When it comes to growroom ergonomics, there are many considerations you must make regarding the type of equipment you need or desire, and the size of your growroom. The issue of growroom size will likely be your first decision.
After that, it’s a matter of addressing whether you are growing for your own consumption or commercially. If you intend to sell any part of your crop at a farmers’ market or roadside, the first things you need to research are the regulations pertaining to the sale or distribution of that crop in your state.
Do this before you make your list of required supplies and equipment, as restrictions might dictate which types of grow media, pest control and nutrient options you choose. This is also a good time to address your building, growroom or greenhouse. Growing commercially almost always means adhering to regulations that demand certain areas be designed differently than how they would look if you are just growing for your family.
Following your research on regulations, the next thing you need to do is set a budget for your growroom. Keep your personal comfort in mind as you make these choices. As you progress, more and more equipment will seem enticing, and you may need to scale some of your ideas to keep your project within financially manageable limits. The sizes for the grow area and the work area need to be considered at this time.
Determining Your Layout & Grow Style
The better matched your growroom is to your method of gardening, the more enjoyment you’ll get out of the hobby and the more success you will have. Start by addressing a few major questions. The first area of divergence in planning an ergonomic growroom is deciding if the growing area will be an outdoor greenhouse or an indoor controlled environment:
- Will your grow area include outdoor sunshine, or strictly indoor lighting?
- Will there be enough space for maintaining your plants?
- Will you be working your harvest inside the grow area, or will this be separate?
There is no need to provide the same illumination levels or frequencies for plants in an area set and dedicated solely for harvesting or maintenance functions. In your design, realize this aspect and avoid wasting valuable direct sunshine or synthetic lighting where it’s not needed. Indoor set-ups typically have these areas completely separated while greenhouses may not. This will depend on the total space available.
Your actual grow area has the primary function of providing the optimal level of light to each plant and to every side of each plant. Obviously, plants that grow with shaded sides cannot produce at the same rate as those that are properly illuminated on each side. When estimating how many lights they need, newer growers sometimes fail to consider how some plants, as they mature, will block light from others. Look at this aspect when sketching the ground layout. You will likely have growing area dimension limitations, and perhaps one proposed layout may require more synthetic lights than another. Play with several combinations on paper before making your final decision.
Indoor growrooms use synthetic lights almost exclusively. Some rooms may have enough windows to make sunshine effective, but not generally. When you crowd more plants into one area, you have the tradeoff of reduced illumination to each of the plants. The more points of light, the fewer areas of shade there are.
Some lights produce much more heat than others, so ventilation may be an issue. There are basically three types of lights to consider: compact fluorescent, high intensity discharge (includes HPS and MH) and LEDs. Each has its own special benefits. If you are designing your first grow, keep it simple and learn as you go. Scan the QR code at the end and do some research on all of the different lighting technologies available to you.
Many areas within a greenhouse may not be able to provide all the illumination that some plants need during various phases of growth, so a few well-placed synthetic lights can make a big difference.
Though it would seem like greenhouses provide more room for growing, this is not necessarily true as you will need to create space for your lighting and other equipment.
Outdoor greenhouses can become very hot from ambient heat and sun radiation, so don’t overlook temperature control as you add lighting, and make sure to consider what things might block the sunshine entirely.
Adequate work space is often overlooked in the growroom. Your design focuses on maximum illumination and quantity of plants, but you need room to work too. Fortunately, your work area doesn’t need to be in your grow area.
To facilitate ease in moving individual plants to an external work area, you might consider using a modular hydroponic system. With these you can easily disconnect any particular plant from the system (without disabling the system) and move the plant to work on it. It’s going to be tough prune a plant or treat it for pests if you cannot get at it easily.
Providing adequate room to work on your plants without relocating them will minimize the number or size of the plants, so moving them temporarily to a work area can give the best of both worlds. The same is true of your lighting if it can easily be temporarily raised or moved in order to allow you to work.
This will benefit growth as your crop matures, too. Your crop will require your continued attention and care. With some creative thinking you can maximize your crop yield while also providing comfortable work space for you.
Temperature control in the growroom is very important. Depending on the type of lighting you choose, you may need more ventilation to keep your plants from getting heat stress. If your work area is outside the grow area, you’ll be able to keep it at a cooler temperature, one you prefer to work in.
Ventilating is the most economical method for temperature and humidity control. Your ventilation needs to exhaust outdoors, which creates issues like odor from escaping and pests from entering, that need to be resolved. This issue also circles back to lighting selection.
Try considering special ventilators for the lights themselves if they produce a lot of heat. Air conditioning will certainly keep your indoor growroom cool enough for everyone. Of course this solution uses plenty of electricity, but in many cases it will be worth it.
Certain plants do better in certain temperatures. Plan your crops to coincide with typical ambient temps or plan to either heat the air or cool it as needed. Know what temperatures your plants do best in. For the outdoor growers out there, know that direct sunshine at higher elevations is stronger because of the thin atmosphere. Watch for scorching on various crops, and if you see some, screen cloth can help.
Hand watering requires a lot of time and is not a realistic option if you have a lot of plants. If you intend to hand water, then easy access to each plant is important. As an alternative option, deep water culture is a very agronomical way to garden. The structure for transporting the water and holding the root systems can be designed in a way that makes maintenance easy. Ebb and flow systems can be set up in smaller arrangements to enable ease of access.
Better yet, a timer and pump with a modular drip system can make watering even easier and more pleasant. The pots need to be at the same height as each other, at least if they are connected to the same pump. Select a timer that gives you plenty of options—a couple times a day for as many minutes as your size pots and drip emitters require and from one day a week to every day.
Your job as far as watering goes is to keep an eye on things and refill the reservoir. Larger reservoirs don’t need to be filled as often, but make sure to keep the lights out of the tank to prevent algae growth. If you put nutrients in your water tank, clean it more often to keep algae and bacteria to a minimum. In-line nutrient injectors are available, or you can look into filter systems.
Pests & Pesticides
When establishing your growroom, make sure you have a plan in place to prevent pest infestations, including having an area where you can suit up before you enter the growroom. If you do get overrun with pests, this is another time where a modular system again comes in handy, as you can simply move the infected plant away to treat it and then keep it quarantined until you can confirm control. An easy to use set-up also provides you with the flexibility only applying pesticide on plants that are affected.
Making your grow area easy to use, as well as highly efficient and effective, is the happiest and most successful way to grow. Planning around all of the ways to maximizing crop yield is great, but don’t forget to add those little things that will make your job easier and more comfortable. Enjoy!