How Can I Choose the Best Grow Light for My Operation?
There are a few key things to consider when shopping for a new grow light. Not only should you think about your infrastructure and budget, but it’s also wise to consider which crops you plan on growing. In turn, all of these factors will come together to influence the ambient climate within your indoor grow space.
The function of a grow light is to replace sunlight in the process of photosynthesis for plants. To recreate the ideal growing conditions for different plant species, manufacturers design grow lights of many shapes in sizes. As a result, horticultural lighting that works for one garden space or plant species might not work for another. Nonetheless, by following some fairly simple parameters, you can rather quickly choose the best grow light for your indoor gardening needs.
What is Your Allotted Grow Space?
One of the first things you should consider when it comes time to choose the best grow light is your allocated grow space. The number of square feet you plan on illuminating will directly impact what types of lights will work for your indoor garden. Other structural elements like ceiling height and exhaust options also play important roles in the planning process.
If you intend to grow in a small space like a closet, you must choose a grow light that isn’t overly strong to the point of burning tender plant foliage. For example, due to the intensity of their lumens, DE HPS lights will kill any plant species when placed in a tight closet. Yet, DE HPS fixtures do a great job in large grow rooms with high ceilings where light has ample room to spread out.
What is the Climate Like in Your Location?
While many people don’t think about the outdoor climate when planning an indoor garden, it’s a very important thing to consider. Even if your home has great climate control, outdoor factors like temperature and humidity will influence the conditions of your indoor garden.
Temperature is by far the most important outdoor climatic element to keep in mind when it comes time to choose the best grow light. For example, if you intend to cultivate indoors over the summertime, heat will almost certainly be your biggest issue. To ensure you don’t overheat your grow room, you should go with a cooler light like an LED or fluorescent.
How Much Money Do You Have to Spend on Lighting?
Your budget is another important factor to consider in order to choose the best grow light for your indoor garden. When it comes to purchasing horticultural lighting, often the most expensive models have the most diverse applications. While a simple fluorescent is often enough to supplement window light for a few leafy greens, it’s not capable of much more than that.
Modern LEDs are some of the most diverse grow lights on the market. While they require more of an investment upfront, LEDs offer long-term savings on electricity usage compared to popular lights like HPS and MH. Since you can change the spectrum and intensity of many LED lights, you can use them for just about any plant species or growth phase.
What Types of Crops Do You Plan on Cultivating?
The final thing to consider in order to choose the best grow light is the type of crop you plan on growing in your indoor garden. After all, a light that might work great for one plant species might not do so well with another.
Since they are relatively easy to grow, leafy greens are a popular indoor crop choice among home growers and commercial producers alike. When grown outdoors, leafy greens do best during the spring and fall months. Whether it be lettuce or kale, leafy greens thrive with less intense sunlight and shorter daylight hours.
To mimic the conditions where leafy greens do the best in nature, indoor growers use low-intensity lights for these plants. If you are on a budget and only plan on growing leafy greens, fluorescent grow lights will get the job done. For a more robust option, you can purchase a dimmable LED and keep it on a low setting for leafy greens.
Tomatoes are another popular indoor crop. If you have ever grown tomatoes in an outdoor plot, then you know these plants love sunlight and thrive during the peak summer months. In fact, tomato plants grow at their best with 12 hours or more of direct sunlight each day.
Unlike leafy greens, tomato plants produce fruit. Not only do fruiting plants require red-spectrum grow lights that mimic sunlight in the late summer and fall, but the light must also be quite intense to meet photosynthesis needs. All things considered, you will want an HPS or LED light to successfully grow tomatoes indoors.
People grow a wide variety of fresh herbs indoors. While certain herb species like mint do well in low-light environments, others such as basil and lavender enjoy stronger light intensity. As such, knowing exactly what fresh herbs you plan on growing is a great starting point for choosing a grow light.
When it comes to fresh herbs, fluorescents will work well for low-light species like parsley and tarragon. However, LEDs are the best bet for herbs with stronger light requirements. While HPS lights might meet the photosynthesis needs of heartier herbs like rosemary, their intensity and heat output will simply overwhelm most small herb gardens.
Since grow lights literally replace the sun in the process of photosynthesis for plants, they play a critical role in indoor gardening. However, with so many different crop choices, garden designs, and budgetary restrictions, it’s virtually impossible for a single grow light to meet everyone’s needs. Given that, equipment manufacturers have engineered an array of lighting designs to fill diverse market desires among both home growers and commercial producers.
To choose the best grow light for your indoor garden, you should follow the logical guideposts of infrastructure, climate, cost, and your desired crop. In looking at this list, it’s evident that LED lights are the most diverse option on the market today. Not only are they energy efficient, but you can change the spectrum and intensity of many LEDs – making them applicable to just about any plant species or growth phase. If indoor gardening is a passion of yours, investing money in an LED upfront is likely a wise decision.
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