Space Buckets – Start Growing Marijuana For $100!
by Ekrof (re-published with permission)
Example of a Space Bucket in Action
A Space Bucket Harvest
Average yield is around 1 oz, though you can get up to 2 oz with the skills of a bucket wizard!
Table of Contents
Forward by Nebula Haze: Space Buckets are easy to build at home, and will allow you to grow small amounts of marijuana in a way that’s low-budget, simple, and doesn’t need a lot of room.
Unlike other, more expensive grow methods, a basic starter Space Bucket can be made for about $100.
Today Ekrof introduces you to the basics of creating your own Space Bucket.
Get started growing today!
Space Buckets are easy to make and require readily available items. You won’t need to find anything special.
Total investment? About $100-$200
Items Needed to Make a Space Bucket:
4 or more 5gal (20L) buckets, and one lid (you can use more buckets for a taller Space Bucket / bigger plants) – to save some extra cash these buckets are usually cheaper to buy in person, for example, you can find 5-gallon buckets at Home Depot for $5/each. Get a white bucket if possible, as it helps reflect more light. Some growers also paint the inside of their buckets white.
6 x 23w CFL bulbs and the same number of E27 sockets
(more light is better up to a point, but heat is also a concern; using 6 small CFLs gives the best of both in a space bucket)
2+ PC Fans and a 12v power supply (use more fans for additional cooling)
Any kind of reflective material (like white paint or Mylar)
A standard 24h timer to automatically turn lights on and off
Some wire, glue and other minor tools you probably already have around the house
How to Make Your Space Bucket
These grow buckets can be made in a few hours, and only basic knowledge of the dangers of electricity is needed. A few steps in the following guide were simplified for the sake of legibility and common sense.
Step 1: Build Main Casing For Space Bucket
A.) Make holes in bottom of one bucket for water drainage
Pick your best looking bucket and make some holes in the bottom with a hot screwdriver. This will enable water drainage once the soil and plant is put in. It’s recommended to put some rocks on the bottom of the bucket, they will keep the bucket from getting clogged.
The more drainage, the better.
B.) Place reflective material on inside walls
Next, put reflective material on the inside walls, it sticks neatly with any kind of glue (and a little patience).
If you happen to have white buckets, this covering is optional, as the walls will be very reflective. Aluminium foil is usually not recommended for safety reasons.
C.) Cover outside with black tape or paint to light-proof your bucket
Also, don’t forget to cover the outside walls with layers of black tape or paint, this will make the Space Bucket mostly lightproof and will let you control light leaks.
Step 2: Create Your Exhaust System (Intake & Outtake Holes with fans)
Cut 2 holes on opposite sides of the main bucket (a hot knife can be used to melt the plastic).
These will hold the PC fans (8×8 or 12×12) so you will need to cut them to size. It’s best to have a tight fit and apply some pressure, as bucket walls bend.
Once the fans are in place, connect the 12v power supply to them.
Make sure the power supply has the right amperage (a standard one with 1A can run at least 2 or 3 fans).
One fan will act as the intake, the other as exhaust.
That means that one fan should be pointing in (intake), and the other fan should be pointing out (exhaust).
Nebula’s note: If one fan is bigger than the other, use the bigger fan for the exhaust (pulling air out of the bucket). Pulling hot air out is more effective than trying to push cold air in. Whenever possible, it’s generally recommended to place your exhaust/outtake hole closer to the top, so that it is pulling out the hot air close to your grow lights.
Step 3: Install bulbs on lid
Here’s the design I originally used for Space Bucket lids, though I’ve found the following design is far superior:
In this design, the lights are placed horizontally to maximize the amount of light given to the plants. This configuration also reduces the height needed (additional bucket tops) for your Space Bucket. You can add an extra exhaust fan to pull hot air out and away from your lights.
Pick a bucket lid and make holes for the bulb sockets. Wire them in parallel with cable and a plug. Here’s a diagram I made on how to wire your lights in parallel for your space bucket.
You can use a light fixture to simplify this step, but it’s not ideal. It’s better to wire your own lights.
Once the wiring is done, glue a container on the lid for safety, like this:
You can use a lot of things for this, but never use aluminium foil or any other conductive material.
