When it comes to growroom ergonomics, there are many considerations you must make regarding the type of equipment you need or want 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 commercial intents. If you intend to sell any part of your crop at a farmers’ market or by the roadside, then you first need to research the regulations surrounding the sale and distribution of that crop in your area.
Do this before you make your list of required supplies and equipment, as restrictions might dictate the 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 having to adhere to regulations that call for certain areas of your garden to be designed differently than if you were growing just for yourself or 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, adding more equipment will seem enticing, and you may need to scale some of your ideas to keep your project within financially-manageable limits. This is also when you need to consider the size of the grow and work areas.
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 only 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 to just harvesting or maintenance functions. While planning, 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 you're working with.
Your actual grow area has the primary function of providing the optimal level of light for each plant and especially, each of its sides. 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, new growers sometimes fail to consider how certain plants block light from others as they mature. 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 almost exclusively use synthetic lights. Some rooms may have enough windows to make sunshine effective, but this isn't the case for all of them. When you crowd more plants into one area, you have the tradeoff of reduced illumination to each of the plants. The more you have points of light, the less you have areas of shade.
Some lights produce much more heat than others, so ventilation may be an issue.
There are 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 growroom, keep it simple and learn as you go. 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 needed by certain plants during their various stages of growth. A few well-placed synthetic lights can make a big difference.
Although 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 needs to be focused around how many plants you have and how much light you can produce for each one. You also need to remember that you need room to work. Fortunately, your work area doesn’t need to be in your grow area.
To facilitate moving individual plants to an external work area, it might be worth it to 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 be able to work on it. Pruning a plant or treating it for pests can be a challenge if you can't access it easily!
Providing adequate room to work on your plants without needing to relocate 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 be temporarily raised or moved in order to allow you to work with ease.
Doing this can also have a beneficial outcome on growth as your crop mature. As crops will require your continuous attention, you can maximize your crop yield with some creative thinking. Just don't forget to also prioritize setting up a comfortable workspace for yourself.
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, then you’ll be able to keep it at a cooler temperature, depending on your preferred working conditions.
Ventilation is the most economical method for temperature and humidity control. Although your ventilation needs to have an exhaust leading outside, this creates issues such as odor escaping and the possibility of pests entering. These challenges also circle back to the lighting selection.
Try considering special ventilators for the lights themselves if they produce a lot of heat. Although air conditioning can keep your growroom cool enough, it's important to factor in that this option uses a lot of electricity. But in most cases, the benefits outweigh the potential costs.
Different plants do better at varying temperatures. Plan your crops to coincide with typical ambient temperatures 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. Keep an eye on crop scorching. If this happens to your plant, a screen cloth can help.
Read More: Keeping Things Cool in Your Growroom
Hand watering requires a lot of time and is not a realistic option if you have a lot of plants. If you intend to water by hand, then making sure you have 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 if they are connected to the same pump. Select a timer that gives you plenty of options such as a couple of times per day for as many minutes as your plants might need.
Your job as far as watering goes is to keep an eye on the overall progress and refill the reservoir as needed. 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 at a minimum. In-line nutrient injectors are an option too, 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 of only applying pesticides to the affected plants.
Making sure your grow area is easy to use, 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!