Complete Grow kit Guide - Basics & installation
In this complete grow kit guide we will cover how each piece of equipement works and how it contributes to the growing environement, followed by instructions on how to safely install it.
1 / How it works
Depending on what you plan to cultivate in your grow tent, you must make sure it has sufficientspace for it to grow, medium sized plants such as tomato plants require an average of 4 ft² per plant.
Grow tents are equipped with multiple ventilation holes, the round holes of 4” in diameter and above are for ventilation ducts, located on the walls and ceiling of the tent. Most grow tents have mesh vents, air intakes on the lower regions of their walls that can be opened and closed, these allow for a positive air intake and better ventilation (more details in Ventilation section).
Every grow tent has a waterproof splash tray in case of spills, but it is only meant for emergencies. If you are using pots containing soil, they must all have individual saucers to collect the runoff water and prevent algae development and potential diseases harmful to the plants.
Every grow light has 3 components ;
- A ballast used to regulate the power intake and assure a consistent power delivery to the bulbs.
- A reflector to redirect and maximize the amount of light sent towards the plants.
- Bulb(s) or Diode(s) as a light source.
HPS is one of the most used grow lights, most fixtures have these 3 components separated. The ballasts shouldn’t be placed inside grow tents as they warm and dry the air, it is safer to mount them outside the tent and allows better cable management.
Some HID grow lights such as double ended or CMH fixtures have the ballast mounted on the reflector. LED grow lights have their diodes attached to the reflector with their drivers mounted in the body.
→ General information to take into consideration when choosing a grow light ;
- Power (actual wattage) : It is important to research and consider the light requirements for the plant you desire to grow, most medium sized plants (ex. tomato plant) require 50 to 75 watts per ft² at the canopy.
When choosing a LED grow light, it is important to know the difference between Advertised Wattage and Actual Wattage;
- The advertised wattage is obtained by multiplying the number of diodes by their theoretical wattage. For example, an LED grow light may have 140 x 5-watt diodes, so its advertised wattage would be 700 LED Watts.
- The actual wattage (power draw) can be obtained by looking at the product’s power output specification. For example, that 700 LED Watts grow light above might only pull 315 Watts.
- Spectrum : Light spectrums are most often indicated on the information sheet in the box if not printed on the box itself.
The red spectrum (2700K) is mostly used in the flowering phase.
The blue spectrum (6400K) is mostly used in the vegetative phase.
Although most companies point towards using the appropriate light spectrum according to the plant’s phase, many growers have had excellent results using only a MH or HPS bulb for the entire plant’s cycle.
Comparaison of a HPS, MH, CMH and LED spectrum
- Light coverage & mounting height: Indicates how effective are the lights from a certain distance. Depending on the beam angle, LED lighting can usually be brought down a little closer to the canopy without stressing the plants too much but HID (High Intensity Discharge) lighting such as HPS, MH and CMH need to be placed higher up
Good ventilation in a grow room or grow tent is crucial to the development of the plants and the cooling of the environment & equipment. It also allows to control the quality of the air as some plants can produce strong smells.
This is how the system works :
The air inside the tent must be constantly moved and renewed, the best tool for the job is an extractor fan (Inline fan) placed inside the tent. The fan will actively pull the air out of the tent creating negative pressure (the walls of the tent are pulled towards the inside of the tent), thus forcing new fresh air in the tent and assuring a good air flow.
Having the exhaust of the system blowing the air in another room from the one with your grow tent(s) or directly outside will create the same negative pressure in the room and allow more “fresher” air to be circulated.
There are 4 items in a ventilation system
- Extractor fan : Pulls the air out
- Carbon Filter : Filters smells and contaminants
- Ducts (insulated or uninsulated) : Connects the system together
- Clamps to attach the ducts to the units
If space isn’t an issue "6" Fans are preferable, they can be adapted to 4" with a 4" to 6" reducer and adjusted with a speed controller. Most air cooled light reflectors have a 6" connecting point.
By opening the air vents on the lower parts of the tent, outside air is sucked from the bottom, passing through your plants and into the fan.
- D) Cultivation method
There are multiple ways to grow a plant, the 2 we are going to look at are growing in soil and hydroponics.
