Table of Contents
- 1 Beginner’s Setup Guide for Growing Indoors
- 1.1 Grow Space
- 1.1.1 1. Apollo Horticulture 48”L x 48”W x 80”H Mylar Hydroponic Grow Tent
- 1.1.2 2. VIVOSUN 48”L x 24”W x 60″H Mylar Hydroponic Grow Tent
- 1.1.3 3. Hydroplanet™ 96”L x 48”W x 80”H Mylar Hydroponic Grow Tent
- 1.1.4 4. Valuebox 24”L x 24”W x 48”H Small Indoor Mylar Hydroponics Grow Tent
- 1.1.5 5. VIPARSPECTRA 48”L x 48”W x 80″H Reflective 600D Mylar Hydroponic Grow Tent
- 1.2 Starting from Scratch
- 1.2.1 Method One: Paper Towel
- 1.2.2 1. Rapid Rooter 50 Pack
- 1.2.3 2. Jiffy Peat Pellets
- 1.2.4 Method Three: Germination Stations
- 1.2.5 1. Jump Start CK64050
- 1.2.6 2. VIVOSUN 10″x 20″ Germination Kit
- 1.2.7 Method Four: Plant Directly into Growing Medium
- 1.2.8 Method Five: Soak Seeds in Water Overnight
- 1.2.9 Grow Mediums
- 1.3 Soil
- 1.4 Nutrients
- 1.5 Grow Lights
- 1.5.1 Types of Lights
- 1.5.2 Light Cycles for Different Phases
- 1.5.3 1. Apollo Horticulture GL60LED Full Spectrum 180W LED Grow Light
- 1.5.4 2. Galaxyhydro 300w LED Grow Light
- 1.5.5 3. G8LED 450 Watt LED Grow Light
- 1.5.6 4. California Light Works Solar System 1100 800w LED Grow Light
- 1.5.7 5. Advanced Platinum Series P900 900w Grow Light
- 1.6 Ventilation & Odor Control
- 1.7 Harvesting, Trimming & Curing the Buds
- 1.8 Trimming
- 1.9 Curing
- 1.10 Accessories
- 1.1 Grow Space
Beginner’s Setup Guide for Growing Indoors
Growing indoors provides several advantages over outdoor growing. It allows you to have more control over your crop in terms of lighting, temperature, humidity, etc., as well as gives you greater predictability in your yield. Indoor growing also allows for year round growing which means more harvests.
When setting up your grow space there are several factors that you need to take into consideration. You will need to dedicate a space and create a controlled environment for your cannabis plants complete with proper grow lights and ventilation. In addition, you will need pots or trays for your plants to grow in as well as nutrients and soil. Many growers choose to purchase equipment for when it comes time to harvest such as bud trimmers. There are a number of additional accessories that are available to growers as well. For example timers and controls to monitor your system can be very beneficial and allow you more freedom.
In this guide we will take a closer look at what exactly is needed to create your cannabis growing setup. We will go through step by step and delve into more detail about what it takes to successfully grow cannabis indoors. Included are several lists of recommended products for each step as well.
Indoor growers typically grow in one of three places, depending on the scale of the operation. Large scale growers can often dedicate a whole warehouse sized space to their cannabis plants. Smaller scale growers usually have either a small room or a grow tent.
There is no right or wrong sized space when it comes to growing cannabis. However the size of your grow space will play a significant role in how many plants you are able to house. Regardless of the size of your grow space, it will still need to be a controlled environment.
The equipment you purchase will vary slightly depending on the size of your grow space as well. Take grow lights for example. Lights with higher wattage are typically able to cover more square feet of grow space. So if you have a large warehouse you will need several higher watt lights in order to cover your cannabis plants. On the other hand, if you only have a small grow tent you should be able to get by with only one or two lower watt lights.
The same goes for ventilation. There are several companies who specialize in industrial sized fans made to circulate air in large spaces. There are also models that are more suited for small rooms.
These are just some of the things to keep in mind when determining the size of your grow space. If you have any plans of growing your operations in the near future, it may be wise to invest in a larger space to begin with. That way you’ll already have the space and equipment needed when your crop is larger.
If you are only planning to have a small number of cannabis plants, perhaps you’re only growing for personal consumption, it will probably be in your best interest to purchase a grow tent. Grow tents are handy little contraptions that create a controlled environment that can be placed virtually anywhere. They are typically made of a heavy duty, tear proof, lightproof and waterproof material such as vinyl or oxford cloth. Good grow tents also have a reflective inner lining, usually made of mylar. Most have built in mesh vents and openings for grow lights, power cords and fans. They come in a variety of sizes, suitable for any small scale grower.
Here are five of the best grow tents on the market currently:
Apollo Horticulture is one of the leading brands of cannabis growing equipment. They offer inline fans, grow lights, various accessories and of course several sizes of grow tents. The 48”L x 48”W x 80”H model is great for both sativa and indica strains because it is capable of housing plants upwards of four to five feet tall. (Sativa strains tend to grow higher than indica.)
This tent is made of a durable waterproof, tear proof and light proof material which is great for your cannabis plants as this means nothing can get in or out. The material is reinforced by heavy duty metal poles, making the tent incredibly stable. This tent is also lined with mylar making it incredibly reflective. This is a great feature because it means roughly 92 to 97 percent of the light in your tent will be reflected back onto your cannabis plants. It has a removable mylar floor tray as well.
