In Colorado and Washington State, lawmakers have just approved a complex set of rules for cultivating fully state-licensed marijuana on a commercial scale. And in just a few short months, stores will open to start selling all of that wonderful produce to any adult (21 and over) in those states from anywhere in the world, with nothing more than proof-of-age ID required to score your stash.
So it may be hard to believe, but after a century of living in the shadows, the global cannabis community is finally coming out of our closets. Just don’t expect us to stop growing in them!
Someday, hopefully, we’ll all be able to cultivate this most wonderful herb in backyards and on front porches across the world -- but for the time being, the vast majority of ganja growers need to keep their gardens a secret. And what better place to hide your love away than in a private closet with a locking door that only you have access to?
Though you can’t expect to yield nearly as much in a closet as you can in a spare bedroom, a space as small as 1' x 1' x 3' -- if well designed and expertly tended -- can still produce more than enough pot to keep you and a friend fully supplied, with a little extra to set aside for a rainy day.
So how do you get started? By planning before you plant. The first step is finding a suitable space: something that’s big enough and secure enough to suit your needs. Remember, raising your first crop from seed or clone to harvest will take months, so you have to be sure that nobody else will stumble across your garden in that time. Also, look for places adjacent to the grow space where you can position as much of your electrical and water controls as possible. They produce a lot of heat that isn’t good for your plants, and whatever space you save in the closet will mean that much more room to grow.
Finally, you must figure out exactly how you’re going to assemble and arrange all the necessary lights, fans, filters, containers, grow medium and nutrients required to keep your crop healthy. Don’t start buying or borrowing costly equipment until you’ve got everything worked out, as that can lead to costly missteps. Also, if your total closet area is at least six feet tall, you’ll be able to section it off, with one-third of the space on top devoted to vegetative growth, mother plants and cloning, and the large space below set aside for flowering. This is the same “perpetual harvest” concept employed in most growrooms, only compacted down to a tiny space.
Once you’ve decided on the basics, begin your work by completely clearing out the grow space you’ve chosen and giving it an incredibly thorough cleaning. Scrub the walls, floor and ceiling with a mild bleach-and-water solution using brand-new mops and sponges. Then cover every visible surface using flat white paint, which will reflect as much light as possible onto your plants and promote vigorous photosynthesis. To prevent bright lights, steady hums and skunky aromas from giving away your garden, add buffers to your fans to keep them from vibrating, plug or cover any light leaks escaping through cracks in the door, and install a carbon filter in your filtration system that cleans the air as it gets sucked out of the closet. Adding a grow tent to the inside of the closet can also help keep in light, sound and smell, adding another layer of protection without much additional cost or effort.
The Right Light
When it comes to high-intensity discharge (HID) lighting in your closet garden, less is definitely more. So don’t listen to that friend who’s trying to sell you his old 1,000-watt bulb because “going big is the only way to grow real bud”: Those 1,000-watters were designed for much larger spaces (where they can be hung farther away from the plants) with significantly more air circulation. Try to cram one into your closet grow, and the incredibly intense light and heat will literally fry your bud.
Instead, outfit your flowering chamber with a more modest 250- to 600-watt high-pressure sodium (HPS) light, with an even smaller 150- to 250-watt metal halide (MH) light on top for the vegetative plants. Fluorescents and LED lights will also work, with less heat, energy use, noise and headaches, though they may not produce optimal yields. Still, LEDs in particular have come a long way in recent years and offer a great alternative for those concerned about high energy bills or their bud’s carbon footprint.
Heat can build up quickly in a small space, with disastrous results for your plants. That’s why proper circulation and ventilation are especially important in a closet grow. You’ll need to install both intake fans that draw fresh CO2-rich air into the closet, and exhaust fans that remove old, spent air once the plants have pulled what they need from it. Inline fans are small, quiet and simple to attach to a carbon filter, making them ideal choices for closets. For additional CO2, special bucket kits will boost your growroom’s carbon mightily without all the heat, cost, hassle and potential danger of running a CO2 tank (which would just be overkill in a closet anyway).
Soil vs. Hydro
For beginners, good old high-quality potting soil (or a soilless mix) provides the easiest grow medium to get up and running. Soil gardens are also a lot more forgiving if and when problems arise. Meanwhile, more advanced growers, or those who enjoy a technical challenge, will want to investigate various hydroponic or even aeroponic alternatives that, when properly calibrated and carefully maintained, can offer yields superior to soil. No matter how you choose to grow, however, don’t crowd your plants: packing in too many small containers will impede root development and stunt growth. A good rule of thumb is to use at least a one-gallon container for vegetative plants and then transplant them into one that’s got one-gallon of grow space for every week of vegetative growth when you move them into the flowering chamber.
Also, you’ll need to protect everything below your garden by sealing up the bottom six inches (or more) of the closet and making sure it’s watertight. Otherwise, leaks can escape underneath the door and puddle up outside -- or even drip down to the floor below. Use a staple gun to cover everything with thick plastic, then add rubber floor mats that can be easily removed, cleaned and replaced between harvests.
Your Main Strain
With any ganja garden, when selecting a strain to grow, your primary concern should be sourcing some top-grade genetics that you really want to smoke. After all, if you’re going to go through all the time, expense and effort, harvesting ounce after ounce of your favorite variety should be the reward. Starting from seed brings extra vitality, but it’s also a lot more work to sex your plants, and the time that takes slows down your harvest cycle. Using clones instead ensures that all of your plants are female and eliminates up to a week of vegetative-growth time.
In a closet grow, you’ll also want to focus on strains bred to do well indoors -- especially those that grow short and stocky, with quick flowering times. This mostly means finding a bushy indica rather than a stretchy sativa. There are also certain auto-flowering strains that have been specially bred to thrive in a closet, such as Lowryder, Moby Dick and Roadrunner. And no matter which strain you decide on, always remember that the level of thought and care you put into the garden will determine success a lot more than the kind of kind you choose to grow!