@MT3 I too am a first time grower; just finishing up my first grow. Growing, so far at least, reminds me of the estimates the IRS makes for tax preparation: I can’t imagine it takes so long.
So my experience has been very positive. By being here you are on the right track already and frankly the information here and elsewhere online is incredible. Things can go wrong, but frankly if you do your homework (and I don’t mean hours and hours of work), you’ll be fine.
For background, I have a 2.5 X 5.5 X 8 closet with door that opens to my garage. As a first timer, here are some things that surprised me or caused issues:
1, I first bought a 600W HPS/MH light. Discovered it generated way too much heat. Closet temps reached 90 degrees (even with an exhaust and a/c vent to the closet. I live in the SW USA. So hot is the norm.
2. Next I bought a “burple” led light that ended up being under powered for my space. I didn’t know about the newer “white” light leds at the time. If I’d known about those I might have chosen them but they are the most expensive by far.
3. It was suggested that my closet did not have enough fresh air (it is airtight) from just the a/c vent. Think of the times when a/c was not running. To solve that problem I ducted from the vent to a fan so I can pull fresh and cold air from the house. Fixing that enabled me to go back to the HPS/MH setup.
4. I was surprised how sensitive the plants are to nutes. It is very easy to over do it. Especially if you are using “hot” (already very nute rich) soil like Fox Farm Ocean. I ended up burning my plants a little.When starting out I found that less is more. Don’t use nutes until 4 to 6 weeks!
5. I bought PH UP and PH Down. Why I bought PH UP is beyond me. I’ll probably never use it. Tap water almost always (in cities anyway) has PH higher than what is required.
6. I measured PH of the water + nutes going in. Really must measure the extra run off to get ph of the soil. It will be lower than the other measure (at least for new FF Ocean).
7. I was surprised how much space 3 plants takes up once they take off! I filled every horizontal inch of my space with just 3 plants. This makes me think that 2X2 is too small for you even for a small grower especially since you wont have economy of scale. See next point.
8. I was surprised how much time it takes to care for the plants. The time for 3 or 4 plants will be similar for that of 1 so I recommend going a little larger. You can always grow less frequently instead.
9. No one talks about run off when watering/feeding. Make sure you have good pans deep enough to capture an inch or two of runoff. I first started taking my plants outside to water. Then decided it was too risky to do so.
10, People talk a lot about how they get the seeds to germinate. For me I simply pushed a seed into seed starter plugs that were themselves inserted into 1 gallon fabric pots and watered periodically, I had 100% success on seeds that were about 9 months old that I bought from ILGM. I eventually transferred to 5 gallon fabric vessels.
11. I think the single biggest thing to get right is the environment. The seeds, soil, nutes can be purchased but you’ll need to get the right light, temperature, humidity, and circulation. It took me awhile but I think I’ve got a good setup. As I mentioned I draw conditioned air from a hvac duct (assisted by fan). I exhaust air through the light shroud and thru ducts that terminate at a roof turbine. Both fans have their own speed control that I can dial in to control temp or humidity. I have zero smell outside the closet. I bought a carbon filter but have yet to install it as it doesn’t look like it is needed. Plus its really large and will obscure the lighting.
Here is what I purchased (some of which not needed or used):
The fans are expensive but awesome. Really high quality and quiet.
Hope this post is useful to you/others.