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How to Save Money When Growing Weed


Pro tip: Don't flush $100 bills down a drain.Growing cannabis at home is more popular than it’s ever been! Not only is there a growing acceptance of cannabis throughout the world, today's home growers have access to a variety of specialized growing equipment that make it easier to grow top-quality buds at home.

However, some products that are supposed to help you grow marijuana may end up costing so much time and/or and money that you would have been better off without them. Even worse, some poorly designed tools may set you up for failure! 

Today, I want to share a few common money-wasting pitfalls to avoid when it comes to growing cannabis so you can get your money's worth out of your equipment, nutrients, and supplements. These tips will help you grow more potent bud that tastes better, smells better and costs less than bud you could buy from a dispensary! 

 

Grow Boxes - DIY for Higher Quality & Lower Cost
For those who haven’t heard of these, a ‘grow box’ is essentially a rigid grow tent with lights, ventilation and other amenities included. Sometimes they are meant to be stealthy. The idea is to let growers make one purchase and start growing immediately (just add your seeds or clones).

Grow boxes aren’t inherently a bad idea; we’ve seen plenty of growers DIY their own worthwhile grow boxes. The problem is certain commercial grow boxes are designed to attract beginners but aren't necessarily that well-designed for growing and harvesting cannabis plants. These grow boxes are usually sold to new growers at alarmingly high prices while also giving them unrealistic expectations and no real direction. 

This means some growers are left with an expensive product that isn’t well suited to growing cannabis and doesn't produce the yields they expected when making the purchase.

He's hungry...for your money!I went to Google and found a ‘16-plant grow box’ (pictured disparagingly to the right) that costs $1,800. Compare that to my setup at a total cost of about $800:

Grow box area: 2’ x 2’ x 5’
My tent: 4’ x 4’ x 7’

Note: 2'x2' is a really tight space to grow cannabis.You will greatly appreciate even a little extra space like 2'x4' or 3'x3'

Grow box lighting: 150W HPS
My setup: 600W HPS

Grow box nutrients: 6-month supply for additional $215 (not included in the original price of $1,800)
My setup: 2+ years' worth of nutrients for $35 (included in setup price)

Grow box yields: 1-4 oz
My setup yields: 10-21 ounces

How Much Does Electricity Cost to Grow Weed Indoors?

These are just a few attributes that fail to justify the high cost. And remember I mentioned those "unrealistic expectations"?

This grow box is supposed to fit 16 plants in a 2’ x 2’ area.  With 4 square feet divided amongst 16 plants, each plant will only have a tiny 3 sq. inch space to itself for its entire life cycle, which just doesn't make sense if you think about it. Even if you cut that number down to one or two plants, it's just a really small space to grow plants unless you have no other choice. Growing is technically possible in a grow box like this, but it can cause extra headaches for a beginner to manage as opposed a simpler system that's also cheaper.

Additionally, there's the grow light. A 150W HPS light is an okay starter grow light, but in my experience, most first-time growers only get an ounce or two of bud with this size light. I highly recommend getting at least a 250W size HPS, as they are more efficient per watt than a 150W and you can expect 4-9 ounces at harvest, which is enough to last many people until their next grow.

If you’re considering getting a grow box, try spending a few minutes pricing the parts separately. Not only will you get a better deal, you’ll most likely end up with something of much higher quality. Also, feel free to check out a few different proven growing setups so you know what to look for, and have a basis for price comparisons.

Examples of Cannabis Setups

Money Saved: $250 - $3,000+(!)

 

Temperature & Environment - Use Less Electricity
One of the biggest complaints about growing cannabis indoors is the electricity costs too much to maintain the perfect environment in the grow space. Growers can end up spending lots of money in attempts to control the temperature and humidity with fans, AC systems, humidifiers, dehumidifiers, etc.

In some cases, a small tweak to your setup can make such a huge difference in your environment that these extra tools become unnecessary, or at least you can use them less. Any reduction in electricity use (while maintaining the same level of quality) means more money saved!

A totally standard electric meter that has not been edited.

