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Monday August 5, 2019

By Abby Hutmacher


Though there are many companies and experienced marijuana growers who thrive on expensive equipment and extensive grow spaces, these are not requirements for growing healthy, potent cannabis plants. In fact, there are many budget-friendly ways to set up a cannabis grow that will still produce bountiful buds and very stony heads.

Cannabis Lighting on a Budget

By far, the most cost-effective grow light is the sun. Its powerful UV rays provide deep penetration (which encourages the growth of dense buds) and its seasonal photoperiod removes the need for timers to switch the grow phase from vegetation and flower. Furthermore, naturally occurring sunlight minimizes (or eliminates) the cost of electricity associated with maintaining a grow operation.

Of course, using the sun as your cannabis light source is best for those of us who actually experience an outdoor grow season. In regions that experience extensive cold seasons, greenhouses and cold frames can be an easy solution (albeit a bit of an investment at first).

For those with limited outdoor space, time, or start-up budgets, indoor LED lights are another budget-friendly lighting option. LED lights have dropped significantly in price over the last ten years, now running as low as $50 for some models. Not only that, but LEDs are also significantly cheaper to run and maintain than traditional HID lighting systems (and they don’t require a ballast to keep them from overworking an electrical source). LEDs also produce minimal heat (seriously, you can touch them even after they’ve been on all day) which reduces the need for cooling systems and nearly removes the risk of burnt leaves.

LED lights are a great affordable option for growers on a budget. photo credit

Despite their many benefits, LED lights do not offer the same level of light penetration that the sun does, which means that the buds may be a bit fluffier when grown under this light source. For this reason, many growers use LEDs as supplemental lighting alongside other light sources like HIDs (for indoor grow ops) or in greenhouses to extend outdoor grow seasons. However, advances in LED lighting mean they can now be used as stand-alone lighting systems – they are no longer only for secondary purposes.

Cheap Watering Tricks

When growing cannabis, there is no need for filtered or otherwise “special” water; tap water is more than sufficient for cannabis plants. For best results, though, we recommend letting tap water sit out for 24 hours so pH levels can settle, and the water temperature can balance out to a reasonable temperature.

However, there is an even better water source that’s both cheaper and more nutritious for plants: rainwater. That’s because rainwater forms around dust particles in the air, often dirt but in rural areas it might form around manure (i.e. fertilizer) which which is especially rich in nitrogen. Plus, because rainwater is free of chemical treatments like chlorine, the water can absorb deeper into the soil. And because chlorine blocks nutrient absorption, keeping it out of the watering cycle can boost nutrient uptake and encourage better plant growth.

Cheap Grow Mediums

Soil is the most common grow medium and also the most budget friendly. In-ground soil is obviously the cheapest option but will likely have to be amended with things like peat moss and compost. To avoid the risk of cross-contaminating an indoor grow, in-ground soil should not be used indoors. Better soil options for indoor grows include products like Fox Farm Soils or, for a more DIY approach, equal parts of peat moss, worm castings, and perlite.

Choose the right soil option for your needs, but try DIY if you can manage it.

Some hydroponic grow mediums, though a bit pricier to start, can be reused throughout multiple crops provided that they are sufficiently flushed and dried between uses. In fact, the entire hydroponic setup can be more budget friendly than soil grows thanks to its reduced water consumption and more efficient growth. Though hydroponic gardening takes a bit more practice – and a bit more pocket chance – it could be a better long-term solution to a budget cannabis grow.

Cannabis Ventilation Hacks

The grow environment of a cannabis plant affects its health and cannabinoid production and should therefore not be ignored – even when money is tight. Air should circulate through both intake and exhaust fans, and a carbon filter should be used to control the odor. Fortunately, you can pull all of this off for relatively cheap; a few strategically-placed $10 fans and a $20 DIY carbon filter is all you need.

The Best (Cheap) Sources for Cannabis Seeds and Clones

The cheapest cannabis seeds you can use are good ol’ bag seeds. If you have them, there isn’t much reason not to plant them unless you’re strapped for space and time (because you don’t know if bag seeds will be viable and female), but if that isn’t an option, you can always buy seeds online or from a dispensary for as low as $5 each.

Bag Seed
Planting a bag seed is one of the most cost effective methods to start a cannabis grow.

Don’t worry if that price seems high, though! If it grows into a strong plant (especially if it’s a female plant), you can take a clone from it to create a whole new plant with the exact same genetics. Cloning cannabis allows for the cultivation multiple generations of cannabis plants from a single, five-dollar seed.

Another option is to purchase a clone from a store or to take a cutting from a friend. Remember, though, to clean and quarantine any plant from an outside source by dipping them in a diluted pest solution, transplanting them into a more long-term grow container, then leaving them away from all other plants for about a week. This will give you enough time to monitor its health and remedy any concerns without contaminating a sanitary grow space.

Growing your own cannabis doesn’t have to be expensive. Aside from a few simple necessities, the setup is actually quite affordable. Best of all, once a solid system is in place, the expenses drop significantly. Happy growing!

What do you do to save on cannabis growing expenses? Tell us in the comments below.


Abby Hutmacher Abby Hutmacher

Abby is a writer and founder of Cannabis Content, a marketplace designed to connect cannabis writers and creatives with businesses in the industry. She has been a professional cannabis writer since 2014 and regularly contributes to publications such as PotGuide and M&F Talent. She is also the Content Director at Fortuna Hemp, America’s leading feminized hemp seed bank. Follow Abby on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.

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