Indoor gardening can be as easy or complex as you want it to be. Over time the experience gained from previous crops will often breed an insatiable desire to experiment and fine tune all aspects of your set up, but when you're only just starting out definitely aim to stick to the basics and keep things simple.
In essence your main goals are the following:
1.) To construct a grow room with the necessary amount of space, good light coverage and suitable air exchange
2.) To add healthy plants to the set up
3.) To ensure that plants receive continued and adequate care and attention.
Excellent results are not difficult to achieve irrespective of the growing technique you choose to use - Hydroponics, Soil or Coco. Following some tried and tested methods and practices will give you a solid base to develop from and add more advanced skills to as you progress. The best way to make your indoor garden as efficient and effective as possible is to put some real thought into your grow room at the planning stage. So where do you start?
Choosing a suitable space
Is an available area big enough?
Almost any space could be used for a grow room, from a small cupboard to a whole room, garage or attic space. You can either convert a whole room or cupboard into a grow room, or use a grow tent or chamber within a room to create an enclosed growing space.
Will you be able to provide the necessary amount of power?
An electrical supply source is going to be needed to power lights, pumps, fans, etc. For a one light or two light set up a couple of normal double wall socket would be sufficient. If wall sockets are limited or not in the right locations, an extension lead can help to solve the problem.
Can you get tap water from somewhere nearby?
A nearby water supply is vital as your plants will almost certainly get very thirsty when exposed to powerful amounts of light. We recommend tap water over rain water because it gives you a much cleaner and safer base liquid on which to build. Rain water will already contain many elements and could also carry diseases or fungi that may then harm your plants.
What impact will a grow room have on others around you?
Lights and pumps may be on at night creating a small amount of noise, so you need to consider the placement of your grow room in relation to the location of bedrooms and indeed the homes of neighbours.
Do not grow on carpeted floors as these can hold moisture and harbour bugs and bacteria. The occasional spillage or leak is unavoidable too, ideally remove any carpet and line the floor with thick black/white reflective sheeting.
Can you create a completely enclosed 'light-tight' environment?
If you have a small window or natural light source in your growing area you will probably want to block it off or light trap the area with reflective sheeting. The aim is to effectively stop the light generated by lamps from escaping your grow room, whilst at the same time also preventing natural light from entering the area and affecting growth rates. The latter is a problem because plants basically get confused and stressed out if they are exposed to light on an inconsistent basis - the same way you would be if your bedroom suddenly illuminated during the middle of the night!
Several types of grow room sheeting - including Orca and Reflex Diamond - also help to increase the reflectivity of grow tents and make walls more reflective, enabling you to use as much of the output produced by your grow lights as possible. In the picture below, you can see just how shiny Orca is (the right box) compared against standard mylar!
Due to the cost of electricity, many growers decide to have their lights on during the night and their lights off (dark) period during the day. To make checks and carry out tasks in your grow room during the day when the lights are most likely to be switched off, we recommend using an Active Eye Head Lamp.
Alternatively if you plan on tending to plants whilst the lights are on, protect your eyes with LUMii Lenses
Are you able to regularly replace the air in your grow room?
Whatever area you choose to use in the end, adequate air exchange must be achieved - usually by means of one fan taking air out and either a vent or second fan (depending on the size of your set up) bringing in new supplies. Make the effort to master the art of ventilation and you will soon come to understand the importance of good air exchange, be adept at selecting the right equipment for the job and then more confident at building and installing a complete extraction system. Check out the following articles to learn more about these skills:
Smaller extractor fans are typically quite quiet, but larger extractor fans do tend to produce some noise. That being said, each model in the Isomax range actually features an innovative baffle and acoustic lined chamber (akin to a very large silencer) to reduce overall noise output and still allow for the movement of huge amounts of air. As a general rule, the more lights you have the more air exchange you will require (see the table below for details on the relationship between the size of tents, number of lights and suitability of extraction systems).
Extractor fans are normally on for 24 hours a day when used in conjunction with carbon filters. Your extractor fan doesn’t have to be in the grow room, it can be placed outside the room and run in line with ducting. If you're using an intake fan and extraction fan, they ideally need to be positioned in opposite corners of the growing area.
To help avoid heat problems, especially in summer, try to make grow rooms at least 180cm (6”) tall. If your indoor garden doesn’t have this headroom then you may want to consider using smaller lights or a LightRail.
Now you know what you need to consider before setting up a grow room, the next step is to decide whether you're going to convert an entire room into a growing oasis, use an existing enclosed environment like a cupboard, or create a grow room within a much larger room that may be serving other purposes - e.g. a bedroom or lounge (typically with a grow tent).
Build Option 1: Converting a whole room
Generally it’s best to match the size of area to the amount of light. There would be no point using a 600 Watt light to try and fill an entire 6m x 3m room. If you only wanted to spend money on the one light, you’d be better off using an XL BudBox Grow Tent to contain the output and maximise the growth and yield of plants.
If you do have a reasonably large, completely empty room like the one above and want to use multiple 600 Watt lights to fill the whole space, then set up a system for every 1.2m x 1.2m piece of space (absolute minimum).
