Why Use LED Lights in Your Indoor Garden

Long time readers of my blog know I often recommend using high pressure sodium lights for indoor growing.  The light intensity beats most other lights, and the yellow/red spectrum is great for flowering.  Not to mention the HPS lights sold today have come a long way from the revamped ‘street lights’ that were used in many of the greenhouses I worked in through college and beyond.  I still use HPS in my greenhouse, but there are many benefits to using LEDs to grow your plants indoors and not too many down sides. I have tested several different wattages of Tri-Band LED’s from HTGSupply.com, and I have posted pictures of tests of these lights on my blog.  The first thing indoor growers should think about is energy usage.  I have read that a measurable percentage of the entire USA’s energy usage is for indoor growing (that is a lot of watts).  For minimizing energy use without sacrificing growth, LED’s are the go to light for multiple reasons.  Firstly these lights use energy much more efficiently than any other type of light, meaning less power used (lower energy bills).   Second is the often overlooked long life span of LED’s.   These lights have a far longer life span than other lights, lasting as long as 50,000 to 100,000 hours compared to the 5,000 to 10,000 hour lifespan of HPS bulbs.  LEDs also do not suffer the decrease in output efficiency you see in other bulbs.  Most bulbs will have a detectable decrease in light output as they age. For example, some bulb’s will have more than a 40% decrease in output after a year of use.  LED’s do not have this problem. Last, the directionally of LED’s is a benefit over other types of lighting systems The LED’s emit the light directly on your plants which means you don’t need to bother with reflectors to control the light’s direction. This contributes to the ease of set up of LED’s which in my opinion is yet another benefit.  You just hang up the LED 2-3 feet over your plants and turn it on.  With most HPS systems, you will have to hang the light, reflector and have a shelf for the ballast, and most likely will have to set up duct work and drill holes in walls/ceilings if you don’t have a large area to handle the heat put out by the HPS.  The design of the Tri-Band has the ballast built into the lights, so you don’t have a separate (hot) ballast to fit into your grow area. 
Serious growers have used HID (High intensity discharge lights), like Metal Halide (MH) and HPS for decades. The main drawback of these lighting options is that they produce a lot of heat.  LED’s being more efficient produce much less heat than other bulbs. Do not read this as NO heat.  LED’s will produce heat, but much less compared to an HPS or MH.  Like with a fluorescent bulb which is warm to the touch, the ballast (the part that converts electricity to light energy) will generate heat.  If you use a LED in a space that is at least 5x3x8 the major benefit is that you will not need to use special fans, ductwork and cooling equipment to keep your indoor garden at the temperature that will get you the best growth.  This means LED’s are less likely to burn your indoor plants.
If you have looked into LED’s you may have heard the debate about LED’s light spectrum. The red and blue light (the most important colors to promote photosynthesis) look red and blue to human eyes, but are not the right colors to promote plant growth. This was a controversial point about LED's.  Many manufacturers would claim that their lights have an optimum light spectrum but even today many tests still contradict this. The most important thing to note is that you get what you pay for. Cheap LED grow lights will produce light that is not going to give you the best plant growth. The Tri-Band LED’s from HTGSupply.com have been and are continually tested.  I have grown the same plants in the same area first using a 400W HPS, then a 300 Watt Tri-Band LED grow light from HTGSupply.com.  The temperatures with the HPS were in the 90-100’s so I had to add a vent/fan in the ceiling.  With the LED’ the temperatures stayed in the upper 80’s even after I sealed the hole in the ceiling.  I also noticed the plants grown under the LED were much more compact (shorter) which is what most indoor growers want.  If you are thinking of expanding your grow area, trying something new, or just getting into indoor growing I know you will be happy with a Tri-Band light from HTGSupply.com.
Good Growing
Dr. E.R. Myers


Getting the Most of Your Spring Bulbs

In my previous post about forcing Amaryllis bulbs I talked about how you can get flowers inside anytime from plants that have a bulb.  Amaryllis is a tropical bulb, which means that if you live in an area that has a cold winter, it will die if you put it in the ground over winter.  However, you could force tulips, hyacinth or other typical bulbs like I do and then add them to your outdoor flower beds.  This way you get to enjoy the flowers inside once and then outdoors every spring.  I like to buy a bag of hyacinth in the fall, put them in the bottom of my refrigerator in wet soil or sand (damp not soaking wet) for a month.  Then, as winter starts, I take one bulb out and force it.  If you do this you will notice the first bulb or two will take much longer go grow and flower.  Bulbs need a rest period, and one month is about the minimum.  Once the bulbs flower, I keep them in a small pot with soil and keep them growing in a window until spring.  I recommend dead heading the plants.  This means cut off the flower bud that is left.  You do not want the bulb using energy to make seeds.  I then plant the bulbs outside.  Make sure you water the bulbs (I do it before I cover the bulbs with soil) with a high phosphorus fertilizer.  This is important for two reasons.  First it will encourage the bulb to grow roots now, and second the phosphorus will encourage big healthy flowers next spring.

I am using fox farm bush doctor root drench this year, it has a high phosphorus percentage and microbes which will result in bigger and more flowers next spring.

Good Growing,
Dr. E. R. Myers


Getting Ready for Spring and Outdoor Growing

Good growers, know one of the best things about growing in doors is that you always have sunny days with the optimal temperatures and just the right amount of water.  Indoors you can maximize photosynthesis every day of the week.  This is not true outdoors.
However, space can be limiting indoors, and you need to pick the right size container for you plants.  You also need to pay for electricity and all the environmental issues that go with that.  I encourage you to try outdoor growing, it is easy to do especially if you already have a green thumb from being an indoor grower.  Soil can be tested and altered but if you plan to water and fertilize your outdoor plants this is not absolutely necessary.  Also, checking the pH is not usually needed for outdoor growing. Again, if you have the ability to check and alter the pH by all means do so.

Good Outdoor Growing,
Dr. E.R. Myers

I started 2013 with an idea to try new things, and I mentioned seed germination ideas.

A scientific test on the best medium for seed germination

Seed germination in a plastic bag

Seed Storage

Determining seed sex

Good lighting for seedlings