Who wouldn’t want to open the door of their very own grow room and see an ocean of frosty nugs surrounded by a sea of green leaves?
There’s only one problem: you don’t know how to grow cannabis. Not only that, but you don’t know the first place to start.
Lights? No, nutrients, right? Or do you start with a tent?
Related: Growing Marijuana Indoors Guide 2018
And what about temperature and humidity?! It can become overwhelming pretty fast
Don’t worry: when I started growing I felt the exact same way. Whether you want to grow cannabis for medical purposes or recreationally, getting started in growing can seem pretty hard.
That’s why I’m excited to show you the ultimate grow room equipment checklist.
Whether you’re doing it for personal use or you’re apart of a cultivation collective, this marijuana growing guide checklist is a vital resource. Don’t worry about searching through all those forums or being sold equipment you don’t need. This checklist will make sure you have everything you need to:
- Control when, where, and how often you grow cannabis
- Calculate the best and most affordable gear for your grow room and gain the success I had growing quality bud
- Expand your interest in gardening and help you to get started when the time is right
So from here on in, I’m going to take you through 9 important points you should consider when starting your first grow:
Part 1: Grow Area
This is where you’ll decide where you want to use a grow tent or build a grow room from the ground up
One of the first questions I asked myself when I started growing was where I was going to put all these plants: was I going to grow them in a room? A closet? A grow tent? I wasn’t sure where I was going to grow, so I looked into converting my closet into a grow room. Well, it turns out it was too small in there, so I thought about converting my entire bedroom into a grow room. Here’s what I found from trying that out:
- Unless you purchase a pre-packaged grow room with a tent, building a grow room requires you to drill into the ceiling of the growing area to hang your grow lights
- You also have to put up lots of reflective material all around your growing space (in this case, all around my room)
- All ventilation (we’ll get to that term in a minute)needs to be done out of your windows, which can prove to be a problem with neighbors
So if you’re looking to convert your room or closet into a growing space, be ready for lots of building, drilling, and handy work.
If you’re like me, that doesn’t sound doable- that’s why I choose to use a grow tent. When you decide to use a grow tent:
- You don’t have to do the handy work needed to set all of your equipment up
- It’s not as susceptible to outdoor conditions as an entire room
- You have more control over environmental conditions like temperature and humidity than in an entire grow room
Grow tents have premade exhaust vents, 100% pre-built wall to wall highly reflective mylar, and easy-to-use grow light hanging bars in. All you have to do is set a tent up somewhere in your house and you’re growing in no time!
Now before you go filling that growing space with light, it’s important to understand what you have to give light to. There’s no point in lighting areas that don’t need light, so it’s important you know the difference between the size of your grow room and the size of your canopy to make sure you get the right lights for the job.
Part 2: Your Canopy VS Your Grow Room
All grow rooms have a canopy, but your grow room is not a canopy.
Your grow room is the entire space you’ll use, including areas that your plants will grow in and the areas that they won’t. The canopy of your grow room is the specific area that your plants are using. In short, your canopy is the area where your plants grow, and the grow room is everything around them.
In a grow tent, the majority of the grow “room” is your canopy, whereas in an entire room your canopy is only the space your plants sit.
This is important for two reasons: 1) to make sure your canopy’s lit, and 2) to make sure you have enough room to interact with your plants. If you don’t have enough room to move around you won’t be able to feed and care for your plants the way you need, and if you don’t have enough light to fill your canopy you won’t get a good yield.
In order to figure out how much room you need, it’s a good idea to figure out the area of your canopy and how many watts of light you need.
Part 3: Grow Lights
Whether you want to use LED grow lights, high-intensity discharge lights ( i.e. HPS, MH, and CMH lights), your plants can’t grow without plenty of good light.
Good, grow lights are the backbone to your successful garden. When we say “good” we mean that your plants need a source of strong intense light for robust growth. That means having the light spectrum and intensity to grow your plants the way you need them.
“So that means I should but the biggest, best grow light, right?” No. Instead, invest in the most efficient grow light for your canopy size.
Remember, your canopy is the space in your grow room that your plants will occupy. In my experience, most cannabis plants in a standard size room will grow upwards to 4-5 ft tall with 2-3 gallon pots/buckets, and they tent to occupy 1 sq/ft.
