When choosing to start growing plants and crops indoors, many options are open to you – so many choices of lighting and ventilation systems, so many different atmospheric conditions to control – but the first important decision you have to make is specifically where to begin. Once again, The Big Shop is here to help!
Ideally a cellar or spare room would be converted into an environmentally secure area, with installed lighting and air circulation throughout, but this situation is not open to every aspiring indoor gardener. It may be that you don’t have a whole room to set aside; perhaps you don’t like the idea of conducting extensive work on your own to hang and install lights and fans; maybe you don’t have the legal right to make adjustments to your abode; it’s possible that you simply don’t want to invest in the parts for a homemade system. Any combination of these factors could lead you to considering a grow tent, one of the most increasingly popular trends in indoor gardening.
Grow tents allow the budding gardener to create an environmentally sealed climate-controlled space within a room without modifying or damaging the existing locale. Easy to set up and portable, they are also widely used by gardeners who move around a lot, such as those in non permanent residences, as well as being very budget conscious – not everyone has enough cash to spare to start from scratch! Many are also drawn to this solution for aesthetic purposes, with the sleek black cloth wardrobe being more appealing than a large system of pipes, wires and lights.
Easy to set up, these grow tents are fireproof, waterproof and insulated thoroughly to retain temperature, with heavy duty zips and a reflective interior to make the most of the light within, ensuring no electricity is wasted. With your crops kept in an environment such as this, it is simple to monitor and adjust the temperature, airflow and lighting levels to adjust for maximum yield. Grow tents are provided with ventilation socks to encourage air flow and facilitate the installation of more complex air flow systems as well as hangers to support any equipment your grow setup may need. This is a much simpler process than suspending similar features from ceilings or attaching them to walls. We would, however, recommend keeping your lighting ballast outside your grow tent to cut down on unnecessary heat.
Here at The Big Shop we stock two manufacturers of grow tents – Homebox and Secret Jardin, the latter of which has two distinct ranges. The Secret Jardin Dark Rooms are a premium choice boasting dual layered 210D Mylar fabric and a thick light proof material, with waterproof removable floors for simple cleaning. The Dark Street variety is aimed at those on a slightly stricter budget, but hardly skimps on the quality of its predecessor, and are made with a 190D dual layered Mylar fabric. Whichever variety appeals to you most, visit our web site or contact us for more information.
In previous blog posts we at the Big Shop have begun a series explaining how to start your first ever indoor grow room. We’ve already covered the basics and what entry level equipment you’ll need. Of course, your plants should flourish given the correct air flow and lighting, as well as a good environmental control system, but they won’t be growing at all if they aren’t provided with the necessary nutrients and chemicals – that’s the subject of today’s blog entry!
The mineral nutrients necessary for plant growth can be subdivided into two groups – macronutrients and micronutrients. Greater amounts of macronutrients are needed than of micronutrients, hence the names (‘macro’ meaning ‘large’, and ‘micro’ meaning ‘small’). These nutrients dissolve into water and are absorbed into the plant through its roots. After all, in soil, the nutrients need to chemically travel to reach a plant’s roots, whilst a hydroponic solution – being liquid – can bring all the necessary nutrients straight to the roots.
Fortunately we can skip the science lesson here as new growers don’t necessarily need to understand the exact chemistry of plant growth – at the Big Shop we have a wide selection of nutrient solutions and supplements, so take off that lab coat as you don’t need to make your own from scratch! For example, take a look at the Flora series from General Hydroponics as a good quality and good value first step.
Of course the right level and ratio of nutrients is important, but be careful not to neglect other similarly important grow room ingredients. It’s of paramount importance, for instance, to maintain a steady pH level. The pH scale is how acidic or alkaline a substance is – read more about this in one of our previous blogs. The correct pH will maximise the potential nutrient uptake for your crops – while an incorrect pH could starve them of their sustenance and prove fatal to your plants if allowed to get too out of hand.
Different varieties of plant have adapted to require different levels of pH, but almost all of these sit within the range of between 5.5 and 6.5 pH; it is therefore advisable to aim for a steady 6 in your hydroponic system. Being a liquid-based process, maintaining the pH in a hydroponic setup is simple – merely keep regular track of the pH levels and add pH+ or pH- solution if your measurements head towards one end of the scale or the other.
It’s generally a good idea to test the pH of your solution a couple of hours after you do anything with it – after adding supplements or replacing the liquid for example. Once adjusted, leave it an hour and test again, repeating the process until the correct pH level is settled. Testing your solution twice a week is a beneficial routine to get into. And don’t worry – the Big Shop has plenty of equipment for testing and maintaining pH levels in your grow room.
