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In the first of our new series, ‘Five Things…’, Jeff Winterborne of Proactive puts his many decades of experience into laying down the law on what not to do in your grow room. Take note and enjoy (well, maybe not the no smoking one, but it does make sense).

1. Never set up a grow room without understanding your electrical supplies.

Hydroponics, grow room

Ideally anyone setting up anything larger than a small tent should have a dedicated RCD protected breaker installed from their consumer board, or if it’s a very large set-up, it’s worth having a whole dedicated consumer unit installed with individual protected breakers for each circuit in the grow room.

For example, if you just use the household sockets, you may easily exceed the rated amperage of the breaker running them, or there could be bad wiring which you cannot access or find behind the walls which will cause many, potentially dangerous problems. Having a high amperage breaker for your lights and another for your fans and other equipment freshly installed will give you peace of mind and ensure that you’re running safe.  All electrical equipment should be mounted high up or outside of the room, as we all know electricity and water do not mix.  Keep electrics high and water low.

Also, another thing to consider if you are setting up a large, sophisticated room with lots of different powerful equipment, is having a dedicated consumer unit with different breakers and circuits for different pieces of equipment which will save a lot of hassle if things break down.  If a bad earth or faulty ballast or fan causes power to trip, it will only trip the breaker it’s running from, rather than the whole room, and you can easily isolate the faulty equipment and allow the rest of the room to keep running properly.  This is very important.

2. Never smoke tobacco or handle tobacco when working in your grow room.

Grow room, hydroponics

Always wash your hands or wear gloves when handling plants. Tobacco, unknown to most people carries a virus called TMV (tobacco mosaic virus) which transfers from the tobacco to your hands and then to the plants when you handle them.  It’s a very difficult problem to get rid of, and similar to a cold or flu, it weakens the immune system of the plant and will make it far more susceptible to other diseases and infections. General cleanliness in the grow room is of the utmost importance.

The idea of hydroponics and indoor cultivation, especially when growing consumable produce, is to keep clean and sterile.  Growers should keep clean and be very cautious of outside entities from cuttings, clothing, vents from outside, as well as any equipment entering the room from outside etc.  These are all points where potential contamination and outbreaks can occur. Keep everything clean always, and clean equipment and systems between crops.

3. Don’t overfeed.

Grow room, hydroponics

Never follow what it says on the bottle; plants can perform very well with basic nutrition used sparingly, providing the lighting and environmental conditions are optimal. The nutrients are not the main food source for plants, the light and CO2 available to them are their number one requirements. Overfeeding a plant will confuse it and cause many issues whereas under-feeding a plant will keep it keen and alert and ready for action!

There is no need to push nutrition really high and put in every additive under the sun. pH lockouts, salt build-ups, blockages in pipework, root disease, nutrient toxicity and deficiencies can all be avoided by keeping it basic and moderate and your plants will thrive! Most nutrient manufacturers recommend very strong feed regimes and a very wide range of additives.  Usually, about half of what the bottles recommend is more than enough, and the best bet is to always use an EC meter so you know how strong your feed is.

4. Never interrupt the dark period in flower.

Grow room, hydroponics

Plants require 12 hours of uninterrupted darkness in order to flower.  Going in your room when the lights are off is bad practice, but if you must, use green lights to check on things as green light is invisible to plants and will not affect the dark period.  It’s also important to check that equipment in your room does not have any light source at night.  Extension leads with a little orange light, controllers with a red blinking LED etc are all very bad news, and can cause the plants to revert from flowering or genetically mutate. Even just opening the door and allowing outside light to leak into the grow room during the dark period on a regular basis is enough to cause massive issues, and always check lighting timers are set correctly.  One pin left in the wrong position on a mechanical timer unknown to the grower will cause interruption to the photoperiod and catastrophe to the crop.

5. Never become a lazy grower.

grow room, hydroponics

If you want to be a successful grower, you must take it seriously.  It’s very important to keep on top of everything just mentioned in points 1 to 4 and on top of that, in general, you need to be enthusiastic about your plants and your whole operation. You can’t expect to get a good result if you barely give your grow room any attention.  You should be in there every day keeping an eye on everything from nutrition to pH, temperature, relative humidity, CO2 concentration, how your plants are looking, screening for contamination etc. There are so many variables in an indoor grow room to keep an eye on so if you slack off and give no attention to your grow, it will not be a successful one.  Love your grow room and love your plants and they will love you in return.  Always be aware of every aspect of your garden and reap the rewards.

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