Decado
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Grow Lights, Where To Find Seeds, and When To Start Them

So I want to start most my plants this year and I'm wondering what the best choice of grow light would be. I'm going to start 50-70 plants so what kind of wattage would be best? Also would high pressure sodium or metal halide be better?

Is there a website that sells all types of seeds? An amazon of sorts?

Also, I'm in zone 4 so when should I start tomatoes, cucumbers, zuchinni, peppers, brussell sprouts, and green beans under the lights?

Tigerlilylynn
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I can't help with the lights since I'm new to that too but I think it's better to figure out what kind of cultivars you are into and then hunting them down specifically.

For example, I could have gotten my borage at burpees but it was an epic number of seeds so I got a smaller amount through localharvest (which allows you to search several seed farms at once). While there I tripped upon southern exposure seed exchange that not only had my elusive ground cherry but free shipping! With that I found out what I was planning to get at the seed wal-mart and got them there instead.

As far as zones, I'm in 5 and am late to start my peppers, rosemary and lavender because I'm waiting on DH and lights.

resolutejc
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Re: Grow Lights, Where To Find Seeds, and When To Start Them

Decado wrote:So I want to start most my plants this year and I'm wondering what the best choice of grow light would be. I'm going to start 50-70 plants so what kind of wattage would be best? Also would high pressure sodium or metal halide be better?

Is there a website that sells all types of seeds? An amazon of sorts?

Also, I'm in zone 4 so when should I start tomatoes, cucumbers, zuchinni, peppers, brussell sprouts, and green beans under the lights?

@Decado: High Pressure Sodium and Metal Halide units are geared toward the stage that the plants go through. HPS is best for flowering/fruiting stages while MH is best for vegetative green growth stages. The most professional way to go about this, albeit the most expensive, is to buy one HPS unit and one MH unit, each with their prospective spectrum bulbs. HPS = 3000K Red Spectrum Bulb - MH = 6500K Blue Spectrum Bulb

If you only want to buy one unit, look for one that can accomodate both bulbs. They will have a switch you can flick to change from the vegetative stage to the flowering stage; all you would need to do is swap the bulbs and flick the switch. There are however limitations to only having one unit. For instance, when your tall growing tomato plants reach a certain height and your cucumbers are still a few inches off the ground, your plants won't be receiving the same amount of light. The highest plants will be soaking all the rays while the lowest plants will be receiving the diffused portion. In any regard, I would choose a 1000 Watt unit for this many plants.

Seeds can be found anywhere online. My latest seeds came from johnnyseeds.com and parkseed.com. I'm just wondering, is this your first time planting indoors? Why would you want to plant 50-70 plants at once? I would start with about 4 plants to make sure you're doing it right. Do you have an indoor, temperature controlled greenhouse with lots of space? I'm planting 5-7 plants indoors and the space they can take up gets really overwhelming. I am not using HPS or MH units because my plant count is so low. Instead, I'm using High-Output Fluorescent T5's. These are quite efficient and new to indoor gardeners. Most of the data out there on these is limited, there is much more on the weaker shop light flurosecents.

In the most ideal situation, I would buy two, dual bulb HO Fluorescent units (4-ft long, all with 6500k bulbs) for your vegetative stages. Then, I would take the mature plants to another room with the HPS unit with a red spectrum bulb to concentrate on fruiting/flowering.

In closing, Zone 4 is quite cold so you probably won't be planting outside. Start your seeds indoors whenever you want. You won't be transplanting them outdoors. You will be growing them 100% of the time indoors. If you need any other tips, feel free to ask us.

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In the most ideal situation, I would buy two, dual bulb HO Fluorescent units (4-ft long, all with 6500k bulbs) for your vegetative stages. Then, I would take the mature plants to another room with the HPS unit with a red spectrum bulb to concentrate on fruiting/flowering.
Well said :D.

One more thing to remember is to keep them about 3-4in. from the plants as they grow (this is if you are using fluorescents, it's different for HPS or MH) and use a timer to keep them on for 16 hr. a day.

For seeds, two more places I can add to the sources previously mentioned are [url=https://rareseeds.com/]Baker's Creek[/url] and [url=https://www.reimerseeds.com/]Reimer Seeds[/url].

