This is the time of year when we start to think about what plants we want to start from seed for our spring gardens. The seed catalogues pour in, we spend hours browsing the selections and making our choices. Growing plants from seed is a fair amount of work and expense, so most of all we want to be successful. There is lots to think about, suitable growing containers, proper growing mediums, fertilizers, timing and of course light sources.
All plants require light for growth and if you are lucky enough to have a very sunny window sill you will have some success, but for optimum success in growing seedlings you really do need an additional source of light. For indoor growing some sort of “grow-light” is what you need. Plant lights are an artificial light source which try to emit a light spectrum similar to the sun for optimum plant growth. There is a large range of bulbs used in horticulture but for the indoor home gardener LED, HID and Florescent bulbs are the most widely used.
(photos by Pixabay )
HID Lights ( High Intensity Discharge )
Many HID lights produce a light spectrum similar to the sun, and are therefore very popular for indoor growing. Their range of light is generally suitable to all phases of plant growth. Metal Halide bulbs emit light in the blue and violet parts of the spectrum, producing strong root systems, resistance to disease and a more compact growth. Often used by commercial growers and can be fairly expensive.
Unlike HID lights these bulbs do not require a separate ballast and can be plugged into a standard electrical socket. Since each LED emits a specific wavelength, bulbs can be customized to emit wavelength specific light. An example is that the spectrums of red and blue light have an effect on root development, growth and flowering. LEDs are energy-efficient, have intense light and produce little heat, but are often a bit more expensive.
Fluorescent lights are usually long, thin bulbs or small spiral shaped bulbs. These lights are not as intense and are usually used for starting seedlings. Standard types are T5, T8 and T12 with the brightest being T5. Compact Fluorescent Lights ( CFLs ) are often used in propagation and situations where lower light levels are required. Warm red CFLs are used for flowering and Cool blue CFLs for vegetative growth.
What to Use
Which type of plant light system you choose will depend on your budget, space availability and plant requirements. I have found good results with the T5 Fluorescent bulbs. You can buy a table top version which is easy to put up and is also portable for easy storage. You can also purchase pre built plant stands with lights or use an old book shelf you already have. Tube lights can be hung from the ceiling or attached to the undersides of the bookshelve boards. All quite reasonably priced.
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