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Do a Google image search for “space buckets,” and the first thing you’ll be greeted with is hydroponic bucket systems sold by upstanding retailers like Home Depot, pictured growing all manner of nutritious veggies and sprouts.
That isn’t how they got started, or what most people are using them for.
The original space bucket concept was created by a Redditor who goes by the name “Ekrof.” Wanting to grow cannabis in his small apartment, Ekrof came up with an ingenious design in 2011, which he first posted to Reddit in 2012.
Bucket-based hydroponics predate this idea, of course. Ekrof’s genius was in incorporating various small, inexpensive and commonly available parts to replicate larger cannabis grow operations within the space of a common plastic bucket: namely CFL and LED lights, along with a computer fan for ventilation.
How Space Buckets Are Made
Ekrof hosts basic space bucket design instructions on his website. The core model requires little in the way of tools and no special knowledge. The most expensive tools required are a power drill and a Dremel. Otherwise, you just need several common cutting tools (like scissors and wire snips), and much of it is held together by electrical tape.
The estimated total cost for one bucket, including CFL lights, is roughly $100 to purchase everything at Home Depot. One can substitute the CFL lights for an LED system for an added $50 or more. Electricity costs vary from place to place, but in the United States, a safe estimate is about $10-15 added to your monthly bill per space bucket.
The SpaceBuckets subreddit has been active for years now, and has shared many more advanced and creative bucket designs. Some of the highlights include tote and trash can enclosures to make the grow less conspicuous, setups with digital control panels for the LEDS and even Star Wars-inspired aesthetic designs.
How A Space Bucket Grow Works
The space bucket is basically just a scaled-down replication of the usual indoor grow. You generally focus on one plant per bucket, as the space limitations and soil requirements will be prohibitive of adding any more. A pot containing the plant is usually placed inside the bucket, but it is possible to simply grow out of soil dumped into the bucket if desired.
To control the smell, one can employ a fan with an inline carbon filter, and also use an Ona Pro Block next to the bucket for powerful odor absorption.
Limitations of Space Buckets
Aside from the physical space issue that limits you to one plant per bucket, you’ll have to avoid strains that tend to grow too tall for its confines. Indica-dominant strains tend to grow shorter than sativas, but there are some compact sativa-dominant strains that are still doable in a space bucket (such as Durban Poison and Grapefruit).
Also, if you’re considering a space bucket grow, it’s safe to assume that stealth is a factor. Selecting strains known to not produce much of a smell will help there. Some of the least stinky of the commonly available strains include Northern Lights, White Rhino and Bubbleicious.
To Space And Beyond
Space buckets aren’t economical for any kind of commercial production, but they’re fantastic for those looking to grow for personal use or to simply learn and experiment.
There’s never been more interest in cultivation with legalization in Canada. Here’s how to choose the best lights for your indoor growing operation.
The lighting setup you choose is going to be primarily dictated by how much space you have to use. In fact, we can pretty much break this down to two general categories – growing in closets, or having an entire room available to devote to grow space.
Growing In The Closet
A closet grow restricts your options, but it isn’t impossible. You’re basically looking at two options – a Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL), or an LED light.
If you’re on a tight budget or are a complete beginner, just go ahead and start shopping for CFLs right now without looking at any other light types. Everything else is either too big or too expensive. A CFL is about the size of a standard light bulb and sits in a base the about the size of a standard table lamp. They’re by far the most inexpensive option, and they’re the ideal size for a closet grow.
So what’s the downside of CFLs? They have the lowest wattage output of any grow light, which means growth cycles are slow (at least 3 months per plant) and yields are small. Depending on the dimensions of the closet, it may also be tricky to position a set of reflectors properly.
If you’ve got a little more cash to throw around, you might look into LED lights as an alternative. LEDs that are capable of enough power to sustain a grow are a relatively new technology. They’re very small, they don’t produce much heat, and they’re capable of changing colors to maximize the different growth cycles of the plant. The major problem is that they’re very expensive compared to CFLs, and if the system fails it isn’t as simple as buying a new bulb — you’ll have to repair or replace the entire system. The almost complete lack of heat can also be an issue in humid climates, where a little heat output is beneficial to keep too much moisture from accruing and mold from ruining your plants. If you live in a humid area, you’re also looking at the extra expense and hassle of a dehumidifier running constantly.
Growing In A Room
With some more space to spread out, your options are greatly increased. Now you can start looking into full-size fluorescent lights, high-intensity discharge lights, and plasma lights.