Good luck.
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resolutejc
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garden5 wrote:
In the most ideal situation, I would buy two, dual bulb HO Fluorescent units (4-ft long, all with 6500k bulbs) for your vegetative stages. Then, I would take the mature plants to another room with the HPS unit with a red spectrum bulb to concentrate on fruiting/flowering.
Well said :D.

One more thing to remember is to keep them about 3-4in. from the plants as they grow (this is if you are using fluorescents, it's different for HPS or MH) and use a timer to keep them on for 16 hr. a day.

For seeds, two more places I can add to the sources previously mentioned are [url=https://rareseeds.com/]Baker's Creek[/url] and [url=https://www.reimerseeds.com/]Reimer Seeds[/url].

Good luck.
@garden5: The 3-4 inch mark for fluorescents is a rule for shop lights, not high output units. Your seedlings will burn at this proximity. 10-12 inches is the best case scenario since these lights are more powerful. If you notice leaf burning at this distance, pull the light back a little bit. If you want to try to move it closer as the plants mature, move it by the rate of an inch per week to slowly introduce the plants to more light.

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rainbowgardener
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Sorry, but I have to say I don't agree with all of the above from resolute.

You can buy all that expensive MH stuff, but for small scale seed starting, there is really no need to. (And I think 50 - 70 plants is quite small scale!) I start about 500 plants every year indoors (check Search the Forum, keywords my seed starting operation, author rainbowgardener and you will find my description of my set up with pictures). I use strictly shop light fixtures and regular fluorescent tubes and it works fine for growing a large variety of plants out to transplant size.

You might need to upgrade if you really were going to keep your plants indoors full time to maturity and fruiting. But of course you are not. Zone 4 is places like Wisconsin, Minnesota, Montana, parts of New England and of course people in all those places have outdoor gardens. I'm guessing your average last frost date is sometime in May, which puts you a month to 6 weeks behind me. So you start a little slower and later, but with a shorter growing season, you want to be sure you have good sized plants for setting out when you (finally!) can. So you don't want to wait too late.

"Also, I'm in zone 4 so when should I start tomatoes, cucumbers, zuchinni, peppers, brussell sprouts, and green beans under the lights?"

That's a mixed bag. Brussels sprouts are a cool weather crop. Once hardened off they can tolerate some frost, so you could probably start them now. Your tomatoes and peppers, I'd figure out when your average last frost date is (you can look it up on line) and count back 8-9 weeks from that. Cucumbers and zucchini are fast growers and like it really warm to go out. Count back 2-4 weeks (depending on how much room you have indoors for plants that are getting BIG) from that average last frost date. Beans I usually just plant in the ground once the ground warms up.

There are lots of websites that sell a wide variety of seeds. I often buy from jungseeds or parkseeds. I've seen johnnyseeds recommended. Or you can get them at the local WalMart, cheap, but not quite as wide a variety.

I do agree with resolute -- keep in touch, let us know how it is going, and ask questions as they come up! :) Enjoy, you are going to love it!

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rainbowgardener wrote:Sorry, but I have to say I don't agree with all of the above from resolute.

You can buy all that expensive MH stuff, but for small scale seed starting, there is really no need to. (And I think 50 - 70 plants is quite small scale!) I start about 500 plants every year indoors (check Search the Forum, keywords my seed starting operation, author rainbowgardener and you will find my description of my set up with pictures). I use strictly shop light fixtures and regular fluorescent tubes and it works fine for growing a large variety of plants out to transplant size.
@rainbowgardener: I never said that MH/HPS units were best for seed starting. I agree that they are a waste of money if you are only interested in using them to start seed indoors with the intent of later transplanting outdoors.

50 to 70 plants at maturity will take up an insane amount of indoor space. This is what I was referring to, not 50 to 70 seedlings. I don't think Zone 4 is practical for sustaining "MOST" outdoor crops for more than a month or so; it just gets too cold. If the OP wanted to know that much about lights, I would think he was interested in 100% indoor planting. I've noticed a lot of people here don't practice 100% indoor planting, but I do. It's mostly because people want to have hundreds of plants at a time, but it's also because they don't know much about the light units that can sustain plants from seed stages to maturity.

