Navigating your way through your first few grows can be challenging. Establishing good habits early on is important when it comes to maximizing your garden’s potential right from the start. It can also help you develop your own custom recipes for future success. Besides the basics, there are a handful of gadgets that can facilitate improved monitoring and maintenance in your growroom, so you can rest easy and spend more time advancing your skillset.
Yes, a jeweler’s loupe. That funky little gadget jewelers use to inspect the quality of your sparkly treasures is the same tool many growers use to inspect their own treasures. Some jeweler’s loupes have more features than others, with options including LED lights, black lights and multiple magnification strengths. You can find cheap ones for under $10, but you’d be better off going for higher-quality lenses so you can see clearly.
A lot of savvy growers use jeweler’s loupes to look closely at plant tissues to identify potential threats to their crops. If you see insects or their tracks, a jeweler’s loupe can be used to take a closer look at which type of pest may have invaded your grow space. Even better than a jeweler's loupe is an LED pocket microscope for smartphones. These gadgets connect to the camera on your smartphone and allow growers to take magnified photos of the perpetrators and then forward them along to consultants or compare against field guides, etc. Growers also use these gadgets to view and photograph the finer details of their plants, such as trichome production.
One of the biggest struggles in the growroom is visual clarity. Between the bright lights, no lights and spectrum variations, you’d have to be the X-Factor to be able to quickly adapt to all of those conditions. It’s important to be able to see your plants clearly to make sure they maintain a rich, lush color, indicating exceptional health. You can either purchase clip-on lenses to attach directly to your glasses to see the true color of your plants, or grab a pair of growroom glasses (prescription or regular). These are multi-functional shades that will allow you to see true color under metal halide, HPS and LED lighting, while also offering 100 per cent protection against UV rays.
Controlling explosive plant growth can be cumbersome and delicate all at once. Even though plants have got a mind of their own, it’s important to follow their lead and provide the support they need to hold a heavy harvest. Trellis netting and tomato cages are great, but sometimes to help out that one stray chute, you need to jerry-rig your own extension to accommodate those that are more high-maintenance. To do so, you can use a high-quality, soft tape to help avoid cutting into your plants, but strong enough to prevent tearing while supporting even your largest fruits and flowers. Heavy-duty vinyl is a great material to look for when purchasing plant tape.
Growing plants is innately dirty, but as growers, we can do our part to prevent unnecessary messes. In hydroponics, dosing your nutrients can get sloppy. Many liquid products are sold in packages weighing upwards of 10 pounds, which can get tricky when emptying into a small cup or vial. There are always at least a few drops that inevitably escape the pour-path. Many flasks that include measurement markings are also inaccurate, so this can lead to mistakes in dosing, and potentially plant stress as a result. High-quality garden syringes help with this issue. Available in many sizes, you can find one that will fit directly into the products of your choice and more easily measure the proper dosages. Make sure to confirm that the measurements are accurate, however.
pH Indicator Drops & Pens
Every grower needs a fast, affordable and reliable way to check for pH. For hassle-free pH testing, a pH indicator test kit (drops) should be in every growroom. It is generally accurate enough to quickly diagnose an issue or at least help you sleep soundly at night. After adding a drop of the indicator solution to the sample, you can compare the color yielded to the pH color chart included. These are often sold in a set with a bottle of pH up and down as well, so you can simply adjust the pH level according to the results and dosing suggestions. Alternatively, there are digital pH pens available, which are very accurate and easy to use. They will require a bit more maintenance and even replacement from time to time.
Whether you are growing in soil or hydro, you need a way to test your media’s chemical contents from time to time. The nutrients you add to your media have direct effects on the health of your plants, so monitoring these levels regularly becomes important to drive decision-making toward crop success. TDS meters measure the parts per million (ppm) of your water sample, giving you a total amount of chemical content in that sample. Most feed schedules are guided using target values depending on crop type and/or growth stage. It is essential to follow feed schedules carefully so you don’t accidentally under or over-nourish your plants.
EC meters function similarly to TDS meters, only they test for electrical conductivity, or EC. Simply put, more nutrients means more salt, which means higher EC levels. Many feed schedules are dictated by target EC values, so depending on your brand of choice, investing in a tester that is compatible with your additives will be most helpful. Basic testers run between $50-$150, but some can go for much higher or much lower than that. Just remember, you get what you pay for.