Full-sized fluorescents are usually referred to as T5s, in reference to their size and shape (tubular, 5/8 of an inch). There were T8s and T12s at one time, but they’re considered obsolete now. These lights require either a ceiling fixture (similar to the ones used in offices) or setting up a stand that they can hang from. They’re the most inexpensive of the larger-sized options as they don’t put out much heat and the bulbs last for a very long time.
High-intensity discharge (HID) lights are a little more complicated (and expensive). They’re usually geared to replicate natural sunlight during one of the plant’s two development stages — blue for initial growth and red for the flowering stage. If you’re on a budget, they’re probably not the best choice. They have the biggest and most expensive bulbs, and they also put out the most heat of any system — constant air conditioning will be a requirement unless it’s the dead of winter.
Light-emitting plasma is the newest thing on the growing scene. Like LED lights, they can change colors on the fly and there’s no bulbs to replace. But like LED lights, they’re among the most expensive systems on the market. Potentially these could end up being the best overall grow light option, but they’re so new that the jury is still out as to whether they’re worth the significant extra expense.
Rolling It All Up
If you’ve never done any growing before, it’s best to start with one CFL light and one plant in some closet space while you learn the ropes. It’s a small initial investment and it’s almost impossible to burn your house down this way. What you learn from these initial experiments will help inform your decisions for future expansion. Light systems can be tough to offload if you get the wrong one, so it’s best to start small, go slowly and be sure about what you’re doing.
Growing cannabis can seem like a daunting task, but with a bit of practice and the right guidelines, you’ll be harvesting beautiful buds in no time.
The cannabis plant needs much more light than most other plants. Since you’ll be growing indoors, you’ll need to carefully choose your light source. If you are on a limited budget, compact fluorescent light bulbs can be a good start. The downside with compact bulbs is they are weaker than dedicated growing lights. If you can afford LED growing lights, you may find your plants growing quicker and more robust than if you use fluorescent bulbs. Once the plants have fully grown, they’ll be ready to begin flowering. At this point, you’ll want to keep them on a strict schedule of 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness to induce budding. Be patient because most plants need about three months from the time they flower until they can be harvested.
As a beginner, you may want to consider growing your first plants in a smaller pot. Your yield will not be as large in a small pot, but you will gain valuable lessons to use on your next round. The most important thing in selecting a pot is the drainage holes at the bottom. You don’t want to drown your plants. A fabric pot is also an excellent choice because it allows oxygen to circulate freely. Keep in mind you will need to water more often with a fabric pot because the additional air tends to dry plants out. At some point, you’ll want to transplant your buds into a bigger pot. More room encourages root growth and can lead to healthier plants. When transplanting, you don’t want to pull the whole plant out, which will disrupt the roots. Instead, try cutting away your container and gently moving the plant into a bigger pot. A good rule of thumb is to move your plants each time they double in size.
When it comes to temperature, marijuana plants can be finicky. Low temperatures can suffocate a plant because it reduces evaporation through the leaves. High temperatures are also problematic because they hinder the growth and potency of your plants. In general, marijuana plants grow best 68 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit when your lights are on. Drop the temperature to between 62 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit when the lights are off. Consider investing in a thermostat and a small space heater to keep your plants at the right temperatures.
It is important when choosing a soil to keep in mind your skill level and knowledge. Organic soil can be great for beginners, but it can hinder growth and produce smaller harvests. Synthetic nutrients such as clay pebbles and Rockwool will encourage growth, but they require much more care and attention. In addition to soil, you’ll want to use a good pre-mixed fertilizer to ensure your plants are getting all the nutrients they need.
Watering is an important step in the process of growing healthy cannabis. Too much water can drown your plants, while too little will cause them to wither and eventually die. But how do you know when your plants need to be watered? The easiest method is to place your finger in the soil up to the first knuckle. If the soil is dry, it is time to water. You can also lift your pot to gauge if feels too light which means your plants have used all the water. In the beginning stages of growing, you’ll likely be watering 2 to 3 times per week. Once you transplant to a bigger pot, you can usually slow the watering to once or twice per week. Your plants are sufficiently watered when you get a 20% runoff from the drainage outlets.
With a bit of patience and practice, growing cannabis can be a rewarding experience. Make sure to check with your local jurisdiction to ensure you are within your legal boundaries before you begin growing.