This model features a large door, providing easy access to your plants at all times. There are also two windows, one on either side as well as three mesh panels on the bottom of the tent to allow for ventilation. The tent also features eight round openings to allow for more air flow, power cords or inline fans to be installed.
Apollo Horticulture offers a 90 day warranty on this product.
VIVOSUN is well known for their high quality hydroponic growing equipment. They offer inline fans, grow lights and several accessories in addition to their line of grow tents. This small grow tent is perfect for if you only have a few plants.
This tent is constructed from incredibly thick and 600D durable material. The seams are double stitched and the metal zipper is advertised to be the best on the market. The interior is 95 percent reflective, which will help your plants receive equal amounts of light, regardless of their position in the tent. The tent itself is supported by strong metal poles, ensuring stability. Included is a removable floor tray as well.
One great aspect of this tent is in addition to the large door providing easy access to your cannabis plants, there is also an observation window. This can be very helpful in checking on your plants without having to disturb their environment. There are two mesh ventilation windows on the bottom of the tent to allow for airflow. There are also seven rounded holes for power cords, additional ventilation and/or inline fans. This tent is built to be very user friendly as it is incredibly easy to set up and no tools are required. This is great if you’re a beginner grower and have little to no experience with grow tents.
VIVOSUN offers a two year warranty for this product.
Hydroplanet is another big name in the cannabis industry. They manufacture all sorts of hydroponic equipment like grow lights, inline fans, grow tents as well as many other accessories. This grow tent is one of six sizes available in this line.
This model is incredibly spacious so it can accommodate multiple grow trays and plants. The interior is made of reflective mylar, which will help every plant receive adequate lighting. The door is also incredibly large, providing easy access to your cannabis plants. The large door also makes setup a breeze as you’ll have ample room to move around and set up the grow lights, inline fans and whatever other accessories you desire. All material is completely tear proof, waterproof and light proof.
One great bonus with this tent is that both the interior and exterior material is washable. This is especially handy if you were to have any plant spillage or excess water in the tent. The tent also features heavy duty tubes especially built to support heavier equipment.
Hydroplanet offers a two year warranty on this product, provided you have the order ID.
Valuebox manufactures a wide variety of items, including grow tents. This tent is one of five sizes they offer. Because this tent is relatively small, it’s great if you’re a beginner grower with just a few plants.
The exterior is heavy duty oxford cloth that is 99 percent lightproof. The interior lining is made of 99 percent reflective mylar. This is great to reflect as much light as possible back onto your cannabis plants, ensuring no energy is wasted. The frame is constructed with metal poles and metal connectors that easily lock into place, making set up a breeze. Once closed, the tent is fully sealed.
This tent features an observation window, which is nice when you simply want to observe your plants and prefer to do so without disrupting their environment. In addition, there is a removable, water resistant, mylar tray.
All zippers are heavy duty and have privacy flaps over them, to give the tent the appearance of a simple wardrobe closet. If you have to be relatively secretive or discreet about the presence of your cannabis plants, this feature will be very important to have. There are several vents to allow for better air flow through the tent. The tent also has rounded vents for additional equipment.
Valuebox offers a one year warranty for this tent.
VIPARSPECTRA is a popular brand for grow lights, but they also sell several sizes of grow tents as well. This tent is one of three sizes that they offer. All tents are backed by a 30 day money back guarantee.
This grow tent is made of durable, heavy-duty, 600D oxford cloth that is waterproof, tear proof and light proof similar to other tents previously mentioned. The interior is reflective mylar, which helps to return more light to your plants. There is a removable floor tray as well that is also reflective mylar. This makes cleaning much easier, if a plant were to spill or if there was any excess water in the environment. All seams are double stitched for added light protection.
This tent features a rectangular mesh window to allow for better ventilation as well as several rounded holes for power cords, inline fans and lighting. The zippers are made of metal and are incredibly durable as well, which is very important in securing your plants. A faulty zipper can compromise the entire environment in the grow tent. The structural system is comprised of heavy duty metal beams and stainless steel connectors that are built to support your grow tent at all times.
VIPARSPECTRA offers a two year warranty for this tent.
Starting from Scratch
If you are planning to start your plants from seeds rather than clones, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, you will need to germinate your seeds in order to successfully grow them into live cannabis plants. There are five main methods of germination which are discussed more in detail below.
Method One: Paper Towel
This is a popular method among new growers, because it is relatively simple to do and requires no additional equipment beyond what you probably already have in your home. The only disadvantage to this method is that it’s easy to damage the tap root while moving the seeds to their growing medium. The tap root is the little white root that grows out of the seeds after germination.
To use this method you will need two paper plates and paper towels in addition to your seeds.
Begin by placing a moistened paper towel on one of the paper plates. Spread your seeds evenly over half of the paper towel and fold the other half over on top of the seeds. Cover the paper towel with the other paper plate to lock more of the moisture in.
Check your seeds regularly to see if they have sprouted. Seeds can take anywhere from one day to upwards of a week depending on how old the seeds are. Make sure you are very careful when moving the paper towel so as to not damage the tap roots.
Always make sure the paper towel is still moist. Use a spray bottle and spray the paper towel if it starts to dry out. Remember, the towel should be damp, not soaking wet.
Once the seeds have sprouted, carefully transfer them to the growing medium.
Method Two: Starter Cubes/Seedling Plugs
This method tends to be the most favorable for growers, as it is nearly impossible to mess up. Cannabis seeds can be expensive as some seeds have highly sought after genetics, so this fool-proof method is very popular. There are many reputable companies that create these starter cubes and seedling plugs.
