THESE ARE FIVE THINGS THAT YOU NEED TO HAVE SET UP PROPERLY BEFORE YOU START YOUR GROW
You have finally decided you want to grow your own plants indoors. You may have even been convinced of the benefits of a grow tent and decided it’s worth a shot. But what else do you need and how does it need to be set up? You are right to wonder, and right to seek advice because an improperly set up grow space could be problematic for both your plants and your household. Without the right layout for your grow space you can slow the growth potential of your plants - and weak plants are much more prone to disease and other problems. Also, without the right equipment you could also be welcoming harmful airborne contaminants into your household, like black mold for instance. Worry not though, this article is meant to ‘clear the air’ on these issues (pun intended). The following paragraphs will outline what equipment you will need in your grow tent, and how it should be set up for optimal results and safety.
The first thing to address is your grow tent. Make sure that it is set up in a place with lots of airflow. Your passive air inlets should be free from any surrounding impediments so clean fresh air can enter the tent as needed. The exhaust vents at the top of your tent should not be impeded either, and optimally, whether using an LED, CFL or HID lighting setup, your tent should have an inline fan and carbon filter system that leads to a window and outside of the house. We will get into more on fans and carbon filters shortly, but for now let’s focus on the location of your tent in your house. The importance of access to clean fresh air and a clear exhaust outlet can’t be overlooked. Aside from light and water, good air circulation is a vital component to the health of your plants. Without this aspect you may as well have the boat and rod to go fishing, but no bait. The point being, it will take a lot longer to produce results (yields), if it produces any worthwhile results at all. Therefore, choose an appropriate sized tent and location for your grow space. Your yields will depend on it. The best tent and light kits for your dollar are FourBudz grow kits.
Now that you have your tent set up, its time to set up your lighting system. How far you place your lights from your plants will depend on the type of lighting you have, what stage of growth they are in, and what you are growing. Make sure your lighting setup comes with adjustable pull ropes to make last minute distance adjustments easily, and as necessary. Hanging your light the appropriate distance from your plants is important for several reasons. If it is too far, your plants could not be getting enough light and it will stunt their growth. This could also lead to a common gardening issue during the seedling stage of growth, referred to as ‘stretching.’ During the flowering stage, lights placed too far from your plant canopy will result in smaller yields. Alternatively, if the light is too close, especially in the case of HID lighting, this can burn your plant, causing it to discolour and wilt.
The distance your lights should be from your plants will vary depending on whether you are using CFL, HID of LED lighting. For CFL lighting, try to keep your lights around 4-5 inches from your plant, and surround the plant with light from all angles if possible. This is because CFL lighting is typically not strong enough to penetrate the plant canopy, so placing it in and around bud sites will promote growth in these areas faster.
For HID lighting, distance will vary slightly depending on wattage and growth stage but try to abide by two basic rules: (a) do not use HID lighting during the seedling stage and (b) use the hand test. This means holding your hand directly above your plant canopy for 8-12 seconds. If your hand starts to burn, it likely means your plants are burning as well and you need to move up your light. For LED lighting, distances will vary depending on manufacturers and models. I recommend FourBudz LED lights, which should be kept 22-24 inches from seedlings, 18-20 inches from plant canopy during vegetative growth, and 12-18 inches during the flowering stage.
Your next step is to create airflow within the tent. This requires an inline fan and oscillating fan. For best results, try to place your oscillating fan inside the tent near the passive air inlet on the opposite side of your inline fan. This will force air into your tent and will have to circulate the entire tent before exiting through the exhaust vent. Depending on how big your grow space is, you may consider having two oscillating fans. One would be placed near the bottom of the tent beside the passive air inlet and the other should be gently rustling the tips of your plants. This fan location is much more vital as it forces your plants to grow a stronger base to handle the rustling from the fan. Be sure that if you set your fan up this way it is not constantly pointed at the plants. Oscillating is okay, but a fan pointed at your plants consistently can lead to wind burn. So to recap, an investment in two oscillating fans is optimal- one at the roots of your plants near the passive air inlet, and the second on the opposite side of the tent rustling the leaves at the top of your plant canopy. An inline fan is also a great and often mandatory idea as well. This ensures the heat given off by your light fixture exits the tent efficiently and keeps a good temperature for growing. It is also a catalyst for new air to enter the tent and used air to retreat. As long as your inline fan is going, your plants are being provided with a constant supply of air desperately needed for their feeding cycle.
Once your fans are set up, its time to connect your carbon filter to your inline fan. You can either connect your filter directly to your fan and connect ducting from there, or have a small line of ducting connecting the two pieces of equipment. Either way, your exhaust air will be scrubbed clean of any airborne contaminants and odors before it exits the filter. Depending on where your exhaust vent leads and what you are growing, this is an important component to your grow tent setup. A carbon filter takes care of any contaminants that may be a byproduct of your growing environment, as humid, wet conditions are often an open invitation for mold and mildew. A carbon filter will ensure that the air being pumped out of your tent and in effect though your household, is clean of any contaminants. Also, while it is cleaning the air it is eliminating any odors that could be emanating within your tent as well! Make sure this piece of equipment is set up to a ducting system that leads to your inline fan and out through the exhaust vent in the tent.
A final and often overlooked piece of equipment for your grow space is a thermo hygrometer. For the price, this is one of the best purchases you will make for your grow tent. What you are growing will require certain environmental conditions to thrive. This means an optimal temperature and humidity range for the best yields. Without this device much of the work you do with your plants will be guesswork. If there is an issue that needs to be resolved for instance, often this data can help to determine what the issue is- and outright avoid it in the first place. Just be careful where you put it in the tent. If it is too close to your lights the heat from your lights could be giving an inaccurate reading. On the other hand if it is on the floor, this will only give you information about the temperature and humidity surrounding your plants roots. If you don’t mind doing so, consider buying a few of these cheap tools and place them at intervals up to the canopy of your plants. If not, rotate where you place it, keeping an eye that nothing else has changed in the grow space. Of course your safest bet is to just spend the extra $10-20 and get two. For more on where to set up a thermo hygrometer in your grow space read my article on the same topic by clicking here.
So now that you know how to set up your grow tent, it’s time to get all the proper equipment to make your plants thrive! Check out my equipment recommendations page, or click here for a comparison of the best grow space equipment on the market. And as always, happy growing!
'Prof' is a professionally trained Canadian teacher with a love of horticulture and advocate of the democratization of cannabis cultivation, especially for medicinal purposes.