Growing your weed is a bit more complicated than buying it from a dispensary (or off the street), but it has many advantages. First of all, it can save you a load of money in the long run. Second, you always know what you are smoking, since you’ve grown it yourself. Besides, harvesting the fruits of your plant will leave you high on pride before you even smoke them!
For the first time in human history is an abundance of resources out there for first-time weed growers. However, this overload of information can end up doing more harm than good. Budget is one aspect of growing that is not often mentioned, mainly because always is trying to sell you something. But is there an accurate guide on how to create a cheap indoor growing setup?
The Essentials Of A Cheap Indoor Growing Setup
The good news is that creating a decent indoor weed growing setup can be as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be. There are all sorts of fancy equipment and stuff out there that may (or may not) make your life easier, but the truth is cannabis is just a plant. You can help it, care for it and make sure that the seeds reach their full potential, but you don’t need to go overboard.
That being said, it is essential to make sure you understand that there is a difference between actually growing a plant and making it produce flowers. If you stick a marijuana seed in a pot and place it in the windowsill, it will grow but never flower.
To get a respectable yield from your indoor growing setup, you will need to make sure that you have:
- Great seeds with quality genetics;
- Powerful and plentiful lighting;
- A growing medium;
- Nutrients and water;
- A well-ventilated, balanced environment.
As long as you start with quality seeds and fulfill some basic criteria, things become quite straightforward. Although many of us have associated cannabis cultivation with expensive lights and state-of-the-art facilities, there is a huge market out there that caters to many needs. Below, we will explore all the essential aspects of cannabis growing and explain how you can create a cheap indoor growing setup for your weed without sacrificing quality.
There are many types of weed seeds out there, with varying prices and properties. Whatever you do, do not purchase cheap ones. You will most likely end up with a weak underperforming plant, that will probably not survive without extreme care and expensive nutrients. In a nutshell, do not try to cut corners by getting lower quality seeds. Great starting genetics will make or break your grow.
Instead of opting for the cheap option, think of how you can save money regarding time and quality. Therefore, carefully inspect the seeds you are about to buy. If ordering online, check the following:
Generally, even the best cannabis strains are not very pricey. Except for some rare breeds that only circulate from garden to garden, seeds will set you back from anything between $5-$15 per seed. However, most seedbanks will want to sell you one of their three, five or 10-seed packs, which usually come at a discount.
You’ll hear the phrase “growing medium” going about a lot in microgrowery blogs and forums. The growing medium is essentially substance wherein your plant develops. Although sticking a seed in soil might seem the most intuitive choice, there are many options available. Especially when it comes to hydroponic growing, the selection of substrates is staggering.
The most popular options for hydroponic growing mediums include substrates that provide the best combination of aeration and water retention. Such materials include:
- Coco Coir
- Expanded clay
There are many types of hydroponic growing systems, each catering to a different audience and style of growing. Although beginners are advised to start with humble soil, there are many reasons to go hydro. However, since the goal here is to recommend ways to build a cheap indoor weed growing setup, we’ll be looking at those reasons in another article.
Choosing a growing medium shouldn’t be complicated or expensive. For your first couple of crops, a bunch of good quality pots, some potting soil and perhaps mixing some coco coir to help your roots breathe will be enough. Pre-made hydroponic systems are quite expensive, and unless you have the time to build one of your own, we recommend you keep it simple.
Indoor Grow Lights On A Budget
Indoor lighting is going to be your main spending point in an otherwise cheap indoor growing setup. Even if you have bought the best seeds in the world, it would mean jack-sh*t unless they can reach their potential. To do so, plants need light. Intense, bright, shiny light. And no, you can’t save money by growing under a regular light bulb.
The main problem with creating an indoor setup on a budget is that you must be extra careful with the grow lights you are buying. What you are looking for are grow lights that are powerful enough to carry your plants through the flowering period and give them enough energy to flower and produce big buds. Light is the primary food source of all plants, and since sunlight is out of the question, you must give them the next best thing.
Types Of Grow Lights
There are three main types of indoor grow lights. In this article, you can find more about their pros and cons.
- LED grow lights
- HID grow lights – high-pressure sodium (HPS) and metal halide (MH)
- Fluorescent grow lights
Although in this day and age LED grow lights might seem like the obvious choice, you will need to think twice about it. The market is flooded with rubbish models from dubious manufacturers that are in for a quick cash grab. That being said, avoid most cheap models on Amazon, as their specs are grossly inflated. There is no way you can find a 1000W LED grow light for $100, and if you do, something is very wrong.
