If you’re a serious marijuana grower, you’re likely frustrated with the hardships of procuring hydroponics nutrients, grow lights, soil, and other supplies, just like we are.
Starting around seven years ago when notorious corporate criminal Scott’s Miracle-Gro and its front company Hawthorne LLC began buying companies that make products for marijuana growers and buying hydroponics distributors such as Sunlight Supply, growers saw negative changes in their grow gear shopping experience.
Hawthorne LLC interferes with the ethical operation of brick and mortar grow stores, apparently even buying some of them.
According to what we’re told by former and current grow shop store owners, Hawthorne forces stores to carry Hawthorne brands such as Gavita, General Hydroponics, Can-Filters, Phresh, Sun System, Galaxy, and Botanicare, and to falsely tell customers those brands are better than competing brands not owned by Hawthorne.
Pressure from the online hydroponics retail industry also harmed in-person grow shops, and many have gone out of business. The COVID pandemic also caused a big drop in grow store visits.
Where I live there used to be five full-inventory grow shops within a 30-mile radius. I always shopped at a local shop, even when online prices were much lower, or selection much better. I know the value of brick and mortar hydro stores, and learned a lot about growing and grow op products in them.
Whenever possible, if you have a high-quality brick and mortar grow shop nearby, shop there instead of online.
Now, where I live, there are no longer any hydro stores. The same is true in many other places, especially in states where growing marijuana isn’t legal, and it’s sad.
It’s also true that some ultra-cautious growers in prohibitionist states are afraid to visit a brick and mortar hydroponics store, fearing police are surveilling the stores, logging license plate numbers, and busting people. This kind of police action has happened.
So you see why an increasing percentage of growers shop for grow supplies online, including from Amazon. The conveniences offered by an Amazon Prime membership include two-day free shipping, free returns picked up from your front door, a lenient return policy, and Amazon’s willingness to take the customer’s side against shady vendors.
There are approximately three dozen major online hydroponics stores, but their shipping and return policies aren’t quite as favorable as Amazon. On the other hand, online hydroponics stores run by honest, professional, intelligent growers offer advantages Amazon can’t offer.
Although Amazon carries a few premium brands of nutrients, grow lights, root zone media, HID lamps and other marijuana grow op supplies, most of their grow op niche vendors are sketchy.
Just for chuckles, we’ve ordered low-price LED and HID grow lights, grow tents and other supplies from Amazon, and weren’t surprised that the products are garbage.
Grow lights that work for one day and then burn out, grow tents with pinhole light leaks and bad zippers, cloth grow bags with handles that fall off under load, and leaking bottles of nutrients were typical of what we got.
The good news is, we sent them all back for free and got a full refund, not even paying for shipping.
The bad news is, if we had desperately needed that grow gear in the middle of a season, we would have been left short.
This led us down the rabbit hole of seeking a reliable, honest, professional, large-inventory online grow store.
Reliable, honest and professional—what you expect from anyone selling anything—but in the marijuana grow supplies industry you’re naïve to expect it because it often isn’t there.
The problem starts with grow gear manufacturers. The hydroponics gear industry is totally unregulated, other than state fertilizer labeling regs and a few other guidelines. Anybody can go in their garage, buy cheap LED chips, circuit boards and metal, put together an LED grow light, and advertise it as amazing.
Anybody can go in their garage with a bunch of raw nutrients salts, fiddle around with ratios and percentages, amateurishly attempt to reverse-engineer existing nutrients brands, come up with a fancy name and labeling, and advertise their new nutrients line.
Anybody can go to China with a Hortilux Blue or Super-HPS HID bulb and ask unscrupulous counterfeiters to make a less-expensive version. Of course, you get what you pay for.
We have a hit list of manufacturers we despise because they’ve ripped us off, and/or because as cannabis journalists they treat us like dirt. For example, we kept hearing grower complaints against Fluence Bioengineering, procured some of their grow lights and tested them, and saw why there were so many complaints.
One unit shipped without power cords. Another was a completely different unit than we ordered.
When we contacted Fluence as customers, without mentioning we were also cannabis journalists, we saw why there are so many complaints: if you could even track down a live Fluence employee via email or phone, they were deliberately unhelpful, evasive, and stupid.
The same happened when we bought a palette of supposedly fantastic soil made by a popular west coast soil company, found it full of sticks, other debris, and root aphids. We first went back to the grow shop. The owner said he won’t give us a refund because the manufacturer won’t comp him.
We called the manufacturer and ask questions about their sourcing, manufacturing and quality control processes, specifically targeting debris contamination and pests. They flat out lied to us, and continued to lie even after we sent them photos proving their soil is garbage. They refused to provide a refund to us or the storeowner.
Going past the fact that online hydroponics stores rely on hydroponics manufacturers for product quality and technical descriptions, we find that most online hydro stores have shallow inventory and don’t carry anywhere near the number of brands or products actually available.
It’s bad enough that online search engines for these store websites don’t show you product listings in a rational, intelligent manner.
You search for a 1000-watt Hortilux Blue bulb and the listings you get show a bunch of low-end copycat bulbs, and a 600-watt Hortilux bulb. That’s just one example of the inferior inventory control, data systems and website features you get at many online hydro stores.
