Let’s talk about our favorite herbaceous annual. Cultivated for eons the world over, everyone has an opinion on it – none more so than its cultivators. Volumes have been written with opinions so numerous, the beginner has good reason to be intimidated at the prospect of tackling a grow.
We get many beginners in our store and their questions are often identical, so if you’ve ever flirted with the notion of growing your own but were overwhelmed by Google and YouTube gurus, listen up and let’s get growing – it’s simpler than you think!
Of course, ours is not an unbiased perspective either. We’re minimalists. Sure, we love our toys, but wish to discuss affordable and effective cultivation rigs before later getting into the wild stuff. We’ve taught many their skills over the decades and occasionally we run across someone only properly described as a ‘plant whisperer’. The best of them I like to call Laughing Boy. This guy could get impossible results with whatever was lying around – much to the chagrin of big-spending rockwool-rats and water-culture-jockeys. His philosophy was, ‘Keep it simple, stupid.’ He was among the few to ultimately mentor his mentors, and taught us how little is actually necessary for stellar results. Let’s proceed as if Laughing Boy were in charge of our ‘simple’ grow.
Our first consideration is the footprint under cultivation. Most everybody at first overestimates how much space is necessary for their desired result. As the decades have rolled by our tools have improved to keep pace with the plethora of highly bred genetic types available for cultivation. We can get much more out of smaller grow rigs today. Consider that, with adequate equipment and even average modern hybrids, 300-450g of clean flower per square meter is a common standard. This standard and some of the many ‘constant harvest’ protocols in popular use greatly reduce the cubic dimensions necessary for yields only larger and more aggressive rigs could generate a few decades ago. Now, take the lower estimate of 300g per square meter and calculate your needs. Of course, as your skills improve so will your yields. You’ll refine and upgrade your rig to run like a race car.
Before deciding, consider the cost of properly fitting out your space – the bigger the space, the bigger the cost. Consider the necessary workload to keep pace with your grow – the bigger the grow the bigger the workload. Consider running expenses each crop – power, nutes, additives, Co2, heating/cooling – and again, the bigger the grow the bigger the bill. So what’s the sweet spot? There isn’t one! It depends on your needs but we would always advise you to underestimate the space necessary. Your skills will eventually improve to optimize it. This was Laughing Boy’s core tenet. Even twenty years ago with relatively primitive tech, 300-450g of quality flower per square meter was common to competent growers. Those same growers have eclipsed those numbers nowadays. If you overestimate your necessary space, after the expense of it you’ll come to see that much less would’ve been adequate. That too is common hindsight around our store for those that simply can’t be told.
The next decision in this category is whether to fit out a room or fit out a tent. Tents come from clone size to bedroom size and everything in between and have become the preferred option for good reason. If you need larger than that, you’re either fitting out a large space, or running multiple tents in multiple spaces. Of course, you can always pack up a tent without having to repair ducting damage or re-lay carpeting or repaint walls. Still, the same things are necessary in both: a light-proof structure, reflective walls, ventilation ports in and out, equipment support structures, and reasonably sanitary conditions – that means no blasted carpeting unless a tent is on top of it!
Let’s factor costs into this decision. Besides the structural fit-out, your largest outlay will be in lighting, air management, and growing systems, generally in that order. Do not be tempted to skimp on the first two. Proper lighting and ventilation is critical to any cultivation equation. Those two factors will determine the vigor and success of your grow before any others. An under-lit footprint with tropical humidity levels is a poor investment for your time and money. Effectively light-up and ventilate what you can afford, not what you imagine you may get away with. You will invariably be disappointed otherwise.
Next under consideration is the workload you’re about to tackle. ‘I don’t care how much work it takes!’ is a common response around our store – but you will care if the crop runs away from you. As a rule, optimal plant management – pruning, shaping, defoliation, etc – is best properly done on fewer plants than more, and done more often. Such necessary and simple techniques, and we’ll discuss them all later, can boost yields more effectively than just adding more resources. Give yourself a chance to learn with reasonable workloads because even the most enthusiastic grower will get sick of living in their rig and that’s when mischief begins. Bugs and disease will take hold somewhere in an untended grow and by the time you see them you’re in damage control – not a place you want to find yourself.
Lastly, consider your ongoing costs. Power ain’t cheap! If expenses cost half your yield you may want to reconsider either the size or fit-out of your rig. Growing technology is inevitably trending toward efficiency, especially in lighting, exactly because of this consideration. Lighting will be your biggest expense – both to buy and to run – and your measure of success will be interpreted in grams of dry flower yield per watt of energy used, in this case we’re just considering watts in lighting energy. An untutored beginner often averages 0.5g/W before time and refinement correct this equation. Most growers will average 1-1.5g/W and this a good standard with many types of rigs popular today. Exceptional growers will average Laughing-Boy’s numbers of 1.5-2.5g/W and this is to some degree dependent on cultivar choice and canopy management protocols.
Of course, just when you think you’re boxing with the heavyweights, some joker brings crop-times into this equation to get the last laugh. Indeed, to manage a bumper yield is one thing, but to do it routinely, in quick time and on time, that is a trick for a highly skilled few. These people leave little to chance and have served their time in grow rigs; they’ve made their mistakes or been spared them by a mentor and have learned to make intelligent choices and spend their money and time wisely. This elite population then only bicker about the quality of their product and that competition will never end.
To summarize, start smaller than you think you’ll need because it’s cheaper to get started – so that you actually do get started instead of just reading blogs. Smaller is also easier to maintain, and cheaper to run. We recommend handy tent options – just browse the store for your many choices before you start hacking up your bedrooms, especially if you live in a rental.
We’ll look at your lighting options in the next installment. More choices in store for you there.
Grow well and prosper.