Posts Tagged ‘indoor gardening’

Grow Lights Grow!

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

Less than three weeks ago I posted about my new grow light setup.  I’m happy to report that things are working out well.  We picked our first small salad today.  The top picture shows thinnings and cuttings of a salad mix that germinated profusely.  The mix can be seen in the second flat from the right in the second picture.

On the far right I’ve got a flat of lettuce mix which did not have spectacular germination, but is still putting out some nice plants.  I used a lot of old seed, so there are some bare spots, but I’ll fill those in with new seed.  I hope to have continuous production out of this setup until it will have to make way for seed starts for the outside garden.

I’ve got enough room for three flats with a little bit of room left over.  I had some tomato seedlings that volunteered out of nowhere.  I’m guessing they came in with the compost I mixed into my potting soil.  I saved the four biggest plants and potted them off.   I can’t devote this space to trying to grow tomatoes to maturity, but once the plants are a little bigger, I’ll see if they can make it in the sunroom.  This will be an experiment.  If I can keep them alive until warm weather, I may have a chance at some very early tomatoes.

Behind the tomatoes is a Sweet Marjoram plant we picked up at the Madison Herb Fair.  Judy has been cutting from it.  Some went into Thanksgiving stuffing and some went into soup. The marjoram is putting out a lot of new leaf under the lights.

On the far left some basil seedlings just put out their second leaves.  Half the flat is bare.  I seeded really old spinach seed that never got out of the ground, leaving a bare patch.  I’ll spread out the basil in this flat, but still drop in a few new salad seeds to get production out of all the soil space.

I’m confident we’ll get a lot of greens from our grow lights before I have to use the space for starting my garden vegetable seedlings.  I’ll start my onions in late February, with everything else following in late March and early April.  When that time comes I’ll move the flats of greens to the sunroom.  Hopefully, with the longer spring days, we can keep things going in the much cooler sunroom without the aid of auxiliary lighting.  But as I continue to ramp up indoor food production, I may have to invest in another heat mat.

Noel’s Grow Light Setup

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

I started playing with LED grow lights three years ago when I bought three small LED spotlights from a vendor I met at the Cincinnati Flower Show.  My initial approach to using the lights was very haphazard.  I mainly used the spots to augment natural light from the south facing glass wall in the sunroom for starting vegetable seedlings in the spring.

The results for enhancing plant growth were noticeable and LEDs are way easier to work with than fluorescents and other lights.   I didn’t like the spots, particularly, because they each had a noisy fan, but I was happy to have discovered them, nevertheless.

Geoff and Anneliese met Larry Schack, the owner of Sunshine Systems and other people from his firm at the 2009 Chicago Flower Show.  Larry and the folks at Sunshine Systems are LED light experts with a superior line of lighting products.  Both Geoff and I have tested their main light products and we are impressed enough to now sell them on our website.

Last year for my initial trial of these lights I hung them in an out of the way spot in the basement.  I had my heat mat and flats on the floor and it was not a good setup.  I didn’t have room to manipulate the lights or the flats easily.  So this year I cleaned out a back wall next to the furnace and set up a 24″ x 48″ folding table.  I screwed in some eye hooks to the rafters to hang the lights.  The GlowPanel 45 LED is the square light panel on the left in the picture and the GrowUFO LED is the round light on the right.  Geoff and I used both these lights with great success.  I just started seeds, but Geoff has been getting year round production out of them and I’m about to do the same.

I have the heat pad resting on a solid bed of 2 x 4’s and above that a solid bed of cutoffs leftover from the CobraHead tool displays we make.  I’ve got dozens of these 6 1/2″ x 8″ x 3/4″ plywood blocks.   They come in handy for lots of things.  Above the heat mat I’ve got a solid sheet of 1/2″ plywood.  I can use more small cutoffs for spacers above the heat mat and plywood if the flats get too hot.

I’ve got the 2 lights set up to one timer.  I’ll probably do 14 hours on and 10 off for the lettuces and other greens I have planted, but I’ll do some reading up on optimal light times, too.

The heat mat is on a separate timer and is set up to be on only for a half hour, four times a day to start.  The heat mat thermostat gave out long ago.  If I just left it on it would take soil temperatures in the flats to well over a hundred degrees, so I have to monitor it and keep its heating potential corralled with the timer. The furnace itself throws out a lot of heat, so I think this is going to be a very good setup and I won’t need all that much heat from the mat.  Unlike fluorescents and other lights, the LEDs put out almost no heat, so auxiliary heat is often necessary at least at the seed starting stage.

I’ve got three sheets of white foam sheeting from old signage to bounce some light back to the plants – one is an obsolete CobraHead sign, not quite white, but still with some good reflectivity.

The set up holds 3 of my 11″ x 19″ flats close to perfectly.  There is a little extra room for some cups or smaller pots, too.  It’s easy for me to slide the flats in and out to move them around, to rotate them in the light, to harvest, or to change them out.

I’ve seeded all three flats;  two with various salad mixes and Asian Greens and one with basil and spinach.  I hope to keep them in production until I start my regular seeds in March.  I have the lights on to help germinate the lettuce, but I’ve  cut some cardboard covers for the flats that work better than newspaper to hold the moisture in the flats and to keep light out when I don’t want light.

I expect to be writing about the good lettuce and greens we are harvesting indoors while its freezing outside, very soon.