Growing Cannabis Indoors
Indoor grows have a decades-long history in the cannabis cultivation world, so they’re often the first consideration. They also can work pretty much anywhere—in places where humidity is high all year, or with extreme seasonal changes and long winters.
Growers who are working within a state’s medical cannabis framework or more strictly regulated pharmaceutical models like Texas usually prefer indoor facilities because of the clean, production-line feel—the more sanitized environment bears a closer resemblance to how other pharmaceuticals are produced by a lab manufacturer.
Indoor cultivation facilities also enjoy the enhanced security benefits of keeping a low profile, as these operations are typically housed in nondescript buildings. And growing indoors makes it easier to protect against mold and other pathogens, as well as providing better control against humidity and heat loss. These controls enable optimal production of strains that are more sensitive to environmental changes.
The biggest downsides of growing cannabis indoors are tied to excessive energy use and limited available space for plants. Simply put, indoor cannabis cultivation requires substantial electricity for lighting, dehumidifying and HVAC.
If you’re reading this, that means you’re ready to start growing your own medicine, and that's huge! Once you get the hang of growing you'll hardly ever need to purchase your own medicinal plants (or any plants, really) ever again.
Trust us, you're more than capable of growing cannabis (or marijuana, whichever you prefer to call it). All you need is a little guidance and you're on your way to becoming the grower you always knew you could be, getting big yields in no time.
Choosing Your Grow Lights
Are you going to buy a grow tent? Want to build a green house? Do you want to plant straight in the ground outside, or do you want to convert a room in your home or apartment?
These are the questions you'll want to think about when getting all of the pots, seeds, or clones to get started.
But before you get down to figuring out what sort of housing you want for your plants, you'll first want to figure out the canopy (the area of plants you're going to light) of your grow. To do that, there's a two-step approach:
How much space do you want to allocate for your grow room- To know how big your garden can be, you have to know the grow space's limitations. Before you buy your clones or a bag of seeds, measure out the area you want to use to grow your plants to get an idea of how many plants you can hold in that space
How many plants can you grow in that space- As a good rule of thumb, if you're not sure how big your buckets are going to be in that growing space, give your plants 2-4 sq.ft. per plant in that space you just measured. Divide that number by 2, 3, or 4 to figure out how many full-grown plants can live comfortably. The minimum is 1 sq.ft. per plant, so you may need to grab some buckets and measure it out yourself.
After you've measured out your space and have an idea of what it'll take to grow your garden, let's talk about how you're going to house them. At GrowAce we believe there's essentially three types of ways you can house your plants:
Grow Tents- Probably the most common among indoors growers, grow tents are increasingly convenient way of growing and housing your plants. Whether you need a place in your garage, somewhere in your room, or you need a tent the size of a whole room, you can likely find the tent you need to grow most any plant you can think of.
Tents come in a wide range of styles and sizes for any grower and nearly any plant
With a tent there's no need to drill/mount hanging hooks or vents for lights and fans
In tents you have superior control over grow environment than in most other setups
Grow Room- No matter if it's a closet, your bedroom, a garage, or a room in your house or apartment, there's no doubt that utilizing your own space can be more convenient than buying a tent. You can get fresh air in quicker and circulate it naturally throughout your garden.
In a grow room there's no need to purchase a whole new tent, just equipment like reflective material and some fans to convert your room (which can be cheaper than a tent depending on the canopy you plan to grow)
Grow rooms utilize the space you already have, including windows (ventilation) and power outlets so again, there's not too much to purchase to convert a room in to the grow of your dreams
Bonus: in the right setting, you can utilize light from the sun to supplement light when lights are out or dying
Greenhouse- When growing inside just won't happen but you don't have tons of room outside either, think about building or buying a greenhouse. In a greenhouse you get all of the benefits of growing outdoors (temp, abundance of light) with the added benefit of indoor growing (supplemental lighting and ventilation)
In a greenhouse you tend to save money on lighting by utilizing the sun’s light, which is actually one of the most optimum light sources available
In the event you need extra lighting you only need lower powered grow lights to hold you over until the sun comes back out (though you can always use high powered LED or HID's, too)
There's also plant training techniques like Light Dep that help you get bigger plants in greenhouses
Because they're already partially acclimated to outdoor environments, you have the potential to take greenhouse-grown plants out of the green house and plant them directly outside without lots of training like you would bringing indoor plants outside.
Choosing Your Medium
Your medium will determine how many nutrients you use, what type of nutrients you'll use, how you feed your plants, and how challenging correcting issues will be.
There are three popular grow mediums to choose from with their own advantages and disadvantages, so be sure you make the right decision before growing those plants:
Soil is the perfect all-purpose medium. Most soil doesn't need much supplemental nutrition because it's already loaded with nutrients. Heck, if you mix up your own super soil you can even eliminate around 90% of supplemental nutrition and just use water for the majority of a plant's life.