You can also make a light-top to fit more CFL wattage inside the bucket. This allows for sideways bulbs, and should be more effective than light-lids. Check the Optional Extras & Upgrades section for more information about this superior design as well as other tricks!
Step 4: Glue Power Strip To Side of Bucket
It is now time to glue a power strip to one side of the bucket.
This is where you will connect the plug from the lights (and timer) and the 12v power supply for the fans, among other things.
Step 5: Cut off tops from all buckets except one, and stack them on top of each other to give your bucket adjustable height
Cut the top off every bucket but the main one, leaving some inches of the plastic wall.
The tops will be stacked to the main bucket to alter the height of the lights.
This allows you to adjust your lights easily as your plants grow.
Put reflective material inside and tape outside.
Step 6: Light-proof your finalized space bucket and connect everything together
You can now connect and assemble your indoor garden.
Use black tape (or paint) and glue to cover holes and make the bucket as lightproof as possible, this step is for details and finishing touches.
Connect the timer, lights and 12v supply to the power strip, and then the strip to a socket.
That is it, you’re done!
You now have a fully functional Space Bucket.
Plant directly in the main bucket, turn on the lights and timer, and watch life thrive and grow.
You can always add more bucket tops if you need more height for the lights, and CFL bulbs can be upgraded to 42w (watch out for the additional heat put out by these bigger lights).
You should keep in mind that this is the basic Space Bucket design: please check Optional Extras and Upgrades and Learn to grow section for advanced techniques. Good luck!
Optional Extras and Upgrades
Space Buckets can be upgraded with a LED spotlight, which is also easy to make and relatively cheap.
There are many types of LED lights; the one used in this quick guide is a 3x3w High-Power LED module (here’s a PDF with the technical specifications of the LED light), warm white.
The resulting LED thing can be used to focus light on a specific part of the plant. Modules and instructions may vary.
The image below explains the procedure:
1.) Take the module and attach a passive cooler (with thermal paste).
2.) Connect cables to a 12v power supply with the proper amperage.
3.) Add some legs to plant the spotlight. Finished!
Easy Watering System
You can also update you Space Bucket with a safer and simple watering system that uses gravity to push water out of a hose.
The basic idea is to make a hole on the side of the bucket and put some kind of hose through it, making sure that the angle will allow the water to flow.
A cointaner and a valve is added to control the amount of water used.
CFL Light-Top Design
Another recommended update is the light-top, a new way of installing the CFL bulbs on the Space Buckets.
This design uses sockets added to bucket-tops to fit about 4 sideways bulbs.
Here’s an example of one possible configuration with stacked light-tops (total of 192W)
Here is another (this one is unstacked) light-top with 138w, which uses much larger CFLs:
With this much wattage, a more powerful fan will be needed to extract the heat from the bulbs. A 220v fan can be mounted on the light-top for this purpose. Make sure this fan is pointing outward from the inside of your bucket, to pull hot air away from the lights and out the top.
Tips for growing marijuana in your Space Bucket
There are a few techniques that can be used to optimize the Space Buckets. It is essential to keep the plants relatively short, and bushy as possible. Training, topping and pruning is recommended.
LST (low-stress training) is a basic tool for keeping the height of the plant under control. Simply tie the branches to the sides of the buckets, or directly onto the soil. Combined with topping, this method keeps the plants low and bushy.
If the plant has many bucket tops, the canopy will surely be under more heat, as the ventilation is generally at ground level. In this case, a third PC fan can be added to a bucket top for more mobile ventilation. A standard 1A 12v power supply should be able to run three fans, depending on their amperage usage; if it doesn’t work, the active intake at ground level can be disabled.
Odor control is still work in progress, as PC fans are too weak to work effectively as carbon scrubbers.
Safety first! Be extra careful with watering. Always disconnect the power, and keep an eye on splashes. Watch out for water runoff.
About The Author: Ekrof
As someone without a lot of room to grow, I found myself searching for a way to grow marijuana plants that was easy and could fit in my apartment. I began to experiment with growing in buckets.
Space Buckets have proven to be an easy and inexpensive to set up while plants thrive. After I made my first space bucket, the rest was history. I’ve been building the Space Buckets community over the last year and I invite you to join us.
