Grow Tent Setup: Ultimate Guide
Growing plants in the backyard is already an arduous task for beginners. The challenge is even doubled for those who live in confined spaces in cities. That, however, is a thing of the past as amateurs can now grow their special collection of plants for any purpose right under their roof. That is made possible by setting up your own grow tent.
Unlike when camping in the wilderness where you need wide open spaces when setting up a tent, setting up a grow tent for your plants is not exactly what you can call demanding, both in terms of space and maintenance. In fact, it works just fine in an empty cabinet or in an unused corner in your house.
Why do you even have to consider using one?
The popularity of grow tents has risen alongside hydroponics and indoor gardening in general. Grow tents have significantly changed how busy professionals and urban dwellers see gardening as they find convenient yet effective ways to pursue worthy habits even in the tiny nooks of their city apartments. Gone are the days when only penthouse owners are privileged with greenhouses as you can now own a nursery of high-value crops and medium-less growers next to your bedroom.
Having a grow tent is an additional expenditure for any gardener for sure. You have to buy materials, possibly spend some for the installation, and shoulder the constant utility cost. The question, however, is if it is worth all the trouble?
To answer that question, you have to understand the benefits of owning one brings.
First, it enables you to grow climate-sensitive crops all year-round. There is no longer any need to worry about the sudden rise and fall of temperature or the damage that changing weather might cause as practically all external factors can be controlled with the push of a button.
Second, it significantly lowers the risk of the plants developing pathogens and catching pests. When properly built, it prevents the growth of microbes, such as molds, mildew, and fungi, and keeps mites and aphids out. This leads to healthier yields with commercial quality. At the same, your residence will not attract annoying insects as your garden is confined within an enclosed area.
Third, it maximizes available space, and by space, it can mean an extra room, an unused corner or an extra cabinet sufficient for housing an appropriately sized grow tent. All you need is a 2’x2’ space at the least, and you are good to go. This is a wonderful opportunity that most people living in cramped cities consider as a luxury. This may even be a better option for those whose greenhouses have already seen better days.
Fourth, it conserves more energy when compared to operating an entire greenhouse or when transforming an entire room into an indoor garden with artificial lighting system. Lighting a tiny tent is by far more cost-efficient than other modern methods, after all.
Furthermore, this setup is more proficient with the use of lighting as even a small amount of light is efficiently distributed with the help of the tent’s reflective walls. The light simply bounces off, which regulates temperature at the same time.
Fifth, it effectively controls odor, which may be somewhat problematic for people living in small apartments with insufficient ventilation. This advantage may be enhanced a little further with the use of air filters, such as carbon filter, which not only controls odor but also ensures that fresh air is supplied to the plant 24/7.
Lastly, without any doubt, grow tents are easier to setup, maintain and operate as compared to owning an entire greenhouse. Setting it up can even be a nice activity for the entire family. The kids can help with the tent while the grownups take care of the electric parts.
Grow tents are definitely a must-have for hydroponics lovers, urban gardeners, professional and wanna-be chefs who want to grow their own herbs, health advocates who want to grow their own organic food, and virtually anyone who does not have ample space for garden at home.
Efficient Use of Space and Environment Control
Grow tent is the epitome of optimum space and efficient environment control. You practically control your very own climate and temperature inside a reflective box, with your very own fresh air that takes away the risk of contaminating your precious plants with pollution, dust, and harmful chemicals.
Another thing that makes grow tent a heaven-sent for gardeners is the enhanced photosynthesis it provides. The reflected light covers 95% of leaf surfaces, which prevents the yellowing of leaves and the thinning of stems. This also helps flowers bloom almost at the same time—something that florists might drool over.
The sections below will explain to you the ways to reap all benefits a grow tent has to offer.
Ease of Use and Simplification of Gardening
The best way to simplify gardening is to stabilize plant health and reduce maintenance requirements. You essentially gain all of that with grow tents. The materials, tools, and the entire system used in operating a grow tent have been designed for easy understanding even by people who do not have extensive knowledge in gardening.
You will understanding how simple using grow tent really is by going through the step by step instruction in this article.
Grow Tent Setup: The Materials
The materials used in setting up a grow tent can either be purchased as a complete set or as individual products. You have to keep in mind that all materials that come in a package are meant to sustain what plants need according to the size of tent. Hence, smaller tents are likely to come with smaller ventilation and weaker air filter, and so forth.
What does it mean?
It means that the materials—the tools and the accessories, that is—work perfectly only for their intended tent. But what if you suddenly get the hang of it and decide to expand your garden? You might have to buy a larger tent and new materials—not exactly a smart thing to do, is it?
Thus, planning the setup should match your goals as a gardener, and possibly cater to your future plans when you hit success in your first try. Buying materials individually is still a more sound decision.
The four bestselling grow tents on Amazon cost over a hundred bucks. Price comes with good quality, of course. However, more than the brand, the specifications should be carefully considered in accordance to the types of plant that you plan to cultivate.