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rainbowgardener
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Well the OP will have to tell us more about what they are looking for. I didn't see anything that suggested they weren't intending to transplant out. And the 50 - 70 plants argues that they are intending to transplant them outside, since I agree with you that most people don't have room for that many full sized plants indoors.

Zone 4 areas have 3-4 frost free months. That is plenty of time to grow many crops outdoors, assuming you give them a head start by starting seeds indoors.


https://www.victoryseeds.com/frost/wi.html

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applestar
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You have to remember, too, that farther north you go, the longer daylight hours/day you have. That's why people can garden outside in Alaska and get fantastic harvest. :flower: A bit of creative cold-protection to extend the season, not necessarily 100% indoors, will do wonders. :wink:

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rainbowgardener
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"It's mostly because people want to have hundreds of plants at a time, but it's also because they don't know much about the light units that can sustain plants from seed stages to maturity."

Why I do what I do -- in the dark days of winter, I love to be growing plants and working with the lights and the seedlings. Helps me know that spring is coming and lifts my spirits. I don't need as many plants as I grow, so I sell a lot of them as a fundraiser for my church and give the rest away. I just like doing it. I also have 20+ containers/ hanging baskets and a bunch of flower beds (and veggie and herbs, etc) that I keep full for next to no money. I couldn't afford to have the garden I have if I didn't start most of it from seed.

I'm aware that there are light systems that would allow me to grow things indoors if I wanted. But I'm an outdoors kind of person. Part of why I garden is that it keeps me outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine all the time. I'm eagerly awaiting that. I'm not the kind of person who can spend a lot of time lying around on the deck; if I'm going to be outdoors, I like to have something to DO out there--hence the garden. So once it's warm enough to enjoy being outdoors, I lose all interest in indoor gardening.... All those seedlings have to hurry up and get themselves ready at the end or they are doomed to neglect, once I can be outdoors! :)

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gixxerific
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Well said RG, much more pleasant then what I just deleted.

It's not that we don't understand indoor lighting it's that we have the sun to do it for us.

I'm out.

Dono

Oh yeah for starting seedlings fluorescent lighting is the way to go whether it be low or high output.

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Whether we personally enjoy gardening indoors or outdoors, that is of no importance when it comes to answering the original posters question. I have realized that although the knowledge provided on this site about gardening is extensive, there is very little relavent information on the subject of indoor lighting for plants. That is what I attempted to expand upon here, but my advice was misinterpreted since many, if not all of you practice a combination of indoor/outdoor gardening.

I appreciate your advice about general gardening knowledge. I learn from it everyday. But when it comes to indoor lighting, I do know what I am talking about. The reason I responded to this post, and other posts about lighting, is because the help that has been provided to each OP was either not completely true or not helpful enough. I am just trying to pass on my advice so that others can learn what I know on the topic. Yes, fluorescent shop lights are fine for seedlings. That is obvious. High-output fluroscents will yield more lush seedlings. That is less obvious. Many people don't know about these units. Unlike shop lights (which are simply not low-output), they too can sustain mature plants. However, if the original poster wants to continue growing hundred of plants indoors to maturity then the HPS/MH systems might come into play.

Thank you.

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@gixxerific: The OP also expressed his interest in HPS/MH units. These units are extremely powerful and that they radiate a lot of heat. Usually when someone buys lights of this caliber, they are interested in 100% indoor growth. There is NO reason to spend $500 to $1,000 on a unit that will only be used for rearing seedlings.

So, I wasn't assuming, I was going by the information that he stated. He never said that he wanted to transplant them outside later on... that would be an assumption. Just because the majority of people you know do not rely on complete indoor methods for raising methods doesn't mean there aren't people out there who do.

The advice most people have heard about LED is misleading. Yes it is energy efficient. But no manufacturer to date has marketed a system which falls in the ordinary person's budget and also provides excellent results that exceed those of HPS/MH or even HO fluoresecents for that matter.

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rainbowgardener
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I think it's a bit silly for us to speculate re what Decado had in mind. If/ when Decado comes back, then we can deal as helpfully as we can with whatever the real question is...

