Artificial grow rooms offer a tremendous opportunity to produce maximum yields of selected plants at any time of the year. Although the initial set up cost may seem high the bumper crops you’ll produce will quickly offset the expense.
Until recent years, indoor crop production was very restricted.Providing adequate light was the most limiting factor in achieving a viable flowering crop. Full spectrum fluorescent lights were used effectively for propagation and some limited vegetative growth but proved inadequate for fruiting and flowering.
Today, thanks to research and advanced technology, growing plants indoors using supplemental light has become a popular and economical way to produce a variety of crops. Hydroponics, under lights is the preferred method of cultivation for many growers. The needs of plants can be met without the use of mineral soil when growing indoors. Hydroponics provides the necessary mineral elements directly to the plant’s roots. The mineral salts provided in hydroponics are the exact same as those found in soil. A mineral-based soil that comes from your garden does not work well indoors. The bacteria that break down the organic compounds into mineral elements that the plants use are quickly depleted.
The easiest way to get started is to create a floor plan. Measure the designated area and draw your floor plan to scale. The size of your room in square feet and cubic feet will be important factors in accurately determining the amount of light, CO2, ventilation etc., required. The experts at your hydroponic retail store can tell you exactly what you will need for a particular area. A small closet garden or a full basement set-up can be put together in the most economical way when everything is first laid out on paper.
When deciding where to situate your grow room, some of the most important things to consider are: Accessibility to electricity, plumbing and ventilation.Determine how many lights, and the wattage you will be using. Ensure your electrical panel has enough amperage to run the lights and all the equipment. For example a 1000 watt bulb run from a regular 100/120 volt receptacle will require 10 amps. The average new house has 200 amp service, more than enough to run a small grow room. If you need more amperage you should consider having a qualified electrician upgrade your panel. Running you lights on a 240 volt receptacle (a household dryer receptacle) you can optimize amps used.At 240 volts 6 x 1000 watt lamps will draw 30 amps. In order to use 240 volt service the ballast must be retrofitted when purchased. Your retailer will usually do this quickly at no extra charge. Whenever you purchase any electrical appliance, for your own safety, and your family’s if you ‘re growing in your home, make sure they are CSA approved.
The walls of your grow room should be insulated with a regular vapour proof insulation. This will help reduce running costs and make it easier to maintain the ideal temperature. Walls should be as close to the growing area as is practical and covered with a reflective material such as mylar or white plastic to achieve maximum light reflection. Do not use tinfoil for reflection as it creates hot spots which may burn your plants. Mylar reflects up to 95% efficiency when it is tacked flat against walls. Wavy or loose mylar will decrease reflective ability. White plastic sheeting reflects 90-93% efficiency and can be used to construct portable, waterproof walls. Lining the back side of walls and windows with inexpensive black plastic sheeting will ensure there is no light seepage into or out of your grow room. If your grow room is in the basement you may want to add an insulated sub-floor.
There are several different garden systems used in hydroponics the most popular being ebb and flow, (flood and drain)deep water culture or pots with soilless mix. Whichever system you choose the important factors to remember are good drainage, irrigation, and availability of oxygen to the root system. Easy access to running water and a drain will make the job of filling and empting the reservoirs or hand watering pots much easier. Keep growing tables elevated to a comfortable working height with enough room to move unrestricted between each table. A sub-floor is particularly important if growing in pots directly on the floor as the growing medium or root zone should be kept a constant temperature of 80 – 85°F for optimum growth.
It is essential that your grow room be kept clean and free of stagnant water. Starting off with sterilized equipment and always wearing clean clothes will help keep plants free of contamination. There are many non-toxic antifungal sterilizing agents available. If you have been to visit another grow room, nursery or greenhouse it is always wise to shower and change clothes prior to entering your room. Many insects and diseases are passed through touch or catch a free ride on clothing. Any new plant material should be quarantined for at least a week before introducing it into your room. Discard any decaying plant material or used growing medium, reservoir or tables. Remove any visible of algae whenever possible.
You are ‘Mother Nature’ in your indoor hydroponic grow room.You must recreate all of nature’s fundamentals within the walls of the room you construct. Wind, rain, sunshine, temperature fluctuations, light, day/night cycle and nutrition are all part of the simulated atmosphere in a grow room. These, along with oxygen (O2), carbon dioxide (CO2), potential hydrogen (pH) are what are termed Growth Influencing Factors or (GIF ‘s) among hydroponic enthusiasts. As in nature, you will need to find the perfect balance for each GIF and have all elements run in harmony. If any of the GIF ‘s are missing or out of balance growth will be compromised and entire crops may be lost. The weakest link in the chain determines the outcome of your best efforts.
To understand what GIF ‘s are to a plant indoors, is to understand basic plant physiology. The most important growth influencing factor (GIF) is light.Scientific breakthroughs have shed bright light on indoor horticulture. The metal halide lamps on the market today have all but replaced fluorescent lamps for growing purposes, providing a spectrum and intensity as close as possible to the natural sunlight.
