Basic Cannabis Growing Setups for Cultivators With Tight Budgets
Many home growers wonder, “Can I grow cannabis on a tight budget?” The simple answer is yes. Although there is a large industry built upon expensive grow equipment, cannabis can be produced with simple systems for less money than you might think. You can, of course, purchase additional tools and equipment to improve your garden, but many of these are not required.
Cannabis requires sunlight, nutrients, water, and air to grow. These four essentials are readily available for free or at relatively low costs. Climate control equipment, lights, and electricity make indoor growing vastly more expensive than growing outdoors, where cannabis can grow freely under the sun. However, because not everyone can grow cannabis outdoors for legal or climate reasons, we’ll share budget-friendly tips for both indoor and outdoor setups.
Selecting Quality Cannabis Genetics
To a first-time grower or a tight-budget cultivator, cannabis seeds and clones may seem costly, but they’re expensive for good reason. Quality genetics take years to develop and stabilize. You won’t grow quality cannabis without quality seeds or starts. Do some research and find seeds that match your budget and also give you an end product you’re excited about.
A Low-Cost Indoor Cannabis Garden
To grow on a budget indoors, you must keep it simple. The space you grow in should be small; this means using a 400- or 600-watt light in a 3’x3’ to 4’x4’ space.
What You’ll Need:
- Lights (bulbs and hood): $200-$400
- Soil: $60
- Carbon air filter and high-velocity fan: $100
- Fan (oscillating): $40
- 6-inch fan ducting: $20
- Climate monitor: $20
- Light timer: $20
- Nutrients: $50-$100
Approximate Total Cost: $510-$780
Your grow room should be thoroughly cleaned and properly sealed off. Mount a few simple oscillating fans directed at the plants as well as a high-velocity fan to pull air through the light hood and into your carbon air filter. Once your fans and your lights are set up, transplant your starts into pots filled with a quality soil blend. From this point, simply water your plants as needed, control the light cycle, and feed your plants intermittently and soon you’ll have healthy plants to harvest.
The most important thing to consider as an indoor budget cultivator is your availability to monitor the garden to make sure the plants are healthy. Check in on them multiple times a day to water, prune, and trellis as needed.
To get an idea of the specific costs associated with growing indoors, check out this article which outlines some price breakdowns.
A Low-Cost Outdoor Cannabis Garden
Outdoor farming is where the budget grower prevails. Pending you live in a climate where cannabis can be grown outdoors, you’ll be able to produce quality buds for next to nothing. If your climate is not ideal, there are still options available to aspiring outdoor budget growers.
What You’ll Need:
- Soil: $100
- Water: cost varies
- Nutrients: $100
- Garden stakes/trellising: $50
Approximate Total Cost: $250 or less
Because your costs will be minimal, don’t skimp on quality soil. Do your research and talk to grow supply stores in your region to find a product that will help keep your plants growing strong. Alternatively, you can “build” low-cost soil by adding amendments, which can save you money while letting you customize a blend for your garden specifically.
You’ll also need to provide an adequate water supply to keep your plants happy. The cheapest way to water your plants is by hose, while a more expensive method involves installing a drip system.
Depending on your soil quality, you may need to introduce additional nutrients for a larger, healthier yield. As the buds gain weight, you may also need to invest in garden stakes and trellising to support the branches.
Finally, if your climate isn’t ideal for cannabis, you can still successfully grow outdoors. Building a simple hoop house allows you to increase the temperature, reduce the climate impacts, control the length of the season, and still produce quality buds for a low cost. Hoop houses are the cheapest form of greenhouses, and they’re generally built with 2x4s, PVC, and plastic tarp, allowing you to customize the shape and size to fit your needs. Just be attentive to the temperature in your hoop house by “burping” (i.e. opening up the sides) it as needed and by installing high-velocity fans to keep fresh air moving through the enclosed space.
Growing cannabis can be a relaxing and simple process that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. After cultivating on a budget, you’ll discover whether growing cannabis is simply a hobby or a skill worth investing in more advanced tools and systems.
What are the bare minimum requirements for growing healthy cannabis? Find out how to rig a low-cost, basic cannabis garden for cultivating cannabis on a budget.
Budget Buds: Grow Weed Indoors for Less Than $200!
In states such as Oregon and Colorado, the cost of cannabis is decreasing as the enormous supply outstrips demand. We have heard of several locations selling marijuana for less than $100 an ounce. Moreover, it is reasonable, mid-grade weed. However, not everyone lives close to a dispensary that offers the herb at an affordable price. For most people, they are looking at $250+ per ounce.