Until then, it may be time to go find some questions we can actually answer! :)

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Re: Grow Lights, Where To Find Seeds, and When To Start Them

Decado wrote: Is there a website that sells all types of seeds? An amazon of sorts?
There are all kinds of seed vendors I could recommend who have a wide (and I mean W I D E) selection, but I'd like to know what you're looking for when you say "all types of seeds."

--Are you looking for multiple varieties of the same vegetable, e.g. dozens of kinds of eggplant?
--Or for lots of hybrids as well as heirlooms / open pollinated varieties from the same source?
--Or for edible flowers as well as vegetables and herbs?

I'm just wanting some parameters so as not to send you on a wild goose chase.

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

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gixxerific
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This was taken from [url=https://www.jasons-indoor-guide-to-organic-and-hydroponics-gardening.com/index.html]Jason's hydroponics[/url] although this site is base towards Hydroponics everything remains a constant in indoor gardening, except for some of the fertilizer recommendations which are more geared towards hydro. The life cycle section is amazing as well, all around good resource.
Fluorescent Grow Lights
In general, fluorescent grow lights are used for clones and seedlings. Fluorescent lights will not burn your plants, so plants can be placed as close to the light as you like. I usually keep the tops about 1 to 4 inches away. You may continue to use fluorescent grow lights for the vegetative stage, but you will need to use more of them to keep the growth nice and healthy. Plants grown under fluorescent lights usually do O.K. as long as you keep them no further than 18 inches away from the bulbs.

When it comes time to force flowering, plants grown this way must be given a few hours of high pressure sodium light each day for 3 or 4 days before they can handle the much brighter light (which is required for good fruiting/flowering).


Metal Halide Grow Lights
Metal halide garden grow lights are also used for the vegetative stage of plant growth. Plant tops under metal halide must be kept at least 12 to 18 inches away from the bulb or they will burn (especially in the hot spot!). It also partly depends on what size MH light you are using....plants will have to be kept farther away from a 1000 watt light than from a 400 watt light. Metal halide lights will support nice, healthy plant growth up to 24-36 inches tall, (depending on the size light you use), and they will reach this height much more quickly than with fluorescent lights. Plants do not need to be "broken in" to sodium light when they are grown first under metal halide light.


High Pressure Sodium Grow Lights
High pressure sodium High pressure sodium lights are used for the flowering stage of plant growth (to produce flower buds, fruits, and vegetables), although I have also used used Metal Halide lights for flowering with very good results. You must keep the plant tops at least 12 to 18 inches from these lights, or they will burn the plants. Once again, the distance away from the light will partly depend on the size light you are using.

Plants in the flowering stage require much more light to develop properly compared to the vegetative stage. Your garden should finish with well-developed fruits (or flowers) on the top 12 to 36 inches of your plants (and possibly more), depending on a several different factors... visit the different pages on lighting for more info.

Decado
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Sorry I didn't get back sooner, the notify by email thing seems to be broken so I thought no one replied. I do plan on only starting these plants indoors then moving them outdoors, but I also wanted to have some lights to grow maybe 6-10 veggies at a time in the winter, so the HPS/MH system sounds like it would probably be best all around. What kind of wattage would be best for that? Thanks for all the advice everyone.

Decado
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Just thought of a few more questions. First of all what's the best size container for starting these plants? Also, how much time a day do I want to set the timer for the light to be on? And when do I want to put the brussell sprouts in the ground? The average last frost date for Minneapolis is 15th-21st (I'm finding different dates).

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applestar
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I set my lights to 16~17 hours. I adjust the morning lights on as the sun rises earlier.

See what I wrote here:
https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=112267#112267

When shopping for seeds, I think you'll want to look for earliest maturing varieties without sacrificing flavor. IMHO, Heirloom or Open Pollinated varieties are better than Hybrids because you can save seeds from them to plant next year.

