Nico’s Nuggets: Grow Box vs. Grow Tent

The inside flower chamber of a BCNL grow box.

Hello! I’m looking to grow and originally I was either going to purchase a tent or grow box from BC Northernlights. Unfortunately, the guy going half with me is now starting to back out due to the pricing. I do not have much money by myself (looking to spend about $500- $600 at the max), and I am trying to find a way to grow by myself in a small area. I am unsure whether I should buy something like a tent or a box that comes with everything (quality ones are out of my price range), or if I should purchase the materials individually and put it together. Controlling the smell is a big factor. I am inexperienced at growing, but I have been reading for the past year about the process, and I have worked with soil and smaller plants before. Could you offer any advice please? Thank you for your time and have a great day.
— PoeticSoul via

Hello my poetic friend! Thank you for reading and writing in with a great question geared toward beginner growers. Let me begin by commending you on your choice to grow your own! There is nothing quite like the experience—and the ensuing rewards—of growing your own cannabis, this much I can promise you.

As far as choosing between an indoor grow tent or an all-in-one, turn-key solution such as a pre-fabricated grow box, you have already centered in on the primary consideration: cost. However, besides your budget, there are a few other key aspects to consider, so let’s rundown the basic elements associated with each option.

Grow boxes, such as those you mentioned from BC Northern Lights, are excellent starter kits for new growers because they come ready to use right out of the box (or crate, as some of these items ship already assembled and can be quite large and cumbersome in terms of delivery, something that is important to consider if you plan to operate a stealth grow in a non-legal climate).

The benefit here is obviously that you don’t need to keep running out to a garden supply store to pick-up this item or that item since everything you need usually comes with the grow box package. These boxes (or closets, or cabinets, depending on the size you choose to purchase) will come with separated chambers for varying stages of plant development, the necessary lighting for each phase, the automated (programmable) timers for the lighting, a simple irrigation system, nutrients, grow mediums, filters, fans and pumps. Most of these units are literally designed to insert plants, plug into an outlet, and you are off and running with minimal set-up. So what is the downside? The downside for these units is usually the price tag (grow box units can run from anywhere between $1,500 and $3,500, with BCNL units running towards the higher end of the spectrum).

Grow boxes generally come with everything you need to get growing right away, including hydroponic irrigation systems.
Grow boxes generally come with everything you need to get growing right away, including hydroponic irrigation systems.

On the flip side, there are the indoor grow tents for the more motivated, do-it-yourself types out there. While the downside here is having to purchase all of your grow equipment in a more piece-meal fashion, many growers not only view this as fun (i.e., a true hobby), but also a valuable learning experience. I would second the latter sentiment as well, and submit that shopping around for various grow system components is a great way to really gain knowledge about grow technology and the products available in the market today. That said, I am also confident that the savvy shopper can likely find grow tent packages that might also encompass most of the necessary equipment to get up and growing right away. However, this would certainly increase the cost of this set-up, removing it’s possible cost effective advantages over a turn-key grow box.

With a 2’ x 4’ grow tent costing around $120 and a square 4’ x 4’ nearing $200, these tents are quite affordable. (It should also be noted that lower-quality versions of these items are available from places such as Wal-Mart or Home Depot for as little as $60 for a 2’ x 4’.) When you factor in the additional basic equipment needed such as a lamp, containers and grow medium, a timer and exhaust fan, and some nutrients, the total price tag for a tent set-up begins to rise significantly. Still, a new grower can be in a tent and growing for around $600, which is still not bad compared to a grow box with a starting price point at least twice that.

Indoor grow tents afford excellent grow opportunities for the DIY grower.
Indoor grow tents afford excellent grow opportunities for the DIY grower.

Aside from price, there are a few other important considerations. To start, grow boxes tend to be smaller. Whereas a tent can get as big as 20’ x 10’—and beyond—grow boxes generally max out at a 4’ x 6’ footprint. This is important because it greatly affects the environment of your garden. Smaller spaces get hotter than larger spaces, and while you can deploy various pieces of equipment to combat heat, many grow boxes end up recommending LED lamps for the grow boxes. This would be considered a drawback for any serious grower, as LED lamps still have not reached the effectiveness of HID (high-intensity discharge) lamps, such as an HPS (high-pressure sodium).

The inside flower chamber of a BCNL grow box.
The inside flower chamber of a BCNL grow box.

Additionally, grow boxes tend to lock you into a particular type of hydroponic system that fits the space constraints of the box. This is not necessarily a negative, but something to consider if you were hoping to use say a flood-and-drain table rather than a top-feed system ,or were simply planning to hand-water your first crop rather than automate your system. Grow boxes are largely designed for compact spaces and as such, there is specific gear and system types that are optimal. Alternatively, grow tents are designed for various spaces and offer flexibility in equipment and grow systems.

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

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Don’t miss the previous Nico’s Nuggets: Beginner Harvest Tips for the Fall Season

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