Let’s Talk Micro Grows

Growing on a big scale (like in a warehouse or a big greenroom) can be tricky because you need lots of light, nutrients, ventilation, etc… and all of that needs to be  given to your plants equally. But growing on a small scale can have its disadvantages, too.

Every little thing you do to one or two plants will have a direct effect: too much heat, too much light, too high a concentration of nutrients, and your plant(s) can suffer severely.

So if growing hard enough, why would any grow only 1-2 plants at a time? If you want to keep a single plant (like a mothering plant) alive you’ll want to know how much to feed that one plant, because it definitely won’t be as much as you feed a big garden.

Or maybe you don’t need too many plants, and simply want to scale your garden down. No matter the reason for starting a micro grow, it’s important to know your options before scaling down your garden from a whole system to just one bucket.

Lights

In a Micro Grow (a garden that’s approximately the size of bedroom closet or smaller) light makes all the difference because of one main factor: heat. You’re going to be growing in a confined space, so it’s going to get warm fast, and the temperature alone can dry your plants and the medium they grow in.

Depending on how tall they get, that heat can also be dangerous because if you’re using a light that gets hot and your plants get tall, you have to watch out that they’re not being scorched by the light when they touch it.

400w HID Lighting

When lighting in a micro grow, keep the heat output of the lights you want to use. If you’re going with HID’s, a rule of thumb is to use a 400w: they’ll produce heat but not a ton of it, and are going to be powerful enough to grow without stressing your 1-2 plants.

What you’ll want to look out for is the height of that light above your plants, because HID bulbs get extremely hot to the touch, and if you can burn your hand on a light, just imagine what’ll happen to your plant’s leaves when they touch them…

That’s why we personally suggest going with LED’s. Though they will produce a little heat, the amount of heat they give off is exponentially lower than an HID bulb.

That means your micro grow’s ambient temperature (as well as running temperature) will be low. Most LED’s can have plants pushed against them without much danger of fires, and some even have heat syncs to keep temperatures as low as possible.

Moreover, if you use a full spectrum light, all you have to do is change your lighting schedules, unlike HID’s in which you’d need to swap out the bulbs before changing your light cycle.

LED Micro Grow Light Setup

Of course, these aren’t the only ways to light a micro grow. Some people use CFL bulbs (like the ones in your house lamps) to give your plants a bright light without tons of heat. Others use T5’s that’ll offer a limited spectrum but are relatively cool to the touch.

But these lights only offer a very limited spectrum of light, and have been known to only grow for a limited amount of time before they peter out and stunt or stagnate growth and blooming.

Nutrients

Nutrient burn is no joke. When your plants receive too high of a concentration of nutrients your leaves will start to turn yellow and wilt.

This is called nutrient burn, and it’s a sign you’re overloading your plant with nutrients. If your plants aren’t able to process all of the nutrients they receive the sodium and nitrogen in your nutrients will kill your plants from the inside out. In a micro grow this problem is more than common, because most growers use the nutrient solution their feeding charts tell them.

However, that measurement is usually based on a big reservoir, and not a single bucket about 1/6 of the size.

Thankfully scaling down is much easier than rounding up, so first calculate the ratio of nutrients to the amount of water the chart tells you. Then take the size of your bucket and scale it to the overall reservoir size recommended on your chart. From there you’ll be able to scale down how much nutrients you’ll need. That’s the easy part.

The next part is going to be little tricky: we recommend using a syringe to add nutrients by such a small measurement (remember: this will be in mL, so chances are it’s going to be a very low amount you need.).

Because there are air bubbles that will be in the syringe, give yourself an extra 2mL of the solution to account for a margin of error. For example, if your new solution calls for 3mL, fill your syringe with 5ml.

Squirt 1mL out and make sure all of the bubbles are gone. Then fill the bucket with the amount of nutrients you need- that should give you about 1ml left of solution to toss out.

Grow Space

The space that you set your grow up is important. Certain setup’s allow for certain advantages over others, so it’s vital you know how you’re going to house your plants in order to know how to take care of them.

  • Grow Tents offer the most advantages. They usually have vent ports for intake and exhaust fans, fresh air intake at the bottom of the tent, and reflective material around them. They’re great for keeping bugs out while being able to keep fresh air in.

The only disadvantage to a tent is that if you’re going for discreet growing, it’s pretty hard to hide a tent. You either have to downgrade to a very small tent or put your tent in a closet (which sort of defeats the purpose to using a tent, doesn’t it?)