OK, containers. Here's how *I* do it (obviously, there are other ways too :wink:) Let's look at your veggie list: tomatoes, cucumbers, zuchinni, peppers, brussell sprouts, and green beans --

Fist, seed starting pots should be filled to the rim. Leave about 1/2" at the top for later uppots for watering. Seed starting pots will be watered from the bottom and only misted from the top.

green beans, cucumbers, and zucchini should be sowed directly in the ground if you can. Bush beans typically mature faster than pole beans (but not always). If you can't find any that would grow fast enough for you, I recommend you sow them in individual paperpots or other plantable pots: my choice in order of preference would be cowpots (made from cow manure), pressed coir, or peat (easiest to find, but problematical according to some). I would say 3" pots for beans, 3~4" for cukes, and 4" pots for zukes. Beans should be no more than 1~2 wks old, cukes and zukes 2~3 wks old when planted out. The reason for this is that they all hate having their roots disturbed.

tomatoes, peppers, Brussels sprouts can be started in community pots. I like hendi_alex's suggestion for 3~4" pots to start with (he posted a really great tomato seed growing photo primer last spring.) I most often use 1 pt and 1 qt plastic berry containers. They are pretty forgiving of being transplanted after 2 true leaves grow out in addition to the seed leaves. I like to uppot toms and peppers in individual 4" deep pots at that point, burying the stem to the base of the true leaves. Some people say it's better to clip off and remove the seed leaves. I either simply bury them or pinch them off and put them in the bottom of the new pot. Depending on weather conditions, you may need to uppot to 6" or deeper containers one more time, especially for tomatoes.
For tomatoes and peppers, each time you uppot, put in a thin cushion layer of soil, then place the rootball in the bottom of the container, removing the lowest pair of leaves and burying the stem.
Brussels sprouts should be uppotted to the base of the true leaves, snugging the rosette in the soil so it doesn't tip over. I prefer to uppot crucifers to 6" deep pots because they grow a taproot.

Decado
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Wouldn't it make sense to just plant them in a bigger pot to start with then risking any problems uppoting? Also, how do you water from the bottom up? Normal watering methods shouldn't be used with seeds?

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applestar
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Even with the most careful light management, (See my post here: https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=112445#112445 ) seedlings can grow leggy. Crucifers get top heavy and the skinny stem (hypocotyl) below the seed leaves (cotyldons) can't support them -- they fall over. With toms and peps, they benefit from uppotting because they'll grow roots along the buried stem, resulting in larger root system.

Another reason to uppot is that they germinate better in unfertilized soil, but benefit from richer soil after the true leaves grow. I make up a compost-based soil mix for both seed starting and uppotting, but add amendments to suit individual plants depending on nutrient and pH requiements when uppotting.

I realize it can be a bit scary at first, but they're sturdier than you might think.

Watering germinating seedlings from the bottom encourages them to grow deeper roots, seeking water. Also, many beginners only mist from above and mistake dark, moistened soil surface to mean they've watered enough. Learn to *FEEL* the weight of the container when the soil is sufficiently watered. Most important, when watering from above OR below, make sure all the water in the drip tray is taken up. If water is still pooling in the bottom after 15~30 min. dump it out or use a turkey baster. I mist the seedlings -- not everyone does -- because I think morning dew is the proper breakfast for plants. :wink:
Last edited by applestar on Wed Feb 17, 2010 9:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Decado
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So a drip tray, what is this? Is it something I rig up or buy or what? Also, I'm guessing I want to stick with the MH bulb (the light I got comes with both HPS/MH) when starting all these and use reflectors around the edges?

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applestar
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A "drip tray" is any watertight, usually shallow container used to catch excess water that drains from flower pots and containers, or seed starting trays, which *should* have holes in the bottom to drain excess water.

To bottom water, you simply add about 1/2~1" water (start with least amount until you become familiar with this) and let the water soak into the containers through the drain holes.

Consider using rainbowgardener's trick for staving off damping off fungal disease by adding 1/2 stick of cinnamon and a chamomile teabag in a pitcher of water for watering your seedlings.

When you see terms and concepts that you're not familiar with, it might be helpful to try a keyword search using the "Search the Forum" available in the upper link bar. :wink:

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Applestar did a great job! I don't have much to add, except where she said 1/2" - 1 inch in bottom of drip tray, I would say start with 1/4", just enough to reach the bottom of the pots so it can be soaked up. If it soaks it all up really quickly, you can always add a little more. But getting water back out of a tray full of pots of seedlings is a pain and way more seedlings are killed by too much moisture than too little.

