Growing marijuana saves you money, but also costs you money. Most growers are noticing the cost of marijuana growing supplies has gone up at the same time retail and wholesale prices have decreased.
Before widespread marijuana legalization created a “white market” for marijuana, we were easily selling our buds wholesale for $3000 or more per pound and didn’t worry much about spending big bucks on fancy grow lights, hydroponics nutrients, and other grow op supplies.
We’re worried about it now, and we’re offering strategies for reducing the cost of growing cannabis.
Marijuana Growing Electricity Costs
Growing marijuana indoors means using grow lights, fans, air conditioners, dehumidifiers and other electrical devices.
We reduced costs by switching from high intensity discharge to LED grow lights. Quality LED grow lights put out way more PPFD (electromagnetic radiation your plants use for photosynthesis and other functions) per watt than HID grow lights, in part because they don’t waste a lot of electricity generating excess heat like HID bulbs do.
The initial start-up cost of buying LED grow lights is high, but within 3-7 seasons, LED grow lights have paid for themselves in cost savings.
The best LED grow lights put out 85-100% full intensity for at least 35,000 hours. If you replaced HID bulbs enough to get 35,000 full-intensity hours, you’d have spent a fortune.
You also save electricity by investing in the highest-quality, energy-efficient dehumidifier and air conditioner for your grow room. We recommend Quest dehumidifiers, which are made specifically for marijuana grow rooms.
As with grow lights, initial start-up costs for grow op-specific climate control marchinery are high, but over time they’ll burn a lot less electricity than inferior units.
DIY in Marijuana Growing
I’m not good with mechanical concepts, ingenuity, or putting devices together, but I know plenty of cannabis growers who can easily build light stands, deep water culture systems, grow tables, aeroponics and other hydroponics systems, grow tents, trellises, LED grow lights, and other gear for a fraction of the pre-assembled retail cost of the gear.
These growers’ hands-on expertise often extends to building and construction trades—they build their own grow rooms, grow basements, underground grow caves and other structures.
They know how to run wire, install electrical panels and outlets, frame walls, pour concrete, install mini-split air conditioners, do plumbing, install whole house water filtration and reverse osmosis, and other skills perfect for marijuana growers.
DIY skills allow you to craft your grow room and gear to your exact specifications, but beyond that, they liberate you from having to interact with outsiders (repair people, contractors, builders, etc.) who may be a security risk.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle in Cannabis Growing
By far the most productive grow ops I’ve ever had were pure hydroponics modified drain-to-waste systems.
I mixed nutrients into a 20-gallon reservoir connected to drip emitters and a rockwool slab array. The emitters sent timed nutrients doses to the plants. After 1-2 days, I’d drain the reservoir and mix a fresh nutrients batch.
This was very costly because I was dumping nutrients every 1-2 days, so I experimented with recirculating instead of drain to waste. It cost a lot less in water and nutrients. The results were less ideal, but acceptable.
The obvious fact is when you send nutrients and water into your root zone, some of it runs out of the root zone and what you do with that runoff partially determines how much your feed program and water costs you.
Saving old reservoir water and using it on outdoor plants or diluting it to mix into fresh reservoirs is a way of recycling nutrients and water but if not done carefully can screw up your feed program. Closely monitoring and controlling pH and parts per million is more important than ever if you add “used” water to “fresh” batches of nutrients mixture.
Reverse osmosis water is the cleanest, most useful water for marijuana growing, but it’s expensive to make. For every one gallon of RO water your RO system produces, at least 3-4 gallons of unfiltered water have been wasted.
Also, you have to buy and install the RO system and replace its filters every 4-6 months depending on the pollutant level of your incoming water and how many plants you’re growing.
Harvesting rainwater is a good way to reduce grow op water costs, but only if you harvest it directly from the sky, or from a clean metal roof, and you don’t live where rain contains acids or other pollutants that harm plants.
Rainwater that comes off of shingle roofs contains zinc and/or other particulates (including industrial pollution), that make it cumulatively not safe for growing marijuana.
Safely harvested, unpolluted rainwater is super-oxygenated and contains natural nitrogen you can’t get from fertilizers.
If you have access to well water or freshwater surface water, you might be able to use it in your marijuana growing, but first have it tested to determine what materials are in it.
In too many areas, surface water and ground water are polluted with herbicides and harmful pathogens. Such water might also contain iron, calcium or other materials that interfere with your feed program.
Don’t use unfiltered municipal water. It’s dosed with chlorine, chloramines and other chemicals that can harm your marijuana roots and beneficial microbes, and may have other contaminants and minerals.
Another place for reduce, reuse, recycle is in the use of solid root zone media such as soil, soilless mix, rockwool, and coco coir.
Most manufacturers of these products want you to believe you can only use them once. But you can reuse them as long as you’re aware that they’re already saturated with nutrients and root debris.
After harvest, I pour the contents of my plants’ pots onto large, flat tarps in a controlled area so no bugs can get in. As the material dries, I rake out root debris and examine the material for pests or signs of pathogenic root zone issues.
I also check to see if it’s adequately porous or too dense. Peat-based mixes tend to compress during use, so I break them apart and add coarse perlite.
When the material is properly cleaned and dried, I reuse it by mixing it in a 50-50 ratio with virgin material, sometimes putting most of the pre-used material at the bottom of the pot so deep roots have extra fun feeding.
