You want to build your very own grow room, but don’t really know where to start. Like others new to soil-less gardening, you may be confused by the jargon that is sometimes associated with hydroponics. Well, if so, this article is perfect for you. With the jargon kept to a minimum, it will help you to establish a better understanding of indoor growing.
1. Laying the foundations
If there is one golden rule to setting up a grow room, it is careful planning. You have two options in deciding your room type; a grow tent or a custom built grow room. Any structural work needed to get your room up and running should be made a priority. A well designed grow room will make your indoor gardening experience much more enjoyable. Remember that the size of your grow room is the first step in deciding what equipment you will need. The size of your room will determine how many lights are suitable, what type of ventilation system is necessary and what hydroponic system will be most appropriate.
When planning your grow room you must ensure:
- You have access to plenty of electricity - ask yourself whether there are enough plug sockets for your needs.
- You have a good water supply - this will stop your plants dying of thirst
- You can ventilate the area - make sure you have access to fresh air and can eject wasted air.
Remember, modifications which are made late can be very messy!
2. Cultivating plants
A plant will only achieve its maximum potential if grown in the right environment. Bumper yields and healthy growth are dependent on three key factors:
- Air Exchange
- Nutrient Management
If a plant is unhealthy, it is usually a sign of poor air exchange. In fact, poor air exchange is the cause of at least 90% of growers problems that we diagnose and help rectify. Good air exchange will:
- Reduce the risk of disease and pest attacks.
- Help the roots of the plant take up water and nutrients.
- Keep the temperature and humidity within an acceptable range.
- Supply carbon dioxide to the plant.
An extractor fan is essential for maintaining good air exchange. All grow rooms should have one. Air exchange comes in two parts, an exhaust (active) and intake (active or passive). A passive intake is a vent. An active intake is fan which blows fresh air into the grow room. You should place each at opposite ends of your indoor garden. Situate the exhaust (active) at the top of your room to extract the hot air as it rises. Position the intake vent (active or passive) low down near the floor to draw in fresh cooler air.
Extractor fans vary in size. As a rule of thumb, the more lights your grow room has the larger the extractor fan you’ll need.
Media based and non-media based hydroponic systems usually contain little or no nutrients. Essential minerals, which all plants need, must therefore be supplied by you, the grower, in the form of a nutrient solution.
Nutrient solutions vary in strength. The strength of nutrient a plant requires will depend upon the type of plant and its growth stage. You can add nutrients to your reservoir based on the volume of water it holds. For more accurate control we would recommend measuring the strength of the solution with a conductivity meter, which will give you a reading of the Conductivity Factor (CF) or Electrical Conductivity (EC) of the solution. The higher the number, the stronger the nutrient solution.
The pH factor is also important as it determines how easily a plant can absorb the nutrients available in a solution. The quicker a plant can absorb the nutrients, the faster it’ll grow. A pH measure of 0-6 indicates a solution is acidic, 7 is neutral, while a reading of 8-14 will mean it’s alkaline. Most plants prefer a pH range of 5.5 to 6.5. You can test the pH using a basic pH kit.
You should test and adjust the CF and pH every day to suit your plants’ requirements.
Lighting intensity and spectral output:
Light is the one of the most important environmental factors - without it a plant can’t survive. Remember, for a plant, light is basically food. Most indoor gardeners use artificial lighting to increase growth rates and achieve bumper yields. You should place artificial lights directly above your plants.
Tip – Remember, increasing the amount of light increases heat. Don’t let your room temperature exceed 30ºC as this will actually reduce yields!
3. Planning the crop
Probably the most exciting part of indoor growing is planning the crop. It will give you an idea of what you can achieve with your indoor garden.
Planning the crop involves:
- Researching the plants you want to grow.
- Deciding on the number of plants you want.
- Choosing the system you wish to use.
When planning the crop, it’s important to remember that a high yield doesn’t mean growing lots of plants. An overcrowded grow room will only result in unhealthy plants.
Tip - If you’re new to soil-less gardening, we recommend starting with Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) growing systems.
Now you should be well on your way to building your very own indoor garden. But remember to:
- Ensure all the necessary structural work is completed before you do anything.
- Hang reflective sheeting on the walls if your room is custom built.
- Install the intake and extractor fan.
- Have a test run once the extractor fan and lighting equipment is in place.
- Take note of any temperature and humidity changes.
- Install timers, thermostats and humidistat (if required).
- Pre – soak media (if required).
- Install your growing system.
- Install all other electrical items, such as air pumps and nutrient heaters.
- Bring in your plants.
- Carefully monitor your grow room for the first 24 hours.
We hope this article has been of help. If you require further information, please don’t hesitate to contact us.