There has been several times I’ve told you that you can use fluorescent light to grow seedlings, but did not give you an idea of how to go about it. So today, I am going to do just that.
Starting your seedlings under fluorescent light is one of the best ways for you to get a jump on fall and spring planting. Because seedlings grown this way get the same amount day after day, you don’t have to worry about leggy, unhealthy plants because of weather changes.
Fluorescent units duplicate the color spectrum of sunlight more closely than any other kind of artificial lighting. Cool white tubes or bulbs are the most efficient lights available for home use and are quite satisfactory. There are other kinds of lights that are available on the market, but cool white fluorescent lights will cost less and your results great.
The kind of grow-light system you choose depends on the space you have available, how many seedlings you want to grow, and your budget.
The shop light fixtures usually come with chains so you can adjust the distance of the light from the seedlings. The cool white tubes can be found in the same area as the fixtures at you hardware store.
You may choose to build a rack of lights or simply grow a flat of seedlings under lights on a kitchen counter. However you decide to proceed, here are some tips for achieving the most out of your lights.
- Keep the lights on 16 hours a day and hang the light as close to the leaves of the seedlings as possible. Never closer than 3 or 4 inches. Buy an inexpensive timer. That way, you won’t have to remember to turn the light on and off.
- Fluorescent tubes produce less light at the ends than in the middle. Rotate the seedlings every few days. I recommend shop light fixtures because they reflect more light toward the seedlings where you want it to go, than bulbs without reflectors do.
- Keep your tubes clean. Dust can decrease the amount of light available. (Tip: Painted surfaces near the fixtures, such as your shelves and white walls, will help to reflect light.)
- Your tubes will last longer if they aren’t turned on and off unnecessarily (a good reason to use a timer). As the lights age, they give off less light, so it’s a good idea to replace them before they burn out completely.
Now, you should be well on your way to starting you seedlings, but here in one more trick you can try.
Use a mirror or aluminum foil to reflect light onto plants. Just position it so it will reflect light back onto your seedlings. This is useful if you are growing your seedlings on a windowsill, and will lessen the times you have to turn them.