Ready to take the plunge into building an indoor greenhouse, grow tent, or grow room? It’s exciting to grow your own vegetables and plants indoors, but costs can escalate if you’re building one from scratch, rather than using an all-in-one unit.
Building an indoor unit component by component can quickly become more expensive than you’d planned. Watch for these seven hidden costs:
1. Time. You’ve chosen the basic unit you’re going to buy, and/or you’ve scouted for sources of all the individual components you’re going to need. So now you’re ready to pick a day, dust off a credit card, fire up a borrowed Ford F-150 (or just open an internet browser) and score everything you need in one big, bold expedition.
Is that the plan? Yeah, um…good luck with that.
The truth is, if you’re buying individual components, acquiring the right materials is most often a lengthy trial-and-error process involving many different sources.
Think about all the working parts you may need to integrate: a frame, a cover, tanks and plumbing, vents, lights, waterproofing materials to protect your house…the list goes on.
Don’t expect to get it right the first time. Or the second. If you’re on a tight time budget, consider indoor greenhouse units that have more key components already integrated instead of buying every component separately.
2. An electrician. Unless you’re an expert, you may need to hire an electrician to make sure your grow area has the outlets and capacity to handle the electrical load.
If you’re building your own grow tent, you may need custom wiring for the unit itself, as well as your home. Cutting corners to save money on this part of the process is too dangerous. Budget for professional help, unless your setup can run safely on a common 110 volt circuit.
3. Automation. Relying on your memory to water and tend to the plants can be bad strategy. What if you leave town for the day or more, or forget to turn on the lights one busy afternoon? What if you forget how much your tulips need and over-water?
Automated timing systems for watering, lighting, temperature, and exhaust will add to your cost on the front end. But it can save you time and boost your production of primo veggies, fruit, and herbs.
These systems are also environmentally friendly. You’re less likely to waste water than you are when watering by hand. And when you harvest plants at home, you’re not burning gas to go buy produce that’s often transported long distances to your local store.
4. Strong bones. If you’re enclosing your grow area in a “tent,” remember that the frame should be nothing like a camping tent frame. First, the cover material should be much heavier than thin nylon or a layer of plastic, so it can block exterior light completely.
The frame will also have to bear the full load of your lights, exhaust fans or other environmental control gear, and perhaps some plants (including the water you pump into them). Invest in sturdy, rust-proof framing.
5. Getting the gray (water) out. As gardeners, we all know how important it is to bring fresh water to our plants, but once we become indoor gardeners, we must learn how to remove dirty, or “gray,” water from the grow area.
Improper disposal of gray water has at least two potentially nasty hidden costs:
– Damaged plants from mold or bugs that breed in standing water.
– Home damage from leaks that soak into your flooring–and eventually whatever’s beneath that.
Again, spending a little more up front protects you from greater expenses down the line. Simple plastic sheeting beneath your grow area isn’t enough. You need proper floor trays and plumbing designed to channel water securely to a tank and/or drain.
6. Ventilation. Ventilating a fully enclosed grow area brings in carbon dioxide, refreshes stale air, controls dust and mold, and helps deter odor. However, you will need more than just fans and duct tape. Air ducting and duct fans are a must.
7. Space. You wouldn’t be looking into growing an indoor garden if you didn’t have some space for it. But by the time you turn the wrench on your greenhouse’s last bolt, you’ll probably find that its actual footprint is a smidge–or two, or five–bigger than you’d expected.
The culprit is often the mechanicals: a water barrel, a drainage tank, some protruding tubes, wires and pipes. Again, a pre-configured unit that incorporates all these elements can solve the space problem.
If you’re designing your own grow space, create a floor plan that includes all the mechanical components–including adequate waterproofing materials beneath everything that carries and/or stores water. That way, you’ll set aside enough space before you begin.
Whether you decide to build your own grow area or opt for an all-in-one solution, when you grow your own food in your own home — year round — you’ll discover hidden virtues, treasures, and tastes that far, far, FAR outweigh the costs.
Are you ready to grow your garden year-round?