Using starter cubes and seedling plugs is fairly easy. You will easily be able to see the opening for the seed in the plug or cube. Simply place the seed in cube or plug, pinch the top shut, water as directed and the seeds will germinate on their own. The advantage of using cubes and plugs is that from the moment the seeds are placed in the plugs, they will be exposed to the perfect environmental conditions for germination.
Here are two of the best starter cubes and seedling plugs.
Rapid Rooters are manufactured by General Hydroponics, which is a highly trusted company known for their quality products. Rapid Rooters come fortified with micro-nutrients that stimulate root growth. They have some of the best germination rates of any product and method. After the seeds have germinated, these plugs can be placed directly in your growing medium. By using these plugs you won’t have to touch the seeds beyond initially placing them in the plugs. This will help prevent damage to the tap roots and root shock.
You can buy Rapid Rooters in the form of a 50-pack of individual seedling plugs or as a 50 cell tray with plugs already in place.
Another popular form of seedling plugs are peat pellets. These pellets are similar to Rapid Rooters, however they cannot be used hydroponically. To use Jiffy Peat Pellets, you must first soak them in warm water so they expand to the proper size. Gently squeeze out any excess water and then use them the same as Rapid Rooters.
Using these pellets will also help to prevent root shock when transplanting as you can plant this directly into your growing medium. Jiffy Peat Pellets are advertised to produce faster germination which can help reduce the total grow cycle length by up to 25 percent. This can be helpful for growers who are looking to turn their cannabis crop as quickly as possible.
Jiffy Peat Pellets can be bought in a multitude of sized packs as well as various sized trays.
Method Three: Germination Stations
Germination stations are typically used in conjunction with starter cubes or seedling plugs. They help to create an ideal germination environment. There are several commercial germination stations available, though you can make one yourself as well.
To make your own germination station you will need your cannabis seeds, starter cubes like the aforementioned Rapid Rooters, a plate, a plastic dome and a heating pad. Position your plate over the heating pad and place your starter cubes on the plate. Put the plastic dome over the plate to lock in the moisture and heat.
If you’d prefer a commercial product specifically designed for germinating seeds, check out the following products.
This station is 72 cells and comes with a 17 watt, waterproof heating pad. The base tray is watertight as well, which helps to reduce mess. The plastic dome locks in humidity and moisture, which is essential for your seeds to germinate successfully. The station also features adjustable vents on the top and ends. Use your preferred seedling plugs or starter cubes with this station.
This station also features 72 cells. The heating pad is controlled by a thermostat and can be set to temperatures ranging from 68-108℉ or 20-42℃, depending on the crop’s specific needs. Research the cannabis strain that your growing and see what temperature the seeds tend to thrive at. Most cannabis strains prefer temperatures around 78℉ or 26℃. The adjustable thermostat is a great feature that most other germination stations do not offer. The dome also has two vents on the top that can be opened or closed. Another advantage of this station is that the heating pad is heated by inner heating wires, so it cannot catch fire. This allows the seeds to be left alone virtually risk free.
Method Four: Plant Directly into Growing Medium
This method is as easy as it sounds. You simply plant your seeds directly into the soil or similar medium. Many growers like this method because it mimics how the seeds would grow naturally.
This method is also good because you eliminate the risk of root shock when transporting your germinated seeds to the growing medium like in the paper towel method. Anytime you transplant a sprouted seed, the seed has to readjust to its new environment which can cause stress. However, this method does not have as high of successful germination rates as using seedling plugs or starter cubes.
To plant your seeds directly into soil or another similar medium, measure about 0.5-1in or 1.3-2.5cm into the soil and place your seed in the pocket. Make sure the soil is kept moist, but not soaking wet. Using a light or heating pad to keep the area warm can help increase germination success rates.
Method Five: Soak Seeds in Water Overnight
This method is great for cannabis seeds with particularly hard shell as well as older seeds. The method is simple. All you will need is a glass of lukewarm water and your seeds. Simply place your seeds in the water and soak them overnight.
All seeds will start out floating, but the viable seeds will sink after soaking for a few hours. By the next day you should see the tap roots start to emerge from the seeds. It can be beneficial to use a clear glass so you can see when the tap roots appear.
Some seeds can take longer than others to sprout, but don’t leave the seeds soaking for longer than 24-32 hours. Any longer than this and the seeds can drown. After 24 hours, any seeds that haven’t sprouted yet can be transferred to another suitable place to finish germinating if you so choose.
How do I know if my seeds are good?
You can generally tell if your seeds will germinate by the color of them. White and green seeds are typically not viable. Darker seeds are your best bet for successful germination.
You may have heard of the method of testing seeds for their viability by seeing if you can crush them or not between two fingers. This has been disproven. As long as the seed is darker in color, it has the potential to germinate. Even if a seed appears flimsy or weak, you should still try to germinate it as it will likely be successful.
Once your seeds have sprouted, you should plant them right away. If you used the paper plate or water soaking methods, then your seeds will be exposed and you need to take extra precaution when moving them. Avoid touching the tap root to avoid any damage or potential breaking of the root. It can be helpful to use a tweezers to move the seeds to your growing medium.
Cannabis growers typically choose one of three growing mediums: soil, soilless mix or a hydroponic system.
There are a number of soil mixes available for growers to use. If possible, using an organic and composted mix for the best results. Keep in mind that you will likely have to add additional nutrients to your soil in order to ensure your cannabis plants will grow successfully. You can also create your own compost mix, creating a sort of “super soil”. These take a little longer to produce, so you will have to plan ahead.