We recommend first time growers to start with soil as it is much more forgiving than some hydroponic systems that require a good understanding of the plant and precision. If a grower feels like experimenting with hydroponics once he learned how to get successful and consistent harvests it will be very easy to replace pots and soil since they are very cheap
There are some disadvantages with soil, it is heavy and takes a lot of space, this is a problem for a lot of indoor growers who only have limited space. Soil produces a lot of dust, and well, it is dirt, your grow space will get dirty and need frequent cleaning.Your chances of getting insects or pests goes up substantially when you use a soil substrate for your plants.
Plants potted in soil also require trays to collect the runoff water and allow a clean grow space.
Hydroponics is the practice of growing plants in water instead of soil. Many plants can be grown successfully in this manner, some even prefer it.
Plants tend to grow significantly faster in hydroponic setups as their roots can absorb nutrient solutions much more efficiently and rapidly than plants grown in soil.Some growers switch to hydroponics after having acquired the basics in growing and desire a cleaner, precise and fully manageable grow setup.
- E) Nutrients
Plants need to be fertilized because most soil does not provide the essential nutrients required for optimum growth. Even if you are lucky enough to start with great garden soil, as your plants grow, they absorb nutrients and leave the soil (in these applications) less fertile.
Regular tap water will sometimes contain enough minerals in it to complete the entire cycle of a plant, although it’s growth, yield and overall quality will be significantly inferior compared to a plant with a regular feeding schedule. Nutrients also provide a strong immunitary system for the plants, lacking these will result in weak plants that are much more susceptible to illness.
For a beginner we recommend to start only using base nutrients and a controller (such as Cal-Mag) or a starter kit. Once you have a couple of grows under your belt and acquired the confidence feel free to experiment with a broader spectrum of nutrients (mixing different brands of nutrients can sometimes cause issues).
Further instructions on feeding schedules and proper use of plant nutrients is available in “Assembly & Use”
2 / Equipment
Having light leaks or unusual changes in the lighting schedule during the dark phase can cause some alterations in some plants phases such as early flowering and seed production.
Grow Light - Light Hangers - Timer
Grow lights have to be connected to timers in order to deliver a consistent light cycle. The hangers allow them to be mounted and adjusted to the correct height.
Extractor Fan - Clamps - Ducts
An extractor fan is required to pull air through the tent ensuring a good airflow and cooling of the equipment. Ducts are used to create an exhaust for the air pushed by the fan and / or cool bulbs if they can be air cooled (ex. Cool tubes). Clamps are used to connect the ducting to other components.
Carbon Filter ;
It is not necessary if the plants you are growing do not produce a strong smell that could bring unwanted attention. It is crucial to have a carbon filter if you are growing and drying flowers.
Extra Fan ;
An extra fan moving air around in your grow tent can drastically improve the efficiency of your ventilation system.
One fan at canopy height on the opposite side of your extractor fan is the most efficient way to circulate air. It improves the airflow in your tent allowing cooler temps and most importantly strengthens the stems of the plants by moving them around simulating real winds.
By default a fan will run at its full power when plugged, they don’t have power options like some grow lights do on their ballast (100% 75% 50%). This can be an issue for some people using powerful extractor fans as they can be noisy when running at full power and don’t require most of the time.
Some controllers allow you to set a certain speed during the day and idle at night.
Pots - Grow Media
The container capacity will set the limit for the rootmass of the plant.
Base nutrients and Boosters
Used to assure stable plant growth, blooming, fructification and overall health.
pH and TDS meter ;
These instruments are used to check if your nutrient solution has the correct pH (between 5.5 and 6.5 for most plants), and the Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) of a solution, i.e. the “concentration” (references are on the feeding schedule of your nutrient line), they can prevent significant stresses and unwanted alterations in the plant’s growth.
3 / Assembling & Installation
The assembly must be followed through precariously and not rushed as little mistakes can have enormous consequences such as fires or electrocution.
A grow room / tent contains many high output electric devices, operating for long periods of time above pots and trays containing water. Any connection or wire must be suspended from the ground as any water leak, being equipment or a simple slip while watering, can short circuit your setup and possibly cause injuries or death. Avoid having cables on the ground at all times.
Negligence of the maximum power capacity of outlets is the main cause of worst case scenarios in grow operations.
