2May/12Off

Why Indoor Gardening?

Many of the Big Shop’s previous blog entries have gone into detail on how to set up grow rooms and what items to purchase, but if you haven’t started indoor gardening yet – or are at least thinking about it – we thought it would be a good idea to highlight the potential benefits.

The benefits of indoor gardening aren’t exclusive to crop production – for a start, the addition of a plant or two around your house will brighten the place up, giving it a fresh aesthetic.  Plants with coloured flowers can be a fantastic finishing touch to a room, as well as being a good talking point.  Make sure to give your plants enough light, though – keeping them on a windowsill is a good idea.

Plants don’t just look pretty though – they’ve been shown and suggested to have a massive variety of health benefits too.  The process of photosynthesis takes carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and replaces it with oxygen, refreshing the air.  This freshly oxygenated air has been shown to help with concentration and productivity, so adding a couple of plants to your home or work environment could have huge benefits.

Of course, with such a focus on how bad the global economy is, everyone is trying to cut down on as much spending as possible.  What better way is there to cut down on food spending than by growing your own vegetables and herbs?  With space at a premium, especially in the bigger cities, many people don’t have gardens to plant in – the idea of indoor gardening for food therefore appeals.

In addition, keeping plants indoors is a much simpler and more organic way of keeping most insects and other pests away from your crops than by using pesticides.  Problems associated with wind and rain are also completely negated when growing indoors, and if you’re considering taking indoor growing a little more seriously, there’s a wealth of extra benefits waiting.

With the simple addition of a grow light, plants can get up to 3 times the light that they would receive from growing naturally outdoors, leading to a marked increase in growth and yield.  As with any investment, the more aspects of a grow room you can invest in the greater the benefits you will receive.

Hydroponic growing systems remove the necessity of soil, keeping a plant’s roots fairly small and focusing the majority of its growth ‘above ground’, as well as allowing nutrients to be absorbed directly into the plant.  Air circulation and extraction equipment can help your plants to make the most of their respiration and photosynthesis processes, while other environmental controls work wonders to keep your plants happy, healthy and productive.  A complete hydroponic grow room setup may not be ideal for the beginner due to investment, space and maintenance commitments, but starting small – with a grow tent, for instance – is an excellent way of sampling the indoor gardening experience.

As always, if you have any questions, just contact us and we’ll give you our professional advice on what sort of indoor gardening would be best for your requirements.

25Apr/12Off

Why Choose a Grow Tent?

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.

18Apr/12Off

Building your 1st indoor grow room Part 3 – Getting chemicals

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.

 

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11Apr/12Off

Building your 1st indoor grow room Part 2 – Getting equipped

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...

Lights

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.

Air Flow

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.

C02

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.

Environmental Control

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!

 

2Apr/12Off

Building your 1st indoor grow room Part 1 – getting started

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.

2. Budget

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.

26Mar/12Off

Control the environment of your growroom – Lighting

The main purpose of almost every growing system is the crop yield gained as a result.  Anyone creating a hydroponic system or modifying an existing one has a wide variety of factors to take into consideration that can directly affect this yield, such as;

  • Temperature
  • Smell
  • PH Levels
  • Water treatment
  • Nutrients

Several blog posts over the past few weeks have been dedicated to these topics and more before now – however, today we’re focusing on the world of:

Lighting

It may be an obvious thing to point out, but the lighting in a hydroponic system is probably the most important part.  Photosynthesis is the process of absorbing sunlight and, using water and carbon dioxide, creating glucose (food) and oxygen.

The process of photosynthesis is the main influence on a plant’s growth and yield, so the importance of a lighting system cannot be understated.

A grow light has three essential components – the lamp itself to produce light, a ballast to regulate the power input of your lamps and a reflector to best direct the output of the lamps.  The interaction between these three parts is essential in the assembly of a functional and effective lighting system.

High Intensity Discharge (HID) lamps come in three varieties for different growing periods, each with different light outputs optimized for specific stages in a plant’s development.  Metal Halide lamps, for instance, emit more blue spectrum light, which is more effective on plants in the early, vegetative stages of development, while High Pressure Sodium (HPS) lamps produce more red spectrum light specifically for flowering periods.  Some types of lamp, such as Grolux or Sunmaster Dual Spectrum lamps, emit light from both the blue and red spectrums and can, as a result, be used for growing throughout the cycle.

Ballasts come in two major types – magnetic and digital.  Magnetic ballasts work by using a copper coil that becomes electromagnetic as power is drawn through it and into the lamp.  This magnetism reduces the amount of power that can be drawn through the coil, thus regulating what goes into the lamp.  Therefore, the bigger the coil, the higher wattage lamp can be safely powered.  Digital systems use a circuit board instead of an electromagnetic coil, losing far less energy through heat and noise than their magnetic counterparts.