When selecting a soil mix, look for organic mixes. Steer clear of any soil mixes that have time-release nutrients such as MiracleGro. Also, do not place your grow lights at full strength over your seedlings as this can impede growth. Be mindful when watering as well, as seedlings can easily be overwatered and drown. Keep in mind that cannabis seedlings thrive in a pH around 6, so look for a soil mix that is as close to that pH as possible.
The following products are great soil mixes for your cannabis seedlings.
This mix is great for cannabis plants. It’s ready to use right out of the bag and contains all the nutrients your seedlings will need for the first month of their lives. This soil mix contains micronutrients, bat guano and earthworm castings, all of which will help your cannabis seedlings grow faster and healthier. Ocean Forest has a light texture and is well aerated making it ideal for containerized plantings, which is how most growers choose to grow their cannabis plants.
This mix is another great option for cannabis plants. It is also ready to use right out of the bag. Happy Frog is a live soil, and contains beneficial soil microbes as well as mycorrhizal fungi. These added nutrients help to expand root development by allowing the plants to feed more ‘aggressively’. This mix is pH adjusted to allow premium absorption of nutrients. It is also ideal for containerized plantings, similar to Ocean Forest. Happy frog is advertised to promote exceptionally strong plants, rapid growth and enhance flowering. These are all crucial aspects when growing cannabis plants.
Soilless mixes are technically considered to be a semi-hydroponic technique. There are several soilless mixes on the market that are a great alternative to traditional soil. These mixes are typically much lighter than soil, so they give your cannabis plant roots better access to air and nutrients which results in faster growth. They also tend to drain much better, so it’s harder to overwater your cannabis plants.
Compiled below are some of the best soilless mixes on the market.
CocoTek is made out of three types of coco coir, which is ground up coconut husks. It is a wonderful, sustainable and eco-friendly alternative to traditional soil mixes. Generally speaking, you will be able to get bigger plants with smaller pots by using CocoTek, because the material is much lighter so the plants will have better access to air and nutrients.
Another advantage of CocoTek is that it is nearly impossible to overwater your cannabis plants when planted in this mix. Even when completely saturated, CocoTek retains a roughly 70:30 moisture to aeration ratio. This means the roots will never sit in stale water. However, CocoTek can dry out easier so you need to make sure you water regularly and monitor its moisture content.
CocoTek can also help produce higher yield quantities. In fact, it has been shown that using coco coir can increase your overall yields by up to 25 percent. CocoTek is also reusable. After you harvest your plants, you can flush the material and use it again.
Perlite is the product of volcanic cooling. It allows for air spaces which let the oxygen and water move more freely about the container, in turn stimulating root growth. Hoffman’s Horticultural Perlite is advertised as a lightweight soil conditioner. That means it can be mixed with other soilless alternatives to create your own custom mix. This mix helps to improve drainage and aeration, both which your cannabis plants need plenty of to grow successfully. Because it is a completely natural product, it won’t disrupt the pH level your plants require.
Vermiculite is a hydrous phyllosilicate mineral. It is similar to perlite in that it is mineral based. Vermiculite is lightweight and helps to prevent caking when used in a custom soilless mix. It helps to aerate the soil, which stimulates root growth. Vermiculite is also highly absorbent, which is great for moisture loving plants like cannabis. This mix also does not break down easily, so it acts as a permanent conditioner. Vermiculite does have a slightly higher pH, typically around 7. This means that you will need to adjust the pH levels to get it back down to optimum cannabis growing pH.
Hydroponic systems do not use soil to grow the cannabis plants. Instead they grow the plants in a water based solution that is rich in nutrients. By not using a soil or other medium, the plants come in direct contact with the nutrients. This helps to stimulate growth and increases yields.
In fact, by using a hydroponic system, your cannabis plants will mature up to 25 percent faster and increase your harvest yields by up to 30 percent when compared to plants grown in soil. The reason behind this is because the cannabis plants will not have to work as hard to obtain the nutrients, so they are able to redirect that energy into growing and producing.
There are several types of hydroponic systems, so it’s important to research which method will work best for your set up. Remember that hydroponic systems take a slightly larger initial investment, though the increased yield will likely make it worth it. Hydroponic systems are also a little more difficult to set up and manage, so most beginner growers tend to start out with one of the other mediums before making the transition into hydroponics. However, many beginner growers have had great success with starting out in hydroponics. As long as you do the proper research, you will be able to make the best decision for your individual cannabis operation.
There is a lot of conflicting information about which nutrients to give your cannabis plants. Many different companies sell various mixes, all which promise the same thing: to grow your plants faster and produce higher yields. However, if all the nutrient combinations are different, then how do they all do the same thing?
The answer is much simpler than it may seem. When choosing the right nutrients for your cannabis plants, simply do the research on what nutrients are right for which phases of plant growth. This will help make your decision more informed and easier.
There are two main phases of plant growth for cannabis plants: vegetative and flowering. The most important nutrients for your plants are Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium. Oftentimes you will find the ratios of these nutrients being referred to as NPK or three numbers in the “N-P-K” format. For the vegetative phase, your cannabis plants will need high levels of Nitrogen, medium levels of Phosphorous and high levels of Potassium. For the flowering phase on the other hand, your plants will need low levels of Nitrogen, medium to high levels of Phosphorous and high levels of Potassium.
Common vegetative phase ratios:
Both of these ratios are good as there is plenty of Nitrogen, which is the most important nutrient for cannabis plants in the vegetative phase of plant growth.
