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Cabinets, Nutes & Lighting

Nico Escondido

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Hello Nico, my name is Rick from Montreal, Canada. I want to grow my own herb, but I’m a beginner and I have chosen to grow using a hydroponic grow cabinet. Is this a good way to start? Also, what are the best nutrients for my plants? How do I apply those nutrients? LED vs. HPS light – what’s the best? Many thanks, Nico; love your work! – Charles R., Montreal, via NicosNuggets@hightimes.com

Hello, Rick. Thanks for reading and writing in!

For beginners, grow boxes can be a fun and easy way to get growing fast – if you have the space and money to purchase one. Many of today’s models come in a variety of sizes to fit spaces ranging from college dorm rooms to urban apartments to big suburban houses. Some models even come pre-fabricated to look inconspicuous enough to fit naturally into its surroundings.

The question you need to ask yourself is what you hope to achieve in terms of both quality and quantity, and then some of your questions become a lot easier to answer. For example, a hydroponic setup may garner a slightly higher yield than if you were to grow from potted soil containers, but you may achieve better quality if you were to use a nice soilless mixture that is peat- and sphagnum-based. There are always trade-offs when deciding which direction to go. The type of grow system you choose to use in your grow box will also greatly depend on the size of cabinet you purchase, as the larger units will be better suited for hydro systems that are generally larger and come with several parts such as reservoirs, pumps and irrigation lines.

The questions of quality and yield also apply to lighting and to nutrients used in your grow box. LEDs do provide some benefits for small, enclosed grows such as less heat omission and less power consumption. But these lamps will offer less spectrum and intensity than your traditional HID (high-intensity discharge) bulbs, thereby decreasing yield and quality significantly. Many newer LED companies claim to have full-spectrum light and better light output these days, but at that point they lose the benefits of lower power draw and low heat signatures, not to mention the size they would need to be in order to incorporate enough diodes to produce white light (full spectrum like the Sun) would be prohibitive for most grow cabinets. If you can, look for grow cabinets that can utilize a 250- or 400-watt HID bulb (MH, HPS, or interchangeable) and come with good exhaust fans and ventilation ports.

Nutrient programs are always the toughest situation for new growers to tackle. Many grow boxes come as plug-and-play units, complete with grow system, grow medium and nutrients. However, this does not mean you have to use their nutrients. Whether you are using a small hydro system or potted containers and hand watering, it is always best to use water-soluble organic (or veganic) nutrients. These types of nutrients are mild, so mistakes are felt less by the plants, yet they are also abundant in the essential minerals plants need. Make sure they are water soluble – especially if you are using hydroponics. Many nutrients, most notably synthetics nutes (which are all salt-based), can build up in reservoirs and clog irrigation lines and emitters. For more on organic nutrients check out the Vegamatrix or Fox Farm lines. Best of luck, Rick, and send us some photos of your grow once it’s up and running!

Thanks for reading everyone and remember: Grow… And help the world grow, too!

Got questions? Email ’em over to Nico at NicosNuggets@hightimes.com and be sure to put “Nico’s Nuggets” in the subject line!

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