The idea of starting your own indoor grow room is one that appeals to many, but to the more amateur and less experienced grower, the process of starting out from scratch is daunting. All those pieces of equipment – so much choice – so many chemicals! Here’s where we at The Big Shop step in to lend a hand with a few words of advice, continuing from last week’s blog, which you can read here. In the meantime, here are a few words about what you may need to get started...
The light set up of your growing system is probably the most important part – the process of photosynthesis in plants is how they grow, so the amount and quality of light is of paramount importance. A single 600w bulb should be enough to cover around 5 feet of growing space, if positioned at least 5 feet above the crop. More information on the importance of light can be found in a previous blog by clicking here.
Probably the second most important part of your grow room will be your air flow system. The use of a small fan or two to keep air gently flowing around your developing and growing crops is invaluable if you intend to maximise your growing potential, but even more important is the incorporation of an adequate extraction system. Find out more about this here.
Carbon Dioxide is an essential ingredient for plant growth and crop production, being another major contributor in the process of photosynthesis. Levels of C02 would normally drop in an enclosed area as your plants continue to use it up, and as a result their growth would slow and eventually stop. Replenishing and maintaining levels of carbon dioxide, therefore, can lead to dramatically increased growth, and similarly incremented yields as a consequence. For more details on the effects of C02, read more here.
Relays and Contactors
Your grow room equipment will need a steady supply of electricity, and it’s important that this is regulated to ensure safety. If lights are turned off during the day and turned back on overnight, for instance, the sudden activation of many high-powered lights could create a small surge if not properly regulated. At The Big Shop, we stock a variety of equipment to reduce the impact on your electrical supply.
This encompasses everything from the pH of your growing solution to the temperature of your grow room. In addition to the obvious potential pest problems, issues may arise regarding odours that may become problematic and should be dealt with. The Big Shop stocks everything the new indoor gardener needs to cope with these environmental issues.
Stay tuned for more advice on setting up your first grow room, including what nutrients and other such products would be required. Good luck – and happy growing from The Big Shop!
If you’re a first timer, the thought of building your own grow room may appeal but the practicality of actually pulling it off can be a difficult prospect. It can be a confusing process when you’re starting out, especially if you have no prior experience in operating a grow room and sustaining a crop. So let The Big Shop be your guide for the next few weeks on how to pull it off, step-by-step...
1. Choose a suitable space for the grow room
You don’t need a whole room for this per say (depending on how big a crop you want to produce) but we recommend keeping it small on your first time out. Use a cupboard or wardrobe to make things easier for yourself. The simpler the better. If you’re ambitious and want to go further right off the bat then a garage or loft would be the most suitable areas to do it in. DO NOT grow on carpeted areas! Carpets are full of moisture and bacteria that can harm the crop.
Consider the following – if using a growtent (recommended) you need to decide on size and if it will fit into you allotted space. Then you need to ensure you have an electrical supply source within the vicinity because you WILL NEED POWER! Don’t underestimate having a close proximity to a water source either because you will need to keep that crop’s thirst quenched.
This is an investment and if you are a budding indoor gardener you need to invest in that activity in order to do it properly. How much is your budget? Can you afford to buy yourself the essential materials needed to harvest a crop? If the answer is “no” to both of these questions than wait and start saving. No half-measures!
Consider the following – Plant Lighting. Artificial lights are one of the essentials. You cannot use natural light to grow your crops in an indoor environment as it can affect plant growth. Considering the electricity cost you may want have the lights on during the evening and off during the day leaving the crop in total darkness to save you on an extensive bill. Remember, you want to save as much money as possible.
Extractor fans are also an essential item. Try to invest in ones that make little to no noise as the sound can be distracting, especially if you are sleeping close to the grow room. These usually run for 24 hours a day.
We’ll get into lights and fans more later on.
3. Building your grow room
This again depends on whether or not you are converting a whole room or converting a smaller space... Match the size of the area to the amount of light you plan to have. If the room is small then try using 600 watt bulb every 5 or so feet. Bear in mind that the more lights you have the bigger the extractor fan will have to be. Setting up an input fan will be necessary in order to bring new air into the grow room from the rest of your house/flat. Input fans are generally smaller than the output fans.
If you’re growing in a cupboard or wardrobe allow the space to be big in terms of height by at least 5 feet so that there is adequate headroom between the crop and the lights. Less headspace means you should use lower wattage lights.
This is just the opening chapter of our epic grow room for beginners blog series. Next week we’ll get into the next phase of setting up your grow room. In the meantime for expert help, advice or product information please contact The Big Shop.