Everything you need to know about DIY grow tents

America's move towards cannabis legalization has come with plenty of upsides, but if you ask us, the proliferation of homegrown weed is near the top of the list. As more states enact legalization laws that welcome personal pot farming, geography, weather, and residential restrictions are moving many prospective home growers out of the garden and into the garage, basement, or closet.

Just because your apartment doesn't have the same acreage as a farm in the Emerald Triangle doesn't mean you can't grow your own ganja. In fact, with just a few trips to your local hardware and garden supply store and some simple assembly, you can construct a DIY grow tent and produce your own weed year-round. 

Why build a grow tent?

If you're going to grow weed inside, you'll need some light. After all, the whole design of indoor cultivation is meant to replicate and improve on the benefits of natural sunlight. And while outdoor plants are beloved for, well, growing like weeds, the main benefit of an indoor grow is the ability to control every single aspect of the plant's environment. 

at home indoor cannabis cultivation
Indoor growing is all about creating a micro-environment for your plants.
Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

That's where a grow tent comes into play. Technically, you don't need a grow tent to start an indoor plot, but unless you have access to a commercial grow warehouse, odds are your basement, garage, or closet is not a perfect set up for cultivation. Indoor growing is all about creating a micro-environment for your plants. By constructing an enclosed space, you can maximize light coverage, keep out pests and debri, filter air, and moderate temperature and humidity.

What material do you need for a DIY grow tent?

Thanks to the legalization green rush, the cannabis grow industry is thriving. That means that there are plenty of relatively cheap pre-built grow tents available if you don't have the time or energy to make one yourself. If you're committed to a DIY grow tent, though, the first step to sorting out your material list is deciding on a frame and size. 

Traditionally, the structural bones of a grow tent were made out of PVC pipe or wood. For the construction novice though, using a ready-made wire rack for your grow tent frame is by far the easiest option. The removable, adjustable shelving units will allow you to easily hang lights, fans, and hold your plants without building a micro-ballast or custom shelves. A standard 36” x 12” x 54” shelving unit is perfect for housing 1-2 plants, while a wider 36” x 24” x 54” rack could potentially fit 3-4 small pots.

Once you've got your structure built, you'll need to pick a light. LED grow lights have gone through huge technological improvements over the past few years, and buying a quality high-powered, full-spectrum light is cheaper than ever. Just make sure that the unit you choose has the proper dimensions to fit within the space of your shelving rack. 

To keep the light focused and reflected as much as possible onto your plants, the next thing you need is the “tent” part of your grow tent. Using a material that is bright and reflective on the inside and black on the outside will properly direct the light onto your plants while ensuring that no light leaks out. This kind of rack wrap can be built on the cheap using reflective space blankets and layers of black trash bags. For just a little more money, we recommend investing in black and white panda film or one-sided mylar wrap.

You'll also need one or two small fans (clip-ons work well), a ventilation fan, a short length of ventilation ducting, a bunch of zip ties, a few rolls of duct tape and a couple of magnetic or velcro strips, and an automatic timer for your lights. Of course, you'll also need cannabis plants and the hydroponic set-up or living soil they will grow in, but that's a whole different list of steps, supplies, and decisions.

To recap, here's a checklist of everything you'll need for your DIY grow tent: 

  • ready-made wire rack (36” x 12” x 54” for 1-2 plants or 36” x 24” x 54” for 3-4 small plants)
  • LED lights
  • black and white panda film or one-sided mylar wrap
  • 1-2 small fans
  • ventilation fan
  • ventilation ducting
  • zip ties
  • duct tape
  • magnetic or velcro strips
  • automatic timer for each grow light

Simple steps to make a DIY grow tent

The first step to assemble your grow tent is putting together your frame, or in our case, the wire shelving rack. Once you've put in a top shelf to hang your lights from and a bottom shelf to hold your plant(s), use zip ties or a wire hanging kit to string your light below your highest shelf. Zip tie and duct tape your wires and timer along the frame of the rack. Set up your fans to circulate the air and push any heat generated by the lights towards the top of your shelving. 

Once your shelving, lights, and wiring is all good to go, pull out your panda film or mylar and start wrapping the rack to create your tent. Because the tent is made to keep all of your light inside, reflecting, and focused on your plant, make sure that there are no light leaks and that your chosen wrap creates a floor and a roof to completely encase the structure. Leave one side of your box open and create a door using more of your chosen tape and with a pair of velcro or magnetic adhesive strips. You'll need to access the inside of the tent to water and feed your plant(s), adjust the light height, and eventually, harvest your buds, so making sure your door is both accessible and light-sealed is important.

The next step is setting up your ventilation system. To ensure proper ventilation, cut a hole in the top quadrant or roof of your tent and connect your ducting to the exhaust fan and make sure you can funnel the forced air either outside or into an attic or basement to keep the eventual odor down. If you're really worried about the smell of your indoor grow, install a carbon filter in the middle of the exhaust set-up. If you want to get fancy, set up a thermometer, humidifier, and dehumidifier in your grow tent for peak environmental control.

With all of that gear in place, pick your favorite seeds or clone, sit back, and watch your new garden grow. 

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The information contained in this site is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical or legal advice. This page was last updated on December 8, 2020.