If you are a casual user, an ounce will probably last a considerable period. Those who use cannabis regularly and medical patients may require significantly more. Suddenly, they are facing a bill of hundreds of dollars every month. There is great news if you live in a state where it is legal to cultivate at home. The price of growing marijuana has dropped significantly. Instead of paying a grand or more to get started, you can get a few ounces per harvest at the cost of below $200. This guide shows you how.
Things You Need When Growing Marijuana Indoors
A basic setup includes:
- Grow light
- Growing medium
- Plant containers
- A small space to grow your cannabis
Not Strictly ‘Essential’
- A fan for air circulation*
- Thermostat/hygrometer combination
- A timer for your lights
*Plenty of growers would disagree and say a fan is essential.
You could also invest in a small grow tent or reflective walls. However, this additional equipment will likely take you over the $200. Let’s go through each aspect of the above to get a ‘ballpark’ estimate.
One of the biggest mistakes new cannabis growers make is to try and save a few bucks when buying seeds. This is the one area you can’t cut corners with. It is also needless because you can get decent quality seeds for a reasonable price in any case. Look for autoflowering genetics because they keep the total grow time to below ten weeks from seed to harvest (less than eight in some cases.)
You will save money on electricity and nutrients for starters due to the short 2-3-week vegetative stage. Also, the standard of autos has increased significantly in recent years. Autos are also compact and require minimal space to grow. There are lots of online stores that sell 3 seeds for $29 or 5 seeds for $49. Search a little more, and you’re sure to find even better deals.
Incidentally, you should learn how to clone plants. This process means that you can use clippings of your existing plants to grow new ones. You no longer need to buy seeds, unless you want to try a new strain.
Total Cost – $29
This is another aspect of growing that it pays to invest in. Experienced cultivators know that the more powerful the light, the greater the yield, up to a point. If you want to save on electricity, LED lighting is your best option. These grow lights also provide a fuller light spectrum to help your plants grow. There are also HPS and HID light options that won’t break the bank.
When choosing lighting, you must also consider the size of your grow space. As a general rule of thumb, you should have four square feet per plant. If you buy three seeds, that means you need 12 square feet of space. You probably won’t require as much space if you are growing autos, however.
Another ‘tried and trusted,’ if vague, calculation is to assume you can produce a gram of marijuana per watt of light. Some autos yield up to 500 grams per square meter, which equates to 10.76 square feet. In any case, you can find 600W HPS lights for around $86 online. If money is tight, you can drop to $70 for a 150W light, though it doesn’t provide the same value. Indeed, you will get perhaps 4-5 ounces with the 150W light but 20+ with a 600W option, or 10+ if you pay for a 300W light.
We have also spotted several LED lights, from 300W to 600W, for under $100.
Total Cost – $89
Pots for the Plants
You will require different-sized pots for your plants as they grow. In general, autos won’t need more than a 1.5 – 2.5-gallon pot when they reach maturity. If you grow ‘regular’ plants, you may want 5-gallon pots or even larger when they are flowering. You can find individual pots for as little as $0.50. Therefore, you don’t need to spend more than a few bucks.
Total Cost – $5
You must purchase a high-quality organic potting mix. Fortunately, standard garden-variety soil with added nutrients is more than enough. In general, two quarts is enough per one-gallon pot. You should find up to 16 quarts for approximately $20. This is ample soil for three x 2.5-gallon pots, and plenty for our small grow.
Total Cost – $20
It is debatable whether you need to spend any money on nutrients if you already have a high-quality organic potting mix! However, if your plants show any nutrient deficiency, you may regret not having a back-up plan. You will find plenty of options online from brands such as Dyna-Gro. An 8-ounce container is sufficient and relatively cheap.
Total Cost – $10-$20
Though these are not ‘essential,’ the following can help you enjoy a successful harvest:
- A fan
- A timer
Air circulation is essential, no matter how small your crop is. As your lights are continually releasing heat, the temperature of the room is likely to rise. Also, your plants transpire daily. Therefore, it is essential to ensure fresh air is continuously flowing in the room. If you are stuck for cash, you can find cheap second-hand intake and exhaust fans. It is also possible to create a DIY carbon filter to mask the smell of cannabis.
The thermostat/hygrometer combination measures heat and humidity. If you allow the temperature and moisture to go out of their ideal ranges, your plants could experience problems. The timer is necessary to control the lighting in your room. It enables you to ‘set and forget.’
