In the world of hydroponics, one of the first pieces of equipment you will acquire is your light source. But grow lights are as individual and unique as the crops they’ll be used to grow. Choosing the right light for the intended use and crop is not a one-size-fits-all scenario. How can a new hydroponic gardener know which one to choose with so many options available on the market?
As you plan the process of buying grow lights from Agron, these steps will help narrow which kind of light will best support the particular type of indoor growing you plan. Take a journey though these steps to help discover which kind of light you’re looking for.
Step 1 – What Do You Want to Grow?
As a first step, many may be tempted to assume this means what kinds of plants (flowers, vegetables, herbs, etc.) are you interested in. That detail is important, but it is also a question of the specific species and the portions of the plant’s life cycle. All plants require a particular range of lumens for the best growing results. For every plant species you intend to grow, research or contact an expert to find the range of lumens that will give your intended plants the best environment. Once you know the plant’s happy place on the lumen scale, you’ll be able to narrow down those grow lights that can satisfy that range.
Step 2 – When Do Plan to Grow It?
Some people only desire to use grow lights to start seeding plants early. Some people want to use lights to extend their growing season. Others may see grow lights to garden year-round or if they don’t have the outdoor space available for traditional gardening. Each of these growing goals will impact the type of lighting systems that would serve the crop best. Be sure to factor in which of these are incorporated into your crop goals and consider that it may require more than one type of grow light function.
Step 3 – Do the Math, Area, and Height
As with planting a traditional garden, it’s essential to know how much space you will need to cover. Whether you are limited with how much space you may have available to you or how much space will be required to grow all you want to harvest, you’ll need to know how much space will need a light source. Grow lights already have the data on their coverage area available to factor into your plan. This will help to avoid the plants stretching out or crowding together.
Most indoor growers prefer to use a vertical growing system, particularly if they use a hydroponic system. This means that the distance between the system layers may have some constraints. Can the shelves be adjusted, or are they fixed? Don’t forget to calculate the expected mature height of the foliage. It is crucial to monitor and plan for the distance between the plant’s height and the surface of the light source.
Step 4 – Choose the Power and Color
Grow lights offer a variety of strengths, subsequent heat production, and light color. The higher power might first seem like a great idea, but the distance from the growing canopy to the light source and heat output can potentially burn plants. Not enough power for your purpose, and your plants will not get the light they need to thrive. The color is not what we refer to as the color seen by the human eye but the light’s wavelength measurement. For example, red has a wavelength between 630 and 660. A standard light bulb may be referred to as “cool white,” which has bluer, or “warm white,” which has more red. Again, there is a happy wavelength range for your particular plant and purpose.
Step 5 – Rotate the Plants
Consider that a crop planted outdoors in a traditional gardening method would be stationary. But the sun would not be static throughout the day. The movement would encourage a strong stalk or growth pattern as the plant makes minor adjustments toward the light source. With a grow light, there may be times with the ray of the light is not directly overhead, which would mean that the plan is not growing straight up. Rotating the plants in place or about the growing area will help the crop to grow stronger.
Step 6 – Document Your Results
This step cannot be understated. At the beginning of your growing season, you will think that you will not need to do this. You will consider yourself perfectly capable of remembering all the details, adjustments, values, and results. But you will not. Keeping a log of what worked, what didn’t, what factors resulted in the best outcomes will drive future crops. One of the joys of gardening comes from exacting your influence over the crop. In an indoor environment, most variables are directly controlled by the gardener, which means that every variable will either positively or negatively affect its impact.
Daily or near-daily record keeping will help to discover if something is stunting the growth. If you know what the expected growth rate should be and find that the development has stalled after several measurement efforts, you’ll see that you will need to intervene to investigate. Hopefully, you’ll be able to quickly make any necessary adjustments so that the plant can continue on its growth trajectory. If at anytime you discover that the light you are using is not successful, you can come back to Step 1 and work through the process again.
Did That Help?
If you started this article hoping that it would lead you directly to the best light for your specific system, forgive the disappointment. These steps should help you filter out some of the grow light options that would not work for you. Sometimes, knowing which options are contraindicated is as helpful as learning which is recommended. Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer for determining which is the best light for a particular system. There are so many factors that need to be considered. If you follow these steps, they will help force you to confront what you’re looking for, and once you identify that, it’s just a matter of preference.