As your plants transition to the flowering phase, you should continue giving them vegetative nutrients. The reason why is that your cannabis plants will need plenty of Nitrogen to produce the new leaves and stems. Once your plants have fully entered the flowering stage, you can switch to flowering nutrients.
When looking for flowering nutrients, you will want at least double the Potassium as Nitrogen. This is because after the transition period, the plants stop using the Nitrogen and switch to mostly using Phosphorous and Potassium.
Common flowering phase ratios:
Different companies also produce nutrient mixes for different grow mediums. This is important when selecting your nutrients. Also keep in mind that many nutrient mixes aren’t necessarily one for the vegetative phase and one for the flowering phase. Rather, they are three separate bottles with different ratios and include a nutrient schedule to follow.
Compiled below are two of the best nutrient mixes for use in the various aforementioned grow mediums.
This nutrient system is advertised as the original “building block nutrient system”. It contains primary, secondary and micronutrients that will produce higher yields and better overall quality of your cannabis crop. The concentrates are also highly purified, which allows for better solubility. The system is also pH balanced for greater ease in using it.
The system contain a nutrient schedule for users to follow on the back of the bottles. This particular system is suited for use in hydroponic and soil grow mediums, though not in soilless mixes.
This system is made easy for users as each bottle is formulated for different things. The ‘Grow Big’ bottle is made for cannabis plants in the vegetative stage. ‘Tiger Bloom’ is to be used at the first sign of budding/flowering. ‘Big Bloom’ can be used throughout both stages to help heal and strengthen the root systems and increase nutrient cycling.
This nutrient system is only suitable for hydroponic and soil-less grow mediums.
Another important thing to keep in mind is the pH of your water. You will want to maintain the overall pH of your grow medium around 6, as mentioned previously. Different mediums allow for different pH ranges that will still allow your cannabis plants to grow properly. If you’re using soil, a pH between 6 and 7 is ideal. If you are using a soilless mix, generally you will want a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. Hydroponics also require a pH between 5.5. and 6.5.
Different grow mediums will call for different watering methods. For example, soilless mixes tend to retain water longer, so watering won’t need to be as often. While you are figuring out the right watering schedule for your plants, take into account the appearance of your plants. You will be able to tell if they need more or less water by looking at several factors.
Under-watered plants will look droopy and weak. Over-watered plants will look similar, though the tips of the leaves will actually start to curl. This is the plants way of trying to ‘hide’ from the excess water in its environment. Another good way to determine if it’s time to water your cannabis plants is by checking the soil. Stick your finger all the way into the soil. If it is completely dry it is time to water your plants.
Your cannabis plants need a cycle of wet and dry in order for the roots to grow stronger and deeper. Ideally, you should monitor your plants and determine what they look like right before they appear under-watered. Eventually, you will be able to spot this and water right before they start to appear less vibrant.
Another important thing to keep in mind is the size of your grow containers. If your plant’s roots are not long enough to reach the bottom of the container, then it won’t be able to absorb all the water you provide. On the other hand, if your container is too small then it may stunt the plant’s growth and develop nutrient deficiencies.
When you water your plants you should water long enough to soak the pot and have a slight amount of run off. If you are unsure if you have watered enough, simply water a little at a time. Wait for the water to soak into the mix and water a little more. If the water sits on the top of the mix and does not soak in, then you have watered too much.
Play around a little bit with watering your plants and find a schedule that suits your individual schedule and your plants’ needs. Typically you will find yourself watering your plants every two to three days. Remember that even cannabis plants can withstand slight over and under-watering so don’t stress out too much if it takes you a few watering cycles to figure out what works best.
Grow lights are another crucial component of a successful indoor cannabis growing setup. When choosing your grow light(s), it’s important to remember there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all light. Different sized setups will need different lights, so you have to find the one that will work best for you and your cannabis plants.
Types of Lights
There are several types of grow lights to choose from, all with their individual advantages and disadvantages. Different types of grow lights include fluorescents, HIDs and LEDs. In this guide we will focus on LED lights, as they offer the most advantages and options for successfully growing cannabis.
What are LEDs?
LED stands for Light Emitting Diode. LEDs are designed to mimic natural sunlight, which makes them the most natural way for your cannabis plants to grow indoors. Within LEDs, there are a few different options. Some LED lights are made specifically for one phase of plant growth. If you are planning to grow your cannabis plants from seed to flower, you will need a full-spectrum light.
Full-spectrum LEDs contain red, white and blue light spectrums so they are suitable for all phases of growth. Many will also have different settings depending on the different phases. Some LED lights are single channel, meaning they are either on or off. Other lights are two channel, which means they have both a vegetative and flowering mode. Finally, there are fully programmable lights which can conform to your individual lighting schedules and typically have the ability to create custom spectra. These lights also usually have the ability to have the intensity of the light modified as well.
Advantages of Full-Spectrum LED lights
• Because full-spectrum LED lights contain several light spectrums and are suitable for every phase of plant growth, you can rest assured that your plants will receive exactly the light they need at all times.
• Full-spectrum LEDs encourage larger product yields.
• These lights last for years. Some have been known to last up to 50,000 hours or more.
• Full-spectrum LEDs are the most energy efficient of all grow lights, using up to 70 percent less electricity.
• They emit less heat, which eliminates the need for extra fans. In fact, even after 24 hours of run-time, LEDs will still be cool to the touch.
Things to Keep in Mind
It’s important to remember that LED lights never run at full power, which is why they have such a long lifespan. For example, one 3-watt chip will only run at about 60 percent of its full power. So when you’re looking at lights, remember that most manufacturers will list the full potential power of the light, not what it actually produces.
