Why Grow Lights Are Essential For Better Plant Health

The average person is finding themselves increasingly drawn to the idea of self-sustainable living, and who can blame them, what with the myriad of culprits sounding off like an end-times prophecy (skyrocketing food prices, an unstable housing market, pesticides in our pesticides...) 

But before you shell out for a full underground bunker and matching artillery, I want to tell you about gardening indoors with grow lights. 

 

The practice of indoor gardening with the use of full spectrum grow lights is becoming more common for those who are looking to develop their green thumb in a practical way.  

Grow lights make a wonderful alternative to natural sunlight when looking to bring your garden to life under your own roof. That said, there are certain factors to consider when using grow lights, such as your garden’s location, the kinds of grow lights certain plants need, and much more. 

 

What are the benefits of Indoor Gardening?  

Unlike some of those “viral” anti-anxiety supplements you’d find on Tik Tok Shop, growing plants in your home is a scientifically proven stress reliever. In one study, participants were tested on certain biological factors including heart rate, blood pressure, and even attention span. Additionally, a study done in the late 2000’s showed that people recuperating from several different kinds of surgery and illnesses needed less pain medication, had shorter hospital stays, and faster turnaround times than people who weren’t looking at greenery during their recovery periods. 

Plants are also well-known to replace carbon dioxide with fresh oxygen, increasing the air quality of your indoor space. While air purifiers with high efficiency particulate air, or HEPA filters are the most beneficial way to clean indoor air, the initial cost plus the energy to run them can be out of reach for some people. This is one reason why many find it appealing to think of their potted plant babies as passively, and inexpensively, cleaning the air.  

To keep it short and simple, using a grow light indoors gives you the freedom to grow your crops and seedlings year-round, brings about several health benefits, and is perfect for people with little to no outdoor space.

 

Choosing the best grow light for your space. 

There are three different types of grow lights you can buy. These are: 

  • LED Grow Light 
  • HID (High-Intensity Discharge) 
  • CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lamp)

Let’s take a look at what those acronyms really mean and determine which grow light best benefits your set-up.

LED Grow light: This type of grow light is best for extensive gardens. It can support full cycle growth and is the most energy-efficient of all grow light varieties. LED bulbs produce bright to intense light but one of the biggest benefits of LED lighting is that temperature regulation is far easier as they are less likely to heat up. You often have far more control over your color spectrum with LED grow lights. You can also adjust settings throughout the grow cycle to tailor plant growth, which can either prevent or encourage different plant growth. 

These grow lights also have a lifespan of 5 to 10 years and require little energy, meaning you won’t see a spike in your energy bill (in this economy? A blessing!). And while LED units are generally pricier than HID and CFL upfront, they’re more affordable in the long run because you don’t have to buy replacement bulbs for years. 

If you’re looking for some high-quality LED grow lights, here is a good spot to find them.  

HID: High-intensity discharge light supports a complete plant growth cycle and is one of the industry’s most reliable grow light types. It’s more affordable upfront, but less energy efficient than LED grow lights. In fact, HID lights will require replacement bulbs each year because these tend to overheat – First-time growers should be mindful when leaning toward using HID lights as it can take some trial and error to prevent crops from drying up due to overheating. 

HID’s are half the price of some of their alternatives, though maintenance costs can differ since LED lights require servicing once every 5-10 years, while you would have to purchase new HIDs after 15-18 months, since oxidation affects the bulb’s ability to emit light. These grow lights are beneficial for setups that have a larger square-footage and where outdoor spaces can be utilized in warmer seasons to prevent extensive maintenance and energy consumption. 

CFL: Widely available and easy to set up, CFL grow lights are the most accessible and simple for beginners. These do not require a lot of energy to work and produce little heat. CFLs deliver more lumen output and consume less wattage than incandescent bulbs. They also run much cooler than the HID and LED lights. If you are only vegging and your garden is small, CFL bulbs can be a great option. But for a larger garden or for flowering, they aren't powerful enough to be the main lighting source. 

It is also important to note that CFLs are known to be the subject of several bans across the U.S, so be sure to check your state’s legislation before moving forward with CFLs. These CFL bans are put in place and taking effect across a few varying timelines. This is because light bulbs commonly used in homes and some commercial buildings must now be much more energy efficient based on different state energy legislation. Most incandescent and halogen products use most of their energy producing heat and cannot meet the new requirements, with a few exceptions.  

