Let's Grow Vegetables

Grow Tents

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What is a grow tent?

If you are serious about growing vegetables indoors you will eventually want a grow tent. What is a grow tent? I hear you ask. It’s simply a box like structure, usually rectangular, that allows you to totally control the  growing environment and therefore make an environment that is ideal for whatever you are growing. It means you can grow whatever you like whenever you like with little regard for the time of year or the temperature outside. You can also avoid many of the problems of outdoor growing such as pests and weather issues.

It’s a bit like a greenhouse which you would use outside except it can be used inside. It allows you to turn a garage or basement or even a closet into a productive growing space. It zips up and you use artificial light. You may have heard of a grow box. Grow boxes are usually quite permanent solid structures whereas a grow tent is made of specialised fabric and therefore lighter and less permanent. You can buy a complete grow tent kit or if you are really keen you can make your own grow tent. Many hydroponic gardeners use a grow tent but you can use them to grow plants in soil as well.

What are the components of a grow tent?

Close up of a section of frame and fabric

In essence a grow tent is made up of a rigid frame that a light weight, but strong,  fabric cover fits over. It will have access points to allow you to hook up a grow light and gain access to be able to tend to your plants. The image above of the Apollo Horticulture 48”x48”x80” Mylar Hydroponic Grow Tent is a pretty typical example.

You then get lights,  ventilation and thermometers which hang off the frame and poke through openings in the fabric to make it all work.

You can’t just put your plants in a dark box and expect them to grow they need light nutrients and air –  you need to replicate what they get outside in the ground.  

There are grow tents for every budget and size. There are complete grow tent kits like this one that are carefully put together to make sure you can start growing with the minimum of fuss.  Considering you can get a pretty good looking grow tent for around $100 the kit seems expensive to me so before I buy one I thought I would have a bit closer look at what it’s all about. The following is a result of my research I hope it helps you I wish I could have found something similar. I’ll also try to figure out what else I need besides just the tent. Up until now I’ve just used a grow light in my garage but I’m thinking of scaling up.

There are a few things to take into account when choosing a grow tent.

A quick check of Amazon.com using the search term Grow Tent reveals over 7,000 grow tent related products. There are grow lights and all sorts of grow tent accessories. There is obviously a lot of people growing things indoors or at least in controlled environments.

The Frame

Obviously you need a frame to support the fabric and to stop the fabric leaning all over your plants. Most of the product descriptions just say heavy duty or solid rather than tell you how big and thick and strong it is. Most are aluminium a quick read of a few product reviews seem to indicate that they are all strong enough with some even saying that the heaviness of the frame can be a bit of pain as it is more cumbersome to erect or move if you have to. You want it to be light weight yet strong it needs to support the weight of the fabric and all the lights and fans that you need to hang off it.

The Fabric

Many of the grow tents available are made of a product called Mylar. Mylar is  a registered trademark owned by  Dupont. There is a link to a FAQ sheet about Mylar here.  The generic term for this material is Polyester Film or Plastic Sheet. In the case of a grow tent it is a strong, durable heavy, duty material usually nylon or polyester on the outside and it is then bonded to a inner layer that is reflective. So even if it isn’t called Mylar it still could be perfectly fine just not the brand name product.

See the link to the Mylar FAQ above for info about thickness rating. It seems to me that it needs to be thick enough so that it won’t tear easily but not so thick and heavy that you need a team of weight lifters to put the thing together.

A good quality backpack are usually 600D I think I would need it to be at least that strong. I suspect that it is a matter of you get what you pay for. Stronger fabric should result in less potential for punctures. Only trouble is I couldn’t find a D rating anywhere in the specs for the fabric in grow tents.

The inside lining needs to be reflective the more reflective it is the more efficiently it will work therefore less wasted energy which equates to power costs and more light surrounding whatever you are growing.

Of Course Size Matters

Obviously it has to fit in the space you have but you also need to take into consideration what you intend to grow. If you are going to grow tomato plants that grow six feet tall there is no point having a grow tent that is only 4 foot high.

Quictent Grow Tent

You can get table top grow tents like either this Qictent 2ft x 2ft x 2ft grow tent which would be perfect for germinating seeds, getting small plants started, growing herbs or growing anything that doesn’t grow too big or this Ipower Grow tent. The both seem to meet all my criteria only on a smaller scale to what I’m after.

Zippers & Stitching

They need to made of nylon or some plastic material so they don’t rust. The strength of the stitching and the quality of the thread – I think you need double stitching.

Overtime the stitching and zippers in my view will be the week point of the whole operation. It will be under stress of just being together and being open and closed to gain access but also in a damp moist environment such as a garden bed you’d think the thread would be the first thing to rot and give out.

Grow tent zipperAt least if you have double stitching you’ll have two rows so if one fails the second will still hold it all together. Camping equipment has become really improved over the years I suspect that the zippers and other components used in a normal tent will also be used on grow tents. I suspect that if you are careful and look after it you will get many years of use from them.

Openings Ports and Vents

Whatever grow tent you choose it will need to have access points -think holes – in it to allow you to use the equipment you will need to make it work properly. Things like grow lights ventilators or fans not to mention a doorway type openings to let you get in to tend your plants. I would think that the more the better would be the way to go. This way you will have more flexibility in your setup. If it only has one door then you need to be able to position it in your space so you can get access to that doorway. But if it has one on the long side and one on the short side it might work better for you.

You don’t want too many vents though surely more holes just multiply the opportunities let the light and warmth out. I’ve read a lot of comments from people saying that the light gets out the stitching holes it stands to reason that if you stitch something with a needle there are going to be tiny holes in the seams. It seems that people are quite paranoid about being able to see it in the dark – I wonder what they are growing??

Final Thoughts

You need to be able to get access to electricity and water and garbage – growing plants creates a lot of off cuts and plants are often pretty short lived will you have a compost bin in your basement? There is a lot to consider.

I think I also want a removable floor – sort of like a tub that will catch spills, runoff and that I can from time to time take outside and clean – gardening is a messy business!

Understanding where you want to put it, what you want to grow in it and how you will actually make that happen will help you to choose the right setup. Keeping in mind these things are not designed to be out in the weather you will still need to have access to all the things you have in an outdoor garden. Are you going to grow in soil or use a hydroponic system? The decisions seem to be endless.

Getting the set-up that is right for you will make growing strong plants easier, more cost effective and more satisfying so it pays to do your research although if you are anything like me you just want to get started.

Grow Tent Kit vs Individual Products

Complete Grow tent kit

I already have many of the things I need to have to use a grow tent as I have been growing indoors for a while now so I’ll probably go with the tent on it’s own. I have already done a review of my favorite grow light here which may give you some info about what you should look out for when buying them.

Here is a bit of information about what you need to look for in a complete grow tent kit.

I have pretty well decided what I want size wise and have narrowed my choice down to down to a couple of different models –  I will do a new post once I have decided.  Thanks for reading if you have anything to add or any tips please leave a comment below.

 

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