Linda Tomlinson

Gardening: Converting cabinet into a grow cabinet is popular

Grow cabinets, which are confined areas fitted with grow lights. They started as part of the hydroponic units associated with growing marijuana but have evolved to grow sprouts, bedding out plants, vegetables and tropical.

The style of the cabinets, and the spacing of shelves reflects the end use.

Grow cabinets that are readily available for sale are tents or of a solid wood or metal design. Ones that come with an extensive exhaust systems allow people to grow marijuana without having to contend with the full impact of the odor. Sprouting grow cabinets have many shelves close together. The commercial ones have water and lights on a timer along with thermostat controls.

Home growers that are growing bedding out plants or vegetables are more likely to use cabinets with solid wooden or metal sides and doors. The solid materials keep the light contained within the cabinet allowing them to use purple grow lights without casting a hue over the rest of the area.

Those that are growing tropical plants tend to use cabinets that have glass doors and or sides making it an attractive feature in the room.

Converting a cabinet into a grow cabinet is popular as it can be accomplished by most people with very little equipment.

The cabinet can be sourced second hand or purchased. They are usually the depth of a bookcase or china cabinet. The width and height are often dependent on the space available.

The distance between the shelves will dictate what can be grown. Typically bedding out plants and vegetables, lettuce, herbs have shelves closer together than ones that contain larger tropicals.

What the shelves are made out of is often limited by the materials on hand but keep in mind that solid shelves tend to be better at holding pots upright while ones made out of wire provide better air circulation.

Impenetrable surfaces such as metal, plastic, and glass surfaces repel moisture and humidity. Wood needs a heavy coating or it will absorb moisture from humidity and spilt water making it a breeding ground for mold and fungi.

LED grow lights are attached to the underside of the shelves and the top inside of the cabinet, thus providing light to all areas of the cabinet.

For best growth choose LED lights that are cool and are full spectrum. Florescent and incandescent lights cost more to run and give off too much heat.

Depending on the size of the cabinet, one or more fans will be needed to move the air to hinder the growth of fungus and molds. Choose small fans like the ones used to keep computers cool.

A small humidifier may be needed depending on the plants being grown. Most tropicals thrive in a humidity higher than what is available in the typical home.

When possible drill a hole in the cabinet for the electrical wires to go through. Putting the cords at the corner of a door works but it can pinch and damage cords.

For optimum growth, monitor temperature and humidity in the cabinet.

Before converting a cabinet into a growing cabinet, talk to people that have growing cabinets or watch some online videos as people are very willing to share what worked and didn’t work for them.

Consider setting up a growing cabinet especially if the rooms do not have a good natural light source.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that has gardened for over 30 years in central Alberta.