A Guide to Setting up your first grow tent…
So, you want to grow your own cannabis plants, but where do you start? With such a vast selection of products available, it can be overwhelming for a beginner. This article will show you how to set up a basic grow. I will be discussing what I call a “single set up.” This consists of four plants getting hand-fed with coco under a 600W light in a 4x4x6.5-foot (1.2 x 1.2 x 2-meter) grow tent. We will look at everything you need, why you need it, and how it works.
Grow tents come in all shapes and sizes. A 4x4x6.5-foot (1.2 x 1.2 x 2-meter) tent will hold four plants comfortably. Tents have either a white or silver lining inside, designed to reflect light back onto the plants. When zipped up they are completely self-contained environments that will not let any exterior light, odor or potential threats in. Likewise, they will let nothing out other than through your extraction equipment. A quality tent will last you a long time. Look for a thick material, strong poles, and good-quality zippers.
When your plants go into your tent for the vegetative (growth) stage, they will need a specific light cycle of 18 hours with the lights on and six hours with lights off to mimic the plants’ natural environment. The bulb you want to get is a 600W, dual spectrum bulb. It is ‘dual’ in the sense that it emits two spectrums of light, one for the vegetative (blue) stage and one for when plants are flowering (orange and red), making it excellent value for the money.
Ventilation Kit – Fan, Filter, Ducting, and Clamps
A good air exchange is essential as it brings fresh, cool air into your environment and removes warm air and odor via the carbon filter and ducting. Full ventilation kits can be purchased depending on how much air you want to scrub (clean). The filter pulls air through the carbon bed contained within it, removing bacteria along with any smells. To connect the filter and fan and to take the warm air out of the tent, you will need ducting.
Acoustic ducting is best. It is a dual layer of standard ducting with fiberglass sandwiched in the middle. It really does a great job and keeps noise to a minimum. Clamps are used to hold the ducting, fan and filter together. When fitting them make sure you fit them as tightly as possible so that they work efficiently.
Shades come in a wide array of designs. The shade directs light downward where you want it, onto your plants.
A digital ballast works by choking the correct amount of electricity to the bulb at the desired wattage. Without a ballast, the bulb would just keep drawing electricity until it overloaded itself and blew a fuse. I always use a 600W ballast because the higher the wattage of the ballast, the higher the amount of lumen and par the plant receives, and in turn the faster the plant grows, resulting in bigger yields.
It is important that your bulb and ballast wattage always match. So, a 600W bulb should only be used with a 600W ballast, and vice versa. Digital ballasts are the best option. They give you full control, run at the true wattages stated, use less electricity, have a small start-up volt drain, run cool and have a great dimming feature, which is fantastic if conditions get a little too warm in your tent.
Contactor and Timer
Contactors spread the electrical discharge, reducing the chances of the main fuse blowing when the initial strike up of the lamp/ballast occurs. A good quality contactor will have a built-in timer you can set to turn your lights on and off, which is convenient and maintains accuracy.
Clip-On Oscillating Fan
These have several jobs including moving warm air produced by the bulbs around the tent and keeping temperatures even. They help to move gas released from the plants’ leaves away from the plant and CO2 and oxygen towards the plant to facilitate photosynthesis. Lastly, the fan gently shudders the plants, increasing the strength in the stems and overall structure.
This is a simple, yet essential, bit of kit to hold up everything that needs suspending in your grow tent, the most important being your lights. Ratchet hangers allow you to adjust the distance between your plants and the lights, which is crucial to ensure the plants get the maximum amount of lumens and par available from the bulb. The ideal distance between the plant and light is one foot but you can move it nearer or farther away, if necessary, to achieve the perfect temperature. Just make sure you reposition your oscillating fan as well to keep the air moving.
Temperature Gauge and Hygrometer
A temperature gauge and hygrometer are needed to ensure you can monitor humidity and temperature levels throughout your tent. A digital “all in one” is perfect for accurate results.
Pots and Trays
Going into the vegetative phase, you want four-gallon square to round pots – square at the top and round at the bottom. They are commonly used in indoor growing because they make the most of the available light when placed together. You will also need some large, flat catchment trays to contain any spills, leaks, or mess.
Putting It All Together
- First, put up your tent, which is a piece of cake; instructions will be included.
- Now, set up your grow light. Screw the bulb into the shade firmly using a cloth or glove.
- Attach the ratchet hangers to the shade and then to the poles across the roof of the tent. Make sure you know how to adjust the hangers to raise or lower the light when needed.
- Plug the shade into the ballast.
- Plug the ballast into the contactor. Remember that the contactor and ballast should be outside the tent, so anything inside that’s plugged into it should have the power cables running through a port in the upper part of the tent and out to the contactor. Keep the contactor and ballast somewhere safe, dry and free of obstruction; ideally hanging on a wall.
- Set the timer on the contactor to your lights’ “on and off” times.
- Plug the oscillating fan into the contactor and clip it to one of the vertical tent poles at the back of the tent, adjust the height once the plants are in the tent so that it’s at the height of the canopy and remember to adjust it as the plants grow.
- Plug the contactor into the main power supply.
What about ventilation?
Ventilation should be positioned at the top of the tent, suspended from the horizontal top bars toward the back wall of the tent but not touching it.
If you are standing inside the tent, the order from left to right should go: filter>clamp>fan>clamp>ducting. The ducting is then passed through a portal at the top back of the tent.
Make sure the clamp connecting the filter to the fan is as tight as possible, as this will allow the filter to maximize how much air it can scrub.
When you turn on the ventilation and the tent is zipped up, you should be able to see the sides of the tent being sucked in slightly. This is known as negative pressure and is a sign everything is working as it should be and that all the air leaving the tent is passing through the filter. You can open and adjust the ports on the sides of your tent to help achieve this.
And that’s it. Your tent is set up and ready for your plants to go into. All that remains is to take a baseline reading of the temperature and humidity inside the tent to give you an idea of what you are working toward to achieve the perfect environment for your plants to thrive in, which is between about 72-82°F with a relative humidity of between 40-70%.
Now comes the hard work as you monitor, nurture, maintain and adjust your plants and their environment for the next 12 weeks. There is a lot to learn, but try not to put too much pressure on yourself as you can only truly learn by facing obstacles and finding solutions to overcome them.
Your first few grows should be seen as the foundations you will build upon to become a competent and successful cannabis grower.
Information courtesy of Rich Hamilton