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Cleanliness 101

By Adrian Turner & Ben Owens

Cleanliness in the Grow starts with your mentality. It is extremely important to have a mentality of cleanliness; a steady, strong mentality of cleanliness begins within your daily life and habits, long before you ever step foot in your grow. Your level of awareness of cleanliness in general can have a really large effect on little stuff down the line, everything from your clothing to pit-stops on the way to the grow should be considered as part of the bigger picture. Many people think that they are clean but they don’t understand the level of cleanliness being taken into consideration.

Cleanliness Starts Outside the Grow

Start thinking about cleanliness before you even get close to the grow. Have you showered recently? Are your clothes fresh or were they worn to bed or to another grow? Did you stop for gas? What did you touch? What part of town are you in/coming from, and what pollutants or contaminants could be transferred to your clothing? Spores, pollen and bugs can catch onto almost any surface and make their way from far away into the grow if you aren’t paying attention, in home grows as well as commercial facilities

For me cleanliness starts far away from the grow; It starts at home and in my personal habits. Cleanliness is extremely important, not only for the grow, but for your general health as well. Wash your ass, you know what I'm saying? Take a shower and wear clean clothes. Spores travel on everything and you can’t see them. As you come to the grow be mindful of your clothes, personal hygiene and where you stop.

Cleanliness in the grow all starts outside the grow, then you work your way in.

Cleanliness Near Grow (Adjacent to/Outside of your Building/Tent)

Now that you’ve reached the grow, you’ve pulled into the parking lot or you’re in the room where all of your tents are. This is your “in between;” you’ve reached the grow, but you aren’t inside yet. Keep an open eye to any possible things that are in and around your property, as well as neighbors that could be sucked in to your system.

For example, right outside of one of the grows I manage is a pile of dirt with weeds and shit growing; I notice things like that because anything, especially organic matter that’s piled up and forgotten, can be the source of an infection if brought into the grow. If you have concerns, try your best to minimize or remove the threat by cleaning up as best as you can, or, if it is on a neighbor’s property, ask them if they mind your cleaning up or helping to mitigate things like dust and debris from making their way towards or into your grow.

I like to follow Good Neighbor policy: always be polite and have good rapport with neighbors; don’t trespass, but clean up where you can. Whether you are growing in a residential or commercial space, the Good Neighbor policy is especially important. Don’t piss off your neighbors, be proactive about cleaning, and be considerate of your property as well as those neighboring it.

Because it is so easy to track things into the grow, it is especially important to be mindful of those sources of contamination closest to the grow, and to have procedures in place such as a changing station for clothes and shoes to mitigate the potential for issues as best as possible.

Cleanliness in the Grow

When you step inside the grow, the first thing you should do is smell the space; take a big whiff to see if anything is off. Maybe a fuse blew. Maybe there’s an anaerobic pot that stinks like sulfur. Use all of your senses to make sure everything is in order. The first thing I do is smell because sometimes lights can blow, sometimes pots are stinking because of bacterial infections, and sometimes you can pick up on abnormalities, like one time when I was able to smell ethylene gas, and found out that we had decomposing green matter from trim that was off-gassing. Decomposition involves spores, molds and mildews, especially if you are composting, which means that it is especially important to expect and prevent infections, and have the knowledge to treat issues and the tools needed to get the job done on hand.

Prevention and mindfulness are key.

I have a scrubber going 24/7 in our Veg room, along with 2 other scrubbers to compensate for the dust pile I mentioned as well as the dust from nearby businesses. I'm working in a place near where they work on masonry, so there’s tons of dust all over this building, all the time, so I have to have extra filtration. Additionally, we maintain a positive pressure space to avoid in-taking any unseen contaminants.

Positive vs. Negative Pressures in Grow Areas

In many situations, especially with grow tents, growers set up the situation to have negative pressure, meaning that more air is being exhausted than is being sucked into the grow space. This means that all of that intake is going through a filter, into the grow, and rapidly expelled, which is a great start, but that negative pressure also creates small opportunities for contaminants to get in through air leaks in zippers, pin holes, clinched ports, and similar points of failure.

Positive pressure maintains a slightly higher intake rate than exhaust rate, meaning that the grow space balloons, so to speak, to push air outwards through these small gaps. Positive pressure helps to mitigate things that can get sucked in to cracks. If you are worried about the smell, positive pressure must be accommodated for and stinky exhaust filtered appropriately but positive pressure will help keep the bad stuff out.

Tips for Cleanliness in the Grow:

• Wear gloves when working with plants.

• Trim fingernails; so much shit comes in under fingernails.

• Wash hands often; dirt and residue can carry mold spores, bug larvae, etc.

Cleanliness Takeaways

There are two keys to running a clean garden: be mindful of your cleanliness, and have procedures in place to prevent and address issues that arise (commonly referred to as Integrated Pest Management or IPM). Having a mentality focused on cleanliness and an IPM that allows you to deal with real-world situations will help keep your grow as clean as possible.

Be mindful of cleanliness in your day to day operations. If you’re questioning it, clean it. An active cleanliness mindset means that you are always straightening up. The second most important part is to develop a steady IPM that treats the roots and foliage of your plants multiple times per week. We’ll explain IPM in detail in Cleanliness 102.