How much stuff does a gardener need to grow plants indoors? To be honest, every cultivator has a unique opinion on what's "essential" in a beginner grow tent. Indeed, it's common for people to have different rankings for items on their shopping lists for indoor gardening equipment.
Anyone getting started with an indoor grow tent could easily get confused by the countless equipment guides online. Some new gardeners get the wrong impression that buying more devices will always give them a higher ROI.
Although many gardening devices are helpful, relatively few are "essential" for growing plants indoors. As cultivators review the many tools and accessories available for grow tents, they should separate the products crucial for plant development from those that are "helpful aids." By separating the necessary from the "nice to have," shoppers can wisely allocate their funds.
The shopping list below should provide a comprehensive overview of beneficial indoor cultivation items. While not every product is essential, this list should give you a clear sense of what's most significant for your grow operation.
Gardening Necessities vs. Optional Aids — The Ultimate Equipment Shopping List For Indoor Cultivators
Grow Lights: Every plant needs light for growth and photosynthesis, so grow lights are a must for indoor cultivation. If you don't install grow lights in your tent, your plants won't survive.
Most indoor growers focus on three types of lights for indoor cultivation: compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL), LED grow lights, and high-intensity discharge (HID) bulbs. Sometimes, cultivators will have a mixture of these light models depending on what plant they're growing and their stages of development.
For instance, it's common to use the lower intensity of CFL bulbs during a plant's delicate seedling stage. As a plant matures, it should be able to benefit from the greater intensity HIDs or LED grow lights can provide. Also, considering the cost of temperature control, LED Grow Lights will be the best lighting solutions inside a grow tent.
If you'd like to learn more about HIDs vs. LED panels, read this exhaustive Mars Hydro comparison post.
UV/IR Bars:There's a lot of debate over the merits of adding UV and IR rays into an indoor growing process. Plus, even those who support using these lightwaves can't agree on how much is appropriate for indoor cultivation. However, there's no doubt that a little extra UV and IR can significantly boost flower or fruit production for most plants.
It's not essential to look for UV or IR bulbs in your grow lights, but they may improve your returns at harvest time. Please take a closer look at your strain's average growing pattern to determine whether a UV/IR bar or an LED panel with UV/IR technology would be appropriate.
Inline duct fan:Plants need the air in a grow tent to be in constant circulation, which is why grow tents have ducts for inline fans. These fans will help remove the stagnant air in your grow tent to avoid excess heat and humidity as well to replenish consumed CO2.
Even plants that thrive in tropical regions don't do well in an environment that doesn't have good air circulation. If you neglect an inline fan in your grow space, there's a greater likelihood your plants will experience stunted growth, mold, or mildew.
You can learn more specifics on choosing the right fan for your grow tent on this Mars Hydro blog.
Clip fans/Oscillating Fans:Adding one or two clip fans to your grow tent isn't necessary, but it can help your inline fan perform its duty. These circulating fans help create a gentle breeze in your grow space to circulate fresh air. In many cases, clip fans improve a plant's vitality by strengthening its stems.
Duct tubes & clamps: When setting up your inline fan, you'll probably need some duct tubes and clamps to help secure this device and improve air circulation. Plus, since duct clamps & sinches fit snugly around inline fans, they prevent air and light leakage. While not essential, duct clamps ensure the efficiency of ventilation and air circulation in your grow tents.
Carbon Air Filter: On the subject of inline fans, you should consider installing a carbon air filter in your ventilation system. While not necessary, carbon air filters help remove pungent plant odors from filtering into your home. If you're growing extra stinky plants, then a carbon air filter can significantly improve discretion.
Pots or growing bags:Like bright light and proper ventilation, plants need containers to grow indoors. However, the container you use for your plants will depend on your chosen grow medium: soil vs. hydroponics.
Soil growers must invest in grow pots or bags that have good drainage. The size of these containers depends on what plant you're growing, the size of your grow tent, and each plant's stage of development. For instance, it's common to transplant seedlings from small starter containers to larger pots during vegetation. Please consider the size of your tent when evaluating which size grow pots to choose for your space.
Hydroponics irrigation system: Hydroponics gardeners have to invest in additional equipment depending on their preferred growing method. For instance, many hydroponics units require air stones and water pumps to distribute oxygen and hydration to plants' roots. However, those opting for aeroponics units will need sprayers. Many hydroponics systems also require a reservoir where gardeners place their water and nutrient solution.
