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Help A New Grower

Not long ago, I received this email from a new reader.  It’s a request for help in setting up a new grow operation.  Here is the letter:

Hello there and happy day. I loved reading your story of stardom ?❣️sounds very similar to what I’m experiencing. I’ve wanted to start indoor grow for 20yrs. Divorce children……. But now kids are older. I’m ready. If this needs any tweaking if you have time can you send suggestions please.

  • 2×4×5 vivosun grow tent
  • 195cfm 4inch vivosun fan intake
  • Ipower 230cfm 4″ fan exhaust
  • Both have 4×14″ carbon filter
  • 3gal fabric bags
  • 2-300w ipower full spectrum
  • Space heater if needed.
  • 6″ air fan inside
  • I have 2 timers 1 for lights 1 for HVAC
  • Dehumidifier?? Live in Washington state so it can be muggy at times.
Just father of 3 on disability so trying to be frugal but also just as important smart not to buy junk.
Thanks for your time if you don’t have time thank you either way. Stay safe and stoned

How Can We Help?

Let’s take a look at the list our friend sent and assume that he is buying all the parts individually.  Is there a better solution? Did he leave anything out?

First Things First–Seeds

best-cannabis-seeds

Growing always starts with seeds.  Even if you learn to clone, you still need a mother plant that you grew from seeds. Not only are seeds the beginning, they are also relatively expensive compared to other components of your grow operation.  This is because if you have bad seeds, you will have a bad plant and you will have wasted all the time (and the money) in a non-productive endeavor that might even make you want to give up. So the most important thing left out is where he is getting his seeds.

There are a lot of sources of seeds, from free seeds that you pick out of the stash a friend gave you to wholesale bags of specially-grown seed from European distributors.  But in my opinion, you will do best if you spend a little money on buying seeds from a quality producer with experience and with a germination guarantee.  As regular readers know, I recommend Robert Bergmans’s ILGM, but there are other seed companies in Europe with long experience. Some other companies that have good seed products:

Typically, a batch of seeds from ILGM will cost from $79 to $139.  So let’s say our new grower starts with AK-47 Autoflower at the latest sale price.  That’s $79 for five seeds or $119 for 10 seeds. (Maybe his friends will want some too.)

Our newbie grower says he lives in Washington.  Although he does not say so, let’s assume he is a medical marijuana patient who can get growing permission from his doctor.  If not, he cannot grow legally in Washington State.  Even with a doctor’s note, his grow is limited to 6 plants.

Grow Tent and Parts

Apollo Horticulture 48”x48”x80” Mylar Hydroponic Grow Tent

Our friend’s grow tent has an 8 square foot floor area with 5 foot height.  An AK-47 plant, unless trained, when fully grown will need at least 2 square feet and will be about 2 feet high.  So he can probably grow 4 plants in his space.  That is going to be a very cramped space.

Purchased separately, here is what his components will cost (prices from Amazon)

  • 2×4×5 vivosun grow tent.          $80
  • 195cfm 4inch vivosun fan intake.              $31
  • Ipower 230cfm 4″ fan exhaust.          $57
  • Both have 4×14″ carbon filter.    (included)
  • 3gal fabric bags                    $18
  • 2-300w ipower full spectrum             $76 each ($152)
  • Space heater if needed.
  • 6″ air fan inside                                 $13
  • I have 2 timers 1 for lights 1 for HVAC               $13
  • I live in Washington state so it can be muggy at times.

Dehumidifier??

Regardless of where you live, you will probably need a dehumidifier if you are growing in a grow tent or any enclosed space.  A plant breathes just like you, and when it breathes out, its “breath” is mixed with water vapor.  So in a short time, the humidity inside an enclosed plant-growing space will be 100% (like those terrariums I built in elementary school with the lizards and the plants.)

100% humidity means your plants will probably develop mold and be worthless.   So for best results, you need to keep the humidity under 100% and preferably measure the humidity so you know what you are doing.

For germination and cloning, you shoot for 70%.  For vegetative stage, try to get about 50%.  For flowering, lower the humidity to around 40%.  And considering that your plant is primarily a Sativa variety, you will want to be on the lower end of those ranges and maintain a somewhat cooler environment.

So yes, you need a dehumidifier. A good one with a drain hose costs about $120.  A humidity meter (hygrometer) will cost 5-10 dollars.

