Thursday, April 3, 2014

Which Grow Light Bulbs are You Using?
A lot of vegetable gardeners out there start their vegetable seeds indoors to get a jump start on the gardening season. 

Most of the time starting vegetable seeds indoors is a necessity due to a shortened vegetable garden season and other times it is because winter was a bit rough and you are anxious to get gardening season going.

Whatever your reason is (as if you really needed any reason at all), starting vegetable seeds indoors is always a good practice, but can be very challenging, as noted by this question from fellow vegetable gardener, Brandon Williams.

I started vegetable seeds yesterday, and plan to get a light to hang above them. I've heard that a standard 4 foot shop light would look fine. What kind of bulbs would be most beneficial?
The challenge for many will be two main factors, space and light.  While I can't really do anything for your space issues (although there are some cool things you can try that we'll talk about in a future article), you can solve your lighting issue, by using grow lights.
Which grow lights you use for your vegetable seeds will make the world of a difference.  You should take into consideration some key points of your lighting before you go shopping.
Your vegetable seeds are going to want bright light.  I am sure you have heard of the term "leggy" before.  What that means is that your vegetable plants (after the vegetable seeds have germinated) are not getting enough light, so your vegetable plants are "stretching" towards to closest light source.  This will produce a stem on your vegetable plants that are long and weak.
Choose a light that is very intense,yet does not produce a lot of heat.  Fluorescent bulbs  are perfect for this application.  Always keep your grow lights three inches above your vegetable plants.  Far enough away for safety reasons, but close enough so your vegetable plants can utilize the light without having to "stretch" for it.
Just remember to raise your fluorescent lights as your vegetable plants grow.  Keep a three inch height above your vegetable plants at all times.
So how long do you keep your grow lights on?  While you may be thinking "if vegetable plants need light, and 8 hours is considered a full day's worth, why not simply keep the grow light on for a full 24/7?".  Because, just like you and me, vegetable plants need rest as well, and that is accomplished when it is dark.  
What you can do is put your fluorescent grow lights on a timer.  Keep your grow lights on for 14 to 16 hours and then turn them off for 8 to 10 hours.
Now for the nuts and bolts of Brandon's question.  "What kind of bulbs would be most beneficial?".  Available at any home and garden center, as well as at pet stores that sell aquarium related supplies, look for Full Spectrum Light Bulbs.
Full-spectrum light is light that covers the electromagnetic spectrum from infrared to near-ultraviolet, or all wavelengths that are useful to plant life.
They can vary in price based on size and manufacturer so shop around to get the one that is priced right for you and your vegetable gardening application.

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