Here's a picture of what professional drip trays look like, just to give you the idea of what we are talking about:

https://www.greenhousemegastore.com/1020-Trays/productinfo/CN%2DFL/

Of course you don't have to buy something like this, whatever you have around the house that will fulfill this function is fine.

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Is there a website that sells all types of seeds? An amazon of sorts?
Well, it doesn't "sell" all types, but [url=https://www.motherearthnews.com/Find-Seeds-Plants.aspx]this site[/url] will allow you to search over 500 mail order catalogs for seeds. Want to go on a treasure hunt? Do a vague search and hunt your way through the listings. This is good if you want to find different varieties or a hard to find one. Not so much if you want to save on shipping by ordering from just one source.
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gixxerific
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Decado wrote:So a drip tray, what is this? Is it something I rig up or buy or what? Also, I'm guessing I want to stick with the MH bulb (the light I got comes with both HPS/MH) when starting all these and use reflectors around the edges?
Good choice with the MH if you start growing flowering plants or have veggies that are producing fruit you would be good to get a HPS for the fruiting/flowering stages.

Apple and Rainbow have set you right on the planting, I'm gonna steal one of them to come over and guide me through mine in person, shhhhh don't tell them though. :wink:

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Generally, MH = vegetative/green growth and HPS = flowering/fruiting. If you want to keep 6-10 plants indoors until maturity then two 4 ft. HO fluorescent lights would be optimal. However, one 4-ft HO fluorescent and 1 HPS system would be a better bet, but its more expensive.

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WOW! And I mean REALLY wow... This is an impressive thread, I'm glad I looked first.

I was just surfing around looking for ideas on lighting, and found a treatise on plant lighting at the University of Missouri:
https://extension.missouri.edu/publications/DisplayPub.aspx?P=G6515

It had a lot of technical info and that's fine, but I also wanted an "Experienced View" of it from people who had "Hands On" personal results with it. My interest in the topic is because I've been watching an Arabian Jasmine responding to a set of flourescent lights in my living room, and noticed that a nearby catnip in a hanging planter had become highly attracted to them also. -It not only looks to be growing towards the fixtures, but it has also become a deeper green in color which got my attention right away.

The lights are sold here and there as replacements for incandescent bulbs (they screw into the same sockets, but have a corkscrew shaped flourescent element) where better energy efficiency is wanted. The labels claim they produce as much light from 28 watts of power, as an incandescent does with 100 watts. They also last much longer - I have one on my front porch that has lasted more than five years now.

Based on the results I'm seeing, I think these are an excellent and cost effective alternative to seeking out and buying dedicated flourescent fixtures with long tubes, not to mention a drawer full of flourescent "STARTERS" and a spare ballast or two... (I've had to maintain a fair sized shop before, I remember it well :roll: )

This is a typical one - if the image shows - and they seem to come in many types:
[img]https://www.energystar.gov/ia/products/fap/images/products/lb_med.png[/img]
The "TRADE NAME' for them is "CFB'S" or Compact Flourescent Bulbs, and they come in many color ranges including "DAYLIGHT", Blue, and Red. The possibilities are wide. Desk or table lamps, spotlights, track lighting, you name it

(And sorry but no - I don't sell these for a living, they just caught my eye. I use them because ordinary bulbs at my house are a crap-shoot. Most burn out in no time at all because of power surges)

So there you have THAT for whatever it may be worth to you.
PS: They ARE more expensive - but they will still be working when a case of regular bulbs is gone



Lastly (?) - for out of the ordinary plants and seeds (like the Jasmine I recently collected) it is helpful to do a direct search on GOOGLE or your favorite search website to turn up specific varieties. I found my "Maid of Orleans" at a place called HotTropicals in florida that I had never heard of before that evening, and the result was very satisfying.

Many seed catalogs have one or two examples of a thing, but if you search for that single type of plant or seeds your options can open up a great deal.

One case in point is "HONEYDEW MELONS". The pickings are a bit slim for that one there... (no pun intended)

In the specific case of my Jasmine plant - I was looking for background information about where it came from originally, what other kinds there were, how to care for it, it's history, advantages in price, how difficult it was rated in terms of growing it, if it would thrive in my area outdoors, and anything else I could find out about it...

