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Insects in Grow Rooms

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Go ahead and look around online and you can see for yourself that there’s loads of articles and videos written and produced to tell you how to battle insects. Look all you want though, and there are very few if any information products to teach you how to avoid the problem altogether. So then what’s the deal here?

If you look a little deeper beyond the pictures and wording in the vast majority of these types of ‘easy solution’ articles and videos you’ll see that a good majority are connected with some type of product. Something that they want you to buy, or perhaps a website that they want to direct you to that in turn has something that they’re going to try to sell you.

Then of course you have your fair share of ‘know-it-alls’. These would be the folks who really do have the best intentions – even if they don’t have the best information to offer you. People who are probably still dealing with insect problems and have developed or discovered their own methods that work to get them through their project, even if it isn’t near all it could be.

So to start off here, the first thing you need to know is that when people are talking about the threat of insects to grow room what they’re really talking about is spider mites and white flies. Yes there are others such as aphids but if you have aphids in there you also have spider mites and white flies and those are the guys who really do the damage.

The reason is that white flies and spider mites primarily feed off the young leaf shoots. In fact the younger the better, so just as soon as they make their appearance all it takes is a couple of them on them to suck the life force out. They’re tiny and hard to detect too, so you can have a real problem for some time before you realize that you even have a problem.

Insecticides, either natural chemical are out of the question too because of the fact that you’re going to be smoking the stuff when it’s all said and done. Besides even if you use the most powerful chemical insecticide available you’ll never get them all, so they’ll be right back just as soon as what ever it is that you sprayed on them wears off.

Then there are the folks out there now selling things like ladybugs. Turn the little critters loose in your grow room and you can have them crawling around munching on all the bad bugs, and you’ll also have new cute little friends to look at. All very nice. Nice that is other then for a few minor details that they leave out.

First of all they don’t tell you that ladybugs cost money, and you have to keep buying them. If they don’t have something to eat they’re going to die, so you need to have a steady supply of white flies, spider mites and aphids. So in essence your room needs to become a ‘little bug farm’ of sorts for this natural system to work right and don’t forget that at the bottom of the food chain is your plants to feed that bug farm.

This is why if you talk to any professional grower who has dealt first-hand with an insect infestation they’ll tell you that the only real ‘permanent solution’ is to jerk all the plants out out and start all over again. That the real end goal is to have a room that’s completely devoid any type of insects and it is possible because people do it all the time. The key operative word here though, is “prevention”.

Prevention because like it or not, all the little bugs live around the outside of your home or apartment. They’re in the landscaping, on your lawn, and certainly in any nursery where you might buy products and materials that you’ll bring into your grow room. So prevention means creating ‘a barrier’ both literally and figuratively to stop any bugs at your door.

Stage #1: Room Preparation
The first series of steps begins before you even set up your grow room. Strip the room bare and then go along the bottom of the walls were they meet the floor and blast a good dose of insecticide up in under the floor plate. Then do the rest of the room as well then leave and close the door so it effectively becomes a gas chamber for anything living in there.

Then the next step, if you grow room is on the ground floor, is to seal off the area underneath the floor plate of the wall to cut off any bugs access between the inside and outside of your home. Go and look outside, and chances are you’ll find some type of landscaping or foliage that’s has insects on it, and the little passageway underneath the sole plate on any exterior walls provides a direct passageway through.

So blast it well with insecticide and follow-up with a good bead of expanding polyurethane foam or a thorough caulk job. This is about the best that you can do there, but it still won’t be enough. This is because you then I have to go outside and spray any landscaping or shrubbery that’s up against your home with insecticide.

Now some folks, and you have may be one of them, might have some reservations about using insecticide in and around their home. What you need to understand here though, is that pesticides are used on crops that you eat, so you really can’t get away from them. Then the bottom line here is that insecticide are called insecticides because they kill insects and if you want to kill insects you really have no other choice.

So then at this point you’ve gassed your room, chemically blasted and sealed any passageways from the outside into your room, and blasted all the bugs with your insecticide along the outside perimeter of your home. Now one other thing worth noting here as well, is that climate conditions in the area of the country in which you live factory in greatly when it comes insect issues.

So if you live in, say a desert region for instance, and your landscaping happens to be a rock garden you’ll for sure be in pretty good shape. On the other hand if you live in an area with a mild climate and plenty of green plant growth you’re probably not in such good shape and will need to be a lot more proactive and vigilant when it comes to dealing with insect infestations.

Stage #2 The Initial Set Up
At this point you’ve completely scoured your room of all insects and sealed it up. So the next order of the day is to get it all set up for growing without bringing any new insects into the room to undo all your good work. Keep in mind here that it only takes two of them to start an infestation in there and there are still several areas where those two insects can come from.