For example, some timers have dual outlets but their max capacity is 1650W, thus connecting two 2000W would slowly melt the plastic down to the wires and potentially cause a fire after some time.
Grow tents are equipped with utility ducts (small ventilation holes), we recommend to use this for all of your equipment wiring and keeping everything tight to avoid dangling cables.
Every piece of equipment containing an electric component in it comes with a safety and instructions notice, these are not to be looked over as they provide important information.
Most grow tents can be assembled without the use of any tools.
Before you start :
- Unpack all of the pieces of the grow tent, check all the components to make sure everything is in the box/package.
- Make sure there is enough space by measuring the space where you plan to build your grow tent in order to make sure it will fit.
The assembly of the tent in the room you want it to be and only once the space has been measured and checked, skipping this step could result in dismantling the tent and building it again in the right place as they can hardly be moved.
- Constructing the frame ;
Assemble the frame according to the instructions provided in the box or on the manufacturer’s website. Remember there is a chance water can splash or spill on the floor, if you’re going to be placing it on a carpeted area, protect the carpet with mats or plastic.
Start by assembling the bottom half of the frame and place it in the tent cover, build your way up once you have placed the tent in its final location.
- Wrapping the frame ;
After assembling the frame where you ultimately want it to be, you can start pulling the cloth covering over the frame. Make sure all the zippers are closed, all seams are sewn tightly without any defects, it takes a little finesse to get the cloth securely over the frame.
Once the cover is up, install the last components such as the bars for hanging equipment and don’t forget to install the splash tray before putting anything in the tent.
Sometimes, tents require further steps to fully assemble, some models may include a support net, separations and / or shelves, tool pouches or ceiling extensions.
Instructions will be supplied with the products or on the manufacturer’s website for these specific applications.
Grow lights are easy to install, they may come in different shapes and sizes but they all have to be mounted at the same place.LED panels require almost no installation, most of them are simple “plug and play”. “Veg” and “Bloom” settings are sometimes found on some units, these vary the spectrum and intensity of the light emitted.
Most Double Ended and CMH grow light fixtures have their ballast mounted on the reflector as one single unit, they simply require a bulb to run.
For 3 part units such as HPS or MH grow lights with a separated reflector, ballast and bulb, the ballast must be installed outside of the growing environment allowing them to operate with cool, dry air.
The bulb screws in the reflector which plugs into the ballast.
Make sure to wipe clean HID bulbs after handling them before turning them on to remove any oils from contact with hands.
Every grow light has a set of hooks or attaching points on the reflector and/or ballast to attach light hangers and suspend the units.
In order to control the light schedule, simply plug the ballast in an electric timer and adjust the setting here.
The ventilation is the hardest part to install in a grow setup not only because of the size and weight of the components but also where they require to be mounted.
In most applications, the best place to attach these units are the support beams located on the top of the tent, have the filter as close as possible to the fan.
The Extractor fan can be mounted vertically or horizontally, it is preferable to mount it high up on the support beams of your tent as it can take a considerable amount of space on the floor.
Carbon Filters work most efficiently when mounted horizontally, when sat upright the charcoal pellets can stack and compress at the bottom limiting efficiency
Ducts conduct the air from one unit to the other and serves as the tent’s exhaust
To assure the best air flow possible in the system, avoid creating sharp 90° turns with the ducting or reducing the diameter of the duct near the exhaust.
Clamps are used to attach the ducts securely to the units
Each line of nutrients have their own feeding schedules written on the box, in a little brochure or can be found on the manufacturer’s website, they may seem complicated at first glance but they are very easy to use and understand ;
There are 3 informations on these schedules :
- The growth phase in weeks (Week 1, Week 2, etc.)
- The dosage of nutrients to be mixed with water, most of the time in ml per gallon.
- Which bottle to use, each nutrient line offers various products such as Base nutrients, Additives (Boosters), Regulators & Root enhancers
Carefully read the manufacturer’s instructions on use.
The feeding schedule below is an example using made up products and dosages.
For instance, if your plant is in her third week of growth, you have to add :
- 4 ml of Base Nutrients A & B (if it is a duo, sometimes 1 to 4 bottles).
- 0.5 ml of Booster A.
- 1.5 ml of your Root enhancer.
- 1 ml of your Calcium additive.