Lamps don’t focus light on their own; that’s the job of a reflector.  Reflectors take all the light energy put out by a lamp and reduce wastage by focusing as much as possible at your crops.  This process means that your plants can absorb the same amount of light with less energy expense on your behalf, and is important in making sure your system is economical.

One more thing to remember is that all lamps produce heat – excess heat isn’t good news for your plants at all, as you can read in our blog entry here.  Don’t forget, you can always ask our experts at The BIG Shop for advice relating to this or any other growing topics.

23Mar/12Off

Control the environment of your growroom – Air Flow

If you’re thinking about starting a hydroponic grow room, or are looking for advice on how to maintain or improve an existing one, you’ve come to the right place.  We at the BIG Shop have been running a series of blogs to help seasoned growers and those aspiring to earn their first green fingers alike - here are the major topics we’re covering;

  • Temperature
  • Smell
  • PH Levels
  • Water treatment
  • Nutrients

Some of these issues have already been addressed – browse our previous blog posts for more details – but today we’re focussing our attention on a very important part of any hydroponic system:

Air Flow

Plants, like all living creatures, need to respire (breathe) in order to survive.  You may well already be aware that plants photosynthesise in light by taking in energy, water (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2) to produce food (glucose) and oxygen (O2) – but it’s also essential that they can reverse the process comfortably.

Respiration is biochemically the inverse of photosynthesis, as it uses up glucose and oxygen to produce energy for their own use and releases carbon dioxide along with water vapour.  This process provides plants with the energy to grow – which after all is the crux of any hydroponic system.  Giving your plants nutrients is fine, but without the correct levels of gases to break down those nutrients into useful energy, their food source will be wasted.

In the wild, plants respire constantly but only photosynthesise in sunlight.  They have, therefore, developed to photosynthesise at a more concentrated rate to make the most of the short space of time in which the process can be carried out.  It stands to reason, then, that in a hydroponic growing system where plants are under lighting for longer than they would otherwise be, they photosynthesise more than they respire - meaning that the natural balance of gases with which their growing processes are at their most productive is not achieved without a little outside help.  Put quite simply – a good supply of fresh air will increase your crop yield.

That’s where we come in – we stock a range of fans, filters, ducting, kits and accessories to make your extraction system as efficient as possible.  Taking into consideration the heat output of your lamps as well as your available space will help you make the most of your setup.  We recommend, however, getting the highest output fan within your budget, even if your setup is a small one – when run on low power a larger fan can still have a considerable output while keeping noise to a minimum.  Take a look at our range of Torin High Output Acoustic Wooden Box Fans for several examples of this concept.

Don’t hesitate to contact us via telephone or email for some professional guidance and advice tailored around your specific requirements – air circulation is a massively important part of your hydroponic system, and it’s essential that you don’t neglect it.

13Mar/12Off

Control the environment of your growroom – pH Levels

If you want to make the most out of your plants, you need to understand how they react to their environment.  The environment they are being cultivated in directly affects your growing results.  Broken down, the major points of consideration are;

  • Temperature
  • Smell
  • PH Levels
  • Water treatment
  • Nutrients

We’ve already addressed some of these issues in previous blog posts, so now we’re taking a closer look at...

pH

The pH scale refers to how acidic or alkaline a substance is, and is one of the most important things to consider when maintaining your growroom.  The scale runs from 1 to 14, with 1 being extremely acidic and 14 being extremely alkaline – a pH of 7 is referred to as neutral and is most commonly found in pure water.c

As any plant cultivator should know, nutrients are important for plant growth and development.  It is the pH level around the roots, though, that defines how well these minerals can be absorbed by the plant.

Most plants thrive in a slightly acidic growing environment – between 5.8 and 6.8 pH – but different times in a plant’s life cycle will require different levels of minerals, which could affect the pH of your growing area.

It is, therefore, important to keep watch over the pH levels of your crops – The Big Shop has several testers in stock from reusable electric varieties such as the ETI Horticare Digital pH Tester to traditional liquid tests like the Flairform pH Test Kit.

A pH test should be regularly conducted – we suggest once a day when first starting out with a growroom until you’ve reached and kept an optimum level, after which you can afford to test once a week purely to make sure the pH levels don’t fluctuate too far.

To stabilise your pH, check your levels and add a small amount of an acidic or alkaline substance, depending on whether you need to respectively lower or raise your pH.  Check again within an hour, then adjust again accordingly.  Start by adding one millilitre per gallon of your hydroponic solution to make the effects of each treatment clearer.  Repeat this process a few times and you should start to get a feel for your system and understand how much altering solution is needed to change your levels appropriately.