Cook Your Potting Soil in an Oven
So if you plan on growing with soil then it will have to be cooked in your oven and allowed to cool before it’s brought into your room. This will kill any insects, larvae and eggs that might be contained in it. Now the good news here, is that dry potting soil heats up and then cools down quickly, so all you’ll need is a big pot and an afternoon to get this job done.

Clean Anything You Bring in the Room
Then give any containers you plan on bringing into your room a good cleaning as well. Particularly if they’re plastic planting containers that you purchased at a nursery. If this is the case then you for sure want to give them a good scrubbing with soap and water and then finish up with a blast of insect spray to serve as a final layer protection.

Don’t Track Bugs into Your Room
Then as you’re walking in and out of your home make a point of not walking directly from the outside your home into your grow room when you’re moving equipment in. Rather bring the equipment into your home and set it in a separate room. Then after you have it all in, change your clothing and for sure your shoes before you bring it from that room into your grow room.

Don’t Blow Them in Either
When you’re setting up your ventilation system the worst place to draw air in is low down on a wall on the exterior of your home. It’s just asking for trouble. So do what you can to get your ventilation line up to your attic and then preferably out on roof. One great idea is to disconnect the ceiling vent line for a bathroom and run your room vent line through that , so it pulls air off the roof through the bathroom vent Jack.

Houseplants All Have Insects on Them
Then ‘never ever’ bring any houseplants into your grow room. In fact I would advise you to not even keep any houseplants in your home at all. Now for plant lovers this can be a pretty hard pill to swallow but all it takes is a good infestation when your third three quarters way through a grow to make a believer out of you. So it’s up to you but if you do keep houseplants make sure you spray them regularly with insecticide.

Furry Pets Carry Fussy Insects
Cats and dogs are also another surefire transport system to bring insects, eggs and larvae from the outside of your home to the inside. So be aware of this and consider making your cat or dog a full-time indoor or outdoor pet. Or if you can’t bring yourself to do that and insist on allowing them in then be well aware of the potential for problems and definitely make sure that they never step foot inside your grow room.

A Hardy Plant Strain Can Only Help
Then finally the more hybridized the seed strain you use the more vulnerable your crop will be to an insect infestation. It’s just something that comes with selective breeding, in that some things are lost in exchange for the things that are gained. So while many of the specialized indoor strains are for sure flavorful and potent, they also lost some of their natural resistance to insects during the selective breeding process.

The Bottom Line:
A grow room with it’s even temperatures and moderate to high humidity level, and lack of blazing hot sun is the perfect environment for insects to thrive in.

Once you become infested the only permanent remedy is to clear out the room, sterilize it and then start over again from the beginning with new plants.

Don’t forget that outside foliage with all its insects is only five or six inches away on the other side of the wall if you’re on the ground floor. So do your best to create a tightly sealed barrier to block them out.

If you have carpeting make a point of vacuuming it regularly and pay close attention to areas around entrance-ways that lead outdoors.

Create a set of policies to prevent insects from entering your grow room and creating an infestation and then stick with them religiously from planting to harvest.

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Growing

HID Lighting Part 2

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It was way back in the late 70s when HID lighting for indoor growing first began to catch on. Prior to that the price of cannabis was so low that indoor growing really was quite the rarity. People just didn’t do it and the hobbyists who did really didn’t take it near as seriously as folks do now.

But the late 70s and early 80s also saw the introduction of what was referred to back then as ‘sensimilla”, a new tastier, fragrant, green, unpressed variety of smoke that sold for about $20 an eight ounce. Quite a bit of money back then, considering that Mexican schwag was still going for about $15 an ounce.

So people began to take indoor growing a lot more seriously. They also started in looking around for better sources of lighting than fluorescent grow bulbs. The type of light that people used at that time and what they landed on was the 1000 watt metal halide bulb.

Back then when they were first picked up by growers a 1000 watt bulb sold for about $80 and the ballast went for about $150. So you can double that to account for inflation which would make the bulb around $160 and the ballast about $300 if they were repurchase with today’s dollars.

So prices have for sure dropped considerably since then because you can now find 1000 watt bulbs for sale on the Internet brand-new for as little as $20 and do-it-yourself ballast kits for about double that. So this brings me to the first thing to be pointed out about HID lighting.

That is that it’s cheap, particularly if you’re thinking in terms of one 1000 watt bulb in a small bedroom that’s been converted into a grow room. Even so, when compared to some of the newer lighting technologies like LED in particular HID lighting does have its fair share of shortcomings.

The first of them is that they burn hot, so they generate a lot of heat in the room. Then if you have the ballast in there along with the light you can easily into a heat problem. Heat leads to high humidity, and the heat and humidity make for perfect conditions for insect infestations, mold, root fungus, and slow growth.

