Plants can be deceptively placid. They aren’t going anywhere, and they often appear the same from day to day. However, small changes can be precursors to big transformations, which means keeping a close watch on your equipment and plants is the key to making sure those transformations are what you had in mind.
It would be nice if there was just one simple checklist for all your growroom maintenance tasks, but that’s not the case. When you start a new grow or end one, when you change a component like lighting or a nutrient brand, or when you’re dealing with a specific problem like high humidity or a mold infestation, your list of daily chores will change, as will the time it takes to complete those chores.
Even when things are on a pretty even keel, maintenance tasks will fluctuate. A growroom is a dynamic and changeable environment. Checking for pests and dead leaves on seedlings may take a few minutes, while that same task could take four times as long when dealing with mature plants, and longer if you’re also staking new growth as you go.
Your growroom is outfitted with components that mimic an outdoor environment. That includes things like special lighting, heat control to moderate the effects of that lighting and fans to circulate the air. With flexibility in mind, let’s determine how to give your plants the most astute overview possible.
Make sure you have power – Your set-up may be unique, but some factors are pretty universal. For example, your equipment runs on electricity, so check to make sure everything is getting power. If your growroom isn’t operating on a dedicated circuit, a breaker may have flipped, disabling some but not all of your equipment. This can happen unexpectedly if a household energy hog like a garage freezer shares a circuit with some of your growroom devices.
A power strip could also trip if it becomes overheated or there’s a short in a fan or other piece of equipment. Power strips offer good protection, but the same features that can prevent a house fire can switch off equipment essential to your plants. Checking every morning just takes a second and sure beats coming home to find a wilted lettuce salad where your indoor garden used to be.
Check for safety risks – Your grow space is a spot where a number of powerful elements come together, including electricity, high heat and moisture. Keep electrical cables up off the floor. Remove combustibles, eliminate standing water and stop hose and other water drips that could threaten electrical components or cause ponding. Remove tripping hazards from paths and secure sharp tools. These measures will help reduce the risk of fire, electrical shock, tent or wall damage, falls, cuts and scrapes. Not bad for investing just five minutes of time!
Gauge the atmosphere and soil – Check the air temperature, including the common hot spot just above the canopy, and conduct light intensity and humidity readings. Compare the results to optimal readings for this stage of your growing plan. Address radical readings immediately. It’s also a good idea to check overnight or sleep cycle temperatures regularly to establish seasonal baselines. Inspect soil moisture and perform any foliar spraying/fertilizing on a consistent basis. Jot down a few notes about any adjustments you plan to make going forward.
Check equipment – Catching problems early saves time and money. You may not need to check your equipment every day, but keeping an eye or ear on things is like a free insurance policy. Even if you have a pretty simple set-up, regular equipment checks are important. Look for signs of incipient failure like a laboring motor, unexpected wear or oxidation on key components. Identify the presence of mold and dirt accumulation you want to tackle during your next major cleaning session. For chores that can’t wait, keep a degreaser, window cleaner, canister of compressed air, penetrating oil, sponges, and containers of hydrogen peroxide and bleach on hand. Here are some things that will either need immediate attention or closer scrutiny later:
- Loose electrical connections, including light bulbs
- Any potential short circuits or electrical abnormalities
- A dirty air-conditioning filter
- Sagging or damaged ductwork
- Noisy, dirty or misaligned fans
- Unusual pump noises
- Wrinkles in polyester or other wall liners
This is also a good time to assess your equipment needs. Do you have good airflow, or could you use an oscillating fan or maybe just a more effective fan layout? Is your space insulated enough to combat the heat coming from your south facing wall? Is that bedroom window providing needed light or just creating problems that could be solved with the addition of an insulated blackout curtain? Daily inspections give you a chance to explore your current set-up in depth and plan fixes and improvements.
Inspect plants – Drooping stems, necrotic spots, yellowing leaves and other warning signs will give you important clues about the state of your growroom. A daily reconnaissance of your plants can lead to more aggressive preventive maintenance as well as early treatment. Inspections will alert you to the presence of pests (eggs, predated leaves, webs) and conditions like heat stress, leaf burn, overcrowding, runaway growth that requires staking and uneven growth that may warrant moving plants around.
