4. Indoor Grow Essentials
If you absolutely have no access to an outdoor area, then you might want to consider growing cannabis indoors. Although it can get a lot more expensive than outdoor growing, indoor growing is better than no growing at all!
Below you’ll find a basic guide for starting an easy indoor grow. Bear in mind that the following advice should be enough for setting up a basic marijuana crop (no more than 4 to 6 plants). Adding more components gradually as you get better is advised–to save you both money and frustration. You don’t need to go all-in from day one: Start slowly and keep increasing your yields until you feel comfortable to use more expensive equipment.
Step 1: Create a Proper Grow Area
The first step will be to find a grow space capable of housing your indoor garden. As long as an area is secure and has easy access to water and oxygen, it can be turned into a grow room.
You can use any enclosed space, from a closet to a spare room. However, you have to keep a few things in mind:
- You’ll need sufficient room for your plants, your grow lights and yourself, as you’ll need to water your plants and check up on them frequently.
- Your crop requires a constant circulation of air, so you might want to think about installing an exhaust fan and a carbon filter to eliminate odours. If you can’t afford carbon filters, ducting and inline fans, or if you plan on growing just a few plants, an odour-absorbing gel will do just fine. Place it outside your grow room to avoid the overpowering stench of ripe cannabis (it can be much, especially during flowering).
- You also have to make sure that the temperature of your marijuana grow space is manageable. Even the coolest-running grow lights still emit some heat, so ensure that the temperature never exceeds 30ºC or falls below 20ºC. Marijuana plants in the vegetative stage need more warmth, while older plants will produce more buds at slightly lower temperatures.
- You’ll need to cover your grow room wall to wall with some kind of reflective material to distribute light evenly.
Monitoring temperature and humidity is very important in indoor grows. Your best bet is investing in a decent thermometer/hygrometer. Dimmable grow lights will help you adjust the brightness and light footprint of your crop without re-adjusting the fixture every now and then. Also, you’ll need ventilation, so consider using a small fan to keep the air moving inside the grow room.
If you want to keep things on the easy side, you can get an affordable grow tent, that comes with all the necessary arrangements, such as holes for ducting and ventilation, hangers for your grow lights, coverage with reflective material and a sturdy ziplock to stay completely lightproof. If spending a few dollars more isn’t an issue, save yourself the trouble and go for a grow tent. It will pay for itself in no time.
Step 2: Which Grow Light is the Best?
Choosing the most suitable grow light for your particular needs will be the most important investment you’ll make when growing marijuana indoors. That’s because marijuana plants love bright light and need specialized bulbs to thrive. Your regular incandescent light bulbs are not powerful enough to support a grow, so don’t even think about it!
Indoor Grow Light Options
There are three main types of cannabis grow lights available on the market:
- Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs, T5 / T8)
- LED grow lights
- High Intensity Discharge (HID) grow lights
- Metal Halide (MH)
- High Pressure Sodium (HPS)
These lights are considerably more powerful than normal house bulbs. Each one has its own pros and cons, costs and power requirements. Let’s look at them one by one.
CFLs – Great for absolute beginners, compact fluorescent light bulbs are cheap, run cool and fit everywhere. They can do an adequate job until the flowering period, however they’re not very bright, meaning lower yields.
T5/T8 – More powerful than CFLs, but they come in elongated cylindrical shapes that might be tricky to install. Still, they’re not so intense and they must be kept close to the plants to work.
Overall, fluorescent lighting will work if you want a small garden with limited space. For a respectable yield, you should get at least 3x40W 5000K – daylight light bulbs for the vegetative phase and 2x60W 2700K – soft white light bulbs for the flowering phase. Also, you would need light sockets with reflectors for even light distribution.
LED (Light Emitting Diode) Grow Lights
LED grow lights are a versatile choice, as they run in full spectrum and they can be as powerful as you want. They also run cool and offer great energy savings. The bad? They’re pricey and their quality is not always the best. For a small indoor grow (<8 plants), you should get an LED grow light with a true power output of 250W. To learn about the true power output, contact the manufacturer.
HID Grow Lights
There are two kinds of HID fixtures: High Pressure Sodium (HPS) and Metal Halide (MH). As a rule of thumb, a 250W HPS/MH fixture should be enough for a 60cm x 120cm x 150cm grow space. Using this as a rule of thumb, you can easily adapt to any area. These grow lights are bright, cheap and powerful, making them ideal for the flowering phase. However, they tend to burn rather quickly and they consume quite a lot of electricity.
The most important part regarding grow lights is calculating your exact power needs.To give you an example, an 120cm x 120cm garden will need no more than 400-600 watts of power. Just remember: the brighter the light in the flowering phase, the better. So, keep an HPS fixture handy!
To see Ganja Hustle’s recommended grow lights, check out our Marijuana Growing Supplies section»
Step 3: Choose a Growing Medium
There are many mediums you can use to grow cannabis, though soil is by far the easiest solution. Below, you’ll find a list with the most common growing mediums:
Soil– Good old potting soil works wonders indoors too, don’t forget to water!
Soilless Mixes (hydroponic) – anything that doesn’t involve soil (including coco coir, perlite and vermiculite), is considered hydroponic. There are many methods, however the most popular is the one in which plants roots are submerged in water and you just add the nutrients.
Aeroponics, Bubbleponics – These methods are not recommended for beginners. Aeroponic growing means that the plant roots are suspended in moist air and water is sprayed on them.
In your first few grows, try to understand how the root system works. Try to water by hand so you can understand how it works and avoid automated systems. This way, you’ll build a better understanding of what a plant should like and you’ll avoid problems before they get serious.
Step 4: Choosing and Using Nutrients Wisely
Nutrients are an essential part of a strong indoor grow, especially in hydroponic grows. However, that doesn’t mean that you should go overboard with them, as this can create more problems than it solves. Nutrients come in bottles and their role is to help the plant photosynthesize the light it absorbs from the grow lights. Finding the right dosage is the real challenge for beginners, as they tend to ‘overdose’ their plants.
How to find the perfect nutrient ‘sweet spot’ and avoid nutrient burns:
- Start with lower nutrient doses than the ones recommended. And when we say low, we mean about 50% lower.
- Closely inspect your plants for signs of discoloration or leaf loss. These symptoms may be the sign of nutrient burn.
- Use organic nutrients if possible. Synthetic nutrient series are more powerful, but contain excessive salt levels that can create problems to your plants. Organics are milder, and therefore more forgiving to mistakes.
Nutrients and Growing Mediums
Nutrients are necessary for marijuana growing whether you’re growing hydro or soil. There are specialized solutions for each choice.
Nutrients for soil growing– If you’re growing on soil, you can skip the nutrients and purchase composted super soil. This soil comes with all the necessary nutrients for a healthy grow. Otherwise, you’ll need nutrients to boost your plants, especially during the flowering period.
Nutrients for hydroponic growing – There’s no hydroponic growing without nutrients! Your plants have no other way of getting necessary chemical compounds, so you must add them yourself. There are solutions targeted to your specific growing material (perlite, coco coir, etc.).
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