Now if you’re just starting out and are undecided whether or not you’re going to go with a metal halide system don’t take this heat issue lightly, particularly if you live in a climate where you have warm summers.

Now if you can place your ballast somewhere out of your grow room though, like perhaps up in an attic that takes care of a good chunk of the heat problem.

Now you can always go with a high-volume turbo-fan to vent the heat out of your room with, but keep in mind that if you’re in the middle of the summer in a warm climate the air that you’re blowing into the room may not be cool enough to do the job.

Next an HID bulb uses more electricity than a comparable LED light set up will, about 75% more. Now this really isn’t a big problem if you’re planning on running one or maybe two bulbs in your room. However, if you’re planning on going beyond that, high electrical bills might become a problem for you in terms of concealing your operation.

Then a lot has written about the difference in the amount of red and blue spectral light produced by both metal halides and LEDs, and LEDs do come out on top here. Even so, it’s not as though metal halide bulbs are weaklings in this area either because they’re not.

A 1000 watt HID bulb will adequately cover a 10′ x 10’ area if it’s properly distributed with a rotating light fixture. Then if you get a chance to look at some side-by-side comparison pictures of plants that were grown under both metal halide and LED lamps you’ll see that there’s really not a huge difference in terms of volume and vitality.

So in the end what it all boils down to is cost and the heat issue. For someone who was looking to set up a decent sized grow room, and who doesn’t have thousands of dollars to spend on an advanced LED light system HID really is their only option. It’s not a bad option either if you can deal with the heat that they will generate.

Now the cost of LED lighting is projected to come down in the coming years, and it has been already to some degree. Even so, it’s going to be at least a decade until prices on LED lighting will come down to the point where it will start to nose metal halides out of the market.

The Bottom Line

Metal halide bulbs along with their ballast generate a high amount of heat, heat that can be a problem in warmer climates. However, in colder northern climates the heat that they generate can actually be a ‘plus’.

Metal halide lights are also by far the more affordable choice, and it will be years until LEDs can challenge them in terms of upfront cost.

HID bulbs are proven producers, so in spite of all the technical information that’s presented in comparisons between HIDs and LEDs the standard 1000 watt workhorse is more than adequate for indoor growing.

HIDs use 75% more power ‘watt for watt’ when prepare to LEDs. Even so, as long as you aren’t considering a large multi-bulb operation the energy consumed by one or two 1000 watt bulbs is not that big an issue.

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Growing

Pulse Start Lighting

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Just like so much of the more advanced lighting technologies that are now available for today’s indoor grower, Pulse Start HID lighting lighting has been around for quite a while now. If not in the actual lights themselves, at least in theory.

What’s changed in recent years to bring it into the spotlight though, is indoor growing. A new and expanding market niche that’s been the impetus for manufacturers to develop and produce lights containing this newer technology on a larger scale.

What you need to understand from the start however, is that pulse start lights are no major breakthrough. Yes they carry some benefits for the indoor grower but they aren’t earthshaking. Also another thing to consider here is cost. This is because you are going to pay more for pulse start lights than you will for a standard HID light.

Still another thing worth noting here is that not all pulse start lights are the same. Some are simply better quality than others and then there are also a few companies now that have developed pulse start lights with advanced features targeted specifically for indoor growers.

So to begin with, the first thing you’ll notice about pulse start lights is that they look quite the same as standard HIDs and there’s a reason for this. That is that they function in the same basic way as an HID lamp. You see, it’s the ignition system in the gas tube that makes the big difference that separates the two.

So without getting into too much technical detail, pulse start lamps have two electrical contacts integrated into the igniter that’s located inside the gas tube. Standard HID lamps on the other hand are referred to as probe start and use three electrical contacts to ignite the gas contained in the tube.

Now this might seem like a relatively insignificant difference but in actuality what might seem as a minor difference in how the gas in the tube is ignited has some noteworthy effects for today’s grower. But like I mentioned above they aren’t earthshaking but nonetheless are measurable.

For example one of the most noteworthy of them is that as a result of how the gas inside the tube is ignited there is lessening of an unwanted chemical reaction between an element contained in the gas and the interior of the glass tube. What this means is the bubbling and discoloration that you normally get on a standard HID lights gas tube is minimize substantially.

Anyone who has actually grown indoors knows that HID lamps die a slow lingering death. That is if they don’t burn out in one ‘big proof’ like a standard incandescent bulb does, and it’s this gradual ‘bubbling and discoloring’ of the gas tube that’s the hallmark of an HID light using up its service life, discoloration that has most growers tossing their bulbs out long before their service life has been used up.

