Grow Light Question for Germination & Seedlings

by Kate
(Santa Monica, CA)

I built a PVC frame around 24" x 12" with 4 light sockets that can position the bulb angle (to point down/up or flat)... Right now they're around 1' above the cacao (chocolate) seeds. I have 2 CLFs (11 watt?) that produce 600 lumens--the lights are soft white. I have 1 CFL grow light (9 watt?) and it is also 600 lumens and soft white. The last socket is empty right now because I have a large plastic container w/2 seedlings in it (with a separate lighting 600 lumens 10" above the cacaos going through plastic).

I have some small cups in baggies w/germinating cactus seeds, and 2 plastic containers with different tropical seeds... This is all on a heating mat to keep everything warm.

I basically want to start the seeds and once they get a few true leaves, start adjusting them to go outside. My first question is: should I put some kind of reflector around or over the lights? I threw foil (non shiny side) around 3 sides and part of the top this morning--from what I read I panicked and thought I was using way too little light (the foil looks terrible) so if I do need a reflector I will buy the metal to make one.

Is this sufficient for what I want to do? I don't want to burn the plants, I was told the cactus seeds and cacao seedlings shouldn't have direct light. Thanks!

Answer: Kate- very fascinating....I believe you are the first person to grow cacao that I've ever met. First, light from your compact fluorescent grow lights will not do the same thing to your plants as direct sunlight. When people advise to NOT give them direct light, they mean direct sunlight....the fluorescent lights should be just fine.

Second, plants growing in the vegetative stage require much less light to grow properly than plants in the flowering stage. For what you are trying to do, the compact fluorescent lights should be bright enough and should not require a reflector. Simply keep them within a foot of the plants if you can. You biggest challenge is sure to be feeding them properly, keeping them at the right temperature, and transitioning them to outside.

Best of luck Kate....I would love to hear how it turns out for you!

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