Most hydroponics units also require inert mediums to hold their plants in place. A few common mediums in the hydroponics space include coconut coir, clay pellets, and perlite.
Like soil pots, you must evaluate your grow tent's spatial limitations when considering different hydroponics systems.
For more info on how hydroponics work, please be sure to read Mars Hydro's post on the Hydroponic Grow System Overview.
Thermo-hygrometers: Some could argue thermo-hygrometers aren't "necessary" for indoor cultivation, but it's hard to find an indoor grower who won't use them. These small digital units give growers crucial info on temperature and humidity. Cultivators could then adjust their grow tent's temp by adjusting the lights, or fans to better suit whatever strain they're growing.
pH tester: Like thermo-hydrometers, it's rare for indoor gardeners to go without a pH tester. In fact, many argue a pH tester is even more significant than a thermo-hydrometer.
Unlike temperature and humidity, you can't get a sense of a grow container's pH with your five senses. You need a reliable detection method to ensure your soil or hydroponics unit's water is within the appropriate range for your cultivar.
Unfortunately, when many people recognize an issue with their medium's pH, their plants will likely show severe signs of weakness. A reliable pH tester will help you monitor this crucial metric and adjust it during the growth process.
Soil moisture detector:New cultivators have a nasty habit of overwatering their plants. Although you can get a read on when your soil needs water by touching it with your thumb, this isn't the most scientific way to tell when to add water. People with a heavy watering hand may want to consider a soil moisture detector. It's not necessary to add a soil moisture detector to your shopping cart, but it can add precision to your watering schedule.
PAR meter:While PAR meters aren't as crucial as pH detectors or thermo-hygrometers, they could be a handy detector to keep nearby. As the name suggests, PAR meters measure the "Photosynthetically Active Radiation" from a grow light.
Manufacturers usually post PAR and PPFD numbers with their lights, but a good PAR meter will give you a precise read on light intensity throughout your grow space. This lighting info should help you avoid issues like light burn and choose the optimal height for your LEDs at different stages of growth.
To learn more about the optimal PPFD ranges for plants, you may want to look at this recent Mars Hydro blog post.
Remote controls for tent devices:It's becoming increasingly common to use wireless controls in today's smart homes. So, it's no shock that many cultivators are interested in the latest "smart tent" innovations. There are many hi-tech control systems that could help automate the growing process.
For instance, some cultivators have remote controllers for the fans and lights in their grow space to make quick adjustments. There are even some smartphone apps that allow cultivators to monitor the temperature and humidity of their grow space and alter various features without stepping foot in their tent.
While these control systems are an attractive add-on for "hands-off cultivators," it's difficult to argue they're essential features. Sure, simple units like a timer can provide helpful reminders, but that doesn't mean cultivators need to use smart control features to grow successfully. As long as growers wash up before entering their grow tent, it's OK to manually adjust their light, heat, or humidity. Manually setting your controls may not be as convenient as using a smartphone app, but it will teach new cultivators many necessary skills about gardening.
Dehumidifier/Humidifier:While some cultivators manage humidity levels with fans, a dehumidifier provides a more accurate way to adjust your grow space's moisture content. If humidity is a concern in your grow area, then a dehumidifier may be essential for reducing the odds of a mold infestation. On the other hand, a humidifier can provide the humidity you need for your growing environment, especially in dry winters or in dry climate areas.
Heaters:People who live in cooler climates may want to consider putting a heater in their grow tent. These units can help raise your grow tent's temperature levels naturally to provide your strains with the ideal growing environment. While heaters don't make a ton of sense if you live in a naturally hot & humid state, they could benefit cultivators who like to grow year-round or who live in northern territories.
Seedlingheatmat:Waterproof seedling mats are a "nice to have" item that may speed up the early stages of plant growth. Since these heat mats provide a warm & consistent temperature for seedlings, they help mimic the soil conditions in spring, which often leads to a greater seedling success rate. However, you can germinate seeds successfully without a seedling mat — it may just take a little longer.
CO2 burners:CO2 burners are a popular auxiliary system with some expert indoor cultivators. These units release extra CO2 into your grow tent, thus promoting a more bountiful harvest. However, to truly benefit from CO2 diffusers, cultivators must factor in additional energy costs. Not only does it cost more to run CO2 units, you will have to increase your light output to help your plants absorb the extra CO2.
