There are several reasons why growers may opt to set up stealth grows for their cannabis. Some prefer to shield their new hobby from prying eyes, while others might be trying their hand at cultivating marijuana from seeds for the first time.
Growing using a cheap space buckets is an excellent option to those who cannot commit to large operations just yet. A sizable setup needs extensive expertise, so it pays to have the necessary experience and knowledge beforehand instead of relying on guesswork.
As space buckets require growers to monitor their plants more closely, it is an excellent platform to learn and understand the basics of growing cannabis.
Read on as we show you one of the cheapest, stealthiest, and most space-efficient ways to grow your indoor cannabis plant – some assembly required.
What is a space bucket?
You may find many different interpretations of what the “perfect” space bucket design represents if you look online. The fact of the matter is that it can be as straightforward or as involved as you make it.
While some people use larger flip-top wheelie bins, others opt for the more traditional five 5-gallon bucket setup.
The receptacle of choice is lined in mylar or another reflective material to best diffuse the light inside the bucket.
You’ll also need to provide ample light sources, some fans to circulate the air around the cannabis plant, and some other sundries to help make this setup as hassle-free as possible.
How much does a space bucket cost?
One of the many attractive benefits of space buckets to new and veteran growers is the cost. You’d be hard-pressed to provide a setup as complete as this for any single cannabis plant at a lower cost.
A decent DIY space bucket will run for as little as $100 (water and electricity excluded, of course), while materials for an awesome hydroponic space bucket could run around $200, excluding utilities.
What do you need for a space bucket?
There’s a lot of scalability according to budget and the room you have when you set up your space bucket, so feel free to tailor it to what you can work with easily.
Now that we’ve got the basics covered, let’s check out the items you need to add to your shopping list before beginning the fun part of putting it all together.
Step one is finding a bucket that’s suited to your space and the cannabis plant you’re looking to cultivate.
A larger container like a wheelie bin will allow more surface area for buds to grow on and more height for your weed plant to reach out in but will need more reflective material to line the inside. It’s also not very scalable, so the size you got when you started is the size you’ll be stuck with for the entirety of the grow.
Enter the five 5-gallon bucket ‘system’; you can start with only three or four buckets and then gradually add segments to increase vertical height as your cannabis plant grows.
Adding height as you go saves you from reaching far down to water and exercise plant care, and maximizes the amount of light at your weed’s disposal.
With water and nutrients, adequate lighting will dictate the quality of buds you get to enjoy come harvest time. While we all may love the idea of having a full spectrum LED setup for our growth, you may find that such a setup will out-cost the sum of all the other components.
These LEDs might not be a problem if you’re serious about starting your own indoor grow tent setup anyway, but if you’re looking to save, four to six E27 Sockets will suffice.
Add some 23watt energy-saving CFLs or even the newer LED-type bulbs, and you’ll be all set. Avoid the older halogen or incandescent bulbs as they won’t only burn your marijuana plant but may pose a fire hazard in a small enclosure such as a space bucket.
Cannabis plants thrive on constant air circulation. Fans will help remove excess heat and humidity and help nitrogen circulate, keeping your weed plant breathing friendly and straightforward.
If you shop around, you may be able to find some USB desk fans for a reasonable price – just remember to add a USB power adaptor for each one. A tried and true method is to go for 12v computer fans.
Decent quality computer fans are designed to move high volumes of air at minimal noise levels. 120mm Fans are the sweet spot as far as noise to performance ratio is concerned. Also, add a 12volt power supply to drive the fans if you go the PC route.
Some PC fans include mounting hardware like self-tapping screws, but you may need to shop for these separately.
If you’re stacking 5-gallon buckets, two 120mm fans should suffice, but you may need to add more if you’re in a warmer or more humid region. Set them up so that they pull in fresh air from the bottom.
On the topic of PSUs, a 1amp unit will readily run two 12v fans. If you’re planning on adding more, you’ll need to add some overhead to cope with the extra current draw.
Bear in mind that basic setups like these don’t offer much in the way of smell proofing, so you may want to consider strains that have less odor for these kinds of grows. If you’re adamant about wanting to add some smell proofing, there are some space bucket carbon filter projects that integrate pretty easily.
Some people might tell you that simply using white buckets will offer enough light diffusion to keep your cannabis plants happy. Some people don’t know how to grow the fattest buds possible out of a space bucket setup yet.
You want the maximum amount of light refraction inside of your space bucket, and a flat white surface will only take you a part of the way.
Mylar is an excellent choice for light diffusion. You can get a basic idea of how much you’ll need by measuring the height of your bucket and by wrapping some string around the outside, and then measuring the length of it after straightening it out.
Almost any reflective material will do the job but avoid tinfoil as it’s not only conductive (DIY Tesla coils are a project for another day); it may also serve as an insulator and could cook your marijuana plant.
We recommend black masking tape to help block out light where needed and to help hold the reflective material down while the glue sets. Some people opt to use aluminum or duct tape for the job, but masking tape will suffice, especially at its price point compared to other options.
A power strip fixed to the bucket will help keep the seemingly inevitable tangle mess to a minimum and give you a centralized hub to run all of the equipment. Make sure you pick one with enough outputs that aren’t too long to cable tie or glue to your bucket.
If you don’t plan on going for an autoflower cannabis strain, you’ll need to adjust the amount of light your plant receives to bring it into flower. A regular 24-hour timer between your power strip and light connection will serve this purpose faithfully (and cheaply).