Lights range in size from 175 watt to 1000 watt. A 1000 watt bulb will cover 16 to 25 square feet depending on the desired light intensity. It is recommended that lights be used with a reflector to maximize the full use of the bulb ‘s lumen output. A reflector will make sure all light is directed downward toward your plant and not wasted throughout the room. The style and size of the reflector you choose will depend on the size of the lamp, desired light intensity and area of coverage. The most efficient way to use any high intensity light is with a light mover. Lights can be placed closer to the crop, stems will be stronger and plant growth can increase up to 40%. There are circular light movers that are capable of moving up to three lights at a time or linear light movers on the market today.
Seedlings respond to continuous light. Place seedlings in a humidity tent under a fluorescent bulb 24 hours a day. Once the first true leaves appear remove tent and cut light time to 18 hours. To propagate stem cuttings place them under a6 humidity dome and provide 18 hours of fluorescent light. Use a rooting hormone to ensure good root development.
For optimum growth at maturity supply up to 18 hours of light followed by a six hour period ofuninterruptedand complete darkness for respiration to transpire. Respiration must occur in every living cell if life is to be maintained and to allow a plant the ability to use energy and thus grow and produce flowers and fruit. Respiration occurs mainly during the lights off cycle. Light requirements will vary with growth stages and different plants.
Timers are the easiest way to automate your grow room. Plants will respond to an accurate day/night schedule and watering routine. With a timer you can establish a day/night schedule that suits your schedule; it is not necessary to conform to the outside environmental dark/light hours. (Plug in fans, air pumps and drip irrigation pumps into the same timer as the light).
Nutrition is the second most important GIF and will be an integral part of your hydroponic gardening success. Plants grow faster in hydroponics because their food supply is constantly available. In the basic hydroponic system plants are fed by passing the nutrients over the roots or flooding around the root area at regular intervals, and then later draining off. In a soilless mix plants can be hand watered from the top as you would with a regular soil container.
Electrical conductivity (EC), measured in milliMhos, is the measure of electrical conductance of the total dissolved solutes (minerals) in the solution. The optimum EC range varies among different plants. While EC measures the total dissolved minerals in a solution it does not identify the amounts of specific elements present. Therefore, it is easier to achieve the ideal EC using premixed two-part hydroponic nutrient formulations than attempting to create your own formula using individual components. It is necessary to change the nutrient formula between the vegetative and flowering stages to ensure that plants receive the specific elements required at the different stages of growth. EC testers are the most accurate way of monitoring and maintaining a desirable nutrient level in your reservoir.
pH is the measure of alkalinity or acidity of the nutrient solutionand is an important consideration in hydroponics.The ideal pH level for most plants is between 5.5 and 6.5. If the pH is not within this range plants will not be able to absorb nutrients at the maximum level.pH should be tested on a daily basis using an inexpensive test solution or a pH meter. Even seemingly small pH fluctuations can have a big impact on plants ability to utilize nutrients. The pH is easily adjusted with a pH Up or pH Down solution to obtain the desired level. pH can be tested using a simple litmus paper or a pH meter may be used for exact digital readings.
Photosynthesis is the manufacture of sugar from two simple raw materials – carbon dioxide and water – in the presence of chlorophyll with sunlight (or artificial light) as the source of energy. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is vital to the plants survival. The normal atmospheric level is about 340 parts per million (ppm). Research has shown that plants are able to use more CO2 than is available in the atmosphere (up to 1500 ppm) to grow larger and faster. CO2 enrichment in your grow room has the potential to dramatically increase your yield with little cost. A CO2 injector should be used in conjunction with an exhaust fan to ensure all CO2 is exhausted between cycles. The injector should be installed above the lights because CO2 is heavier than air and will float down through the plants, resulting in maximum intake.
It is absolutely essential to have good ventilation with an incoming supply of fresh air (oxygen) as plants will soon consume all the CO2 in an enclosed environment.Plants could not complete respiration or utilize the food produced by photosynthesis unless they have a good supply of oxygen. An oscillating fan in the room will simulate the wind reducing ambient leaf temperature, restoring CO2 to the leaf zone and strengthening the stems. It will also make sure there is good distribution of fresh air throughout the room and help control humidity levels.
Atmospheric temperature must be monitored and controlled within the room. As in the outdoors there needs to be an air temperature differential between the plant ‘s perceived daytime and nighttime. When there is light the plant considers it daytime and the temperature should be maintained around 18 – 25°C and nighttime is 12 – 18°C. (This may vary slightly for different plants). An independent thermostat should be placed among your plants to ensure temperature regulation.
All these things are controlled by you, the grower. With everything taken into consideration your grow room should reward you with an easily maintained system and produce unending yields.