Setting Up Your Grow : Don’t Forget to Ask These Vital Questions

Growing indoors is exciting: you don’t have to worry about your plants being under-fed or over-heated from outdoor conditions, and you can get multiple yields per year. Growers also know that it can be a pretty expensive process too, and a complicated one at that.

Some growers will hire people to set up their grows, while others try to piece together what they think is good for their needs. Even if you have help putting a grow package together, some growers will get the package and won’t produce a good harvest. That’s because there is more to growing than simply putting a package together, grabbing some nutrients, and putting your plants under lights. To avoid a disappointing harvest, make sure you know exactly what to expect once your garden is in full swing:

What sort of plants are you growing? How big are they going to grow, and what size pots do you need for them?
The first question we like to start off with when we’re getting a new grow off of the ground is, “What sort of plants are we growing?” This should be the first thing you ask yourself because knowing what types of plants you want to grow will set the foundation for virtually every aspect of your garden.

setup1Knowing what type of plant your growing will first narrow down what sort of lights you’ll need to get the job done. If you’re growing chili’s or herbs, for example, you can get away with some 35-50w LED lights or T5/CFL Fluorescent lights. But for bigger plants, like vegetables, flowers, and fruiting plants, you’ll want to go with 400w HID’s or higher, and 250w LED’s or higher.

Your plants will also grow to a certain size and even bigger, which will help determine what size containers you use to hold your plants. Remember: the bigger the plants, the bigger the roots, so if your plants grow tall and wide, chances are you’ll need larger buckets. Plants that don’t grow too large will need some basic 1-2 gallon planting pots to hold them and their roots.

They’ll also help you determine if you have the space for growing that plant. You wouldn’t want to try to grow an entire tree in a little apartment, and you don’t need an entire room dedicated to one or two smaller plants. But knowing how large it will be and how long it will take to grow that size are the two important questions all great growers need to ask before they start filling rooms with plants.

What Size Room/Tent Are You Working With?
The next big step after determining what kind of plants you want to grow is where you’re going to put all of them. There’s two ways to think about this idea, but either way knowing the size of the space you’re going to grow in will help you plan for different environmental challenges you’ll face later on.

setup2Now if you have a limited amount of space- say you’re in a duplex or an apartment- turning an entire room may not be an option. In this case it might be best to use a grow tent or convert a closet in to a growing space. What’s important when you’re growing in a smaller space is making sure the space is not overheated, which means either sticking to LED’s or using 400w-600w HID grow lights.

If you’re willing to work with a larger space- say, 8ft. X 8ft.- you won’t have to worry about limiting the size of your grow lights. However, you will need to cover that area with good, strong lighting. In this case, it’s also important to involve your budget, because if you’re going with LED grow lights you’re going to need lots of high wattage lights to cover that space- and we all know LED’s aren’t cheap.

So when you’re thinking over your plants and the end result it’s important to know how much room you have and are willing to work with. The less space you have the less plants you have, which means more fancy footwork you’ll have to do to make them grow. The more space you have the more money you’re going to spend lighting and cooling your grow area.

What Type of Light Are You Looking to Use?

Now that you’ve decided on what you’re going to grow, and where you’re going to grow it, your next big thing is figuring out how you’re going to grow those plants. This is a two-part’er, so we’ll start with the first big “how”: lighting!

Lighting

You’ve got to know what you want to grow and how big of a space you want to grow in to determine what sort of lights you want to use. You can under-feed plants light if you have a light that’s not strong enough to grow it, and you can over-feed those plants if you give them too strong of a light. You can also overheat a grow room or grow tent if you’re using a light and you’re not sure how much energy it will put out, so here’s what we recommend when it comes to lighting:

Photo: Marrow Magazine

LED grow lights are great for any growing situation. They range from very weak (as low as 15w’s) to pretty strong (as high as 900w), and don’t put out a lot of heat. So whether you’re growing herbs or fruit there’s an LED for pretty much any situation. Watch out for pricing, though, because if you need to cover a large area high wattage LED’s are expensive.

HID grow lights are best when used in 4ft. X 4ft. spaces and larger (warehouses often use HID”s), with plants that will bear fruit or vegetables. While they may not be the best for a closet grow, HID’s are tried and true in grow tents, and even better in warehouse situations, where the cost of coverage with LED’s is way too high. However, with all that energy comes a pretty high energy bill, which includes not only your lights but the fans and a/c’s you’ll need to combat your lights.

Fluorescent lights are good for house plants, clones, and small grow tents (3ft. X 3ft. and smaller). While they’re not the best for big-time plants, plants that need just a little light or light without lots of intensity will do well under these lights.

Medium
After you’ve chosen your lighting, mapped out your grow room and plant setup, now’s the biggest question of them all: what sort of medium do you want to use? You may want to consider this last because different mediums pose different challenges depending on the type of lights and environment your plants grow in.

setup4What’s more natural than using soil to grow? If we’re trying to mimic outdoor conditions inside, then soil seems to be the no-brainer. So then why aren’t more growers using it? Because it’s tricky. You can over-water or under-water your plants quickly if you’re not sure how to check moisture in your soil.

With that comes nutrient lock and deficiencies, which can be harder to reverse in soil than in hydroponics. Not to mention the mud and mess that comes with soil growing. But if you have lots of room and a good knowledge of soil feeding, it can actually yield some of the best crops you’ll ever harvest.

Using a hydroponic-based medium, like cocoa core or grow pebbles, is perfect for growers in any situation. Whether it’s in a room or a warehouse, hydroponic growers  have been using automatic water-based solutions to grow for years with huge success. You can reverse plant deficiencies fairly quickly, you don’t really have to touch the medium other than switching nutrient solutions, and most consumers can’t really tell the difference between soil- and hydro-grow produce. So what could be the issue?

While it may be easier to feed and tend to hydroponic grows, they are less forgiving than soil. Ask any grower: the wrong nutrient can bring their hydro grow down in a heartbeat, and spikes in pH or a lack of PPM means either your plants aren’t eating or what they are eating is toxic. But for beginners, growers who want to study soil, or advanced growers that prefer a hands-off approach to their gardens will benefit from growing hydroponically.

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