Temperature

  • Keep grow lights the right distance away - too far and you're wasting light, too close and you're hurting the plant with too much light or heat. In both cases, there's wasted electricity and money to be saved!
  • Use efficient grow lights so you get as much light and as little heat as possible. Less efficient lights like CFLs and T5s are stealthy but put out more heat for the amount of electricity than efficient lights like HPS, LECs and LEDs.
  • Set up an exhaust system so the heat gets vented out. This can be as simple as a strong fan pointing outward, directing heat away from the grow space. Sometimes even just using a window fan to blow warm air out of the room can make a difference! A fan is typically far cheaper than running a power-hungry air conditioner.
  • If the temperature is getting too high when lights are on during the day, change the light schedule so the lights are on at the coolest part of the night, and your "dark period" happens during the hottest part of the day.
  • Swamp cooler / Evaporative cooler - if you have relatively low humidity where you live, this type of cooling system will use far less electricity to cool than a typical AC. 
  • If your grow space is getting too cold, instead of getting a heater consider getting a bigger grow light, or insulating your grow area to keep the heat from escaping. In any case, always make sure to keep your plants off the cold ground (especially cement)!

Learn more about controlling temperature

Want More? Other Tips to Save Electricity

Money Saved: $5 - $100+/month

 

Nutrients - Don't Go Overboard
If you’ve ever gone into a hydroponic store, you’ll know there is an insane number of nutrient systems available. Luckily, most of the nutrient lines being sold for growing cannabis will do just fine. And if you only use a company's "base" nutrient line, the prices usually aren’t vastly different from each other even between different brands.

Despite what many growers believe, a "base nutrient line" (offered by almost every nutrient company, usually as a set of 2-3 bottles) provides everything your cannabis plant needs to get from seed to harvest successfully. You actually don't need any special supplements and you will still harvest amazing bud! Your grow environment and dry/cure have a lot more impact on the final quality of your flowers than the specific brand of nutrients you use.

A "base nutrient line" usually consists of 2-3 bottles, and will provide everything your plant needs to produce top-quality cannabis

Most nutrient systems work; just make sure they last a while!

Tip: Just about every cannabis-friendly nutrient line recommends you start with higher levels of nutrients than your cannabis plants can use. Nutrient companies want to sell those bottles! You can use far less nutrients (and help your plants avoid nutrient burn) by always starting your nutrients at half-strength and adjusting from there.

In addition to buying way more bottles of nutrients than necessary, sometimes you can lose money by having to throw out your nutrients before you get a chance to use the whole bottle. Some nutrients "go bad" just months after being opened (especially nutrients with lots of organic ingredients like guano or fish) which can also prevent your plants from getting the right levels of nutrients. If your nutrients don't smell the same after being opened for a while, don't use them!

The most cost-effective nutrients usually come in large 32oz bottles. If you get nutrients in this size, it's best to make sure they last a long time after being opened so you are able to finish the bottle before it goes bad. If getting organic nutrients, go for smaller bottles unless you plan on growing a lot of plants.

Get the Fox Farms trio nutrient for growing cannabis in soil - lots of great stuff for your roots, get it on Amazon!Fox Farm base nutrients work great, and even though the entire line is made up of mostly organic ingredients, they're formulated in such a way that each bottle will last as long as two years when stored in a cool, dark place. Nutrient base lines without any organic nutrients (like the General Hydroponics Flora Trio, my personal favorite) can last 5+ years after being opened when stored properly. 

So, if you want to use the cost-effective big bottles of nutrients, go for ones that last at least 2 years after being opened. This gives you plenty of time to go through the typical 32oz bottle!

Note: I've found the best way to get tough-to-find on information on nutrients is to contact the nutrient company directly. They tend to have a "Contact Us" form on their website, like this one for Fox Farm, and they will usually get back to you in just a day or two! This is a great way to get other kinds of information about nutrients (and supplements), too! Plus, when you contact a nutrient company privately with direct questions, the answers are often a lot more frank about growing cannabis than the type of vague wording you'll see on their bottles or website.

Money Savings: $18 - $50+

 

Supplements - Keep It Simple!
To be frank, many supplements are completely unnecessary. Some claim to do things that are very difficult for Hydroguard CalMag supplements produce tangible benefits.a hobbyist grower to measure. On the other hand, some supplements can be the thing that saves your garden from impending doom! The trouble is knowing the difference.