Check the undersides of leaves and pay particular attention to signs of inadequate illumination like spindly growth that can help you pinpoint lighting shortfalls. This can also be a good time to conduct, or at least plan, a little pruning to promote air circulation and improve light penetration, too. Things to keep in your inspection toolkit include a light meter, clippers, gloves, swabs and a magnifying glass.
Assess hydro set-up – If you’re using a hydro system, there are a number of important things to check beyond those mentioned above. Hydroponics can demand more dedicated human participation and intervention than growing in soil. There are two basic parts to maintaining a hydroponic system: checking equipment function and managing nutrient balance. These checks and balances will help:
- Verify flood and drain system cycling or alternative system function. This includes making sure pumps and timers are functioning properly, and feeder lines, air stones and other components aren’t clogged, pinched or blocked.
- Check nutrient tank temperatures.
- Test EC (ppm, TDS) and pH levels. The easiest and most accurate way to check nutrient and pH is with the help of a multifunction digital meter.
- Top up reservoir water as needed.
- If you’re using aeroponics or fogponics, there may be extra duties involved, like checking for clogged jets and inspecting often for holes in coverage.
Special system considerations – Multiple elements come together in a hydroponics system. They present challenges that, taken together, are unique to your set-up. For example, coconut coir is a sustainable and reusable growing medium, but it can play fast and loose with the magnesium and calcium in your nutrient by absorbing them early on and releasing them later.
If you recognize the quirks of coconut coir in your set-up and make adjustments, there shouldn’t be any problems. The same goes for tracking the heat in your nutrient tank. If the tank is located inside your growroom, it may get too hot on occasion. Check periodically to make sure it’s within the optimal range for oxygen concentration (63-72°F), and move it away from the light, or even out of the room, if you see dangerous spikes.
Clean up – Good cleaning strategies have a big impact on the success of your growroom. The grungy glass on a dirty light hood may look unsightly, but that’s not the half of it. Grime obscuring the glass can reduce the effectiveness of your light fixture by up to 10 per cent—that’s energy you’re still paying for but wasting because of a little dirt.
You don’t have to clean the glass daily by any means, but dirt buildup is incremental, so your light is getting dirtier and becoming a little less effective every day that goes by. How often you clean it likely will depend on how easy it is to access the fixture, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that hinged hoods and other no-fuss lighting systems are popular.
Here’s another unsung reason to keep a clean growroom: Polyester and other growroom wall treatments can have pretty impressive reflectivity ratings. Clean, reflective walls and floors redouble your illumination, bouncing it around, ideally below the canopy where it’s needed. Well-maintained walls and floors are one more way clean means green.
Clean doesn’t just save you money, either. Removing dead and dying leaves from plants and discarding them immediately helps reduce the risk of spreading pathogens and pests. The same goes for cleaning tools regularly, replacing filters and clearing ducts and fans. One good thing about cleaning is you don’t necessarily have to do it all in one go. A few minutes daily can make a big difference at the end of the month or plant growth cycle.
Prepare for more – As you perform your checks, compile a shopping list of consumable items like nutrients, pH up, pH down, additives, hydrogen peroxide, window cleaner, bleach, lint-free rags, disposable latex gloves and plastic bags. Some of these items can seem incidental once your growroom is up and running—until you’re caught without them.
Checklists are good for more than making sure you’ve remembered everything. Documenting your indoor gardening activities can help you plan a better grow next time, justify a major equipment investment or just get more satisfaction out of your hobby.
Electrical service checked ____
Power strips inspected ___
Temperature noted ____
Humidity noted ___
Cables tethered ___
Connections tight and secure ___
Obstructions and clutter removed ___
Standing water, drips and excess moisture eliminated ___
Lights, light movers checked and tested ___
A/C filter checked ___ replaced ___
Ductwork inspected for gaps and cracks ___
Fans checked for cleanliness, functionality and coverage ___
CO2 checked ___ applied ___
Pest check completed ___
Stem and leaf condition checked ___
Even growth checked ___
Flowering/ fruiting detected ___Note added below ___
Soil moisture checked (where applicable) ___
Foliar spraying, fertilizing performed ___ scheduled ____
Equipment pump checked ___
Equipment timer checked ___
Reservoir temperature noted ___
Tested PPM ___ adjusted ____
Tested pH ____ adjusted ____
Reviewed additive schedule, added ______________
Topped up nutrient reservoir ___
Light hoods ___
Pots/ containers ___
Replacement Supply List
Schedule Future Activities