 

 

What sort of plants most benefit from the use of Grow Lights? 

Cool-season leafy greens like lettuce, spinach, kale, watercress, sorrel, and micro greens are extremely easy to grow indoors, even for beginners. Unless you’re growing these plants for their seeds, they don’t need to be pollinated and they do well under LED grow lights. You should also consider LED grow lights when working with cool-season herbs like parsley, cilantro, thyme, chervil, turmeric, and mint, as well as many below ground and ground level root vegetables. These include radishes, carrots & parsnips, beets & turnips, as well as broccoli, cauliflower, green onions, leeks, and garlic. 

Additionally, even low-light plants, such as ferns, ivy, and other common potted plants like succulents, may enjoy supplemental grow lighting  if they’re placed in darker corners of your home, but I am more likely to recommend smaller, less intrusive grow lamps for this kind of set up, as a standard LED fixture can be a bit bulky.  

Meanwhile, if you are looking to grow cucumbers, squash, melons, as well as small fruit like strawberries or other berries this may be a challenge as you will also need pollinators to assist in this growth, and unless you’re cool with sharing your apartment space with some bees, doing this by hand, while still possible, is a tedious job, which may or not be successful, even to a gardening veteran.  

 

 

How to set up your grow light: 

Most grow lights are simple to install, so long as you know your measurements. When it comes to choosing your own grow light set up, you need to ask yourself these questions to make the best choice: 

  • How big is the space you’ll need covered? 
  • Will you use grow lights to start seeds or for a year-round growth cycle? 
  • How tall will mature plants be? 

You should install enough grow lights to cover the entire space for even light exposure. Be sure to measure the space so that you have the exact specifications needed to determine the size needed for your lights. The standard distance between a grow lamp and plant surface should be between one to two feet, depending on your plants’ preference. You can determine this by asking your plant directly, but you’ll likely have more success Googling it as some plants can be quite shy.   

 

What is the best time to use your grow light? 

Grow lights really should be left on for at least 8-10 hours a day. The specific times can vary, depending on the conditions of your set up. The lengthy duration of use is one of the reasons why LED grow lights are so popular; When leaving a light on all day, it's best to use something that is energy efficient. 

Most people with access to outdoor spaces choose to only utilize their grow lights and indoor growing space during the more harsh fall and winter months, thereby keeping their crop yields more consistent. However, many people who choose to start indoor gardening do so as a result of their lack of access to direct sunlight and outdoor land, such as those who live in apartments or congested cities with little to no yard space. That said, you can count on your grow lights being beneficial all year round, regardless of your circumstance.  

 

 

Is direct sunlight preferable to a grow light?  

Modern full spectrum grow lights are designed to mimic sunlight’s spectrum, as this plays a fundamental role in the growth and development of plants. Plants can grow using only artificial grow lights, so long as the light spectrum adequately meets their requirements. For example, full spectrum lights, such as Sunco’s Full Spectrum Grow Light has the ability to provide the necessary red and blue wavelengths emitted by the sun and can sustain plant growth and development. This light, while artificial, functions almost identically to the sun's direct light.  

So, at its core, the answer is not so straightforward as one or the other. If you're looking for the most natural and Eco-friendly option and have access to abundant sunlight, then natural light is the best choice. However, if you require more control over your growing conditions or are limited by geographic or seasonal restraints, indoor grow lights offer benefits that sunlight can't match. 

 

Oh, One Last Thing: 

I know that investing in grow lights for your indoor garden can be a fairly intimidating decision, but don’t let it stress you out too much. Let’s go over it one more time: 

Regardless of which type you chose, (LED, HID, or CFL) artificial full-spectrum grow lights provide a consistent and tailored spectrum, ensuring optimal photosynthesis and growth, even in low-light environments such as an apartment or basement. With the ability to mimic natural sunlight, grow lights give you flexibility and efficiency when it comes to your indoor garden, allowing you to create an ideal environment for various plant species in your very own home or greenhouse.  

It’s also completely OK to run through some trial and error. Start as small or as big as you want and let your garden grow! In the long run, the upfront investment in quality grow lights can lead to a fruitful indoor gardening experience. 

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