Growing and maintaining your very own indoor cannabis garden can easily burn a hole through your pocket. Between frequent visits to a hardware store and the local hydroponics shop/garden center, building out and maintaining even a small home grow can be quite expensive. Add on recurring monthly utility expenses and the inevitable costs of growing and maintaining a cannabis grow with changing seasons and the final overhead can quickly burn a hole through your “budget grow.” One way to heavily reduce overhead in your garden is to incorporate sustainability practices throughout your operation. Every decision you make in your grow, from the lighting you choose to the medium you plan to grow in, will have a variable impact on your spending over time. Listed are a few helpful, cost-effective strategies to consider for incorporating sustainable practices into your indoor cannabis garden.
Water is a precious resource in California and in many other parts of the world, so water conservation is an important part of cannabis cultivation. Here are some tips to help you save water: Did you know that adding a layer of mulch to the top of your soil can save as much as 75 percent of your water, which is otherwise lost through evaporation? Mulch can consist of shredded bark, straw or even cardboard used to cover the soil and protect it from the sun. Watering in the morning and evening when it’s cooler can also save a lot of water. Watering when it’s hot will lead to more evaporation before the water reaches the roots.
Grow Lights With Lower Energy Output
Consider growing with lights that require less energy, such as LED systems, ceramic metal halide or LEC (light emitting ceramic) lights. Many growers prefer to spend the extra money up front for these lights in order to save more over time in their energy bill. Dollar for dollar, LEDs are the most sustainably cost-effective solution for lighting in an indoor home grow. LECs are not too far behind either, with a 300w system producing results similar to what most 600w HID systems will give you.
When incorporating climate control solutions into your garden, consider natural solutions. Many times, creating airflow pathways in and out of your garden can reduce temperatures to the point where air conditioner units become unnecessary. Practices such as running lights at night are also a great way to take advantage of the natural cool air. By reducing the need for various devices, you’re naturally bringing your energy bill down while alleviating your circuits from unnecessary stress.
Sustainable With Sun Grown Cannabis
Plants have biologically evolved to respond to sunlight. While lamps can simulate sunlight, they can’t replicate it entirely.
So plants respond well to natural daylight. If you can’t manage to grow outdoors due to weather conditions, then greenhouses are a good substitute. And the best part about solar power is that it is free. Not only will that save you money in electricity costs.
Sustainable Grow Medium
Another cost-effective strategy is to incorporate the most sustainable grow medium possible into your regimen. No-till, organic gardening practices are a great way to make your garden more sustainable. By building and maintaining an active food web within your soil, containers almost never need to be changed out between grows; simply remove the root ball and re-transplant.
Organic gardening is much less expensive in that proper super soils require little to no amendments over time — their nutrients are readily available within the soil. Feeding regimens for an all-organic grow are often simply reverse osmosis water, and that’s it, thus, eliminating the need for expensive nutrients that must be refilled over time. Many organic garden remedies can be concocted using simple everyday household ingredients, another cost-effective way of eliminating expensive small bottles that seem to disappear all too quickly.
Small Scale Production
Switching to smaller scale production is ultimately what makes growing cannabis sustainable.
Having more farmers growing cannabis on a smaller scale means higher quality plants and less environmental impact.
You don’t need to force plant growth with chemicals. These chemicals can find their way into the local water table and poison water supplies. Growing the plants in soil can also improve quantities of terpenes in the cannabis. That gives a much better smell and taste for the user.
Now that lab testing has become a common practice, growers are discovering how easy it is to produce moldy cannabis without even realizing it, since mold can grow inside the buds and not be visible. This can have major health impacts on users.
Although we all want to let our buds pack on as much weight as possible, don’t harvest too late: Buds start to decompose if left on the branches for too long, leading to microbial growth inside. How do you know the proper time to harvest? You’ll need to break out your magnifying glass and check out the trichomes, the glandular, hairy part of the buds. Harvest while the trichomes are still clear, before they turn an opaque white, for optimal potency and reduced decomposition. If in doubt, ask a professional to take a look. When harvesting and drying your buds, be sure to use gloves and work with clean surfaces and containers. Just a little contamination can lead to microbial growth on your buds.
To reduce overhead over time create your own cloning regimen within your garden. The initial upfront cost for a small cloning space can be surprisingly low if you stick to the basics. Over time, having a perpetual garden equipped with a cloning area will save you hundreds of dollars in seed/clone costs.