Frequently Asked Questions
Fluorescent Plant Grow Lights
Fluorescents are an excellent choice for starting seedlings to get a jump start on spring plantings. They also are excellent for cultivating a cool weather harvest in the basement year round. Leaf lettuce, spinach, and herbs all will do well year round under fluorescent lamps. The trick is to keep the fluorescent bulbs no further than 4 inches away from the tops of the plants. Since the tubes burn relatively cool to the touch, you do not have to worry about burning plants unless they are actually touching the bulb. Fluorescent tubes are excellent for display and grow lighting for african violets, small cacti and succulents, and many kitchen herbs. New advances in color blending make full-spectrum fluorescents one of the truest color rendering lamps on the market today. Fluorescent tubes are twice as efficient as incandescent bulbs, producing twice as many lumens per watt of energy consumed. Fluorescent bulbs have an average usable life span of up to 20,000 hours... more than 25 times as long as an incandescent.
Metal Halide HID Plant Grow Lights
Metal halide is a highly efficient light source capable of delivering a white light in the range of 2700 to 5500 Kelvin degrees with typical Color Rendering Index (CRI) ratings in the mid-60's to mid-70's. Some lamp chemistries even obtain CRI's in the 80s. The CRI is an index that measures how closely an artificial light source matches the natural colors of sunlight, with 100 being a perfect score. In contrast, high pressure sodium lamps yield yellow lighting (2200K) and have a very poor color rendering index of 22.
By varying the blend of chemicals in the arc tube, metal halide engineers are able to alter the characteristics of the light output. This flexibility in design makes metal halide so versatile. White light is a very important attribute of metal halide technology, because it is the closest to the natural sunlight that people prefer. Metal halide lamps are widely used where color rendering is important such as stadiums, manufacturing plants, malls, and supermarkets.
For horticultural purposes, metal halides tend to produce a shorter, more compact plant habit that more closely resembles plants grown outdoors. A plants appearance growing under most metal halide lamps is almost identical to those growing outside, which makes it the preferred lamp for use in living areas. Horticultural metal halide lamps have increased red spectrum added for increased fruiting and flowering without sacrificing plant appearance.
Metal halide lamps are about five times more efficient than their incandescent counterparts and last up to 25 times longer.
High Pressure Sodium HID Plant Grow Lights
High pressure sodium lamps have been used for years in less color critical applications such as parking lots, street lights and as supplemental greenhouse lighting. The benefit of high pressure sodium lamps to the horticultural industry is their ability to enhance the fruiting and flowering process in plants. The orange/red spectrum HPS produces is the spectrum plants use in their reproductive processes, which generally produces larger harvests of higher quality fruits or flowers. The drawback to growing under high pressure sodium alone is that the plants tend to be taller and leggier with a wider internodal length than plants grown under the bluer light of metal halide.
Another drawback is that plants generally do not appear very healthy growing under HPS. The key word being 'appear', as most plants do grow very well under sodium light. Due to the poor color rendering of high pressure sodium, the plants tend to look pale, washed out or nitrogen starved.
Additional benefits to high pressure sodium lighting are incredibly long usable bulb life... up to two years in many cases; and unparralled efficiency at six times more light output per watt of energy consumed than a standard incandescent bulb.
What is hydroponics?
Hydroponics is the science of growing plants without soil. The plants thrive on the nutrient solution alone. The medium merely acts as a support for the plants and their root systems. The growing medium, if any, is totally inert.
What are the advantages of hydroponics versus soil grown plants?
You can grow more plants per square foot in a hydroponic garden because roots are directly fed therefore, there is no competition for root space. As a result, you can get higher yields per square foot, per unit of time. Your plants will grow faster because they will be getting all the nutrients they need and in the proper proportions. Their root systems stay smaller, so the plant can concentrate it�s grown energy on producing plant mass, rather than roots.
Isn�t hydroponic gardening complicated?
NO! If you follow directions, you can garden hydroponically. A few simple steps must be followed on a regular basis to insure that your plants thrive. Once you get used to the routine it�s a snap.
Can plants be grown organically, hydroponically?
Organic and hydroponic growers have typically regarded each other somewhat suspiciously and the two growing methods were not thought to be compatible. There is common ground, however, and more people are finding that with a little experimentation, they can grow a successful organic, hydroponic garden. Typical organic products used for hydroponic gardening include bat and seabird guanos, liquefied seaweed products, fish based fertilizers and enzyme activators, such as Nitron A-35. Ask us for more information on organic, hydroponic gardening.
What types of plants can be grown hydroponically?
Anything can be grown hydroponically, but some plants prove to be more space efficient. Some plants we suggest are tomatoes, sweet peppers, hot chilies, lettuce, spinach, squash, cucumbers, broccoli, beans, snow peas, herbs and flowers of all types.
Do you really get better yields in less time?
Absolutely. The plants, receiving everything they need, tend to be healthier, faster growing and generally more productive. Expect 30% faster growth with many crops.
What about taste? Will the flavor compare to my outdoor grown, organic produce?
You bet perhaps even better! This is simply due to the fact that the hydroponically grown plants are getting everything they need, when they need it. Don�t be fooled by �hot house� produce grown commercially. The grower�s primary concern is shipability and storage, not flavor. When you grow your own vegetables at home, you can expect nothing less than excellent results. Plus, hydroponically grown produce has the added benefit of a longer shelf life.
Will I be using any pesticides? If so, what kind?
Generally, indoor environments demand less pesticides for obvious reasons. Hydroponic growing eliminates soil borne pests, as well. However, if pests do become a problem, one can choose to use insecticide soaps, natural pyrethrums and, in some cases, beneficial insects. These controls will be completely safe to use on edible crops and are also environmentally safe.
What is the best growing medium?
There is no clear cut answer to this question. Different mediums work better for different situations and different crops.� Rockwool will allow the grower an easy set up, since it is pre-formed and modular. It holds a tremendous amount of water and offers a buffer against drying in the case of electrical outages or pump failures. As Rockwool is disposable, it lends itself to quick end of crop clean-up. For starting seedlings and cuttings, Rockwool is without equal!
� Coconut Fiber is recently becoming more popular. Coconut fiber is the first �organic� medium to offer high performance in modern hydroponic applications. It can also be added into soil mixtures to increase water retention. Coconut fiber holds more oxygen than rockwool and is pH neutral.
� "Baked Clay" Stone (goes by a variety of names) is a super-fired type of baked clay formed to create a porous, reusable hydroponic media. It is fairly heavy, which provides secure support for the plants� root zone. This non-degradable, sterile growing medium holds moisture, has a neutral pH and will also wick nutrient solution to the plants� root system. Easy to use.
TIP: Stick with dwarf or compact plant varieties when gardening indoors. They will perform better under lights and are lower maintenance. Try hand pollinating tomatoes, peppers and other veggies for best results!