One of the most important gardening tools many of us buy are horticultural grow lights. If you’re lucky enough to live in a warm climate where you can grow your fruits, vegetables and herbs year-round without artificial lighting, you can safely ignore this article. The rest of us, well, we need to supplement natural sunlight.
In the winter months especially, your plants simply will not get enough light. And due to the climate, most of us will be growing indoors during the winter, which means even less light. Some of us even grow in rooms without any windows, so we need to provide every bit of light our plants need.
When shopping for grow lights, it helps to do a lot of research. One of my favorite sites is called Grow Light Info. They have a lot of reviews of different horticultural lights and they compare them in handy tables. Much of their focus is on LED grow lights, but they also have a few reviews for fluorescent grow lights and HID grow lights.
If you’re asking yourself what the difference between those lights is, that is actually the first thing you need to decide when buying a light. Which one of these three do you want. There are others, but you’ll probably want one of these three.
If your garden is small, you want to go with fluorescent grow lights. These are also the best if you are only supplementing natural sunlight and you don’t need too much light. They are cheap, they don’t use much power, and they don’t produce too much heat. Well, actually they do, but you don’t notice, because people generally only use T5 fluorescent grow lights for smaller gardens. If you were to use them for a larger garden, then they would use a lot of power and produce a lot of heat.
That is why for larger gardens you want to go with HID grow lights. They are made up of high-pressure sodium bulbs and metal halide bulbs. HPS bulbs are more reddish, which makes them good for the blooming stage of plant growth. MH bulbs have more blue in their spectrum, making them good for the vegging stage and also for seedlings. These lights produce a lot of heat, though. They also use a lot of power. That is why lights like this generally only make sense for large gardens, especially gardens that are growing for profit.
Another option are LED grow lights. Their main drawback is the high upfront cost and the fact that there are so many poor lights on the market. That is why I recommend a site like Grow Light Info where you can find all the information you need and be sure that you are buying a good LED light and not a bad one.
The big advantages of LED lights for plants are the low power usage and the low heat output. They also last much longer than the other types of lights without needing a bulb change. They’re easy to operate, too. Overall these are the easiest and best lights to use, but, again, they are very expensive. At least the quality ones are. You can get cheap ones, but most of the cheap ones are not very good.
Most people reading this will probably just want fluorescent lights. In that case the decision is fairly easy. If you’re supplementing natural sunlight, I would get some compact fluorescent bulbs. Ideally you probably want some with a daylight spectrum. If you are mainly flowering, you might get some with a bit more of a reddish spectrum than daylight. They will be labeled 2700 K or something close to it. The daylight ones with the cooler light will be around 5000 to 6500 K.
For a larger garden, I would recommend LED grow lights. I wouldn’t mess with HID lighting. It is mostly for pot growers and even there, you are better off with LED lights these days. They are the lights of the future and there is no reason to invest in a system that will soon be outdated.
Whichever lighting you decide to get for your garden, look for an article soon on how best to install it and how best to grow using artificial grow lights. This is an important topic and I will make sure to cover it as soon as I can.