Other minor tools
On top of the above, you’ll need the following tools to make preparing your space bucket a stress-free experience:
- A retractable utility knife with some fresh blades: You’ll need this to cut your bucket segments to size, add the holes for the fans, and for cutting your reflective materials.
- A hot glue gun: A reliable and fast way of fixing your reflective material to the inside of your space bucket. You can also use it to fix your fans quickly and stick down any rattly cables.
- Some flexible wire: This will help you fix things in place a bit more securely than glue can.
Other tools can make the job even easier but aren’t deemed essential:
- Jigsaws make the task of cutting your bucket as required a breeze, and with a fine-tooth blade, the job will be as neat as can be.
- Holesaw: If you’re an avid DIY-er, you may have a hole saw kit at your disposal. These allow you to cut perfectly round holes for your fans and lights.
Regardless of the size of your toolkit or the amount of DIY skills you possess, setting up a space bucket is a very straightforward endeavor. Next, we look at the steps on how to build a space bucket.
How to make a space bucket
1. Prepare the outer casing
Start by making drainage holes in the bottom of the bucket using a 10mm drill or a hot screwdriver. If you have a soldering iron at your disposal, it’ll make quick work of this task. Now line the inside walls with your reflective material or mylar. If you’re using mylar, crumple it up for it to refract as much light as possible.
Attach some masking tape to hold it down as you apply glue between the mylar and bucket’s surfaces. If you intend to grow photoperiod strains, you may want to spray the outside of the bucket black or cover it with a lightproof material like black tape.
While you have the cutters out, you can pre-cut your extra two or three buckets that’ll serve as extensions later. Remember to line and cover them the same as the base.
2. Create the exhaust system
Use your cutting implement of choice to cut appropriately sized holes for your fans. Remember that you need to have fresh air enter the bottom and warm air escaping from the top. Using the provided screws or some cable ties, fix your fans to openings. All PC fans have arrows on one of the sides indicating the direction in which the blade spins and how the air flows.
Lastly, run your wires neatly and connect them to your 12v PSU.
3. Install your lighting
Now it’s time to install the E27 sockets into the lid of your bucket. Most people find that four bulbs will fit comfortably under a standard 5-gallon bucket lid. For convenience, wire them all in parallel if you’d prefer not to have to switch each one off individually and save some space on your power strip.
4. Fix the power strip to your bucket
Next, make some holes through which you can run some cable ties to fix your power strip securely to your bucket. You may want to glue it as well but might be able to do without it if you intend to repurpose the power strip at a later stage.
Take this time to consider your cable management; cut your wires to appropriate lengths to reach your power strip without too much slack and connect your plug ends.
5. Check how lightproof the bucket is
This step is essential if you’re planning on growing feminized or regular weed strains. With the space bucket lights off, stick your head in there and see if you have any external light bleeding in. At most, you should see some entering from the fan holes. If that’s not the case, you can use aluminum tape on the inside to cover some leaks or black tape on the outside to do the same.
Dealing with the fan hole light leaks may require some finesse in creating a downward-facing duct or some simple ingenuity in simply draping a cover over the space bucket for dark periods.
6. Time for the pre-flight checks
Once you’ve made all your connections and checked all your fitments, make sure all your wiring is neatly routed (and won’t potentially dangle in an errand puddle). Now it’s time to connect your power strip to the wall and verify that everything is working as intended.
How much will you yield in a space bucket?
The topic of space bucket yields is often hotly contested, and rightfully so, multiple seedlings from the very same parent may yield vastly different cannabis plants. With that said, in an average 5-gallon space bucket setup, you can expect about 1-2oz of buds per harvest.
What are the best strains for space buckets?
You may see some success with nearly any strain you choose to grow in your space bucket; specific variants will do better in this environment than others, though.
- Autoflower seeds are the first choice for many growers when it comes to space buckets for weed. They’re generally hardy, don’t grow very tall, and they’re not photoperiod sensitive, so you can blast light for 18 hours a day and not have to worry about light seepage in your setup.
Most autoflowers are also fast growers, and you could see a harvest in as little as twelve weeks. Autos are easily the best strain for space buckets.
- Feminized seeds are another excellent choice when you consider the space constraints of growing in a bucket. Choosing these will ensure that you grow a bud-bearing cannabis plant at the end of the day. Remember that these are photoperiod crops, so you’ll need to adjust the lighting schedule to bring them into flower.
You’ll also need to take care in blocking out any light from reaching the weed plant during dark periods. You’ll also want to choose a variant that doesn’t tend to grow too tall before being ready to flower, as it’ll have limited vertical and horizontal space after all.
- Regular seeds, while cheaper, aren’t recommended as there’s a 50% chance that you may have a male plant. We recommend avoiding regular cannabis seeds for your space bucket grow unless you have a secondary grow space where you can cultivate a weed plant large enough to sex it.
Prepare for take-off
Whatever your motivations are, there’s no contending with the ease and low cost of making your space bucket. Following this guide, you can be up and running in no time with a bit of tailoring to your specific requirements. Another expert tip is to keep a journal of your space bucket grow for future reference and repeatable results!
About the author: Derek LaRose
Also known as Kronic from The Cannabis Kronicles, Derek LaRose is a young ambitious cultivator and a staple educator for indoor cultivation.