My very first Space Bucket
This was my first harvest with a Space Bucket!
Best Strain For Your Space Bucket
These are some things to consider when choosing a strain for your space bucket:
- Auto-flowering (recommended) – Just give your plant light/water/soil and it will automatically start producing buds on her own. An autoflowering strain prevents you from having to worry about light schedules. Auto-flowering strains tend to stay much smaller and are ready to harvest in under 3 months.
- Feminized – Feminized seeds only grow into female plants, so all plants grown from these seeds produce buds. Otherwise, half the plants will be male and not produce any buds.
- Tough – A tough strain makes hardy plants that are surprisingly resilient against problems
- Stays Short – Some strains are “stretchier” than others. Short strains naturally stay on the smaller side (perfect for a small growing space like a Space Bucket)
- Ultra-short grow time – Since you want plants to stay small, you want plants that tend to be ready to harvest quickly (so they don’t have time to get as big)
- Effects – You’re growing buds for yourself, which means you should get the exact effects you’re looking for! Choose a strain that seems to have what you’re looking for. It’s important to be excited about the strain you’re growing! It helps you take better care of your plants.
- Smell – Some strains smell more than others, and each strain has a unique smell. I love strains that have strong, unique smells. But if you’re going for stealth, a lower smelling strain may be better. See examples of low-odor strains.
Autoflowering Strain Recommendations
- Zkittlez Auto by Seedsman – Seedsman is both a breeder and a seed bank. They carry pricey high-end strains from many breeders but also use their connections to offer new and celebrated genetics at reasonable prices. A few years ago, Seedsman started focusing on their in-house auto-flowering breeding program, and have built an impressive autoflowering strain library. Their easy-to-grow Zkittlez autoflowering strain is popular because buds are potent, smell surprisingly sweet, and taste fruity. Great for someone who wants high potency combined with the taste and smell of new genetics – $30 for 3 seeds
- Gelat.OG Auto by Seedsman – This may be the best autoflowering version of the trendy and euphoric Gelato strain. Plants tend to stay on the shorter side and buds occasionally turn purple. For someone who wants STRONG mental and physical effects above all else – $30 for 3 seeds
- Auto Amnesia by MSNL – Forgiving and easy to grow, buds always come out glittery and potent. I’ve grown this strain multiple times and it responds remarkably well to every light I’ve tried including cheap “blurple” LEDs that stressed out many of the other plants. In fact, Auto Amnesia almost seems to perform best in extreme conditions as some of the best buds came from a plant that grew too close to the light. The one downside is that plants tend to grow a bit stretchy/tall compared to the others on this list (though they respond well to bending/LST to keep them short and are resistant to light stress). As long as you stay on top of bending, it’s a great choice for a space bucket – $40 for 5 seeds
I love Auto Amnesia every time I grow it (big or small setups)
A bud from the Auto Amnesia after being dried and cured
- Auto Grand Daddy Purple by MSNL – I’ve had really good experiences with all of the MSNL autoflowering strains. This particular strain often turns purple and buds come out dense with stellar effects and a spicy-sweet smell. You can help promote purple coloring by giving plants warm days and cool nights in the last 2-3 weeks before harvest – $52 for 5 seeds
- THC Bomb Auto by Bomb Seeds – I’m super impressed by this strain every time I grow it. It thrives under many different types of lights and plants grow fast and bushy. Good-to-great yields and the buds get encrusted in trichomes/glitter. I actually got two of these plants lab-tested (as part of a different project) and buds measured between 18-20% THC, exactly as advertised – $50 for 5 seeds
I’ve grown THC Bomb Auto several times, and it always makes fat buds with strong effects
- Cinderella Jack Auto by Dutch Passion – I first grew this strain after a representative from the company told me it was Dutch Passion’s most potent autoflowering strain. I was beyond pleased with the results I got every time I grew it. Dense and glittery buds, high-yielding, ultra-high potency (couchlock) and plants are overall forgiving to growing mistakes – $40 for 3 seeds
- Ultimate Auto by Dutch Passion – easy to grow, very high yielding (usually yields more than any other plant grown in the same conditions), and has responded well to multiple different grow lights. The smooth-smoking buds promote relaxation and good vibes. The perfect daytime strain (not too heavy) and well-loved by those looking for more classic mental effects. The potency has been described as reminiscent of California weed from the 1990s and early 2000s – $35 for 3 seeds
An Ultimate Auto plant. This strain yields well no matter how you grow it. This one was grown under only 100W.