Closet Grow Setup
  • Closet grows are great for growers looking to simply open a door and BOOM, they’re entire grow is there. The convenient thing about starting a closet grow is that it can actually be easier to set up than a grow tent.

    All you really need is some reflective material, your grow light, and some fans to keep your plants growing strong.

    There are two disadvantages to using a closet for your grow, the first being pretty obvious: bugs. If you thought ants were the only thing that you had in your house, just wait until you start growing- that’s when pests you don’t even know existed come around.

    The second disadvantage would be with odors. You may be using filters and duct fans to move air around, but even the best filters cannot mask the smell of a bare plant, and if you’re growing in your closet there’s lots of potential for air leaks.

    That air that leaks out will more than likely have the aroma of your garden, which may be fine for you, but maybe not so much to your neighbors or fellow housemates.

  • Grow boxes are a great way to hide your grow in plain sight. More for those looking to grow without taking up any more space in their home or apartment than, say, a dresser drawer or an entertainment console.

    The great thing about grow boxes is the fact that they’re so discreet. A grow box is simply just that: a box (i.e. a small, confined space) with room for a light and space to grow in. These can range from cabinets to entertainment consoles- we’ve even seen some in a 33 Gallon Plastic Tub from Walmart! If you can think it, you can build it, and if your plants can fit in it, you better believe you can grow.

    The problem: ventilation. Sure, you can use fans and ducting to cool your lights, but what about air intake? Fresh air can be introduced by opening the door of the grow box, but that lets odors out and invites pests, dust, and mold spores from the surrounding area in.

    Ventilation is trickier with grow boxes, so if you’re looking to go that route be ready to exterminate often.

    Grow Box setup

Environment Control

Unlike bigger grows, there are going to be some limitations to how much of the environment you can control.

For example, Co2 may not be the best options for a micro grow because humidity and Co2 levels will rise quickly, and combating that in such a small area may just eliminate the Co2’s use all together.
When it comes to environmental conditions, there are two major ways you can control the temperature and humidity of that grow: air flow and filtration.

  • Air flow is vital to your grow, because without it your plants don’t get fresh air, and all of the air that’s in your air will become stagnant. Depending on the style of micro grow you end up using, make sure that all air intake doesn’t allow bugs to come in.

    If you’re growing in a grow box that might mean building an intake/exhaust port with a micro filter to keep pests out.

    Blade fans and lower powered duct fans are great to keep air moving in your grow. If you have a duct fan but it’s just too powerful for a small area, you can use a speed controller to slow that air flow down to not hurt your plants.

  • Filtration is important not only for smell, but for getting dust and mold out of your growing space. Without a filter your air is blowing in to an open room. That means not only is your room (or entire home/apartment) is going to smell like your grow, but all of that “fresh” air you want is full of that bad stuff you were just trying to get out.

Medium

Now when it comes to the growing environment there are really only two types of mediums you’ll want to work with: soil or clay pebbles, all in a small 1-2 plant-sized buckets.

  • Soil is not only the most forgiving when growing only one or two plants, but it’s easy to maintain and is more likely to avoid getting diseases such as root rot, or being affected too heavily with nutrient lock. However, it’s trickier to get a watering cycle down, as you’ll need to constantly be checking your soil’s water content to assure proper feeding.
  • Single DWC or Drip buckets are great to use because you pretty much let them run themselves. You check inon them to make sure they’re not wilting from over feeding, make sure their pH levels are on point, and watch the height. What could possibly be the downside of these mediums? Maintenance.
    DWC Grow Bucket

    If you don’t clean that reservoir of water often, expect mold in those buckets.

    If you thought mold on your leaves was bad, mold on your roots will absolutely destroy your plants. Root mold leads to root rot, and in a micro grow root rot can spread quickly and attack even faster.

    With one or two plants on the line, you have to make sure that you maintain your system often, which means cleaning, disinfecting, and refilling your bucket often along with controlling your temperature and humidity so it doesn’t get stagnant in there because mold loves humid, stagnant conditions.

So if you’re going to grow small, make sure you choose the best option for your budget and your home conditions. If you can spare the room and have all the right equipment, set up a grow tent or line your closet with reflective material and hang a light from the ceiling.

But if you have a limited space to grow in, a grow box might be the best option for you. Whichever way you go, be ready to maintain the growing conditions accordingly.

Remember: you have more room for error when you’re growing in a warehouse, but when you’ve only got two plants every little detail counts.

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