Growing weed indoors can be a lot of fun. It’s a chance to express your green thumb (or grow one), a chance to produce more pot than you could ever use before it goes bad, and the chance to learn oodles more about your all-time favorite plant.

growing_marijuana_plantsBut marijuana cultivation requires a sizeable investment, at least if you plan to grow good cannabis. You have to have the things you need, after all. But what does a real grow entail? What tools do you need? How much does it cost?

Ideally, your costs should run no more than about $400 or $500. The most expensive part of the setup is the grow light, though there are (relatively) cheap alternatives. If you want an enclosed environment where everything is self-contained – a “grow box” – you could easily spend another $200.

Grow lights and ventilation are the two central problems when it comes to cultivation, and the two most expensive.

A good bulb generates red light and green light and, ideally, blue light. Most serious growers use HPS HID bulbs, high-powered lights that generate hundreds of watts. If you go this route, buy a light that rates at least 400 watts. Six hundred is better. This kind of bulb runs about $200-$250.

You’ll have to put the light above your plants, so you’ll also need a stand or chains to hang it from the ceiling.

Your lamp will be on 24/7 during the so-called “vegetative” growth period, and that much light eats an awful lot of power. If your local electric company is paying attention, a spike in energy could even give you away. But a small grow shouldn’t pose much risk.

Alternatively, you could use an LED light. These are still rather expensive, and can cost well over $100. But that’s still less than a high-wattage bulb. Also, LED uses up much less electricity.

LED Grow Light

In addition to your light, you’ll need an exhaust fan to expel hot air. And you’ll need ducts that lead to a hole you’ll cut in the room’s ceiling. A portable grow box could be much easier, though it’s an open question whether it would save or cost you money.

You’ll also need soil. You should use loam, preferably nutrient-free. Most soils contain a nutrient balance, but you’ll be adding liquid nutrients as you grow your plant. Expect to pay less than $10 for the soil. Nutrients can be very expensive, but if you stick to basics, you can do it for less than $30 per month.

If you don’t have a garden trowel, get one at a gardening shop, hardware store, or retail box store, such as Target. They cost about $5. Fertilizer is also necessary and runs about $10 a bag.

You can’t start your indoor garden without soil pots. Get pots between 1.5 and three gallons each. Make sure they have holes in the bottom and come with dishes to catch excess water. This should cost you a few dollars at most.

Grow Box
Grow box

Before your plant starts to grow, you’ll want to paper every surface in your grow room with reflective Mylar material. This can add at least another $30 to $50. If you use a grow box, it will come lined with Mylar.

You may want a pH meter to test the acidity of the soil. And you may want to use special timers to manage the light cycles and exhaust fans. Finally, you should have the tools necessary to alter your grow room, hang your light, and install your ventilation.

All told, a bare-bones grow operation, with one or two plants, should cost at least $400, more likely around $500 or so. If you want to spring for all the bells and whistles, you could easily spend $1,000. But you can cut back on the cost by getting creative. You’ll pay more, for example, if you buy a pre-built grow box, as opposed to building your own ventilation and lighting setup.

Buy second-hand items off eBay or Amazon when possible. Avoid complex organic or hydroponic systems unless you know what you’re doing. And look for cheap LED lights, if you can find any, to save on electricity.

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