- Any strain by Mephisto Genetics – Mephisto specializes in autoflowering strains. For some of their strains, I’ve had so-so yields and slow germination, but I’m still never disappointed. Why? It’s a matter of quality over quantity. Mephisto buds always look amazing, smell like paradise, and produce outstanding effects. In my opinion, that’s worth a little extra leeway – Price Varies and options change frequently
Ekrof explains how to start growing marijuana for about $100 using a technique known as "Space Buckets"
Buckets Full Of Sunshine: How To Make Your Own Space Buckets
The latest cultivation trend: growing lush pot plants in tiny grow chambers that anyone can build. Here’s how to make your own space bucket.
Micro-Growing Space Bucket Style
In the finished basement of a rambling green home on a sandy residential street a stone’s throw from the blue-gray ocean of Massachusetts’s South Shore, John is ushering us down into the cramped bedroom closet where he keeps his space bucket.
Let’s be clear: We’re not just peering into the closet—John, myself and my photographer are all crowded inside it, personal space at a premium, ducking to avoid clothes on hangers to check out the bucket itself, which is stashed against the wall next to a tackle box and some old boots. It’s about the size of a mini-fridge, fashioned from two Sterilite tote buckets, the top one wrapped in a layer of black duct tape to prevent light from a 300-watt Mars Hydro LED system mounted to the top from escaping. Three ventilation fans hum faintly, and a narrow band of purple light leaks from the seam between the buckets.
John opens the lid, and inside is a 6-week-old female 707 Headband plant growing in the soil of a small pot, its pale buds just starting to flower in the otherworldly glow. Its minute size is striking: Indicas in particular, John says, will adapt to the constrained space, and he’s helped keep this one to a bushy height of about six inches with a combination of topping and low-stress training. When he harvests it next month, he expects it to have grown to no more than eight inches—and to end up with about an ounce of dank flower.
“I’m not growing to grow pounds,” says John, whose kids are playing video games in the next room while his wife putters around upstairs. “I’m growing because it’s cool.”
John, who asked us not to use his last name because he’s a small-business owner, is a member of a spirited new subculture of home growers who have congregated online in recent years to share information about—and instructions for building—tiny grow chambers cobbled together from 5-gallon buckets, totes, plastic barrels and materials you can buy at Home Depot or Lowe’s. They call them “space buckets,” and draw inspiration both from traditional closet growers and the hacker-inflected maker community, where the open-source taste for sharing knowledge and designs is deeply ingrained.
Glow And Low
The concept is undeniably elegant. Cannabis isn’t a difficult plant to grow, but it is notoriously picky about lighting. Unlike a closet-grow setup, which can call for hundreds of watts of power, a well-built space bucket reflects nearly all the light output back to the plant, and many growers have eked out defensible harvests with just 100 watts of LED or compact fluorescent lighting—with an electric bill uptick of just 10 or 20 dollars, depending on local rates.
There’s also a certain erudition. John affects a Boston folksiness, but as he speaks confidently about vapor pressure, density and soil acidity, it becomes clear that he’s a deeply experienced gardener with a citizen scientist’s enthusiasm for documentation and experimentation—and that part of the space-bucket ethos that drew him in is the opportunity to control every input a plant receives.
“It’s like playing God, man,” he says with a grin. In fact, John and a few friends are currently planning an experiment in which they’ll set up a handful of space buckets with identical conditions so that they can change one variable—the hours of light they give the plant during the flowering phase, say—and lab-test the potency of each harvest afterward to expand the knowledge base of effective indoor-growing praxis.
Space buckets were originally the brainchild of a pseudonymous Web developer in Buenos Aires who goes by the Internet handle Ekrof (who, though he takes pains to note that he later discovered a few similar designs that had been floating around the Web prior to his work, unquestionably popularized the concept).