Great for beginners, lots of buffer room in terms of feedings and readings
Retains nutrients the best of all mediums (Needs little nutrients when you start, and all you do is add a little when your plants need them)
Recommended Skill Level: Novice, Advanced, Professional
Plants generally take longer to grow in soil
Nutrient issues may not show up right away, and when they do it can be difficult to quickly fix (plants can get so sick in soil they’re beyond repair)
Unlike hydro where roots will hang down in bucket, soil roots go all over the place and if you don’t have enough room for those roots you’ll get root bound plants, and those are never good
Hydroponics is an all-water soil-less way of growing medium. It's a lot less messy than dirt, and if you run in to nutrient problems they're much easier and faster to fix than soil problems. Hydroponic grown plants even take less time than soil plants to harvest.
Nutrients are absorbed much faster than in soil
Hydro is usually faster growing than soil or coco
Recommended Skill Level: Advanced, Professional
There's no buffer when growing with hydro like there is with soil- one wrong step and your plants are going to feel it
Nutrient issues may be easier to fix than in soil, but you're likely to get more nutrient spikes with hydro than in soil
Because of moisture collection at the root level, basins and water sources need to be constantly checked and cleaned to prevent mold, fungus, and root rot.
Choosing Your Grow Tent/Grow Room/Green House
Most of what we’ve focused on for this site has been using LED grow lights as a way to enhance the productivity of the indoor growth of traditional crops, plants, and flowers. They’re great for growing the perfect tomato indoors and when used appropriately they can also help you grow a variety of different flowers for retail purposes. I’m sure there are dozens of other plants and crops you might consider for an indoor grow operation that could most definitely benefit from LED grow lights and what they bring to the table, but not all crops are what you would consider traditional.
A nontraditional crop that’s starting to garner a lot of mainstream attention is the indoor growth of marijuana. Until recently this topic was considered a bit taboo, but in more and more jurisdictions medicinal marijuana has been legalized and in some cases even recreational use of the product. And because of its popularity, indoor grow specialists are increasingly turning towards this crop as a great business proposition. LED grow lights can be very beneficial to the marijuana growth cycle and we explain how below.
Manipulating the Color Spectrum
As we’ve discussed elsewhere on the site plants can benefit from different colors in the spectrum at different times in their growth cycle. Specifically, blue grow lights are ideal during the plants initial growth cycle and red lights help when it’s time for the plants to begin flowering or budding.
Traditionally in cannabis growth operations growers have relied on two different types of lights for different stages of the growth cycle. They’ve used metal halide bulbs during the initial vegetative growth stage and high-pressure sodium bulbs for the budding stage. The whole process can be quite tedious and expensive maintaining two different lighting systems.
By switching to LED grow lights you can have both blue and red spectrum lights in one light fixture potentially saving a lot of money while still giving the plant the different types of light it needs at each stage of its growth cycle. These type of fixtures usually give you the option to switch different bulbs on or off at different times in your plants growth cycle.
LED grow lights are also much more economical than traditional lights for growing marijuana. In most cases LED lights can produce the same wattage as traditional bulbs that advertise twice the energy output of the LED grow lights. That means you get the same effect on your plants, but your energy bills are a lot lower. When cannabis grow operations operated on the illegal end of the spectrum that was often how law-enforcement caught them by noticing the strong draw on their electricity grid as the growth of marijuana indoors required a lot of lighting. That wouldn’t have been a problem if they’d had LED grow lights.
Avoiding Overwhelming Heat
Cannabis is the type of plant that produces a lot of heat during the growth process and when you combine that with the heat coming off traditional bulbs such as metal halide’s or high-pressure sodium bulbs the end result is an extremely warm atmosphere that’s potentially dangerous as well. LED grow lights produce very little heat and are actually cool to the touch. That means a lot less heat inside your cannabis grow operation and a lot less risk of potential hazards such as those from fire.
Another area where LED grow lights outperform their competitors is in the area of longevity. Typically LED grow lights will keep operating for years at a time. If you compare them directly to other popular lighting systems it’s not much of a battle. These traditional lights will typically last no more than 20,000 hours, but LED grow lights will last for somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 hours. That’s a significant difference and one that more than makes up for the difference in cost.
Save on Some H2O
Cannabis is a crop that loves water and when you combine that fact with the tendency of traditional lighting systems which heat up the room to drain the atmosphere of liquids it’s not necessarily a match made in heaven. As we’ve indicated, LED grow lights give off a lot less heat and do not significantly affect the moisture in the atmosphere or in the ground of your grow operation. That means almost all of the moisture you add to the system goes to your plants and you can save a lot of money by reducing your H2O bills.
Lower Those Infrastructure Costs
One more area where LED grow lights can save the marijuana growth operation considerable money is in infrastructure costs. Traditional lighting systems such as metal halides and high-pressure sodium systems rely on costly ballast systems distributed throughout the grow op which are expensive to put in place and maintain. LED grow lights by comparison are much lighter and don’t require the same type of infrastructure. It’s just one more way that someone growing cannabis or any other crop for that matter can save money.
The Future of Plant Growth
There are quite simply many different ways that LED grow lights can save the marijuana grow up money over time. They reduce your infrastructure costs, lower your energy bills, reduce your water bill, and are generally safer to operate. Many marijuana growers actually believe that the LED lights increase their crop yields due to their efficient nature. Whether this is true or not may still be up for debate, but there’s no doubting that they hold many advantages for the marijuana grow op.