Take a typical 600 watt light for example. This light would typically be comprised of 200 3-watt chips or possibly 120 5-watt chips. However, because the chips only emit 60 percent of their full capacity, the actual wattage is more like 300-400.
For this reason, it will be in your best interest to buy a higher wattage light. If you buy a higher wattage light, you won’t have to worry about your cannabis plants not getting enough light. Plus, chips will inevitably burn out. Therefore, your lights will last longer because they will be able to compensate for any wattage lost.
Don’t purchase a light with chips under 3 watts. Any chips smaller than this will prevent your plants from receiving full coverage.
Light Cycles for Different Phases
Your cannabis plants will need different lighting cycles dependent on what phase of plant growth they are in. For the vegetative stage, a typical light cycle will be 18 hours on and 6 hours off. This pattern mimics the standard daylight cycle. Some growers prefer to have their lights on 24 hours a day because that can help stimulate plant growth and cause the cannabis plants to move on to the flowering stage faster. It’s completely up to you which cycle you prefer for your vegetative stage. Some growers have found that the standard daylight cycle is better when compared to 24 hours of light for indica strains. Also, cannabis plants in the vegetative stage need about half the wattage as plants in the flowering stage. This allows you to position your grow lights higher above the plants, creating a larger coverage area.
Once your cannabis plants begin to show signs of entering the flowering stage you will need to switch your light cycle to 12 hours on and 12 hours off. This will encourage the plants to leave the vegetative stage and to start producing buds. Depending on the strain of your plants, they make take more or less time than others to mature. If you know which strain your cannabis plants are, it may be helpful to look up the average height of the plants when they are grown indoors. This will be helpful in determining when they are ready to leave the vegetative stage and enter the flowering stage.
Below are five of the best full-spectrum lights currently available.
All Apollo Horticulture lights are advertised as having a 50,000 hour life span and come with a two year warranty. According to the company, this light is suited for an area of 2.5 feet x 2.5 feet. This means it is perfect if you only have a few plants. The light has 60 3-watt chips and a quiet cooling fan. The cooling fan is a great feature to make sure the chips do not overheat. The light also includes a hanging kit. The angle of the lens is between 90 and 120 degrees making it a great choice for a full coverage light.
The light is advertised as having all of the useful spectra for plants, while leaving out the spectra that plants do not utilize. This means your light is not emitting any unused energy. The 300w grow light contains 100 3-watt chips. The light includes a cooling system to ensure that the chips do not overheat. The cooling system is comprised of a cooling fan as well as a radiator system. The light produces very little noise and has great heat dissipation thanks to the cooling system. This light will always be cool to the touch. Another benefit of this light is it is “daisy-chain” compatible, meaning there won’t be as many cords needed. The angle of each light is 120 degrees which is great to ensure full coverage. The light is designed to be placed at roughly 36” above the plants. Each light has a two year warranty included and a 30 day money back guarantee. They offer direct assistance to all customers and will answer any questions you have about the growing process as well as using their lights specifically.
This light was rated one of the best lights of 2016 by High Times magazine. The light has an eight band system plus UV (blue) and infrared (red) spectra as well. The LEDs are manufactured in the United States and the brand is known to encourage greater yields. This light is suitable for the whole growth cycle, from seedling to flower. It is advertised to penetrate up to 60 inches past the canopy, making it a good option for taller strains. The light is said to cover up to a 4’x3’ grow area. This model comes with a two year warranty.
California Light Works is a highly recommended company for full-spectrum LED lights. It comes with a five year warranty. This lighting system is advertised as a great stand alone light or to be used in a large scale operation, so it’s great for every level of grower. This light is designed to replace a 1000w HPS while consuming up to 40 percent less energy. All spectra are fully controllable, which promotes higher yields as well as better cannabis quality. The light comes with a controller, which is able to be synced to up to 1000 lights if need be. It offers day, week and even season programming. Another benefit of this lighting system is its ability to have customizable grow schedules programmed to be strain specific. This light is designed to cover up to an 8’x8’ grow area.
The platinum series is advertised as having the highest PAR output per watt of any LED light on the market, making it two to three times more intense. It contains 12 bands, from UV to IR and everything in between. There are also specific “Veg” and “Flower” switches, making it easy to use the light for each phase of growth. The light also contains cooling fans. This light is designed for a 6’x4.5’ area of coverage when placed at 18″ above the canopy. Another benefit to this light is it has a five year warranty included as well as a 90 day money back guarantee.
Ventilation & Odor Control
Proper ventilation is very important regardless of the size of your grow space. Air flow is crucial in allowing your cannabis plants to grow to their full potential. Depending on what type of grow light you choose, the lights can emit significant amounts of heat and damage your plants. You should actively monitor the temperature in your grow space because the addition of fans can cause the temperature can drop too low which is just as dangerous for your plants.
Inline fans are a great solution to your ventilation needs. They require little to no additional equipment as the can usually be attached to existing ducting. Inline fans are also the most cost effective and energy efficient ventilation option.
The inline fan that will best fit your set up depends on the size of your grow space. The basic formula for calculating what inline fan you will require is: length x width x height x 20 = total volume of air per hour needed. Volume of air, otherwise known as airflow, is calculated in CFM or cubic feet per minute. So when looking at inline fans, look for a rating that matches your calculation. For example, if your grow space is roughly 10 cubic feet then you will need a fan with at least 200 CPM.