Dedicated online searches are very helpful in this way - but then one more thing is needed:

ADVICE from people like you and I who have actually grown such a thing before. For that - this website is phenominal!! I never know what I'm about to learn here



~Dutch J.

YES Roger - that is a shameless and gratuitous ACCOLADE... :D
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rainbowgardener
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I use compact fluoros for every bulb in my house. By 2012 old style incandescent bulbs will no longer be sold.


But if you are starting very many seeds, you would need a whole line of CF's which is awkward to arrange. The long tubes are a lot easier. I've been doing it for years and I have never owned a (separate) starter or ballast. I think you are thinking about years and years ago, the technology has improved a lot since then.
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garden5
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All of the standard shop-lights (at least the ones I've seen :? ), seem to have and internal ballast and I'm not really familiar with the concept of any "starters."

You seem to refer to the CFBs and being more cost-effective to the florescent fixtures. Actually, you can get both the 4 ft. fixture and ans a 2-pack of bulbs from a Lowe's or Wal-Mart, for about $17. Looking at the prices of some of those CFBs, I'd say that a set-up like this is just as affordable if not, in some cases, cheaper.

Good luck with your garden :).
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Maybe it's because a lot of my experience comes by way of the military, and being supplied with the products of "The Lowest Contract Bidder" -
Who knows...

I have been playing with the idea of maybe setting out an array of lights amongst my tomato cages that would be in outdoor sockets, and supplied by an extension cord with a simple appliance timer at the end.

Since above it was mentioned that lights were set to go for 16 - 18 hours, I wondered if from maybe sundown to two or four AM would add supplemental lighting (of a kind) that would help outdoor plants grow better...

It might also be an excuse for security lighting in the back, since there have been a few questionable incidents lately.

Those could be offset by lights coming on in adjacent areas a few hours before sunup
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I'm not sure going past the the diurnal period would be that helpful...

Plants need to rest too. It's not sleep, but it is a downtime when they close stomata, decrease their functions, and just chill. Probably let's them tend to other functions in much the same manner our bodies do through sleep. I'd be worried about stressing them for a prolonged period, especially as they mature...

You know how it is; kids want to stay up late, but us old folks need our rest... :lol:

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Greywolf
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So - (if I understand this properly) - For a young plant such as a sprout or a seedling, this might be a good thing, but a mature plant is best off if it is not forced into an unnatural cycle....

Is that right?

But if flourescent light lends most to green growth, is it in any way beneficial overnight?

And when should we just quit it at all....

OR: If a plant began it's life out of doors, subject to normal seasonal lighting from the sun, is it best just left alone?
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I don't think it is a difference of young vs mature. We leave the fluoros on the seedlings for such long periods to make up for the fact that it is SO much less light than sunlight. I don't think supplemental light would be of any benefit to plants that are getting 8 hrs a day of full sun.
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Halfway
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Do some research on Alaska's growing seaon and light hours per day. Easy search and fascinating reading.

CFB's are not as efficient as standard 48" shop lights with T8's when looking at cost/light efficiency. T5's are very efficient, but the costs increase at a relative rate. Sodium and metal halide are the most efficient, but not conducive to most folks pocketbooks or needs.

Ballasts and starters are only rarely needed and mainly for "hard-wired" systems.

I'm no expert, but spent many, many hours researching and experimenting over the past year(s).
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garden5
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Once your plants are outside, I really don't think that having fluorescents on them would do any good; they are really weak compared to sunlight.

If they are on indoor plants, you should try to have them on during the daylight hours, like 6 AM to 10 PM. I just think that since this is when the plants will be receiving light when they are put outside, why not go along with it.

Good luck with your plants.
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I remember seeing a study on blue spruces declining because of long term exposure to parking lot lights at a mall. Can't find it...

Here's a study on solanaceous plantswhere 14 on 10 off beats 16/8...

Here's [url=https://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6TC3-3T11SND-6&_user=10&_coverDate=05%2F29%2F1998&_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_orig=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_searchStrId=1306741873&_rerunOrigin=google&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=5ddd3ffe2d160c920343e508c7f9d284]another study on tomatoes[/url]that supports the first...

So I'd say up to fourteen hours of light is beneficial. Not so much after that...

HG
Scott Reil

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