There are many places you can go wrong when it comes to garden grow lights for an indoor garden. The following advice will help you choose what grow lights to use in your garden, how best to use different lights, and some things to consider for safely using grow lights in general.
Only three types of lights are really cut out for growing plants. They are fluorescent grow lights, metal halide (MH) grow lights, and high pressure sodium (HPS) grow lights. Any of these can be used as a garden grow light.
Light looses it's "punch" quickly as it travels away from the bulb, so you have to keep the plants within a certain distance from the light. This is especially true with fluorescent lights.
In general, fluorescent grow lights are used for clones and seedlings.
Fluorescent lights will not burn your plants, so plants can be placed
as close to the light as you like. I usually keep the tops about 1 to 4
inches away. You may continue to use fluorescent grow lights for the
vegetative stage, but you will need to use more of them to keep the
growth nice and healthy. Plants grown under fluorescent lights usually
do O.K. as long as you keep them no further than 18 inches away from the
When it comes time to force flowering, plants grown this way must be given a few hours of high pressure sodium light each day for 3 or 4 days before they can handle the much brighter light (which is required for good fruiting/flowering).
Metal halide garden grow lights are also used for the vegetative stage of plant growth. Plant tops under metal halide must be kept at least 12 to 18 inches away from the bulb or they will burn (especially in the hot spot!). It also partly depends on what size MH light you are using....plants will have to be kept farther away from a 1000 watt light than from a 400 watt light. Metal halide lights will support nice, healthy plant growth up to 24-36 inches tall, (depending on the size light you use), and they will reach this height much more quickly than with fluorescent lights. Plants do not need to be "broken in" to sodium light when they are grown first under metal halide light.
High pressure sodium
High pressure sodium lights are used for the flowering stage of plant
growth (to produce flower buds, fruits, and vegetables), although I have
also used used Metal Halide lights for flowering with very good
results. You must keep the plant tops at least 12 to 18 inches from
these lights, or they will burn the plants. Once again, the distance
away from the light will partly depend on the size light you are using.
Plants in the flowering stage require much more light to develop properly compared to the vegetative stage. Your garden should finish with well-developed fruits (or flowers) on the top 12 to 36 inches of your plants (and possibly more), depending on a several different factors... visit the different pages on lighting for more info.
Before using indoor garden grow lights, you should consider a few things, such as...
All these considerations will have an impact on your overall garden design, so it is very helpful to have your garden design plan (at least a rough idea) before you begin.
I suppose when you take into consideration how much money you save NOT
having to buy food at the grocery store, it is surely cheaper to grow
your own food hydroponically even with the cost of high quality
nutrients. Nevertheless, I didn't have a whole lot of money to work with
and I needed to make my efforts as affordable and effective as
possible....and in the last 24 years I HAVE learned a thing or two!
As you browse through Jason's Indoor Guide, you will notice all of the systems that I use personally are homemade systems. As I got 3 or 4 years of experience under my belt, I quickly adopted a preference to standing water systems and systems that use expanded clay pellets or lava rock, because the media is re-usable and it eliminates a huge operating expense. So once a hydroponic system is built, garden maintenance is minimal- check and adjust the nutrient solution daily, and to change it completely every 2 weeks....and the biggest operating cost is the hydroponic nutrients. (and the electric bill, lol)...
And, regarding the cost of the nutrients....I experimented for about 3 years with making different compost teas and nutrient teas, but there is still a lot of expense $$$ associated with making high quality nutrient teas....like kelp meal, liquid seaweed, rock dust, bat guano, un-Sulfured molasses, worm castings. You can eliminate a lot of this expense by becoming an expert at making high-quality colloidal humus compost, and use your properly made compost as the basis of your hydroponic nutrient solution.
Unfortunately, I have been gardening for over 24 years and I have only
just recently mastered this difficult skill....and even then, only
because I happened to find a very easy to follow, high quality technique
and decided to follow the instructions to the letter. I produced more
high quality compost in just one week than I was able to use in a whole
year! If you can master the technique, I highly recommend it. It is one of the top 3 things you can do to
increase the productivity of your food production efforts, while at the
same time decreasing the amount of effort required to grow all of your
own food, and decreasing the total cost of operating your food
And when I say decrease operating costs, I mean decrease them to almost ZERO, especially if you are producing your own nutrients...
The ultimate solution to eliminate the cost of your hydroponic nutrients: Imagine a hydroponic system that does not require you to buy any nutrients, does not require you to make your own compost, and does not require you to brew your own nutrient tea. Seriously! No cost and no effort as far as providing nutrients to your plants! Plus, at the end of the gardening cycle you harvest all of your garden vegetables, PLUS YOU HARVEST FISH from the system--->
This solution is aquaponics. If you are serious about producing all of your own food and being self-sufficient, this is the ultimate solution for reducing expenses (as much as possible), reducing the total amount of work required, and maximizing the productivity of your gardening efforts. I have been gardening for over 24 years, and it is the perfect food production solution in my opinion.
Besides mastering how to make high quality compost, learning aquaponics is one of the top 3 things you can do to increase your garden productivity, reduce your total costs, and reduce your total work. The product that I learned from is called Aquaponics4you. With all of my hydroponic gardening experience, the first time I came across the Aquaponics4you product I knew immediately that it was something very special! Place an aquaponics system outdoors and use the sun instead of grow lights, and you have reduced every garden expense to nearly ZERO!
The Same System/ 10 Weeks Later!