Larger grow spaces such as commercial size warehouses will need more than one fan. Most inline fans are adjustable, which allow you to control exactly how much air is moved per hour. Some units include this feature built in or have a separate compatible component available for purchase.
Depending where you live, you may also need to neutralize the odor of the air as it is circulated out of your grow space. A carbon filter will solve this problem. These handy devices attach directly to inline fans and filter the air as it is circulated out of the environment while simultaneously removing any lingering odors of cannabis. Ionizers are also great to have on hand, should you need to eliminate the smell of your plants very quickly.
Here are five of the best inline grow fans available on the current market.
Specs: 12.4″L x 8.9”W x 8.2”H with a 6” duct, 390 CFM
Apollo Horticulture is a well known brand throughout the cannabis growing industry. They make a wide variety of products including inline fans, grow lights (LED, HID and fluorescent), grow tents and various other accessories. This company generally has a very high rating and customer satisfaction is their priority.
Their 6” model is durable and exceptionally quiet as it works. It has removable duct ends and is a very versatile product. This model is suitable for a wide range of grow spaces everywhere from grow tents to industrial sized warehouses. It contains an adjustable speed control as well. Adjustable speed controls are great, because they allow you as a grower to customize your fan to your grow space. All Apollo Horticulture products come with a three year warranty.
Apollo Horticulture also has various other sizes and CFM capabilities to meet every individual cannabis grower’s needs.
Specs: 17.3”L x 11.2”H x 10.6”W with a 6” duct, 347 CFM
The S Line of products from Vortex are created with superior design qualities that promote exceptionally efficient and quiet operations. This fan is built with double insulated walls which is what helps reduce the noise levels to the bare minimum. Minimum noise levels can be very important especially if your grow space is in a shared area. The S Line models are built to be high impact resistant as well and come with a custom mounting bracket to ensure installation goes seamlessly. This model does not come with an adjustable speed controller, but Vortex offers a package deal similar to other brands. Vortex offers an unbeatable 10 year warranty as well, which proves they stand by their products.
Vortex also offers 8” and 10” models in the S Line.
Specs: 17”L x 17”W x 13”H with a 12” duct, 1060 CFM
Hurricane fans are known as high performance, commercial grade units. Their fans are made of high quality steel and have a powder coated finish to help with durability and resistance to rust and erosion. These units are designed for easy installation and come with all the hardware needed to mount them. This particular unit comes with an eight food power cord which is especially helpful if you have a larger grow space. Because these fans are commercial grade they are a little pricier, but if you’re not on a tight budget you will definitely stand to benefit from the higher quality products. All Hurricane fans in this series come with a five year warranty.
Hurricane offers this model in 4”, 6”, 8” and 10” in addition to the 12” model.
Specs: 13.5”L x 12.2”W x 10.1”H with a 6” duct, 440 CFM
VIVOSUN is known for very durable and efficient products. They are developed and tested in a wide variety of applications to ensure their versatility. This model from VIVOSUN is incredibly versatile can can be used in many different grow spaces, from grow tents to warehouses. This model comes with all hardware needed to mount it, including mounting brackets. This means you will need little assistance with installation. VIVOSUN fans are designed to be cost effective and to operate as quietly as possible.
Another positive attribute of this fan is that it comes with a built in variable speed controller, an important aspect in controlling the air flow in your particular grow space. This is nice for growers that are looking for an all-in-one package rather than having to purchase two separate components. VIVOSUN products come with a warranty but you must contact the company directly to inquire about each items individual warranty.
VIVOSUN also offers 4” and 8” models in this line.
Specs: 14.5”L x 10.5”W x 14.5”H with a 8” duct, 720 CFM
Active Air is another well known brand in the cannabis world. Their designs are typically simple yet efficient and durable. Another bonus is that their fans have a ceramic coating which protects the fans from rust and deterioration. This is great to prolong the life of your equipment, making maintenance easier. They also come with all necessary mounting equipment and hardware included. This makes installation very easy and chances are you will be able to do it yourself. This fan comes with a 120 volt power cord as well. Active Air’s inline fans do not come with any built in speed controls so keep that in mind. However, they do sell a separate component that serves this function.
Their 8” model is another extremely quiet running inline fan. On average, this fan is rated to last at least 20,000 hours. Active Air provides a five year warranty for this product.
In addition to the 8” model, Active Air also offers 4”, 6”, 10” and 12” models in this line.
Harvesting, Trimming & Curing the Buds
Figuring out when to harvest your buds can be confusing. One good rule of thumb is too observe the little hairs that are growing out of your buds. They start off white, but turn darker in color as the buds mature. Depending on the strain, these hairs may turn yellow, red, brown or even purple in color. However, this isn’t a fool-proof method as strains like White Widow tend to retain their white hairs up until the time of harvest.
Another popular method in determining if the buds are ready to be harvested is known as the ‘trichrome method’. Trichromes are the little crystals that you will see starting to appear on your buds. You will know your buds are ready for harvesting if the trichromes appear cloudy or milky-white under a magnifying glass. If the trichromes appear darker in color, your buds are nearing the end of their harvest window.
Once your plants are ready to harvest, you will have a roughly two week period to do so. This allows for a little wiggle room if you are unsure your cannabis plants are ready or not. Harvesting early or later will produce slightly different feelings when the buds are consumed.
The next step after harvesting your buds is to trim them in preparation for curing. By trimming your buds, the THC concentration will be much higher per gram. In addition, your buds will have a cleaner and more aesthetically pleasing appearance.