A 2’x2’ (24”x24”x36”) tent that can fit in a large cabinet roughly costs $50. Meanwhile, a large tent that can accommodate tall plants, vines, and hydroponics placed atop a large water basin would have the size of 48”x48”x80” and a price tag of not less than $100. Those figures are only for the tent, excluding other materials that are normally more expensive than the tent itself.
A tent with not more than 36” in length and width and not more than 60” in height is designed to house three plants. Those with more than 48” in length and width and at least 78” of height can accommodate up to eight plants. Putting more plants than what is prescribed might cause the plants to fight for light, resulting to irregular growth for some of them.
Grow tents in the market are commonly made from industrial-grade canvas fabric constructed from nylon, polyester, or their combination. The fabric should be thick as it needs to be light proof and air tight as much as possible. Moreover, the heavy-duty zippers and linings should be double stitched and colored black to absorb unwanted light coming from the outside. Remember that the more tightly packed the tent is, the more accurate your control over it will be.
It also helps to choose a tent material that is free of PVC as the latter might produce substances that are toxic for the plants, especially in a constantly heated environment.
The entire tent is supported by metal poles, which are not really much of a concern. Leading brands even specify the weight they can carry, which you should mind since lighting, air filter and ventilation, and hanging poles (for vines and hanging electric cables) are not exactly what you can call lightweights.
Grow Lights, Reflectors, Holders and Straps
Grow tents already come with reflected inner walls. Although the quality of reflectors used varies from brand to brand, it still pays to know that the best option out there is BoPET (biaxially-oriented polyethylene terephthalate). You may want to look for grow tents that mention leading brand names, such as Mylar, Hostaphan, and Melinex, as signs of good quality reflectors.
You can also install stand-alone reflectors in addition to the built-in reflective walls. They should be hung where the light is installed to accommodate the need of hydroponics. There are some brands that have already integrated reflectors in their lighting structure (commonly called grow tent light kits), although these are expected to be more expensive than mere reflector panels. Spending on a full-spectrum light kit is more advantageous, though, just in case you have already decided to shell out a little more.
What is the difference between an ordinary LED bulb and a full-spectrum light?
One common mistake done by amateur gardeners is choosing bulbs based on power input, not output. Simply put, they assume that higher power input would produce more light, which then boosts photosynthesis that produces healthier plants. The assumption seems logical, but plants actually need different color lights more than they need brightness and heat.
Plants need red light to mature faster and produce fruit and flower. On the other hand, they need blue light to develop the foliage and root system. Some plants might also require a specific color light. A full-spectrum light can provide these specific requirements.
For instance, a regular 30-watt LED bulb produces higher brightness but less color spectrum. At the same time, it produces heat, which may not be too beneficial for temperature-sensitive plants. It might seem fully beneficial with the use of the naked eye, but not so if you know the science behind photosynthesis.
All grow tents already come with attached holders and straps. However, you might need additional ones if you decide to add or replace the prescribed lighting system and ventilation. Some plants might also require additional holders, especially for hydroponics setups.
Rope hangers are the best accessories for hanging lights. Heavy-duty brands feature an astonishing 200-pound capacity and up to twelve feet of polypropylene rope. This makes large grow tents fully usable even for small plants. Most of the ones available in the market also feature quick-locking and fully adjustable carabiner straps. That is as simple as it gets.
Lastly, net trellises are useful for all types of plants inside a grow tent. They accommodate the growth of vines and support the growth of fruits, buds, and foliage as they gain weight. Elastic nets top priority list as sturdier yet firmer nylon nets might hurt fruits and stems as they grow.
Air Flow and Ventilation
There are two ways to ensure air flow in and out of the grow tent. The most basic system is with the use of exhaust fan. It is cheaper, easier to install, and easier to maintain. There are downsides, though.
First, it makes the tent less light-proof, which consequentially makes it less beneficial for high-value crops and highly sensitive plants. And second, it circulates air but not filter it. That is a luxury that you might find hard to let go if you live in a highly polluted city or in a humid place where dusts accumulate quickly.
Another method is with the use of an inline duct fan, which may or may not integrate an air filter. This facilitates more efficient airflow, ensures light-proofing, and is generally quieter than its less complex counterparts.
Adding a carbon filter ups the ante even further. Professional chefs, in particular, might find this more appealing for growing herbs and fruits.
Nonetheless, keep in mind that advanced ventilation systems might cause more than the actual tent and its accessories.
Why is ventilation as important as the lighting system itself?
Plants are breathing creatures, and they need to breathe a lot of quality air to thickly bloom and yield disease-free fruits. Proper airflow also regulates humidity and temperature. Remember that temperature is guaranteed to increase inside the grow tent with all its lighting and reflective walls taken into account.
Theoretically, good ventilation can already reduce odor emitted by plants, or in the case of hydroponics, the odor emitted by the water base. However, you can further improve this feature by adding the right accessories that actually make a difference.
