Plants require three things to grow: nutrients, water, and sunlight. Since plants get their energy through photosynthesis, which uses the sun, it’s imperative they receive an abundance of sunlight. If you plan on starting an indoor garden, unless your roof is made entirely out of windows, you’re going to need grow lights, which can supplement light or replace direct sunlight.
However, not all grow lights are created equal, and there are different kinds, brands, types, and designs. It’s essential to consider every aspect before choosing the best lights for your needs, as they will be an investment in your garden’s future.
Different Types of Grow Lights
Due to the enormous variety of styles and types available, many people become overwhelmed and could use some help choosing grow lights. Novice growers and people starting their first setup can significantly benefit from some guidance, especially when it comes to finding the right lights, which are vital to growing indoors. That’s why it’s essential to know the different types of lights, the specs they offer, and each style’s various pros and cons. There are three main categories of grow lights:
- Light-emitting diodes (LED)
- Fluorescent lights, or CFL (compact fluorescent light)
- High-intensity discharge lights (HID) or high-pressure sodium lights
Fluorescent lights are a common choice due to their efficiency, affordability, and because they don’t produce much heat. They look like the typical long tubes often seen in schools and hospitals. If you want fluorescent, look for a bulb with newer technology that allows for a broader light spectrum. The traditional, older-style fluorescent bulbs just don’t have the necessary range for flowering, but they are well-suited for germination and normal vegetative growth.
LEDs are also a popular choice for indoor gardeners. They don’t emit any significant heat and emit light in wavelengths from 250 nm past 1000 nm. LED lights can produce the broad spectrum of light that most plants need for flowering and vegetative growth, which is why they’re such a popular choice. Another great benefit of choosing LED grow lamps is that they can be programmed to imitate the sunlight’s color temperature. Though they are a little on the higher end of the budget scale, their superior ability to produce healthy plants indoors makes them worth the extra price. These lights are especially appropriate for smaller gardening setups.
HID grow lights also include HPS lights, but those are another type entirely and will be discussed below. High-intensity discharge lights are most commonly metal halide or sodium vapor and work by passing electricity through a tube filled with gas. The only drawback of these popular lights is they tend to produce a lot of heat and are typically large and unwieldy. They’re a popular choice for growers who need supplementary light and are much more efficient at converting electricity, especially compared to traditional incandescent bulbs. HID lights are a prevalent choice for larger-scale gardening setups and are not commonly used for smaller setups.
High-pressure sodium lights are the most-frequently used lights for industrial greenhouses and growers and have been used for years as a method of supplying extra light for plants. They typically last around 10,000 hours and should be used with caution as they produce a lot of heat, with the bulb becoming very hot to the touch. That’s why they can’t be placed close to plants at all, as they can quite literally burn the vegetation. HPS lights are only useful as a supplementary light source, as they usually only emit light in the yellow to red spectrum range, and plants need light from the blue spectrum, too.
How to Set Up Your Grow Lights
When setting up grow lights, every type of light is different and comes with its own instructions regarding installation. However, you can make some basic but necessary preparations to set up your indoor gardening area, get the space ready for lights, and eventually be able to plant your garden and grow happily. Here are a few ways to prepare for grow lights and some items that should make setting up and growing your plants a breeze.
Calculate How Many Bulbs You Will Need
One of the first things to figure out is how many bulbs you will need for your setup. It’s essential to plan ahead. Measure your indoor gardening space so your lights will fit properly, and consider what type of plants you will be growing. Many edible plants need a minimum of 30 watts per square foot. However, plants that produce fruit need a little more wattage, in the range of 40-50 watts.
Calculate how many bulbs you will need by taking the square footage of your indoor gardening area, multiplying it by the number of watts you need and then dividing it by the wattage on the bulbs you’re going to use. Most companies put the wattage right on the side of the bulb itself, so check there or on the box to figure out what wattage bulbs you have.
Create a Structure
Since lights generally go above plants, and they’re mimicking the sun, it’s a good idea to create some type of structure or rack to keep your lights hung above your garden. Another consideration is that your plants will be growing, which means the lights will need to be raised higher and higher as time goes on. A great way to accomplish this is by using a pulley system, which makes it a cinch to raise or lower your lights as needed.
Get All the Right Accessories
Lights are only one part of a successful indoor garden. It’s essential to get all the necessary accessories before you begin growing. This includes a timer for the lights, a fan, and a rubber mat or rug. The timer isn’t mandatory, but it sure makes things a lot easier. A timer allows you to quickly and easily set up a system for your plants to imitate the sun to give your plants the best and most natural conditions possible. A fan helps keep the air flowing and increases circulation around the plants, which is critical if your lights emit a lot of heat. As for the rubber mat, that’s self-explanatory. It makes watering and cleaning easier and protects the floor from dirt and spills.
Grow Lights Provide the Best Growing Conditions for Indoor Gardens
Installing grow lights for your indoor garden is an excellent way to nourish the plants and keep them healthy. The lights can supplement the natural supply of sunlight or replace it entirely. The three main types are fluorescent, LED, and HID, all of which have different advantages and disadvantages. Invest in some indoor grow lights and your plants will have an excellent, light-filled environment so they can grow strong, green, and healthy.