8-step Guide to Successful Indoor Gardening
1) The right environment
Having the right environment is critical for your garden.
Some key points to remember when considering your environment are relative humidity,
temperature, CO2 and air circulaiion. The ideal humidity for a grow room falls
between 40 & 60 percent. Some plants like higher humidity, but then higher
humidity can result in powdery mildew. Temperature in your grow room should be
between 68 — 75F degrees. The higher the temperature gets the higher your
humidity will get. Excessive temperatures will cause a stunt in growth and if the
water temperature gets hot it may cause root rot. You also need an ample supply of
Co2 in your grow room. Your grow room will typically already have between
300-400 ppm of CO2 assuming good air movement. With higher CO2 levels, up to 1400 ppm
your plants may show accelerated growth. If you choose not supplement CO2, it is
critical that the room have sufficient air movement to allow fresh CO2 in for the plants.
2) Start off with good water
Low PPM and accurate pH is critical to your garden. You want to start off with low PPM,
TDS or EC so you can add nutrient solution to your reservoir, as explained in step 4.
You can reduce the PPM part of your water using a Reverse Osmosis (RO) unit. PPM/TDS & EC
is the measurement of the salts in a solution. pH measures the acidity or alkalinity of
your solution on a scale of 0 — 14. A solution is considered acidic at 7 or below.
The most important rule to remember with pH is to avoid extremes. When working with
hydroponics you typically want your pH to fall between 5.8 and 6.2. When growing in soil
or coco you want your pH between 6.0 and 6.8. If the pH falls too low or becomes too high
some nutrients will become less available to plants. Remember all plants are not alike.
This is just a guideline. Some plants want a higher or lower pH or PPM level than another
3) Choose a method
Ebb & Flow growing floods and drains a tray of plants with a nutrient solution
at regular intenals. Drip growing drips a nutrient solution onto the plant root base
through tubes leading to each plant. Aeroponic growing sprays an oxygenated nutrient
water mist onto the roots of plants. NFT Growing creates a slow moving nutrient solution
'film' that flows over the roots ofthe plants.
4) Choose a medium
After choosing a method of growing you will then want to choose air appropriate medium.
Some mediums to consider are soil, soil-less mixes, coco, hydroton, rockwool, or silica rock.
Coco is available in both a loose and compressed form. Coco is made from the husks of a
coconut and allows a sufficient supply of oxygen to the roots because of its natural aeration.
When using coconut fiber please remember to use a calcium supplement because calcium tends
to bond to the coco, which will cause calcium to be less available to your plant. Coco can
be used in a ebb & flow, drip or hand watering system. Hydroton or clay pebbles are made
from expanded pH neutral clay. They tend to hold water well and have great oxygen to water
ratio, which makes them suitable for ebb & flow, aeroponics, NFT or drip. You may choose to
reuse your rocks, but make sure you follow appropriate cleaning techniques before doing so.
Rockwool is made from rock or stone spun into fibers and then compressed in to cubes, blocks,
or slabs. This medium also has a good oxygen to water ratio. Rockwool tends to have a
naturally high pH, before use, flush with 5.5-5.8 pH balanced water. Rockwool works best in
an ebb & flow or drip system. Silica rock is a rock that is high in silica and also contains
mineral elements. Most silica rock is pH neutral and environmentally friendly. This medium
can be reused, but make sure to follow the appropriate steps with cleaning it. Silica rock
is suitable for ebb & flow, drip, aeroponics and you can mix it with other mediums to help
Plants require nutrients for growth and development. Nutrients/fertilizers come in both
liquid and dry form. They come in both organic and synthetic form. Nutrients can be separated
in to two categories, macro and micro nutrients. The Macronutrients are nitrogen, phosphorus,
potassium, calcium, magnesium and sulfur. The Micronutrients, which are needed in only trace
amounts, are iron, manganese, boron, zinc, copper, molybdenum and chlorine, If the nutrients
are deficient or are abundant you may see burning, curling or yellowing. You do not want to
over or under fertilize. There are many different types of nutrients/fertilizers available
on the market. You can purchase organic, synthetic (chemical) oran organic based synthetic
nutrients. Most nutrients/fertilizers will have an N-P-K (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium) on
the front of the bottle. In the vegetative or growth stage the 'N' will typically be higher.
In the flowering or bloom stage the 'P' will typically be higher. You may also consider
implementing additives/supplements into your nutrient mix. Additives/supplements can be added
to counteract deficiencies, increase size, flavor and aroma. You will purchase a base nutrient
and it may not have enough essential nutrients your plants require, in which in case you will
need to purchase an additive/supplement.
Next you need to make sure you have adequate lighting for you grow room. High Intensity
Discharge (HID) is the preferred lighting in a grow room. The two types of HID lighting
commonly used in a grow room are HPS (High Pressure Sodium) and MH (Metal Halide). HPS
lamps deliver more of a orange/red spectrum, which is ideal for most plants in the
flowering/bloom stage. MH lamps deliver more of a blue/green spectrum, which is ideal for
most plants in the vegetative/growth stage. Another type of lighting used in many grow rooms
is T5 lighting. T5 lighting is a high-output fluorescent light with low heat and energy
consumption. It is an ideal light for cuttings, mother plants and short growth cycles. All
plants require light in order to grow and bloom. Most plants grow and bloom according to the
amount of light they are given. In the growth or vegetative stage plants typically want
12 — 16 hours of light. In the bloom stage you reduce the amount of light your plants
get to 12 hours. You want to make sure the light comes on and goes off at the same time
everyday, you can do this by putting it on a timer. Please consult us at
HorticultureSource.com for more information on which light is best for you.
7) Testing Equipment
There are many different meters available for testing pH, PPM, EC, temperature and humidity.
You can buy a single pH, PPM or EC meter. There are also combo meters available that do the
pH, PPM and water temperature in one. The meters are available in both continuous
(leave in water) and portable. Most meters need to be calibrated regularly so make sure you
also purchase calibration solution for your meters. You can also purchase meters that measure
temperature and/or the humidity in your grow room.
8) Optional accessories
As talked about in step one you need adequate air movement. To get adequate air movement
you can use an inline centrifugal or mixed flow fan. You can use these fans to exhaust,
intake, re-circulate or air-cool your light. Oscillating fans are frequently used to create
air movement within a grow room.
There are also optional devices to control CO2, fans, temperature, humidity and lights.
There controllers help to fully automate your grow room. You may also need to purchase
pumps and timers depending on the method of growing you choose.