This is for those of us with big dreams and small apartments.
Truthfully, cannabis doesn’t require an evenly lit 600 square meter grow space to thrive. If you’re living in a confined area but still want to grow your own medicine, the good news is that cannabis is one very adaptable plant. When given the right amount of light and nutrition, growing cannabis is possible in a wide variety of small spaces, including inside that unused closet in the spare bedroom.
Choosing the Right Grow Space
In small apartments or patios where real estate is limited, there are three primary options available to home growers:
Grow tents are the most common option for people growing in apartments. These often start out as small at 3’x3’x6′ feet and extend upward in size from there. Specially designed for growing, these come equipped with vents, reflective walls, and internal hooks for hanging grow lights.
Grow tents are well-priced and have the additional advantage of insulating the grow from the rest of the house—something that helps control odor and reduce humidity damage.
Grow boxes are another valid option for those bound in a small apartment. As an all-in-one solution, these offer a self-contained grow space that comes equipped with lighting, ventilation, and odor control. And what’s more, a stealth design won’t attract unwanted attention.
Grow Cannabis in the Closet
Finally, for those who want to save on costs, then closets are also a pretty viable option. By covering the floor and walls with reflective lining, these can make for an effective grow room. The downsides are that this require creative solutions for odor, temperature, and humidity control. This option is by no means limited to a closet, either. The same techniques apply to a large cabinet or armoire with no internal shelves.
Choose the Right Chemovar for Your Space
Once you’ve selected a space, the next challenge is to choose from the vast array of available genetics. Varieties of cannabis grow very differently, and while they may provide potent medicine, those ten-foot-high landrace sativas aren’t so well suited to a bachelor suite.
As a rule of thumb, indica plants tend to grow shorter, while sativa shoot for the ceiling. But, choosing the right chemovar entails a lot more than blindly trusting the breeder.
Many modern cannabis chemovars have almost entirely deviated from their genetic lineages extending back to the indica and sativa varieties. As a result, there’s no telling based on the name just how bushy or tall a plant will grow.
While growers and dispensaries may classify hybrids as sativa- or indica-dominant, this tells us little about the physical form the plant will take while growing. This means that it’s vital to research the chemovar of choice before planting. If you have the option, look up your specific chemovar.
Overall, in tight indoor spaces, the characteristics of pure indica varieties are often the best choice. Their tendency to grow short and stocky means they utilize the available space much more effectively than the taller-growing sativa plants that evolved in warm climates. Even better, pick an autoflower.
The Potential of Autoflowering Varieties in Limited Grow Space
Autoflowering varieties of cannabis come with two important advantages for small-space growers. Firstly, and as their name suggests, these will flower based on time rather than light cycles. This means they are much more forgiving in terms of lighting and are often the best choice for those with a humble home grow without an expensive lighting set up.
Secondly, autoflowering varieties incorporate the genetics of a cannabis subspecies known as Cannabis ruderalis. This variety heralds from Eastern Europe, Russia, and Central Asia, where harsher climatic conditions meant that ruderalis genetics evolved to get to flower quickly and efficiently. Their tendency to stay squat and use the available space is of great benefit in confined spaces.
One thing to bear in mind is that autoflowering varieties don’t offer the same potency as other chemovars, nor the yield.
Vertical Gardening of Cannabis
For those confined within the four walls of a small apartment or with minimal patio space, vertical gardening may be an option.
Vertical gardening is the act of expanding the grow space vertically to fit more plants into a confined area. Most growers achieve this by stacking racks, one above the other, with a set of LED lights beneath each one.
While vertical gardening may seem like a no-brainer, it makes climate control a little more difficult. Growers may find they have to measure temperature and humidity in several different parts of the grow space, and they may also have to get inventive with an air circulation system. While more plants generally lead to larger harvests, the risk of losing some of these to pests or mold is greater.
Odor Control When Growing Cannabis in Small Spaces
Sadly, not everyone has easy-going neighbors and landlords. As a result, creativity is called for when it comes to containing the inevitable odors associated with growing cannabis in small spaces.
Carbon filters are the best choice by far when it comes to dealing with the inevitable odor. To ensure these function optimally, the grow area must be inside an airtight confined space, such as a grow tent.
Carbon filters work by binding the molecules responsible for the odor with activated carbon. And by placing these before an exhaust fan and drawing the air out through, odor is contained and whisked away. A good carbon filter will typically perform for up to two years before requiring a replacement.
The Drawbacks of Growing Cannabis in Small Spaces
While these techniques offer patients a way to grow a small amount of their own medicine, such confined spaces also come with some notable drawbacks.
Light Burning of Cannabis Plants
The placement of lights is of utmost importance in a small cannabis grow. With limited space available, some growers make the mistake of placing the lights too close to the canopy.
In such instances, the plant material may burn, and might literally go up in smoke long before harvest time.
To help avoid such issues, LED lights are by far the best option. LED lights don’t emit the high levels of heat associated with other lighting solutions, but these still supply the all-important full spectrum of wavelengths required for optimal growth.
While the possibility of burning plants always exists, LED lights provide growers with much more leeway. With the extra usable vertical space permitted by LED lights, plants have extra room to grow, something that often helps improve yield in already confined spaces.
Training Cannabis Plants
With a lack of space, there’s also much less room to properly train the plants. Training plants is an essential process for those chasing high yields. The idea is to prevent the plant from trying to shoot upwards. Training forces cannabis to grow out horizontally and make better use of the light, thereby increasing the number of buds.
In small grows, this horizontal real estate is often at a premium. However, it shouldn’t prevent growers from attempting to train their plants. Regardless of the grow size, some form of training will always help the plant yield better.
Another technique involves selective defoliation where growers trim bud sites that grow low down on the plant where the light can’t reach. Removing such sites ensures that the plant can focus its energy towards the bud sites higher up that bathe in more abundant light.
Scrogging (“Screen-of-green-ing”) is also another common practice that may be worthwhile for those with more than a couple of plants. It involves placing a trellis net with large holes over the grow area to help ensure an even canopy. The method forces the plants to spread out horizontally to reach the light.
Remember: Cannabis is a Weed
As a weed, cannabis is a remarkably adaptive plant. It has the ability to grow in a wide variety of environments as long as its essential needs are met. That means, for those with a desire to grow their own medicine, growing cannabis in small spaces doesn’t have to end the dream.