What Does It Add Up To

With all the equipment our friend in Washington is buying, his cost for equipment is about $480.  Add in seeds for five plants and he is looking at $550 to $600.

What Is the Return on Investment

Assuming our friend can grow 4 plants in his space, each plant could produce (for a skilled grower in ideal conditions), about 4 ounces in 8 weeks.  That is before drying the buds which will reduce the weight by about 25%, giving 3 ounces per plant per 8 weeks.  12 ounces per harvest.

So ultimately, with skill and experience, our friend might expect 12 ounces of high-quality dried AK-47 bud every 8 weeks.  Over a year, that amounts to 6.5 harvests totalling 78 ounces.

The most recent prices in Washington state are from $75 to $300 per ounce with most prices in the $100 per ounce range for high-quality bud.  That works out to $7800 value for our friend’s investment (in money terms) over a year.  Not considering costs of time and light and nutrients and water, our friend has invested $600 with a $7800 return. 13x his investment.  Not a bad return.  Beats the stock market!

Is There a Better Way?

Our friend in Washington spent a lot of money accumulating the materials for his indoor grow operation.  Maybe he can cut costs a little.

First of all, is 600W of LED light sufficient?  Typically, one plant will use 50-100W (HID Equivalent wattage, not power draw), although more will not hurt and may help penetration to lower leaves.  Everybody has a different rule for this and experience is the only real measure.  Using that figure, 400 watts (HID Equivalent) should be enough.

How Much Light Is Needed for A Cannabis Plant?

Most growers think that with the old HID lights, 50-75W per square foot of floor space was the right figure to use.  That’s assuming that each plant uses 4 square feet of floor space.  Each plant has ample room for full growth.  So each plant will use 200-300 HID equivalent watts.  For our friend’s four plants, that is a total of 800-1200 HID equivalent watts, which is significantly more than the 600W our friend is proposing.  We have an article talking about why “Lumens Are for Humans” that explains this mysterious HID-equivalent problem.

If we are packing 4 plants into 8 square feet, a “per plant” calculation rather than a “per square foot” calculation works better. Another figure some growers use is 30-50W of actual power draw (not HID equivalent-power) per plant.  For four plants using this figure, an adequate light  would be a rectangular configuration with an actual power draw of 200W.  That would mean approximately 800W-1000W HID-equivalent.

The critical issues in lighting are

  1. making sure the light reaches all parts of the area covered fairly evenly; and,
  2. making sure you have enough energy for flowering, which uses significantly more light energy than vegetation.

For this reason, a higher output light with an adjustable rectangular pattern might be a better choice than the 2 lights our friend is proposing.  The footprint should produce enough light energy for a 2 foot x 4 foot space even at 24 inches height.  One option at a lower cost than the two proposed 300W lights is this one:

LED Grow Light 1000W Full Spectrum Indoor Plants LED Growing Lamp Digital Electric Timer Angle of Illumination Adjustable for Vegetables and Flowers
167 Reviews
LED Grow Light 1000W Full Spectrum Indoor Plants LED Growing Lamp Digital Electric Timer Angle of Illumination Adjustable for Vegetables and Flowers
  • FULL SPECTRUM LEDS: uses new full spectrum LEDs. UPDAYDAY 1000w led grow lights use 200pcs full spectrum LEDS. These latest upgraded LEDS have full sunlight spectrum and yield 20% higher PAR than yellow light. The full spectrum LEDs include red, yellow and blue spectrums ranging from 380nm to 780nm. These are optimized for all stages of plant growth.
  • ADJUSTABLE LIGHTING ANGLE: the newly designed Led plant light allows for 30 degrees upward or downward inclination. This can increase the irradiation area by up to 60% and reduce the number of grow light fixtures required. Downward inclination concentrates the growing light towards the bottom of the plant and increases the number of buds.
  • TIMING FUNCTION: The UPDAYDAY1000w growth lamp is equipped with a built-in timer. The lighting time can be set from 1 to 23 hours, setting a fixed lighting time every day helps to optimize the plant's growth cycle. Keep power on and it will be on cycle all the time.
  • DAISY CHAIN : On the updayday 1000W full spectrum LED plant grow lights the power cord also works as a daisy chain, you can link up to 3Pcs  Auto on and off function enables the grow light bulbs to turn on or turn off automatically at the time you set, and you can set the timer according to different growth periods of plants easily.
  • ENERGY SAVING: The UPDAYDAY 1000W LED grow light has an actual power consumption of 190W or 0.19kW/h matching 1000w HPS/MH grow lamps but yielding energy savings in excess of 81%. Extremely easy to install with global voltage 85-277V AC 50/60hz. Comes complete with free metal hanging cables. This is a plug and play no noise electronic programming growing solution.