Now this might seem like a minor issue on the surface but what you have to understand here is that pretty much every other benefit that’s credited to pulse start lighting is tied to this effect. That is that it’s a clearer, more translucent gas tube over the service life of the bulb that leads to all the other benefits listed below.

So as stated above you get a longer bulb life because it’s the level of corrosion on the glass in the gas tube that determines the lifespan of a bulb. Current figures put the number at about 30% more service life.

You will also see more stability in terms of light spectrum color rendering as well as lumen output as your lamp ages, and this is really what counts the most in an indoor bulb above everything else.

You’ll also see quicker start-up times which is really not a huge deal, but nonetheless it is a ‘plus’ worth mentioning. Quicker start-up time means more efficient use of power as well as increased accuracy in light timing.

The Bottom Line

Pulse start lamps are an easy and affordable way to take a ‘step up’ from standard HID lighting, with your existing ballast. No it’s not a giant leap up, but a step up nonetheless. Be aware however, that it does come at a cost, with the more advanced pulse start bulbs that are designed specifically for indoor growers costing quite a bit more than standard bulbs.

Do the math before you make the switch because all things considered, everything that pulse start has to offer can be had by simply adding more HID lighting. Also be aware that pulse start lamps don’t use less electricity, rather over the lifetime of the bulb they put out ‘more light’ for the electricity that they consume.

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Growing

HID Ceramic Metal Halide Lights- Part 2

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HID ceramic metal halide light bulbs are another option that’s been around for some time but that has only in recent years been picked up by growers. It’s very similar to standard metal halide bulb but with one crucial difference and it’s that one difference that leads to the handful of benefits that this bulb has.

That difference is that the cylinder that contains a mixture of metal halide gases is made of ceramic rather than glass as it is with your standard metal halide bulb. As a result because it’s ceramic it can withstand higher temperatures, about 300° higher.

So as a result of its ability to withstand higher temperatures there is a lessening of the degrading of the gas tube surface that you get more prominently with a standard glass to tube. The little glass tube that’s inside the larger glass outer casing.

So the first benefit is a longer service life because it’s this degrading of the gas tube that determines thew service life of a lamp. Ceramic doesn’t degrade as fast, so it lasts longer and as a result you get a longer service life.

Then along with the less clouded and bubbled up gas tube over the service life of a ceramic metal halide the light passes through better. This in turn leads to more efficient light output output because light passes through clear glass better than it does clouded glass.

They also produce more light as well in a broader spectrum, so you can use the same bulb for the vegetative as well as a flowering cycle without having to change out and switch to a mercury vapor lamp when your plants start to bud.

Ceramic metal halide bulbs also burn a little cooler. Not a whole lot cooler but ‘any heat reduction’, particularly for someone growing in a confined space is good. Or if you’re growing in a warmer climate or limited with regards to your venting.

Then there’s one other benefit that comes with this bulb and that is that a ceramic gas containment vessel lowers the risk of catastrophic failure, (the bulb blowing up). It’s a rare occurrence but it can happen but due to manufacturing flaws or using a light after its service life has expired.

When this happens not only is there physical danger of someone being hit with flying glass but if a grower isn’t around when it happens there’s also the risk of fire. Now granted these risks are remote, but it does occasionally happen.

Now the downside here is that you are going to pay more for ceramic metal halide bulbs, this considering that standard glass tube bulbs have gotten pretty darn cheap in recent years. On the plus side though, you can use your standard ballast as long as it’s not a digital ballast.

They can’t handle the frequencies produced by a digital ballast but this rule isn’t chiseled in stone. This is because there is a digital ballast on the market now that will work for ceramic metal light bulbs but it’s expensive. Even so as time moves on more will come along and prices will eventually come down.

Then finally, even though manufacturers are working on it and have promised to remedy the problem HID ceramic metal halide bulbs are only available in lower wattage sizes. So you’re not going to find a 1000 watt bulb just yet because it looks as though the 400 watts is about as high they go right now.

The Bottom Line

Ceramic metal halides do have a longer lifespan but you have to pay extra the longer life span, so in this case in comparison to standard metal halides the point is moot.

They do produce a broader light spectrum with a higher amount of light in the blue and red spectral range which makes for a better grow bulb. A definite plus over standard metal halides.

Ceramic metal halides also do away with the risk of explosive catastrophic failure that comes with standard glass tube bulbs. Granted the risk is low, but nonetheless it does exist.

They also burn cooler but you need to be aware that the differences isn’t huge. Even so they do put off less heat and for someone growing in a confined space it can can make a difference.

400 watts seems to be the max that you can find on the market right now for this particular style of light. Manufacturers are working on bringing out higher wattage bulbs but none have appeared on the market yet.

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