“My first plant failed to grow because of the little sunlight I got in my apartment,” Ekrof said in an online interview. “That is when I decided to add a CFL bulb to the lid of the bucket, and a couple PC fans to keep the air running. This basic design turned out to be very effective and easy to tweak and upgrade.”
Ekrof recalls that he coined the term about five years ago, after photos of his space bucket and subsequent harvest he uploaded to a forum elicited astonishment from fellow growers. He ended up registering spacebuckets.com, a site that features user-uploaded space-bucket builds and grow guides, as well as a subreddit in which space bucketeers discuss the finer points of nutrition, lighting, carbon filters and more. Some have even documented experiments in growing plants other than cannabis: strawberries, wasabi, kitchen herbs and even avocado sprouts.
“We are a community of learners, a movement of tinkerers,” Ekrof said. “Most importantly, we believe in the free flow of ideas and the unparalleled power of the Internet.”
Builds can be sophisticated—John designed his so that he can use his smartphone to check temperature and humidity, and even turn the lighting on and off remotely, using an Arduino board—but Ekrof emphasizes that a bucket doesn’t need to be that complex. His first prototype, the one that caught the interest of so many growers back in 2013, was cobbled together from a couple of 5-gallon buckets, reflective tape, a few small fans and a handful of CFL bulbs.
You can grow your own quality bud today, he says, with a similar setup and a low entry cost. John’s space bucket, which is large and unusually complicated, cost about $300 including everything down to the plant food; a simpler setup, with fluorescent lighting, might run closer to $100. (Check out the guide at the end of this story for more info on how to build your own space bucket.)
And if you’re not handy with tools, there are signs that a cottage industry has started to spring up of artisans who build and sell their own space buckets. CJ Cummings, who sells artisan space buckets through an Etsy store called MostlySafe out of Portland, OR, says that he sold about 20 units last year for $275 apiece, and hopes to move more going forward.
“In five to seven years from now, you’ll see space buckets being sold like hydro grow sets,” Cummings says. “You need only look in the past to see how products have become mainstays.”
Cummings first started thinking about tiny, controlled grow chambers when he was watching episodes of Star Trek: Voyager involving the airponics bay maintained by the alien character Kes; Cummings started Googling and soon ended up on the space-buckets subreddit. The rest, he says, is history.
“If we are going to go into space, and I hope we do, we need to have ways we can grow bountiful amounts of food in a controlled environment,” Cummings says.
The winter in Boston is long and cruel, and it’s lingered this year into a dismal gray spring. Back on the South Shore, as we watch the artificial sunlight spill out from John’s bucket, I’m overcome by the illogical urge to climb in, hunker down and bask in its warm brightness until the weather warms, the days lengthen and greenery creeps back into the landscape.
Space Bucket Materials:
- 3 5-gallon buckets
- 1 5-gallon bucket lid
- 1 roll black duct tape
- 1 bottle Gorilla Glue
- 1 roll reflective Mylar
- 2 12-volt, 80-mm computer fans
- 1 12-volt power supply
- 4 wire nuts
- 10 small zip ties
- 3 bolts
- 3 nuts
- 1 4-socket light fixture [pictured]
- 4 23-watt compact fluorescent bulbs
How To Make Space Buckets
Step 1: Wrap the exterior of one 5-gallon bucket in black duct tape. Use glue to coat the interior with sheets of reflective Mylar. Drill drainage holes in the bottom. Drill four small holes on the side and run zip ties through them to attach the power strip.
Step 2: Use a serrated knife to cut two holes for the fans in the wall of the same bucket. Drill another small hole near each fan opening, then run zip ties through them to fix the fans to the bucket, one as intake and one as exhaust. Use wire nuts to connect the fans to the 12-volt power supply.
Step 3: Cut the bottoms off two more buckets to create spacers to add height when your plant outgrows the first bucket. The 5-gallon buckets should nest perfectly, so no light should escape when the buckets fit together. Save the bottom of one of the spacer buckets to catch drainage.
Step 4: Cut the bottom off the fourth bucket, the same way you made the spacers. Duct-tape the lid to it and cut a hole in the lid in the shape of your light fixture. Duct-tape the light fixture to the lid so that only the bulbs emerge inside. Finally, wrap the exterior in duct tape to keep light from escaping.
The latest cultivation trend.