Setting Up Your First Grow Tent

By Alan Ray
Published: May 15, 2017 | Last updated: April 27, 2021 01:13:08
Key Takeaways

Ok, while perhaps not the most intense form of gardening, housing plants in tents is fast becoming one of the more popular ways to grow. Here’s a basic overview of what this ​super “in tents” growing style entails and how you can get started.

The most common definition of the word “tent” begins with these three words: a portable shelter. While simple, the description is accurate. Grow tents provide simple and portable solutions for those with limited space or who prefer a more private environment. These attributes are also why grow tents are fast becoming one of the most popular ways to grow.


What is a Grow Tent?

At its core, a grow tent is like a wigwam with a zipper, though admittedly a bit higher tech and with a few more bells and whistles. They are generally square or rectangular and constructed of lightweight nylon or cloth. The standard grow tent is framed by poles that are usually coated metal or made of PVC pipe. The entire interior is lined with a highly reflective material and comes with pre-cut ports to allow for ventilation and exhaust fan installation. Grow lights can be suspended from above.

Grow tents can accommodate all types of growing methods, including hydroponics and good ol’ pots of soil. (Aquaponics, however, is best suited for an open room.) Key advantages of a grow tent are your garden is protected from pests and the elements, and access to your plants is just a zip away.


Why the Size of a Grow Tent Matters

The size of your tent is important, but bigger isn’t always better for beginners. Smaller tents are easier on the budget and a good way to test the waters without breaking the bank. They also take up less room and are easier to work in, even though they possess many of the features a big tent does. Plus, you can always go bigger later after you gain some experience.

A good size to start with is a 2x4-foot or 4x4-foot tent. Either can grow and sustain a nice little garden while allowing for easy access to your plants and accommodating standard lighting requirements.


What You Need Inside of a Grow Tent

Above and beyond what the tent manufacturer supplies, you’ll need to purchase lights, ducting, timers, power strips, and extension cords. You’ll also need soil and fertilizers, which should be plant specific.

Fans, both exhaust and oscillating models, must also be purchased. Airflow is paramount in grow tents as it replaces stale air with fresh, raises CO2 levels, and helps regulate heat that can easily build up in an enclosed structure. Place your exhaust fan up high to remove the hot air from the top of your growroom.


A Bit More About Grow Tent Lighting

For the best and safest results, make sure you choose lights with the recommended wattage for your tent size, garden footprint, and the type of plant you’re growing. Remember, smaller tents are still large enough to handle the hotter lights—up to a 400W high pressure sodium light—should you decide to upgrade. Just check the tent maker’s specs to make sure you get it right.

Also, remember that high intensity discharge (HID) lights put out heat as well as light, so they can’t be placed super close to your plants. Optimally, they should be placed anywhere from 12 to 48 inches away, depending upon the wattage.

Light emitting diodes (LEDs) on the other hand produce very little heat and can be placed closer to the garden’s canopy. When using compact fluorescent lights (CFL) or fluorescent fixtures, you can place them close to the top of your plants; within an inch or two.

It is also worth noting that while LED lights cost more to purchase initially, they use about half the energy of fluorescents and can last three times longer than CFLs.

No matter which type of lighting you decide to use, consider incorporating a pulley system to raise and lower your grow lights. It will make working your garden easier on you and safer for your plants.

Select a Safe Space for the Grow Tent

Speaking of safety, realize you are going to be watering your plants with some regularity and anytime you have water and electricity operating near one another, you can’t be too careful. As a general precaution, all things wet should be kept below waist level and all things electrical should be operating above waist level.

Also, all electrical cords should be up off the ground in the event of a water spill. To lessen the chance of an accident even more, be sure to use new or undamaged electrical and extension cords of the proper size to operate the system. Spending a few extra dollars on them is well worth the investment.

Plant Placement in the Grow Tent

Remember that plants grow and need some elbow room as they do. Those little seedlings that look so cute huddled together on day one could be fighting one another for more light and room to grow within weeks. Close is okay but cramped is not.

When done properly, growing indoors can be a unique and rewarding adventure… “in tents” even (all puns intended), especially come harvest time.


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Written by Alan Ray

Profile Picture of Alan Ray

Alan Ray has written five books and is a New York Times best-selling author. Additionally, he is an award-winning songwriter with awards from BMI and ASCAP respectively. He lives in rural Tennessee with his wife, teenage son, and two dogs: a South African Boerboel (Bore-Bull) and a Pomeranian/Frankenstein mix.

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