Before you go dropping money on grow lights, you’ll need to calculate the wattage of light you need to cover your canopy with, which is a two-tiered approach:
- Designate an area of your grow room or grow tent that you’ll use to grow your plants, then take the area of that space (LENGTH x WIDTH). Once you have the area apply the “4 sq.ft./plant” rule by dividing that area by 4. This will give you the canopy size you need to light.
- Calculate the total wattage you need to cover that area. To do that, simply take the canopy area and divide it by 50-75w’s to get the Watts/Sq.Ft. you need (the sweet spot is 65w, but others like to use 50w’s or 75w’s depending on their needs). Once you have that number, you have the total wattage you need out of your lights to grow cannabis.
From there, you’ll want to figure out the type of light you want to use: HID grow lights, LED grow lights, or T5 Grow Lights. There are plenty of pro’s and con’s to each, but here are some important factors to take into consideration:
- HID’s (HPS, MH, and CMH) give you a light closer to the spectrum of the sun than any other light, which plants absolutely love. They’re tried and true, but like the sun, they run very hot. That means you’re going to need to do some heat control when you’re running these lights
- LED Grow Lights give you an intense spectrum that can’t be beaten, including implementing UV and IR wavelengths that HID’s can’t (UV and IR are great for resin growth and plant strength). However, they’re so intense that they need to be hung higher than HID’s would, so you’ve got to have lots of room to use LED’s. And let’s not forget the biggest issue beginners have them these: the price tag, as LED’s are usually much more expensive than HID’s of the same wattage
- T5 Fluorescent Grow Lights don’t put out lots of heat and can still grow great yields. But the yields you get from these lights are going to be light because these lights aren’t very intense. Moreover, if you needed something in, say, the 1000w range, you’re going to need a lot of room for big lights. These are good if you’re in a pinch and have lots of room for lots of lights
Part 4: Air Flow (exhaust, intake, air circulation)
It’s important to know where you’re going to exhaust your stale air and heat, and where you’re going to bring in fresh clean air
Having a constant stream of fresh air moving throughout your garden is important to a healthy grow for a number of reasons:
- Prevents stale air from building up– Stale air in your grow room can lead to clogged stoma (pores of a leaf that help it take in Co2 and give off oxygen) which will impair growth
- Prevents stunted growth- Without replenished air in your grow room, Co2 may not be available for your plants, which will stunt their growth
- Strengthen branches- A nice breeze across your canopy will help strengthen stems to hold up heavy colas (and trust us, you’ll need healthy branches to hold big buds)
- Assists in temperature and humidity control- With fresh air circulating throughout your grow room, you can keep temperatures and humidity levels at the right level, which is nearly impossible without proper ventilation
With that in mind, here are a few things you should keep in mind when running your ventilation:
- Exhaust from the top- Heat rises so it’s important to force the most heat collected in your grow room outside of it.
- Bring cool air from the bottom- Fresh, cool air should be brought in from the lowest possible point of your grow room or grow tent
- Have at least 2x oscillating fans pointed at the bottom and top of your canopy- This will help move air from between foliage and prevent pockets of disease-friendly environments within your canopy
- Make sure you don’t take in air from the same room you’re exhausting stale air from- That sort of defeats the purpose of “fresh” air…
Remember: constant air movement will help with strong branches, stems, and prevents mold and mildew growth. Fresh, clean air is just as important to your plants as nutrition and lights, so make sure your indoor garden gets lots of it.
Part 5: Environment Control (temperature, humidity, smell, sounds, Co2)
The environment your plants grow in is as vital as the nutrients they take in and the light they use
Temperature & Humidity
Being in the dark about your temperature and humidity levels comes with a whole lot of consequences. With poor temperatures and humidity levels, you risk stagnant growth, stressed out plants, mildew, mold, pests, and eventually the DEATH of your yield. To make sure your plants have a healthy life, keep your environment in check by measuring two big factors in your grow room: the temperature levels and the humidity level of your growing space.