Cultivators should always view CO2 diffusers as a "luxury item." More CO2 can increase your ROI, but it isn't essential to grow plants. Cultivators who want CO2 diffusers should have a solid understanding of cultivation and be prepared for the extra energy expenditure.
Humidity domes:When you're researching plant containers, you may run into devices called "humidity domes." While these items are beneficial for the early stages of development — especially if you're dealing with clones — they shouldn't be considered an essential piece of equipment. Still, humidity domes may be a worthwhile investment if you're struggling with seed germination.
Plant ties: One of the simplest ways to boost a plant's development is to practice "low-stress training" (LST). Arguably, the safest and most effective LST strategy is called "bending," which involves carefully pulling the stems of your plant to the sides of your pot with strings.
Of course, you don't haveto buy plant ties to have a successful harvest, but learning LST could significantly increase your ROI with the minimal extra expense. Plus, bending your plant can help decrease the risk of light burn.
Trellis nets:Similar to plant ties, trellis nets are an optional tool you could use to gently bend your plants. Often, cultivators use trellis nets for an LST technique called "screen of green" (aka ScrOG). By spreading out your plants with these nets, you can help increase light penetration to multiple flowering spots. Again, you don't need trellis nets to have a successful grow, but they are a relatively inexpensive way to increase your yield.
Shears & trimmers:As harvest approaches, you'll have an easier time collecting your plants if you have sharp shears and trimmers that are well-suited for the job. Sure, you could use scissors for this task, but the chances are higher you won't make as precise of a cut without shears. Plant shears and trimmers are designed for plant material, hence they help you snip away only what you want to get rid of.
Drying rack:If you need to dry your plants after harvest, you may want to consider purchasing a pre-made drying rack. It's fine to use DIY methods like clothes hangers, but drying racks can help bring organization to your space. Cultivators who grow many plants are most likely to enjoy the convenience of a pre-made drying rack.
Jeweler's Loupe/Microscope:Every plant has a unique set of features that signal its prime time for harvest. However, you can't see all these traits with the naked eye. Sometimes, you'll need extra magnifying power to examine the health & harvestability of your plants.
Many at-home cultivators recommend keeping a jeweler's loupe nearby to better inspect plants for overall health. If you rely on your eyes, there's a greater chance you'll miss something significant. This doesn't mean jewelers' loupes are "essential," but they can help growers detect potential issues (e.g., mold) and determine when to harvest.
Protective goggles/glasses:While the lightwaves from a grow light may not seem dangerous, they can damage a cultivator's eyes with repeated exposure. This is especially true if growers are using UV/IR panels. A pair of UV-blocking protective glasses can help prevent these intense rays from penetrating your retinae whenever you examine your plants. This protective gear may not be "essential," but investing in UV-blocking glasses is way more affordable than eye surgery.
Cleaning Equipment:Sanitization may not get as much press as PPFD or pH, but it's essential to a successful indoor cultivation program. Gardeners should keep a stash of cleaning agents like isopropyl alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and vinegar nearby. You should also consider purchasing a vacuum cleaner, broom, and dustpan to keep your grow space spic and span. To avoid cross-contamination, you may also want to invest in disposable gloves to use whenever you plant to physically inspect your plants.
If you need more info on how to keep your grow tent spotless, you've got to check out Mars Hydro's post on "How To Clean My Grow Tent Kit."
Neem Oil:Even if your grow tent has a well-threaded exterior, pests can sneak into your space. Sometimes, these tiny bugs could cling to your clothes, or they may fly off of any pets you have at home. Whenever pests strike a plant, most cultivators reach for tried-and-true neem oil.
Although neem oil won't work on all bugs, it has become one of the best all-natural solutions for pest infestations. You don't have to keep neem oil nearby, but it could be beneficial if bugs strike your grow tent.
For more details on defending against pest invasions, please read this previous Mars Hydro post.
Mars Hydro's Beginner Grow Tent Kit Takes The Stress Out Of Shopping
Even if you want to go with the "bare minimum" for an indoor grow, it can be difficult for new cultivators to pick the best-fitting fan, light, and containers. To take the guesswork out of grow tent shopping, Mars Hydro now offers convenient "Grow Tent Kits." Simply choose the appropriate grow tent size for your space, and you will get all of the perfectly-fitting equipment for your new tent. With just one purchase, you can start growing your plants immediately thanks to these starter kits.
You can learn more about the benefits of ordering a Mars Hydro grow tent starter kit on this link.