So you want to try growing your own marijuana indoors, but you don’t have much of a budget for equipment? You’ve looked around the web and it feels like you need to spend hundreds or thousands to get up and running? It seems daunting to invest so much money when all you want to do is give it a try?
Don’t panic and don’t give up. It is possible to get a small grow box setup running without spending too much; there are areas where you can save money especially if you’re prepared to spend a little time making things rather than buying them at a premium. There are also some areas where trying to save a little cash could lead to a substandard harvest that needlessly puts you off growing again.
This section is not intended as a full grow guide and assumes you have already read our other sections dealing with issues like lighting and ventilation. This guide should help you identify the areas where you can apply those principles without breaking the bank.
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Actually this is the one thing we don’t advise saving money on. If you choose carefully you should be able to get five seeds delivered from a reputable source for under $50. Yes, not as free as the ones out of the last bag you bought but really it isn’t where you should save. If you start with good genetics you will see it in the end product. Maybe check out Herbies Cheapest Seeds.
The grow space
First off, you need something to grow your plants in. There are a huge assortment of custom grow tents, grow boxes and the like available on the market and many are excellent, but you can grow marijuana in just about anything. Got a closet or an old decent sized wardrobe you’re not using? That’s now your grow space. If you don’t have anything suitable yourself ask around friends or on internet sites likes freecycle and you can often find something that will do the job for free.
If it’s large enough for your requirements, sturdy enough to hang a light in and you can make the relevant holes in it for ventilation then it will do the job. With a little construction you could even join a couple of smaller wardrobes together to make a larger grow space, or if you’ve got construction materials leftover from a recent project then build something from scratch.
Spending a small amount of money can optimize this space – having light reflective material on a grow space’s walls maximizes the amount of light available for your plants, and one of the best materials for achieving this is Mylar but Mylar is not cheap. The best budget option is simple flat (or matt) white paint. Maybe more fun to get the closet outside and grab a spray can. Gloss paint looks shiny but actually reflects less light. Common metal foil is also a bad choice as it can create hot spots, and it does actually burn if ignited.
To be totally blunt (no pun intended), hydroponic and other advanced systems when used correctly get better results. They also involve buying a lot more equipment and have a greater initial setup cost than more traditional methods. If this is your first grow and you’re trying to save money you’re going to be growing in soil, or possibly coco. The main difference being that in a good soil you may not need to add any extra nutrients or feeds for the first stage of the plant’s life while with coco you will need to provide all your plants nutrient needs from day 1 – much like a hydroponic system but without the need to buy trays, pumps and the like.
You can always move on to a hydroponic system later when you’re skills and budget have increased. We have a whole section on grow mediums here.
One area where we do not recommend trying to cut corners is your main exhaust or extraction fan. This is one area where you really want a unit that is designed to do the job properly. However, proper in-line exhaust fans are well made and last for years so it’s worth checking on ebay for a second hand unit (always checking the seller’s ratings of course). Make sure you know the cubic feet per minute (CFM) that you are aiming for and look to buy a fan that can offer more than what you require and has a speed setting if your budget allows.
Where you can save money (potentially LOTS of money) is on odor control by constructing your own carbon filter. Many growers have had success in this area and there are many example builds on the internet.
This is another area where ebay may be your best friend, as long as you deal with good sellers. Light fittings and reflectors can be picked up second hand for much less than a new unit and do just as good a job, but you should always use new bulbs especially with HID/HPS lights. These bulbs suffer a very sharp drop-off in their lumen output after only a short period of use so even if your second-hand reflector comes with a bulb it would probably be wise to buy a new one unless you trust that this is what the seller has already bundled with the unit.
It’s true that the cheapest reflectors on the market are rarely the best, but if you’re working on a tight budget you can’t have everything and even the most basic reflector will do a better job than none at all.
We are always happy to point you to our friends at HPS Grow Light Store who supply great light kits at low prices. We offer a full run down on lighting here if you are undecided but most beginners just use a HPS or combination of MH and then HPS.
You will also need a timer during the vegetation stage if you choose 18/6 over full 24 hours light. Of course during flowing with 12/12 light you will certainly require one and once again manual systems are mere dollars on ebay.
Nutrients are of course key to the health and wellbeing of your plants as well as the quantity and quality of your eventual harvest. Specialized marijuana nutrients are custom made to provide marijuana plants with the levels of nutrients they need and really should be used wherever possible instead of generic fertilizers and nutrients.
If you do find yourself tempted with a special offer at the local generic garden supply store though, follow this rule: only buy nutrients that are designed for edible plants like strawberries. Some flower feeds may contain chemicals you really don’t want in your body, but if it’s made for an edible crop it should be safe for use in marijuana.
It’s also true that there are many marijuana nutrients and supplements on sale that do an excellent job but are often not strictly necessary. Boosters will boost your crop’s THC levels or total yield, but they are not the foundation of a healthy plant. The only two must-have feed products for a successful marijuana grow in soil are a good grow nutrient (Nitrogen heavy) and a good bloom nutrient (Potassium and Phosphorous heavy).
If your plants do end up missing any other nutrients they will show signs and then you can buy the appropriate product to fix this when you actually need it.
It is more than possible to simply use good quality soil bought from your local DIY store and not have to add any additional nutrients bar some phosphate possibly later on in small amounts if you want to. This can be a successful and basic system that will provide a very organic grow.
A good money saving tip for a late in flower boost is molasses mixed with your feed water. Molasses is available in most health food stores for a fraction of the cost of many marijuana-specific carb-boosters and does a very similar job; it is the by-product of sugar refinement and contains plenty of the carbohydrates that marijuana uses when budding. We discuss nutrients in real depth here.
Always, no matter how tight your budget, find the money for a decent thermo-hygrometer. In a soil grow you should be able to get away without pH or EC meters as long as you get a decent soil and follow your nutrient instructions correctly, but a good thermo-hygrometer is essential.
Above all the key to saving money is be creative with what you already have or can get for free and look for bargains outside of the grow shops, just for a few examples:
- Got some bungee cords in your camping supplies? Then you save money on hanging chains for your fan and filter;
- Kitchen racks can be used for drying racks once you harvest;
- Cheap second hand desk fans can be bought for very little on ebay and will supply useful air movement;
- An old clear plastic storage tub with a couple of holes drilled in it makes a great incubator for seedlings and clones;
The possibilities are only limited by your imagination but growing does not have to cost the earth and should be fun not expensive!
What cheapo, bargain ideas have our readers got out there? Please share your finds with us all below.