If you’re going to use a supplement, make sure that you know what it does and that it’s actually solving a problem you have. There’s nothing wrong with trying out new stuff or being on the cutting edge of growing technology, but if money is tight, then you want to make sure you’re only investing in something with tangible benefits.

When I talk about supplements with "tangible benefits", I mean that they do a specific job where the benefits seem obvious to the user. For example, it might be tough to tell if a supplement that claims to "make better buds" is working because you don’t have a basis for comparison. This means you pretty much have to hope it's doing its job.

However, if you’re using a supplement that claims to fight off root rot (like Hydroguard), or claims to prevent calcium/magnesium deficiencies (like CALiMAGic), you’ll know whether or not it’s doing what you paid for purely by the results. 

Learn which nutrients and supplements actually do improve bud quality!

Money Saved: $125 - $500 for some full supplement systems

 

CO2 Bags/Buckets - Probably Not Worth the Money
When used properly, CO2 (carbon dioxide) in large quantities can make for dramatic increases in yields. The problem is that there are a bunch of limiting factors in the way before you actually see any benefits from using CO2. You need a sealed grow space, high temperatures, and lots of light before adding CO2 makes a noticeable difference. Basically, if you aren’t perfecting most other aspects of your grow (training, lights, temps, humidity, etc.), adding extra CO2 may not do you any good. 

If you could get 100% more harvests from using a CO2 bucket, I would be a happy camper!

That being said, adding CO2 can noticeably improve a grow. However, the CO2 bags/buckets are unproven when it comes to getting tangible results.

I think of CO2 bags like weight loss pills: The idea is appealing and the price usually seems great for such a huge reward. Additionally, like weight loss pills, CO2 bags have the deadly advertising allurement that makes suckers of so many of us: the promise of maximum gains from minimal effort. We all love things that make our lives easier while also requiring little-to-no work on our part! 

Plus, we all know plants like CO2, so it could only be helping, right? Well, it might be helping! It just probably isn’t helping enough to pay for its $30 - $70 price tag.

The problem is that these bags generally don’t make enough CO2 to make a difference, and to make things worse, most home setups don't have bright enough light to get significant yield improvements from CO2 anyway. The vast majority of growers will get better returns (as far as yields) from plant training or upgrading their grow lights. You could also save that CO2 money for the next batch of seeds and pick a proven high-yielding strain. Again, it’s not that CO2 bags are bad; they just don’t provide obvious tangible benefits compared to other things that do produce measurable results.

Money Saved: $30 - $70+

Want to learn to use CO2 the right way?
Click here to check out our page on CO2 for growing!

 

Plant Training - It's Almost Like Bonus Bud
Plant training costs close to nothing - maybe a couple dollars for some twist-tie - and can dramatically increase yields. Plant training is a fantastic way to get more bang for your buck when growing, though it's important to start when your plant is still small. 

Training takes a little time to learn and time should be applied to your plants from when they're young.

Expert level manifolding (or mainlining) by the man himself, Nugbuckets!

If you’re willing to invest a little time to train your plants during the vegetative stage, you will see returns in the form of undeniably larger yields. In fact, training is probably the best way to increase yields without having to alter your setup or buy new equipment. Some advanced training methods - such as ScrOG and Manifolding - are capable of producing up to 40% or more bud than plants grown in the same environment in the natural ‘Christmas tree’ shape (called ‘apical dominance’) which is great outdoors under the sun, but performs poorly indoors under grow lights which don't move.

All that extra bud from training translates into money saved. How? Because you don’t have to grow as often when you get bigger yields! Every day you don’t have to grow is another day you aren’t paying for electricity/nutrients/water/etc. to grow, and you're getting back the time you would have spent.

In short, you grow more buds with the same amount of supplies and then get a break from the costs of growing. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Learn more about plant training to increase yields (for free!)

Money Saved: $40 - $100+ per month

Do you have some good methods to save money without sacrificing quality in a grow? Let us know!

 


 

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What Nutrients Do I Need to Grow Cannabis?

Full Grow - Auto Northern Lights in DIY Grow Box

Cannabis Yields & CO2

Cannabis Training Techniques - LST, Topping & More

 


 

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