Total Cost – $40
Overall Total Cost – $193-$203
The above is a rough estimate, and you may find even better deals. Conversely, you may live somewhere that doesn’t provide these offers. In any case, growing cannabis for under $200 is theoretically possible. However, you also have to consider electricity costs. It is possible to ‘get away with’ no more than an extra $10-15 per month. For a two-month autoflowering crop, that’s a maximum of $30. It may prove significantly cheaper, depending on the type of lighting used and the deal you have with your utility company.
You may also elect to purchase a pH meter, and reflective walls or a grow tent if you have a little extra money to spend. The pH meter ensures that your flowers remain in the 5.8-6.5 range that is suitable for most cannabis strains. You can create ‘reflective walls’ using sheets of mylar or even by painting your walls white!
Finding a Space to Grow Your Cannabis Indoors
Those willing to spend more money may decide to invest in a grow tent. It is a convenient location that enables you to keep the crop under control. When choosing a tent, you must also take into account the likely final height of the plants. There is a wide selection of autoflowering strains that remain below three feet in height. Examples include Rhino Ryder, Fastberry, and Grapefruit.
This means you need 4 x 3 x 3 feet of space or 36 cubic feet in total. Yet when growing autoflowering plants, you only need enough space for three x 2.5-gallon pots. As a result, you don’t require four square feet per pot, after all! There are numerous grow tents easily capable of fitting more than three auto plants, and they cost around $60.
Otherwise, you’ll need to be creative when finding a place to grow. In theory, you can cultivate your plants in any location that enables you to hang the grow lights. You also require access to air and fresh water. Therefore, you can put your plants in one of the following places:
- Spare bathroom
- Spare room
We have read about some great innovations when it comes to finding a suitable spot. No matter where you choose, make sure you have a means of measuring the temperature and humidity.
It’s Time to Grow!
Believe it or not, once you have all the necessary equipment setup, the process of growing cannabis isn’t that challenging. As long as you are prepared to check your crop regularly for signs of trouble, you shouldn’t have many problems. If you see that something is amiss, you can always check online for troubleshooting guides. Check out our beginner’s guide to growing cannabis indoors for more information.
If you have a grow tent, it is time to follow the setup instructions. Hang your grow light and fill your plants with the soil. We recommend switching on the lights up to 24 hours before seed germination. Keep the temperature between 70 – 85-degrees Fahrenheit during the day. The humidity level should be lowered slightly as the plant gets older. Begin with 60-70% and gradually reduce it.
Here is a quick outline of what to expect when you grow marijuana:
- Germination: It is wise to grow one extra seed in case there is a dud. If you buy three seeds, it is okay if only two of them make it to the vegetative stage. We have a guide on how to germinate seeds that’s worth reading.
- Vegetative Stage: One of the many great things about autos is that the vegetative stage is 2-3 weeks. At this point, make sure you water your plants regularly and add some nutrients if necessary. When in doubt, give your crop half the recommended nutrient dose as stated on the package. If you have a little growing experience, you may want to try a plant training method to boost yields.
- Flowering Stage: Autos begin flowering within a few weeks of germination. Otherwise, you need to switch the lighting to a 12/12 cycle. You can reduce the level of nutrients and monitor your crop closely. When your plants begin blooming, make sure the plants are only growing white hairs at their joints. It proves that the plants are female and creating buds. If you spot bunches of little balls and no hairs, it means you have a male plant. Remove from the room before it pollinates the females!
- Harvest Time: When at least 70% of the pistils begin turning a dark color and start curling in, you can get ready to harvest. You will get more accurate results by using a magnifying glass and checking the trichomes. These glittering beauties turn cloudy at the point of the buds reaching the greatest potency level.
- Dry & Cure: Hang the buds up to dry for a few days, and cure them in mason jars. You can read this guide to drying and curing cannabis buds for more information.
Final Thoughts on Growing Budget Buds
It doesn’t cost a small fortune to get started. Indeed, you can grow a handful of plants for under $200. The size of your yield depends on a myriad of factors. First of all, genetics plays a significant role. An Afghan auto strain, for example, could yield up to 17 ounces of bud per square meter.
However, this will only happen if you spend extra on high-quality lighting and have enough space for the plants to grow. You must also embrace ‘training techniques’ to maximize yield and potency. If you are intent on producing a crop for under $200, likely, the yield will not exceed 4-5 ounces, and that is if you have some experience. Even so, most users would suggest that $40-50 an ounce is a good deal!
Once you have a few grows under your belt, you can perhaps save extra cash to try and cultivate a larger crop. Plenty of cannabis growers are capable of producing 50+ ounces, though the cost of their setup is many times higher than your budget attempt!
Growing cannabis indoors doesn't need to cost a fortune. In fact, you could do it for under $200! Learn how in our complete guide.