Starting seeds indoors part 2: Setting up a simple set of lights

January 24, 2011 § 2 Comments

The Sun, is, obviously, immensly powerful. Trying to re-create it in your garden shed is, obviously, difficult.

To re-create the sun, mortal style, head to a well-stocked electrical store.

You need to buy a single or twin fluorescent light ballast – they come in lengths between 1 and 6ft. 2ft double ballasts are nice and manageable and good for windowsills.

This ballast is to house fluorescent tubes. Specifically these tubes should be ‘cool’ spectrum, and 30 to 60W. GE and Phillips both make bulbs suitable for plants. Electrical stores may have these/can order them, and some aquarium shops sell them.

Here are my lights with chillies growing under them. The wall behind the lights is covered in reflective fabric. Note how close the plants are to the bulb- any further away and they will stretch.

You need to fix them up securely as I cannot afford to be held liable for this thing falling ontop of your seedlings/kids/nana/dog.

When choosing a location consider air temperature, ventilation and existing light levels. Basically, the more light the better.

In terms of air temperature, if growing out of season (winter) you may need to provide additional heat in the form of a propagator, heated mat or soil heating cables. The type of seeds which germinate well in cold weather are generally the ones which don’t need artificial lighting– alliums, brassica.  The ones which need the headstart- chilies, tomatoes, aubergines, herbs- need heat to germinate.

Ventilation is very important- plants need air flow to ‘breathe’ and they will stretch and beome susceptible to leaf damage if in still air.

It is useful to purchase a timer so you don’t need to be switching the lights on and off daily- the plants benefit from having consistent ‘day lengths’ also. About 8 hours a day is enough.

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