Is the Number of Plants Right?

autoflowering plants in a grow tent

Another issue to consider is the number of plants in 8 square feet.  Special techniques will be needed to grow 4 healthy plants in that small area.

Typically, cannabis plants grow best when given plenty of space to expand as they grow, both in root size and in bush diameter.  That means some growers with a lot of space will give their plants as much as 4 square feet per plant.  In addition, LED Grow Lights do not penetrate into the lower canopy like older HID lights reputedly do.  That is another reason to choose a higher energy light.

We are only allowing our friend to have 4 plants in 8 square feet, so he might need a modified Sea of Green method of planting, which is basically making the plants have more buds on a shorter and earlier-flowering plant.  This technique involves  pinching off the tips of the plants when they only have four to six leaves, thus forcing them to grow sideways with more bud sites. The result is a canopy of plants that covers the entire surface area.

A standard Sea of Green technique uses light cycles to induce earlier flowering, but since these seeds are autoflowers, they do not respond to light cycle modification.  A modification using Low Stress Training is the best choice if plant pruning is needed to make a dense canopy of plants. It sometimes becomes necessary to prune the lower leaves to reduce bushiness and increase the nutrients getting to the upper leaves and buds.

Pots For Your Pot

Another issue is size of the pots.  3 gallon pots are sufficient for the early stages of vegetation, but a 5 gallon or larger pot will be needed as the plants become mature.  More space for the roots means healthier plants.  Fabric pots can be easily “nested” inside larger fabric pots if you are running out of space.  One sure sign of needing space is when rootlets start to appear through the fabric.

a Pot For Pot kit
A Pot For Pot

One of the most attractive setups for growing weed indoors in small quantities is the “A Pot For Pot” which is a ready-made planter with (almost) all the components you need for indoor growing.

How About a Complete Grow Kit

Another option to is to buy a complete grow kit.  Here is a good kit at low cost and slightly smaller at 7 square feet.

cdmall 32''x32''x63'' Small Grow Tent Kit+100W UFO LED Light+4'' Fan Filter Kit+Hangers+Hygrometer+Shears+24 Hour Timer+Trellis Netting Indoor Grow Tent Complete Kit
27 Reviews
cdmall 32''x32''x63'' Small Grow Tent Kit+100W UFO LED Light+4'' Fan Filter Kit+Hangers+Hygrometer+Shears+24 Hour Timer+Trellis Netting Indoor Grow Tent Complete Kit
  • ❀❀ Package Included: Grow Tent Room x1 + New Tech LED 100W x1 + Inline Fan x1 + Carbon Filter x1 + Ducting x1 + Grow Light Hangers x1+ Digital Hygrometer x1 + 24 Hour Timer x1 + Trellis Netting x1 + Bonsai Shear x1 for Indoor Plant Growing.
  • ❀❀ 96% highly reflective waterproof diamond mylar (enhance the reflective effect):600D high-reflective Diamond Mylar, Large heavy duty Zippers & Double Stitching for protection against light leaks. Easy entry and access.
  • ❀❀ Digital Hygrometer:High stability & accuracy.Display temperature, humidity and time sim,ultaneously; Rope Hanger:Up to 75-pound weight load capacity per ratchet; a pair can handle 150-pounds.
  • ❀❀ LED: Featuring a user friendly "Full Spectrum" design, you can easily grow your plants in any growth cycle required like germination, seedling, veg, flower.
  • ❀❀ Fasting shipment with one or three separated boxes, discreet package. If any problem, please feel free to contact us, we will response it within 24h and give you a satisfied solution.

Assuming Time and Skill

The calculations above make a number of assumptions, which in the case of growing marijuana may not be accurate.  For instance, the nutrients, the micro-climate, the soil used and the grower’s skill all make huge differences in the quality and quantity of bud.  But all in all, if you are spending money to buy weed, and you have any time to grow your own, you will likely save a lot of money with home-grown instead of someone else’s product.

So Good Luck, Washington Friend. I sure hope you will send me photos of your successful grow.

Good Growing IS Good Karma

MaryJane Farmer

Last update on 2021-06-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This product was presentation was made with AAWP plugin.

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