is the Temp Stick Wireless Remote Temperature & Humidity Sensor. This amazing device comes with free apps that give you many monitoring options, accurate readings and Wi-Fi convenience. It even sends you text alerts if temperature or humidity fall out of range.
Green Light In The Darkness
Blooming photoperiod cannabis plants require 12 hours of uninterrupted darkness every 24 hours. Light leaks during bloom phase can interrupt floral development and create hermaphrodite floral clusters. But sometimes, you need to go into your grow room during the lights-off period.
Fortunately, the light wavelength we see as green isn’t a potent trigger of plants’ photoreceptors, so the battery-powered Grow1 Green LED Head Light from GrowAce allows you to work in your grow room during night phase with few if any negative plant effects. Alternatively, you could get the Illuminati Super Green 5W LED Night Light from Hydrofarm, or you can also find tiny flashlights with green bulbs in them.
Ultimately, however, you should aim to be in your grow room as little as possible at night, even when using your green light device.
Protect Your Eyes And Naturalize Grow-Room Colors
Indoor grow lights and the sun deliver ultraviolet radiation that can damage your eyes and retinas. Cheap sunglasses don’t do enough to block all the damaging radiation. You need quality glasses designed to filter out harmful radiation.
As an added benefit, sunglasses made specifically for cannabis growers naturalize colors that don’t look authentic under grow lights. This helps you see the true condition of your leaves by rendering them as they’d appear in natural sunlight. Especially under orange-red high-pressure sodium bulbs, plant colors can appear washed out, which limits your ability to use the condition of your leaves to detect nutrient problems, pests or diseases. Grow-room sunglasses also improve clarity, so you can see minute details on plants more clearly.
Optics brand Method Seven has long been the industry leader in grow-room sunglasses. Their shades are able to render colors as they would appear in nature, reduce leaf surface glare, and protect eyes in grow ops where high-intensity discharge metal halide and high-pressure sodium bulbs are used. Plus, Method Seven has glasses specific to LED grow ops and outdoor growing, too. If you want the less expensive but reliable option for grow-op glasses, try GroVision instead.
The bottom line is, if you’re working in your grow room without glasses that protect your eyes from ultraviolet radiation and reduce glare, you’re causing damage to your retina, which means you can’t meaningfully examine your plants.
Measuring Containers For Your Grow Op
Making hydroponic nutrients or organic nutrient solutions for your plants involves precision dosing, which is why every grower should have at least one measuring vessel handy. I have two: One is the size of a shot glass, the other holds 16 ounces. I recommend these Garden Smart Measuring Glass, available from Amazon. These containers have diverse measurement modes, so I can use dosage instructions in milliliters, ounces, tablespoons and teaspoons.
I also recommend investing in the three- or five-gallon LavaHome safe plastic containers, which are useful for pre-mixing nutrient solutions and for other liquid storage needs.
Put A Panda in Your Grow Room
A real panda would climb around on your plants and gear, and probably wreck your grow room, maybe even get high eating buds. But Panda Film — the thick poly plastic that’s black on one side and reflective white on the other — is a wonderful material for cannabis growers. It’s used to line walls and doors to block light and create reflectivity, and some handy people even use it to create DIY grow tents.
Spray Your Cannabis Crops
Foliar feeding and spraying are sometimes necessary. If your plants have root problems, or need a quick dose of nutrition, leaf feeding is your only solution. If there are pests and diseases on your plants, foliar spraying could also be the key to successfully fighting them off.
In my medium-sized at-home grow, I use the Solo 2-Liter Handheld Sprayer, like this one from Grow Organic. It’s lasted me for years, and I also keep a spare one so that I can foliar feed with one sprayer and do pest and disease interception with the other.
And let’s not forget that one easy way to stop insects such as gnats and whiteflies is to place sticky strips and sticky ribbons at canopy level in your grow op. Insects love the color yellow, fly toward it, and then are trapped and stuck forever.
Supporting Your Pot Plants
Many growers use amateur methods for shaping plants and preventing heavy buds from breaking unsupported branches. These methods sometimes fail and can damage plants. Growers doing low-stress training (LST) must know the correct techniques for pruning, shaping and supporting plants if they want to enjoy the higher-yielding results of LST grow ops.
I recommend learning bonsai techniques and using professional supplies, such as plant stakes, screen of green netting, professional plant foam ties and ropes, and cages that will safely help your plant stay upright, even when fat, gooey buds are weighing on them.
Most of the items listed below cost under $30 — and some cost only a few dollars. Plus, you’ll find them very useful to have in your cannabis grower’s toolkit.
- Lightweight gardening gloves, like these ones from New England Hydroponics. Always wear protective gloves when you’re handling grow-light bulbs, as not only can you burn yourself, but oil from your fingers can damage the bulbs. If you’ve ever handled rockwool, you know what I mean.
- Isopropyl alcohol for removing resins from trimming tools and cleaning grow bulbs and grow-light lenses.
- Time-control devices: Many automatic timers are defective or difficult to use. However, Titan Controls from 1000Bulbs is a model I’ve always found to be reliable.
- Humidity dome and seedling/cloning trays are essential grow-op items for starting seedlings and clones. In low-humidity situations, even seedlings benefit from a humidity dome. Note that domes come in different heights. Make sure you get white seedling trays that don’t absorb light energy to become overheated like black trays can.
- Fire extinguishers, for obvious reasons.
- Grow light hangers, like these ones from Apollo Horticulture.
- Plant label stakes: Some growers prefer tags that attach directly to their cannabis plants, but I prefer these multicolor ones from eZAKKA, which come in packs of 500.
- Grounded power strips with surge protection: Also useful, extension cords that are water resistant because they’re hardened for outdoor use, such as this heavy-duty GE 9ft extension cord.
- Bleach: That’s right, good old-fashioned bleach costs under $5 a gallon and works well for sterilizing hydroponic systems, pots, grow op tools, grow-room walls and floors.
- Odor control: I always keep cans of Zep Smoke Odor Eliminator in strategic locations throughout my grow house. If someone comes to my front door unannounced or I have concerns about the odor of my marijuana, I simply mist a little Zep throughout my space, et voilà! Odor no more.
- Biological larvicide: I use Gnatrol by Valent in my nutrient water to eradicate those pernicious fungus gnats that eat my cannabis roots.