There are two methods of trimming: wet and dry. This simply refers to whether you trim your buds before or after they have dried. There are benefits to both techniques, so it is up to you which style you prefer.
To trim your buds you can either use a hand trimmer or a commercial trimming machine. Make sure you have gloves on hand, to prevent your hands from being covered in resin as well as preventing damage to the buds from the oil on your skin. Also have a drying rack ready for when you’re ready to set your trimmed buds aside to cure.
Below are five great bud trimmers, suitable for a variety of levels of growers.
Trimpro is one of the most trusted brands of bud trimmers in the cannabis industry. This bud trimmer was designed to be both gentle and efficient. It uses leather ‘fingers’ to move the cannabis over the non-stick grates where they are trimmed by razor sharp, tempered steel blades. One benefit of this product is that it’s built at an angle, so you are able to retrieve the trimmed buds while the machine is still running. The blade height is adjustable as well.
This trimmer is great for large harvests, making it a great choice if your operation is or will be large scale. It is a little more expensive than other models, so those who are on a tight budget may be better off with another trimmer.
All of Trimpro’s products come with a one year warranty.
The Magic Trimmer is an cost effective, small, handheld device ideal for growers with smaller harvests or those who want more control over the trimming process. This product is a great alternative to larger machines. It is incredibly lightweight, weighing in at just two and a half pounds. It allows for precise and tidy trimming.
This trimmer is built to be compatible with all types of strains. Even though it is technically hand held, it is automatic so it will greatly speed up the trimming process when compared to manually trimming by hand. It is also a very affordable trimmer compared to some of the larger machines, so if you have a smaller crop to harvest this is the perfect product for you.
The Magic Trimmer comes with a one year warranty.
The Triminator is the ultimate bud trimmer if you have a large scale cannabis operation. The product is made in the United States and has been rigorously tested. One great aspect of this trimmer is that it is equipped with a self-cleaning system. The machine has an automatic misting system designed to keep the drum cleaned at all times. In fact, this machine has one of the largest drums in the world: The Monster Drum. This drum is manufactured by Flora Hydroponics, another reputable name in the cannabis industry.
Because there is no need to disassemble and clean the drum at any point, this trimmer is incredibly time efficient. It is also advertised as being 2.5x faster than any other trimmer on the market with the same drum. It is capable of trimming incredibly large harvests, ideal for growers with a substantial amount of cannabis plants. It is on the pricier side, but a great investment for any large scale grower.
The Triminator comes with a two year warranty.
This is another great manual trimmer for those with a small scale cannabis operation. The bowl is 19 inches in diameter and similar to the iPower 16-inch model, is transparent to allow for easy viewing. The bowl is constructed of stainless steel, making this trimmer incredibly durable.
Another advantage of this product is that the cutting blades are adjustable, making it customizable to your cannabis needs. Also like the iPower model, this product harnesses the power of 30 pairs of scissors. This trimmer comes with one razor blade, one serrated blade, two wire blades and a pair of scissors.
This product is only suitable for small harvests, so if you think you may expand your operations anytime in the near future this trimmer may not fulfill your needs.
Growtent Garden also offers a 16-inch model as well.
The Triminator DRY, also designed by Flora Hydroponics, was created for growers seeking a trimmer that could work faster, cut closer and go longer between cleanings. It is also specifically designed for dry trimming, as the name suggests. This model features an automatic timer, which allows you to walk away and come back when the process is complete.
This product also comes with a removable trim bin. This is great for growers who are looking to save their trimmings to make edibles or hash. The bin is food grade as well. There are also retractable wheels, which make moving the machine simple but allows for greater stability while operating.
Keep in mind that while dry trimming has its advantages, it ultimately creates a completely different product than wet trimming.
The Triminator DRY has a two year warranty.
Drying is the first step in the curing process. If you wet-trimmed your buds then you will need to hang them for them to finish drying. If you dry-trimmed your buds, then you can move on to the next step immediately.
After the buds are mostly dried, you can move them into mason jars to finish the curing process. The purpose of curing buds before they are consumed, is to enhance the flavor and overall quality of the product. Typically you will cure your buds for two to four weeks.
During the first couple weeks, you may want to open the jar for a few seconds each day to release any excess moisture that may have built up. After two weeks, you can cut down to opening each jar once a week. By this point, any remaining moisture should be mostly gone.
While the buds will be theoretically finished curing after two to four weeks, many growers choose to cure them for longer. This is because the longer they are cured, the more potent the buds become. Some growers cure their buds upwards of three to six months.
There are several accessories that can help to make your life easier when growing your cannabis plants.
For example a pH meter will help you to constantly monitor the pH levels, making sure they are at optimum levels. When measuring the pH, measure in the “root zone” which is the area directly around the plant’s roots. Remember that if the pH is too low or too high, your plants will not be able to absorb the amount of nutrients they need and they may start to show signs of deficiency.
Another helpful accessory is a PPM or “parts per million” meter. This meter will measure the concentration of the minerals in the water you give to your plants. This is helpful because your plants can only absorb so many minerals at a time.
Grow glasses are an essential accessory if you want to avoid potential damage to your eyes. Even though you are growing indoors your LED lights will still emit potentially harmful UV rays. Buying LED specific grow glasses will ensure you are fully protected.
A 24-hour timer can be a helpful addition to your set up as well. By setting this timer up for your desired lighting schedules, you will have more freedom to go about your day without having to worry about your cannabis plants. Buy a timer that is able to be customized for all phases of plant growth.