The humidity levels in your grow room shouldn’t reach more than 70% at the highest, and temperatures should be between 65-80°F. If your garden’s environment is outside of these ranges you can see the following problems:
- High humidity– Nutrient deficiencies, root rot, nutrient burn or lockout, too wet in your grow room
- Low humidity- Wilting leaves, smaller/stunted plants, curling leaves, great environment for spider mites, too dry in your grow room
- Temperatures too high- Loss of water quickly, impaired photosynthesis (can’t make food for itself as easily), the perfect environment for mold
- Temperatures too low- Poor nutrient absorption, slow/stagnant growth, nutrients can’t break down as easily, moisture build-up (which can lead to mold)
I was overwhelmed when I heard about controlling humidity and temperature, but you’d be surprised how simple it can be to get an idea of where your grow room’s environment’s at. In fact, to get a reading for humidity and temperature reading, all you need is a thermo/hygrometer with a built-in memory will help. It will read the maximum and minimum temperature in a 24 hour period.
*Special Note: “Temperature drop” is the drop in temperature when you turn your lights off. If the temperature drop from lights on to lights off is too much you’ll stunt your plants and possibly shock them, too. It’s always good to keep your temperature difference between day and night to be 10ºF (5ºC).
Smell & Sounds
The aroma you get when you grow cannabis may smell great to us, but our neighbors may not have the same appreciation for it. Especially during the flowering stage, your grow room will smell dank (and delicious). If scent control is vital to your grow, you’ll want to definitely get a charcoal filter to help scrub the particles in the air that contain the smell of your plants.
You may not think of a garden as noisy, but inside you’re definitely going to hear what it sounds like to be in your own little cannabis forest. Noise generally comes from your high output exhaust and intake fans. This is because of their powerful motors running so fast, and because all those fans tend to make lots of noise, the more you use the more noise you’ll get (which can be just as annoying to neighbors as unwanted smells).
You can reduce the sound of these fans by doing one of the following:
- Control the speed of your fans with a speed bully fan controller. Lowering the speed of a fan will lower the noise coming out of the fan. Some fans even come with built-in motor controllers like the Yield Lab High Output Fans
- Installing a fan muffler to reduce sound. Adding material from professional sound studios into your fan muffles the sound coming from them
Controllers (scheduling, timers)
Like us, plants wake up and go to sleep. When we turn our grow lights on, our plants wake up and stay awake. When we turn our grow lights off our plants go to sleep. Simple, right? It is. Until you realize that plants have two growth cycles (vegging and flowering), and both require you to turn your lights on and off for a certain amount of time depending on which growth cycle they’re in.
If you’re like me when I first started out, you don’t have time to sit with your plants and turn the lights on an off or turn your airflow systems on and off when temps aren’t where they need to be. When you’re considering a timer in your garden there are two types to keep in mind:
- Mechanical: These timers are very simple and will run on the exact time you set them to. For example, if you set your lights to run for 12 hours and turn off for the remaining 12, all you have to do is set the timer and let it run. You can also do the same thing for fans, a/c units, hydroponic or drip-style grow systems and practically anything that turns on and off
- Smart Controller: These controllers will activate lights, airflow devices, hydroponic and watering pumps- pretty much anything in your grow room. Instead of setting a duration of time for your equipment to run, you set the humidity and temperature levels, feeding times, Co2 emitters, etc… to the levels you need them at and BOOM, you’re done. You just let your system do the work while you check in on your plants to make sure they’re not infested or getting sick
It’s important to know what your strain of cannabis needs. Not all plants thrive in the same conditions as another. Depending on the temperature and humidity levels, you can have your equipment run at any schedule that works for you and your plants. Not only will this benefit the health of your plants, but you can actually save money at the same time.
Measuring Supplies (pH Meter, PPM Meter, etc.)
pH and PPM levels refer to what’s in the nutrients and the water you feed your plants. The pH of a given water source has to do with the water’s acidity and alkaline levels, and the PPM (parts per million) has to do with the concentration of minerals and soluble matter in there. Simply put, PPM will let you know how many physical particles are in your water source, and the pH will let you know how acidic that water is.
You’ll want to make sure that your plants are at optimal levels at all times because just like us if your plants can’t process what they’re being fed it can lead to illness and even death of the plant.
It’s important to know these readings to make sure that A) you’re not giving your plants too much nutrition and B), what your cannabis plants aren’t taking in harmful acidic levels of nutrients. Overfeeding or locking out important nutrients for your weed plants is a serious concern. Keep a tight watch on your pH and PPM with pH and PPM meters.
