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Lights and Light Stands

  • To: Multiple recipients of list <iris-l@rt66.com>
  • Subject: Lights and Light Stands
  • From: iris-l@rt66.com
  • Date: Sun, 21 Dec 1997 08:45:51 -0700 (MST)

Some thoughts on artificial plants lights:

For most people the regular fluorescent lights seem to work fine. They
provide the proper spectrum of light for the plant to grow. For having
plants bloom indoors, the gro-lights are better, but seedlings and greenery
don't mind missing the full spectrum.

Generally, the lights should be very close to the plants. Fluorescents burn
very cool, so there isn't a problem with the plants getting right up into
the lights. I once had problems with some fast growing cherry tomato plants
getting burned by the ballast heat, but everything else has been totally
unharmed by touching the lights. I don't usually raise the lights until the
plants have grown between them a bit. Since the plants are so close to the
lights, they really get the effect of only one variety of tube. I used to
use the standard mix of one cool white and one warm white, but there was no
difference in growth between the seedlings under the different tubes. Since
there is a difference in expense, I now just use the cool whites.

The light output of fluorescent tubes decreases drastically with over time.
I change mine twice a year so I have new tubes for the spring seed starting
time, and again in the fall so the plants overwintering in the basement
have nice new lights too. I probably should give anything spending the
summer in the basement new lights too, but there are never many of these
plants. I can see the difference in light output between new and used
tubes, so I assume the plants can too.

Last year, after years of makeshift arrangements, I built a PVC light
stand. I'm glad I did. It makes me feel much more official and organized.
It wasn't cheap though. The pipe itself is quite inexpensive, but the cost
of the elbows and other connectors really adds up. If appearances is an
issue, I would price it out in copper piping. The pipe is more expensive,
but the fitting aren't particularly, and that is where the bulk of the
money goes. My PVC light stand is a great asset to my basement, but not
really something that belongs upstairs. If you are planning on building a
plant stand, buy the new fluorescent shop lights that come with the longer
3 foot cords. Most of them come with six inch cords that are really too
short to go anywhere. Someday I'll take mine apart and put new cords on
them, but for now I just have extension cords running all over the place.

My most recent acquisition to the basement is a four tube fluorescent
light. These are not shop lights, but ceiling fixtures so they are
considerably more expensive. The one I got also required a certain
elemental knowledge of wiring and I still don't really know how it is
supposed to be attached to the ceiling. It is currently hanging from a
bamboo pole by means of chains. The ends of the bamboo pole are stuck
through the top of some old kitchen chairs. I'm really looking forward to
starting seeds under that light in the spring. I should have no problem
with two full flats of seedlings there. Usually I only put two-thirds of
each flat under a shop light because that is all the area directly under
the light.

The lights can go anywhere there is space for them. Mine are currently in
the basement. Our previous house didn't have a basement, so they were in
the living room. We once had a house full of company and forgot to warn the
guest sleeping on the living room sofa that the plants get up early. He
found out when the lights went on at six o'clock in the morning.

Kay Cangemi
New York, USDA zone 5

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