A cheaper solution is to buy a less powerful LED grow light from a reputable manufacturer (if you’re growing a few plants) or use a combination of fluorescent and HID in vegetation and flowering.
The amount of the area that a grow lights covers is different depending on the type of the grow light.
- Fluorescent lights = about 65W/sq.ft.
- HID (MH, HPS) = about 50W/sq.ft.
- LED = about 35W/sq.ft.
These are the absolute minimum values you need to get a respectable yield. Having more juice will increase your production so feel free to add as much as you want. Power excess is rarely a problem and certainly not in budget grows. Please note that LEDs are not as straightforward and they need to emit light in the correct spectrum to reach their full efficiency ratings. 35W is the power required from a high-quality panel.
In a nutshell: if you are not planning on growing a lot of plants, go for a small -but quality- LED panel. Also, avoid Amazon LED grow lights unless you know what you are doing.
Save Money On Nutrients
After grow lights, nutrients for indoor growers are the second most exploitable field for companies. Most people do not exactly know what nutrients do or how much to give to their plants. Marketing departments leverage their confusion to upsell their products, and many growers end up with unnecessary plant nutrients, that can even make your plants sick.
Contrary to what you might instinctively think, nutrients are not food for your plants. Since cannabis plants photosynthesize, light is their primary food source. Marijuana nutrients are as useful to your plants as food supplements are to you: in small doses.
Cannabis needs three primary minerals to live and develop: Calcium, Nitrogen, and Phosphorus. However, you need to be smart about how much nutrients you use. Not only will you raise a happy and healthy plant, but you will save a lot of money in the process.
There are no real differences between high and low-priced nutrients, as long as they get the job done. The only thing you should be careful about is to use each nutrient type in the growing medium for which it was made for.
Creating A Balanced Environment On A Budget
The good news about creating a stable environment for your budget indoor growing setup is that it is relatively easy to achieve. As long as you provide your plants with a basic environment, they will grow happily ever after. Much like humans, cannabis plants dislike extremes, so keep the temperatures at 15-28ºC (60-85ºF), and you’ll be alright in 99% of cases.
The main factors you should always regulate in your growing environment are:
- Light Leaks
- Humidity levels
You can get instruments to measure these for very cheap through Amazon or your local hardware store. A decent thermometer/hygrometer will set you back about $10-15 and will be your best friend in creating the optimum environment for less money!
This is perhaps the trickiest aspect to control since grow lights will significantly increase the temperatures of your grow room. Especially HID grow lights are notorious for getting extremely hot. Unless you have enough space to hang your HID grow lights at least 50-60cm (20-30”) from your plant canopy, opt for LED lights that run cooler. The heat from the grow lights is not only harmful to your plants, but it can be a serious fire hazard if you’re not careful.
High temperatures are not the only danger when it comes to heating problems. If you live in cold environments, you may need extra heating equipment to keep temps in check when the lights are out. Especially during flowering when light intake must be kept to a minimum, low temps can be equally harmful.
Keeping your grow light at a safe distance and getting a cheap fan for your garden is enough to keep temperature levels low.
Air Circulation & Humidity
Airflow is extremely important in stabilizing your growing environment, and it is a major regulating factor in dissipating heat from the grow lights. Also, don’t forget that your plants are living, breathing organisms that need fresh air to survive. Fresh air helps with transpiration, so you will need to make sure that a small fan is available and working in your grow room at all times to avoid mold and temperature problems.
Humidity levels and temperatures should be adjusted depending on the development stage your plant is in. For example, relative humidity levels should be kept at a minimum during flowering. One easy way to eliminate humidity is to always keep in mind that warm air retains more water than cold air. Therefore, lowering the temperatures will naturally bring down humidity levels as well.
Have you ever noticed how most home-grown cannabis flowers tend to be stronger and more plentiful at the top? That’s because grow lights hit the canopy of the plant, and the intensity is not powerful enough to reach the underside of the foliage. If you want to get the best bang for your buck, you can either supplement lighting on the sides with CFL light bulbs or make the walls your growing environment as reflective as possible so that they will refract the light all over the plant.
That’s precisely the reason most grow tents are covered in mylar or some other reflective material. If you have a spot you want to turn into a grow room (a closet, attic, basement or cellar), getting some white mylar or foylon sheets to cover the walls is relatively inexpensive. In case you don’t want to bother with that, a decent grow tent will serve just as right. Just make sure to avoid all-in-one packages (including lights, nutrients, and other paraphernalia) and stick with the actual tent.