We also stock Growth Technology’s pH Up and ph Down substances to help you maintain the most productive growing conditions as possible to really make the most out of your growroom.

5Mar/12Off

Control the environment of your growroom – Carbon Dioxide (Co2)

Controlling the indoor environment of a growroom is key to increasing the successful growth of your crop. We have addressed two primary issues regarding environmental control including temperature and odours. The main points to consider with this are;

  • Temperature
  • Smell
  • PH Levels
  • Water treatment
  • Nutrients

Today we are focusing on...

Carbon Dioxide (Co2)


Co2 is one of the most important factors in an indoor growroom. For those of you who have studied up on its integral role in this process will know it is referred to as Photosynthesis. When plants combine Co2 molecules with water molecules they form complex sugars that result in spare oxygen atoms being released back into the air. These sugars are processed further by the plant to form natural polymers for growth. Remember, carbon makes up the largest portion of the dry weight of the average plant and it is supplied in the air. Carbon Dioxide is as important to a plant’s life cycle as oxygen is to human beings.

Many plants benefit from raised Co2 levels. Carbon Dioxide enrichment is a process that can be used throughout all stages of the plant growth. The ambient level of Co2 in air is 300-400ppm, fast growing plants in your growroom or glasshouse can use all the available Co2 in less than an hour slowing photosynthesis and therefore growth to a virtual halt.

So what do you need to control this aspect of the environment?

A Co2 Controller would be a good place to start. The Evolution Digital Controller (one of our preferred choices) has more features and functionality than any other product of its kind. It’s a highly accurate way of monitoring your Co2 levels with a great deal of accuracy. Then there is the Unis Co2 Controller with regulator, specifically designed to allow easy Co2 enrichment for home growrooms. This product helps to cut out the trouble of calculating things like gas flow rate, pressure and timing. Perhaps you just want to keep things simple and go with just a Co2 regulator without all the digital trimmings.

A Growth Gas Generator will help increase overall growth rates and will yield a larger end product by introducing the Co2 into the atmosphere of the growing environment. It runs on propane gas and electricity producing heat and Co2. Assorted extras such as Co2 washers and release tubing might also need to be considered.

The importance of Co2 goes beyond being a luxury and falls into the vital camp. You need it in order to grow a crop that yields real, lasting results. Increased levels from 1000pm-3000pm will generally increase yields by 20-30% and take roughly two weeks off of the 3-month growing cycle.

Invest in Co2 to help grow a healthy crop and increase your yield. Contact us for more information at The Big Shop.


28Feb/12Off

Control the environment of your growroom – Odours and smells

Controlling your growroom environment is essential to the survival of your crop. The more control you have over it; the better the outcome overall. Conditions for consideration in this area are;

  • Temperature
  • Smell
  • PH Levels
  • Water treatment
  • Nutrients

We covered temperature in the previous blog so today we’re moving on to...

Odours and smells

Yes, the need to create a healthy growroom extends to smell as well.

Smells can be problematic and highly unpleasant. The use of carbon filters is recommended as they help to clean and purify the air. Ozone generators neutralise odours and other smells. There is no substitute for adequate extraction in your growroom/ polytunnel. There are a variety of options for removing any lingering odours that may still exist in and around a growroom.

You can start simple with taking on odours and smells. ONA sprays help to remove the smell rather than scent the room. Scenting a room only covers up bad smells rather than eliminating them altogether. This product doesn’t leave an odour itself, it simply neutralises the smells. It’s a natural alternative that is both organic and safe to use. ONA is a go-to source for odour elimination. They also have liquids and gels hat you can use to refresh the air. The gel has various suspension elements that create an odour remover with excellent dispersion characteristics. ONA gel’s neutralising properties are slowly released in a controlled way through natural evaporation so there is no wastage.

Refreshing the air can be a tricky task if you’ve not invested in the right products to help you tackle it effectively. Sometimes getting that breath of fresh air can be accomplished through using an Air Revitaliser which is designed to improve overall indoor air quality. It’s a small, portable item that only needs a plug socket in order to work. The Air Revitaliser creates a cleaner, fresher and healthier indoor environment (this can be implemented for home or work use too!) Some of the benefits lend themselves to removing bacteria, mould, dust, pollen and assorted airborne contaminants. Whilst purifying the air it also acts as a humidifier.

Getting deeper into the technology aspect of removing odours and smells there is the Ozone generator. These are designed with the small to medium growrooms in mind it’s a compact design and wall-mountable. The use of Ultra Pure materials in the generator head makes replacement unnecessary for long term reliability and is maintenance free. The Ozone Generator removes grow room odours and kills harmful airborne pathogens whilst keeping your growroom sterile.

These are just a handful of potential resolutions to your odour problems. Browse our selections or contact us for some free expert advice at The Big Shop.

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