It’s also a good idea to check in on your plants using a jeweler’s microscope. A 75-100x zoom microscope is what you need so you can watch your trichome production and know when’s the best time to harvest.
Part 6: Grow System (soil or hydroponics)
Before you think you’re in the clear there’s still one last vital question that needs to be answered: what sort of growing system will you use?
One of the biggest sources of stress for beginning growers is your grow medium (trust me, I was there, too). You have lots of choices when it comes to the medium you choose to grow your plants in, but we’ve made a video to help explain the top 3 mediums we know work best, especially for growers:
Picking a grow system will also determine the type of nutrients you use and the pest prevention you’ll need to purchase:
- Hydroponic systems are completely soil-less and only require you to mix nutrients into a water reservoir to feed your plants. These systems can give your plants every single bit of nutrition it needs, but over-feeding and root rot are all too common if you’re not paying attention
- Soil mediums are great for beginners because they’re usually charged with nutrients, so feeding is pretty simple for around half of the plant’s overall life. They’re more forgiving when it comes to nutrition, which means you won’t overfeed your plants as easily as you will in hydro systems, but soil plants will take longer to grow and nutrient problems with your plants are harder to correct in this medium
- Coco blends are great for drip system feeding and fall right in between soil and hydroponic systems. They soak in nutrients like soil but also flow quickly to roots just like hydro. Just like those systems, though, over and under-feeding plants are all too easy, along with root root
At the end of the day, the quality you get out of the medium you choose all depends on the work you want to put into it. Hydroponic systems require the most attention, soil requires the least, and coco blends require slightly more attention than soil but not as much as hydro.
Part 7: STARTER SHOPPING LIST (BUY YOUR EQUIPMENT):
Now it’s time to get your equipment and get ready to grow
There are a few factors to consider when you’re finally ready to buy your equipment. Keep this in mind:
- Are you going to be growing long-term, or is this just a hobby?
- Do you want everything you could possibly need, or do you want the minimum?
- Can you choose all the individual pieces you want, or would you rather
Personally, I found it a lot easier to buy a complete grow package than piecing it all together myself (though I will admit that lots of people say it may be cheaper to put a whole system together yourself). Whether you choose to piece your room out, buy only what you need, or purchase a whole kit that takes the guesswork out of getting the right equipment, always remember to do what works best for you, your budget, and your growing area. For me, the best option was to go with an entire grow package, and here are the simplest, easiest growing setups:
(NOTE: These kits are, in my opinion, what is needed to grow high-quality cannabis. Opinions may vary, use your best judgment on what’s right for your situation. And in the name of shameless promotion, all of these grow packages are from GrowAce.com)
|Yield Lab 2x4ft Soil-Based Packages
|Yield Lab 2x4ft Hydroponic-Based Packages
|Yield Lab 4x4ft Soil-Based Packages
|Yield Lab 4x4ft Hydroponic-Based Packages
|Yield Lab 8x4ft Hydroponic-Based Packages
|Yield Lab 8x4ft Soil-Based Packages
Disclaimer: Think carefully when choosing a kit. Consider the amount of heat it will put out for your space and make sure you buy all the accessories you need whether you need to order them or get them locally. This is just a basic guide to get you started, some additional research is required on your part to make sure the setup will work for your situation. When I was running 1600w, I was heating my house with it for the winter, in the summer I had to run my AC 24/7.
Part 8: The Last IMPORTANT Step: Electricity cost
How much electricity would these kits cost?
It all depends on the wattage of your lights, the wattage of your high output fans, how long they’re running, and the cost of electricity where you live.
For example, in the flowering stage, your light schedule will be 12 hours on and 12 hours off. Let’s say you’re using a 600w grow light system. That’s going to be 12kwh (kilowatt-hours) per day, ~31 days in a month so 12kwh x 31 days = 372kwh per month to run that light.
Where I live, my power is ~$0.09 per kWh so it would cost me $33.48 per month extra. Some people’s power rates are as high as $0.19 or more per kWh in some areas. This example should help you figure out what costs would be like in your area.
The Indoor Marijuana Checklist – BREAKDOWN:
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in August 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness