If you want to grow good weed, you have to give your marijuana plants a lot of attention. You cannot leave them to grow on their own like a regular garden plant. Unfortunately, those of us who grow for a hobby won’t likely have a lot of spare time to pamper our plants.
This doesn’t mean that you have to settle for mediocre weed. Most of the tasks involved in growing marijuana are routinary and can easily be automated. In fact, automating your home grow marijuana operation might even be more beneficial since you no longer have to do guesstimates on when to water or put nutrients. Instead, you will be following a system that you can simply adjust accordingly.
As a home grower, you don’t have to be intimidated with the idea of automating your grow setup. It is not just for commercial growers, you might be surprised to know that it won’t cost much nor require a lot of expertise.
Why should you automate your home grow operation?
Here are a few key reasons why you should consider automation for your marijuana growing operation:
- Gives you more free time – Most of us home growers grow for personal purposes. Unfortunately, marijuana needs more attention than a regular garden plant and automating your growing-related chores allows you to take back your time and give you peace of mind knowing that everything is going well in your grow room.
- Gives you more control – Because everything is systematic and uniform, you will no longer have to micromanage each plant. Instead, you can evaluate your grow system as a whole and tweak factors like watering frequency, etc. if needed. Having a uniform system also allows you to get consistent data that you’ll be able to use for future grows.
- Allows you to grow more – If you are able to automate it, then you will be able to replicate it. Once you are growing 6 or more plants, you should seriously consider investing in automation.
- Can help cut costs – Automated setups are much more efficient in giving your plants what they need. For example, an automatic system that allows you to turn off the lights even when you’re not around will definitely cut your electricity bill.
What should you automate?
Believe it or not, it is possible to fully automate everything in a marijuana growing operation, from seed to harvest. However, everything comes at a cost and the more you automate, the more you’ll spend on equipment.
Full automation does not always make sense in every setup. For most home growers who are typically interested in growing so they won’t have to buy, automating parts of their setup would be more economical. In some cases, you can even get by with a bit of ingenuity and resourcefulness so you won’t have to buy automation equipment. It also doesn’t always have to be powered, as you’ll see in this example that shows a simple DIY watering system that uses gravity to draw water to the plant
This said, here are a few things that are commonly automated in a home growing setup:
- Lighting – Lighting can drive up operating costs since they have to be left on for hours on end. Lights, especially HID bulbs, can also warm up your grow space, making the cooling and ventilation system work harder. An automated lighting system will not only help you cut electricity costs, it can also maintain the light cycle that photoperiod plants need.
- Watering – You can automate irrigation whether you’re growing in soil or running a hydroponic setup. In most cases, this system will also take care of your nutrient feeding routine. This is called a fertigation system.
- Climate control – Maintaining a correct grow room climate is very important since it can also keep pests and insects at bay. In this case, what you’ll need is not a timer but a temperature and relative humidity monitor.
Home growing automation equipment
If you want to home grow weed and have more money than time to spare, what you need is a fully automated system. These can be classified into 2 categories:
- Pre-built systems – These are automated systems that can typically be installed in any grow space. It can also come with panels for containing the grow space. An example would be Micro Lab’s Grow Lab which can be customized depending on the number of plants you plan on growing. This is more suitable for those growing a lot of plants.
- Automated grow boxes – These are self-contained environments where all of the plant’s needs from seed to harvest are taken care of automatically. Everything in a grow box is automated and some can even be controlled using a smartphone app which means you can take care of your plant even if you are away. An example of this would be the SpinnerXP ($2500) where you can grow around 10 clones in a closed cylinder or the Grobo grow box ($1999) that allows you to grow a single plant from seed.
These boxes are great for beginners who want to start growing but don’t want to go through the usual difficulties encountered by home growers. Another big advantage of these automated solutions is that they are mostly sealed, keeping out pests and diseases.
As you can see, these are quite expensive and might not make sense for someone who is growing at home growing to get cheaper weed. For growers who have a bit more time to spare, partial automation and DIY is a much better option. Here are a few automation solutions that can make your grow setup more efficient:
- Outlet timers – You can actually automate almost anything: lights, water pumps, fans etc, just by using an electrical outlet timer. These are plugged into your wall outlet to which you plug any piece of equipment you want to shut off or turn on at a given time. Timers come in all kinds, an example of one made specifically for marijuana growing is AutoPilot APCTART2. There are even those that can be controlled by an app like the TONBUX Outdoor Smart Outlet with WiFi
- Climate control devices – Temperature and humidity can’t be automated just by using a timer. What you need for this is an environmental controller that you can hook up your humidifiers, coolers, fans, etc. to. An example of a typical grow room environment controller is the AutoPilot APE4100 Eclipse F60.
These devices are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to marijuana growing automation. To give you an idea of what other automation products exist in the market today, here are a few more examples:
- Moistenland DIY Micro Automatic Drip Irrigation Kit
- Bluelab CONTPH pH Controller with Monitoring and Dosing of Solution pH Levels
- Dosatron Nutrient Delivery System NDS
- Superponic 8 Site Automated Feed Hydroponic System
Of course, you don’t always have to buy automation solutions. It’s totally possible to do a cheap, fully automated grow setup as long as you have the DIY skills to handle it. Here’s an example of what’s possible even without expensive equipment
How to automate your home grow setup
As you can see, there are so many ways that you can automate your marijuana operation. However, for a home grower, the most popular setup would either be one of two kinds:
- Automatic drip – If you’re using soil as a medium, you can install an automatic drip system. You can also set this up as a fertigation system but if you’re growing just a few plants, this may be unnecessary. A basic drip system may only need a water tank, a network of tubes, hose clamps and dripper stakes, using only gravity to drive water to the plants. However, it’s best to just use a timer since these are already fairly cheap. Here’s an example of a simple drip kit that already has everything you’ll need to automate your irrigation: Raindrip R560DP Automatic Watering Kit for Container and Hanging Baskets
- Hydroponic setup – If you’re going to use an automatic drip setup, why not just go full hydroponic? A hydroponic setup will actually be simpler, more efficient and will give you better yields if you do it right. It is essentially a kind of automated grow setup since plants are already constantly irrigated and fed, you only need to take care of the climate and ventilation. You can see the different kinds of hydroponic setup in this post: Basics on Setting Up Hydroponic Grow for Cannabis
In a home grow setup, the ventilation and air filtration system is usually able to take care of the climate by offsetting the heat generated by the grow lights. A home dehumidifier is usually enough to take care of regulating relative humidity.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are a number of ways to automate your home grow setup. You can use a grow box which is typically a self-contained growing system or you can choose which aspect of your setup to automate using solutions like climate control devices, timers, etc.
Yes, a system that delivers both water and nutrients automatically is called a fertigation system. In a hydroponic system, the nutrients is typically already mixed with the water but such as system can also be installed for plants growing in soil.
As a home grower, automation is definitely one of the things you need to consider. It will always give you an advantage and allow you to grow more and harvest better buds if done correctly. The only limit to the degree of automation you implement is your budget or your ingenuity. If you are growing only up to 6 plants, which is often the legal limit for most states, you can easily get by with a simple hydroponic system and a lighting system on a timer. If you’re planning to grow around twice this amount, then it’s probably a good idea to get a fertigation system and a grow room climate control system.