The easiest products to reuse are soil, soilless mix, and coco. The hardest one to reuse, and in some cases it’s just too hard to do so, is rockwool.
If you can’t reuse a root zone product, don’t just throw it away, find a place to mix it into natural soil outdoors.
One interesting fact: some hydroponics companies sell enzymes products they claim will cleanse used root zone media so it can be used again. We’ve never seen any visible benefit of these products.
Also, it’s relatively easy to rinse nutrients salts out of cloth pots and reuse them for several grow cycles. Be sure to remove all the roots that have embedded themselves in the pot fabric.
Saving $$$ On Hydroponics Nutrients & Other Feed Programs
I used to believe in the hype from hydroponics nutrients manufacturers. I had five or six bottles of different kinds of nutrient formulas for grow phase and nearly a dozen for bloom phase. I believed what hydroponic manufacturers told me about the need for each of these bottles.
But when I started testing feed programs, I discovered that whatever benefits I got from using a complicated feed program didn’t make up for the cost and effort.
Now, I use a grow phase hydroponic base nutrients product during grow phase, and a bloom phase base nutrients product along with a phosphorus-potassium bloom booster in bloom phase…and that’s it.
I get plus or minus 1-2 percent the same harvest, quality and potency as I got when I was using the complicated feed programs that cost me a lot more.
When I’m growing outdoors in soil or indoors in soil, I make sure to make my own compost and to source rich, fertile, bioactive soil.
I might add a few feedings of organic or natural fertilizer to the soil. If want to get really fancy, I use a programmed in-soil feeding plan such as one made by Biotabs.nl or I use veganics nutrients.
Sometimes I spend money on beneficial root zone microbes. The “Root” product made by RX Green is the most professional root zone microbial inoculant you’ll find.
Marijuana Growing Efficiency & Conservation
All energy efficiency and conservation strategies are good for saving money on indoor growing marijuana. This includes solar panels, shade trees, updated attic and wall insulation, painting your house with sun-reflecting paint, installing an exhaust fan in your attic, getting the highest-SEER air conditioner and most energy-efficient dehumidifiers, fans, grow lights and other marijuana growing gear.
In the hot months, I time my lights to be on as much as possible during nighttime hours, so I don’t add grow light heat to the cost of keeping my grow house cool during hours of sunlight.
Investing in Premium Marijuana Genetics
Buying marijuana seeds or clones is one sector in which saving money costs you money. High-quality marijuana seeds and clones often cost a lot, although some are overpriced because the seller thinks they can get away with it.
For example, Sensi Seeds is charging $225 for ten feminized Jack Herer seeds! They allegedly created the strain, but they’ve let their genetics go to hell, so the Jack you get from them these days is a huge disappointment compared to when they first released the strain.
In contrast, you can get 20 non-feminized photoperiod Jack Herer seeds bred by Humboldt Seed Company, which is in the top five of cannabis seeds breeders worldwide, for $105. You can get ten feminized Jack Herer seeds from New 420 Guy Seeds…for $65.
We’ve grown all three sets of seeds. The Humboldt Seed Company and New 420 Guy versions of Jack Herer are better than what you get if you grow out the Sensi Seeds version, and they cost a hell of a lot less.
When you’ve researched the seedy marijuana seeds industry like we have, you know who has rare cannabis genetics that grow the tastiest, strongest, most interesting buds and the heaviest harvests. You pay what the breeder asks you to pay, because you know it’s worth it.
The thing to remember is that high price doesn’t always equal high quality. But when you’re sure of a marijuana seed breeder’s quality, and they’re offering a strain you want, the price is well worth it.
If you buy cheap, inferior seeds, you end up with hermie plants, low yields, lack of potency, strains that don’t do what you expected of them.
It’s worth the money to invest in the best marijuana genetics.
Money-Saving Cannabis Cultivation Choices
If you’re growing marijuana indoors, the longer each season takes, the more money you’ve spent growing marijuana.
Some growers think they’ll shorten their seasons by growing autoflowering marijuana instead of photoperiod marijuana, but they’re usually mistaken.
I’ve grown dozens of autoflowering cannabis strains. The best ones need at least 80-90 days of18 hours of light per day to fully mature and yield big, potent buds.
Photoperiod plants need about 35 days in grow phase (or less) and an average of 63 days in bloom phase. The total number of grow light hours is less when you grow photoperiod marijuana, and the yields and potency are usually at least slightly higher (if not much higher) than what you get from all but the best autoflowering marijuana strains.
In fact, I’ve grown autoflowering strains that took longer from start to finish than did photoperiod strains.
Choosing fast-finishing marijuana marijuana strains is one way to cut down on total season time which of course saves money.
Similarly, tactics such as adding carbon dioxide (C02) to grow room air, going with sea of green gardening so you don’t delay plant maturation by trimming it (single-spike main cola plants), ensuring that your grow room temperature and vapor pressure deficit factors are in ideal range, blocking pests and diseases, and providing exactly the right amount and type of grow light wavelengths can all speed up your plants and decrease crop time.
I’m sure you have your own ways to save money while growing marijuana. The main goal is to get as much harvest weight and cannabinoids and terpenoids per watt of grow room electricity you consume.
When you use these cost-savings tips, you save money. You also save money by growing your own cannabis. You can grow your own for a lot less than you can buy it from others, and what you grow is superior to that anyone else can grow for you!