It’s finally time to test your green thumb. South Africa has made the change and we can now grow our own cannabis. With this change in the law, everyone can set up an indoor grow op. The basics of growing cannabis are simple in terms of soil, water, and sun. But before you flex that green thumb of yours. Be aware that growing cannabis indoors presents a unique set of challenges for the new grower. There are so much information and technology available on the subject that it can be overwhelming.
Our guide to indoor cannabis growing will simplify the process into clear, easy-to-digest sections designed to help the first-time grower. In this first post, we will look at choosing your grow space and deciding what grow lights will be best for your first grow.
FIND YOURSELF A GROW “ROOM” OR SPACE
The first step in setting up your personal grow is creating a space in which to do it. This area doesn’t have to be the typical grow “room”. It can be a closet, a tent, cabinet, spare room, or a corner in a spare garage. Just keep in mind that you will need to customize your equipment and plants to fit the space.
When attempting your first grow project, its best to start with a small grow for these reasons:
- With a small grow, the set- up costs are much less.
- Fewer plants are easier to monitor and deal with for the first time.
- The mistakes you make as a new grower will be less costly.
Remember that the first-time grower is bound to experience setbacks and lose plants to pests and disease. A failed grow of two plants will put a far smaller dent in your wallet then a large scale grows of 50 plants.
When you start designing your space, you will need to consider not only the amount of room your plants will need, but also your lights, ducting fans, and other equipment, as well as leaving enough room for you to work. Cannabis plants can double or even triple in the early stages of flowering so be sure to leave enough headroom.
If you decide to grow in a cabinet, tent or closet, it’s easy to simply remove each plant when you want to work on them. If not, be sure to leave yourself some room to work on each plant.
KEEPING CLEAN IS KEY
Make sure you can easily sanitize your entire space. Cleanliness is very important when growing indoors, so having surfaces that can be cleaned easily is the key. Carpeting, drapes, and wood are all difficult to clean, so try to stay away from these materials if you can.
MAKE SURE IT’S LIGHT-TIGHT
Another important factor for a grow room is that it must be light-tight. Light leaking during a plants dark period will confuse your plants and can cause them to revert to vegetative growth.
When deciding on a grow space, keep the following in mind:
- Stealth: You will most likely want to conceal your grow space from nosy neighbors and potential thieves. Be sure to pick a place where noisy fans won’t attract any unwanted attention.
- Convenience: You will need to monitor each of your plants very carefully. Checking them each day is important, and beginners will want to check in several times per day until everything is dialed in. if your room is hard to access, this important step will be missed.
- Temperature and Humidity Concerns: If your grow space is already very warm or very humid, you will have issues controlling your grow environment. Choosing an area that is cool and dry with access to fresh air from the outdoors is the best choice.
CHOOSE YOUR GROW LIGHTS
One of the most important factors to a successful grow is the quality of light your plants are receiving. This will be the number one environmental factor that will determine the quality and quantity of your cannabis yield. It’s important to choose the best lighting setup you can afford. Here is a quick run through of the most popular types of cannabis grow lights used for indoor growing.
HID GROW LIGHTS
HID (high-intensity discharge) lights are the industry standard and are popular because of their combination of output, efficiency, and value. They cost more than fluorescent or incandescent setups but produce far more light per unit of electricity used. On the other hand, they are not as efficient as LED lighting, but they cost as little as one-tenth as much.
THE TWO MAIN TYPES OF HID LAMP USED FOR GROWING ARE:
- High-Pressure Sodium (HPS): This lamp produces light that is a more red-orange end of the light spectrum and is best used during the flowering stage of growth.
- Metal Halide (MH): Which produce light that is blue-white and is generally used during the vegetative stage.
In addition to the light bulbs, HID lighting setups require a ballast and hood/reflector for each light. Some ballasts are designed for use with either HPS or MH lamps, while newer designs will run both.
If you are on a budget and are unable to afford both HPS and MH bulbs than its best to start with an HPS setup as they deliver more light per watt. Digital ballasts are more expensive than magnetic ones, but they are also more efficient, run cooler and the bulbs tend to run longer. Beware of cheap digital ballasts, as they are often not well shielded and can create electromagnetic interference that will affect radio and Wi-Fi signals.
Unless you are growing in a large, open grow space with a lot of ventilation, you will need air-cooled reflector hoods to mount your lamps in. HID lamps produce a lot of heat that requires ducting and exhaust fans. These will increase your initial cost but will make controlling the temperature in your grow room much easier.
FLUORESCENT GROW LIGHTS
Fluorescent light setups have gained a lot of popularity, especially with small-scale hobby growers for the following reasons:
- They are much cheaper than HID setups. This is because the reflector, ballast, and bulbs are included in a single package.
- They don’t need a cooling system since they don’t generate near the amount of heat that HID lamps do.
The main downside is that fluorescent lights are less efficient and generate about 20-30% less light per watt of electricity used. Space is another concern, as it would require about 19 one-meter long T5 HO bulbs to equal the amount of output from a single 600-watt HPS bulb.
LED GROW LIGHTS
Light emitting diode (LED) technology has been around for a while but only recently have we seen this setup be adapted for indoor growing. The main drawback to LED lighting is the price: well-designed fixtures can cost up to 10 times as much as an HID setup. The benefits are that LED lights to last much longer, use far less electricity, create less heat, and the best designs generate a full spectrum of light, which leads to bigger and better yields.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of shoddy LED lights being produced on the market. Do some research and read product reviews before laying down a lot of cash.
I hope you have a better idea of where you will start your first cannabis grow and what lights are used for indoor growing based on their pros and cons. In our next post, we will cover how to best give your plants air, how to monitor things like PH, humidity and temperature and what grow medium is best for you.
Written, November 2018