Although the above layout fully utilises the space available, we'd always recommend using a tent. Managing the growing environment immediately becomes a lot easier so that you're able to establish and maintain very specific temperatures and humidity, prevent bug infestations and disease, minimise light loss, and much more. At the expense of losing two lights from the above scenario, you can install 2 x Titan+ BudBox Grow Tent.
Of course you don't have to opt for 600 Watt lights. Equally so, the more lights that you intend to run (whatever the wattage), the bigger the extractor fan will need to be to keep the temperatures manageable. The table below indicates the extraction fan (and intake fan if necessary) that you should use alongside your preferred power and quantity of grow lights.
Remember air needs to enter the room as well as leave it. This means some air input holes and/or an input fan should be used to bring new air into the growing room from a friendly temperature source like another room inside the house. Hot air extracted from the top of the grow room should ideally leave the building. Your input fan should be a bit smaller than your output fan.
Build Option 2: Converting a small area like a wardrobe, closet or cupboard
When you're planning on growing in a small space like a closet, try and have the height of it as tall as possible - at least 5 feet is good, with nothing more powerful than a 250 Watt Light. Ideally though, you want even more headroom than this to prevent possible future heat problems. If you don’t have a great deal of headroom then you may want to consider a smaller light like a T5 Grow Light (product on left is an example). However, as these lights are designed for propagation we'd suggest trying to find a bigger area.
In small areas with 250, 400 or 600 Watt lights it’s best to use an extractor fan to take the hot air away from the top of the room and air input holes around the bottom of the room for new air to enter. Better still, an air input fan can also be used to force new air into the grow room and create a constant flow of new air in and old air out. This will keep the area as cool as possible, facilitating optimum light levels and better overall results. If you decide to go with an input fan, still have air input holes in place and make sure you use a smaller input fan than output fan.
When you're only using one or two lights you ideally want to input air from an indoor source at a friendly temperature. Your extracted hot grow room air should be ducted outside, or at least away from the plants and into the rest of a larger room that is adequately ventilated.
Build Option 3: A grow room within a room
BudBox Grow Tents are very popular because they can be set up quickly in any space to create the perfect growing area without it infringing on the rest of the room. They use highly reflective, extra thick, flame retardent material to trap the light in and maximize yield. An extractor fan is again required to create some airflow through the tent, either taking the air completely out of the building or mixing it back into the rest of the larger room. The tents take into account all of the growing, light and environmental factors, providing you with one distinct growing area that protects the rest of the room from the heat and humidity. Easy to erect and disassemble when not in use, BudBox Grow Tents prove to be superior to rival products and far more practical than homemade wooden structures.
That’s about it for the grow room, now you need to choose your lights and a growing system for the plants. Hand-watering in pots is very popular, especially in coco, but a hydroponics system does make it easier for the plants to cope with intense light environments and heat.
Get The Right Light System
A typical light system consists of three parts:
- Ballast: for regulating and controlling the supply of energy needed to power the light
- Lamp: for actually generating the light
- Reflector: for guiding as much of the light produced down towards your plants.
There are a variety of different power options you can select from when deciding what light system(s) to use, with the determining factor being your available space and budget. The three most popular lamp choices consist of the following:
250 Watt Light
- Suit beginners and smaller areas like cupboards
400 Watt Light
- Great for vegetative plants and medium-to-large grow rooms
- Normally the choice for growers with a Large BudBox Grow Tent
600 Watt Light
- The most efficient and popular size, giving optimum light and good depth over an area of 1.2 x 1.2 metres or more
1000 Watt lights also exist - these are extremely powerful and best utilized on LightRails where they will cover an area of about 1.5m x 3m.
If you’ve got a small closet type area a 250 watt sodium light will give great results from start to finish, although at least 5 feet of grow room height should be used. Alternatively you could use this small area purely for propagation and early vegetative growth, choosing to install a high output T5 fluorescent unit instead. The minimum grow room height for these lights is at least 4 feet, preferably more.
If you're using a 250 Watt, 400 Watt, 600 Watt or 1000 Watt light and want to have a timer dictate on/off times, you will also need to use a contactor to protect it from blowing as the inductive current that fires up the lamp is very high and will cause the timer to fuse and stay on.
As mentioned earlier, air exchange is a key ingredient to a successful grow room. The ideal air exchange rate will vary at different times of the year and from room to room depending on aspects like grow room height. As a rough guide, about 30 air changes per hour is the desired minimum. We recommend at least 200 cubic metres of movement per hour for one 600 Watt light, then 150m3 per hour for each extra light. Compare the two figures for each method and go for an average between the two and you won’t be far out. Adjust this figure slightly up or down for 1000 Watt or 400 Watt respectively.
Basic Grow Room Safety
Grow light systems are very safe. They require a few hundred watts - no more than many other household electrical items - and like any of these devices prove to be perfectly safe if used with common sense and a healthy respect for electricity.
Tie cables when necessary and run them neatly and out of the way, position ballasts and any other electrical equipment where they will not come into contact with water unless specifically designed to do so - e.g. nutrient heaters and water pumps.
From time to time check all installations, connections and wiring.
Make sure equipment is not accessible to children or animals.
Read instructions and safety information where applicable, especially where aggressive liquids are concerned.
Consider installing a fire extinguisher that has been specifically designed for a grow room.