Bait and switch, slow shipping times and high shipping prices, used products sold as new, shelf prices way above manufacturer’s suggested retail price, products listed as in stock but aren’t in stock, lousy return policies, credit card fraud and many other mishaps are familiar to growers running big enough grow ops to require a steady flow of hydroponics supplies.
One of the biggest hurdles to getting refunds or other assistance is that when you’re growing marijuana you’re doing something that’s illegal federally in all 50 states, and illegal by state law in the majority of states.
Unless you’ve gone to the trouble of creating a safe credit card and shipping address, the people you buy grow op gear from know who you are and where you live.
If they rip you off, they know you’re not likely to initiate a credit card dispute or otherwise come at them like you’d do if it was a car repair place that ripped you off….because they can nark you out. It happens.
You’ve probably noticed we’re the only marijuana magazine that tells the whole truth about marijuana seeds, hydro manufacturers, marijuana strains, and people who sell supplies to the marijuana growing community. Take heed when we say our experience and research leads us to warn you that at least 70% of the online grow stores are ripoffs in one way or another.
Obviously we haven’t tested every online grow store and there are new ones all the time. But we have looked closely at the most popular ones, and out of all of them, can recommend one online grow store.
It’s staffed by people who understand growing, are in a legal-growing state (Michigan) and who carry supplies from some of the legit, reliable manufacturers of grow lights, root zone media, hydroponics systems, and other gear. These folks also run highly-ranked brick and mortar grow shops in Michigan.
One of our team members is based in Michigan, one of few states that allow you to grow enough plants to harvest many kilos per season. In western Michigan, he shops at what he calls “the most honest grow shop he has ever encountered.” This is the Lush Lighting grow shop in Niles, Michigan. Not only does the store have a full range of hydroponics gear no other store has, it is also the home of the pioneering Lush Lighting grow lights empire.
Our grower team member intensely queried store personnel from the lowest sales associate all the way to upper management. He has purchased thousands of dollars of gear from this store. He’s satisfied it’s 100% reliable, centered on grower satisfaction, staffed with people who care.
Unfortunately, Lush Lighting Grow Store isn’t configured for online sales of anything other than Lush grow lights, but we’ve had mostly good luck ordering grow op supplies online from another Michigan-based grow shop, Horizen Hydroponics.
Our recommendations are serious and we stand by them. But as we warned before in our article about grow industry scammers, before you give anyone your money, make damn sure they’re legit. Many of them aren’t.
Manufacturers who refuse to provide technical details and science to back their hype product claims and don’t honor their own warranties, grow shops that only carry Hawthorne LLC brands and talk shit about superior competing brands, grow shops that charge your credit card and then don’t send what you ordered if they send anything, broken or refurbished equipment sold as new, and on and on…do your research about manufacturer, product, and seller reputation BEFORE you give your credit card number or other payment, before you give your address.
And hey, if you already have a reliable brick and mortar or online hydroponics store that never lets you down, consider yourself very lucky! I envy you.
We leave you with the following tips for getting the most from an online hydroponics shopping experience:
- If possible, don’t have a credit card billing address or product shipment address that’s the same as your grow house location. Better yet, get a friend or relative who isn’t a marijuana grower to purchase and receive marijuana growing gear for you and you reimburse them.
- Do extensive online comparisons of product pricing, shipping costs, backorder status, and availability before ordering. We see wild variations in product prices, with a premium 1000-watt double-ended HID bulb selling on one site for $160 but on another site the very same bulb is $120.
- Read the fine print about policies for returns, refunds, backorders, disputes, and similar issues before you order.
- Call the online retailer and get a feel for how intelligent they are about growing marijuana.
- If an online stores product inventory is dominated by Hawthorne LLC brands, avoid them.
- The first time you order from an online hydro store, don’t spend a lot of money. Order something small and see how the order is processed and shipped, and whether you receive the gear in good condition and it’s not counterfeit or otherwise defective. Do this before you place big-dollar orders.
- Be brutally honest with online retailers. If you visit their website and find it confusing, lacking in inventory depth, prices are too high, and other problems, tell them.
- Don’t trust anyone 100%, other than Growing Marijuana Perfectly. We’re the only marijuana magazine that doesn’t take bribes (advertising), who are 100% on your side—because we’re growers just like you, we know how much it sucks to get ripped off. When we recommend marijuana seeds, grow lights, root zone media, nutrients and other marijuana growing supplies, our recommendations are based on investigative research into the manufacturer and seller, as well as extensive grow op testing.
What’s more, we continually update our past articles to reflect new information. If we’ve recommended a grow op product and later find out its quality has declined or improved, or new features have been added, we make sure to edit articles to reflect the latest information.
Growing marijuana is a hard, risky job with huge rewards. One of the biggest hassles you face as an indoor marijuana grower is getting reliable equipment and supplies. Growing Marijuana Perfectly exists to make life as easy as possible for your grow op by testing and investigating marijuana seeds and other essential grow op supplies and only recommending the best we can find, so you get your heaviest, most potent harvests with as little trouble as possible.