Carbon filters are the best options for this, especially for medicinal plants. In fact, it is imperative when growing medicinal-grade marijuana.
Consumable odor neutralizers are also commonly used in grow tents, although not everyone agrees to its “harmless” nature. Some experts argue that the evaporation of the gels used is somehow absorbed by the plant at a certain amount. That, in itself, already disqualifies the plant from being marked as 100% organic.
Air purifiers are also sometimes used inside the grow tent, although this is somewhat excessive if you are already using good-quality air filter.
Meters and Other Tools
Meters are optional for grow tents, especially if you are just cultivating common plants at small numbers.
Many would still prefer to buy a lumen meter for them to measure the level of brightness inside the tent. What the tool does not measure is the amount of light actually absorbed by the plants for photosynthesis. Furthermore, a lumen meter practically measures only the yellow light, not the blue and red lights which are more beneficial for gardening.
A more advanced tool for professional gardeners is the Photosynthetically Active Radiation meter (PAR meter). It measures a wider range of light spectrum. Nonetheless, this is already considered excessive if you are just starting with gardening and have no mastery of botanical principles.
Timers are also needed, especially if you leave your place for more than a day.
Step by Step Instruction
Setting up your own grow tent is simple. It does not require an extra hand, but you may choose to involve the entire family if you prefer.
Collect necessary tools before you start assembling. You will need a sturdy scissor or cutter and a set of screwdrivers (the type of screwdriver you need depends on the brand of grow tent). Having extra nylon cords by your side also helps when adjusting tightness and bundling cords.
Moreover, place a mat on the spot where you plan to set up the tent. This is especially true for wooden floors that might rot when constantly wet. Spills when watering plants are unavoidable.
Assemble Grow Tent
Carefully read the instruction in the grow tent manual. All brands follow the same principle of assembling, but special features might require a different way of handling.
Start by assembling the frame. Doing this should not be harder than assembling a camping tent or a modular cabinet. The joints and base should not wobble when the posts are shaken.
After this, proceed to installing the fabric with the reflective walls placed inside. The straps are already in place waiting for your delicate hands to lock them in.
Grow Light Setup
Some grow tents already come with light holders while some lighting systems already come with their own pulleys. Check what you have, but consider buying more rope hangers if you doubt the sturdiness of the pre-installed holders.
The lighting hood is first installed inside. Take into consideration the amount of light needed by the plants as its height will base on that.
The electrical wirings will then go through the hole located closest to the electric outlet. It is best to tie the unused length of the wire outside rather than inside the tent to avoid damaging it with heat and humidity.
The fan and air filter are best placed on the upper part of the tent, preferably located near the light. They should also be installed or hung inside and not outside.
Why place them on top?
Hot air ascends while cool air descends. The former should be expelled, so the closer the fan is to the hot air, the better.
The location is also suitable for absorbing floating dust and microbes before they stick to the foliage below.
On this regard, you might want to look for grow tents whose ventilation holes are located on top.
Any temperature and humidity gauge should also be installed inside the tent. Timers, on the other hand, may be installed inside or outside (although the external part of the tent may no longer have ample equipment for hanging).
Dialing In and Safety Scan
Dialing in and safety scanning refer to the initial testing. After installing all electrical components, you need to turn on the entire system to see if all parts work like how they should. There should not be any kinks in the electrical system and all wires should be properly tucked in their rightful places.
Leave the system running for 10 minutes to see if it works perfectly.
What About CO2?
Proper ventilation readily solves the issue of CO2 supply inside the tent. Some advanced filters can even measure the amount of CO2, which should be at least 1,000ppm but never exceed 1,500ppm. Higher CO2 inside the tent increases temperature even without the heat of the bulb added to the formula.
What To Do After You Setup Your Grow Tent?
The next thing to do is place your plants inside the tent. All plants should already be inside before your start the system. Deciding to add some plants on a later date might only make them fight for light, especially if the first ones have already grown tall.
Using grow tents is highly beneficial for gardeners living in polluted cities and confined spaces. This may not help you cultivate crops in huge volume, but the quality of yields is definitely beyond what a typical backyard gardening can produce.
Since this system integrates temperature and light control, you need to thoroughly research first the heat and lighting requirements of the plants that you plant to cultivate.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you Need Ventilation in a Grow Tent?
Absolutely. The plants will not grow healthily without it as you practically cut their supply of gases when you put them inside an air-tight grow tent.
Do Grow Tents Hide Smell?
The sealed tent alone hides smell to a certain level, but you need to use proper ventilation to completely eliminate the foul odor that many plants produce. You can expect stronger odor for hydroponics as compared to what is produced by soil-based plants.
Should I Leave my Fan On When Lights are Off?
Yes. Although turning off the lights lowers temperature inside the tent, you still have the problem of airflow without the fan. Always keep in mind that the grow tent is sealed, so air does not pass through freely.