Best Grow Lights for Indoor Vegetables

basics Jul 21, 2020

I'll Start with The End... LED balanced spectrum grow lights are likely the best match if you want to grow a variety of edible plants indoors.

Don't waste your time, money, and energy with shop lights or other lights that are not specific for growing. Grow lights are not just hype, they are very different than everyday bulbs and worth the extra monty.

So, why LED grow lights?

Mainly efficiency, bulb life, and power. You'll likely save more money and energy over time with an LED light. LEDs also last longer and you can use less to cover your plant space compared to most other bulb options.

The key downside is that LEDs are more expensive in the short term. If budget is an issue, I'd suggest getting as many LEDs as you can afford to fit your needs and then supplement with windows and/or balanced spectrum fluorescent. 

It's Confusing If You're Growing Weed

Grow light packages are littered with a bunch of weird numbers and spectrum claims. It gets even more confusing if you google grow light information... you will be led down a rabbit hole of cannabis growing science. 

If you're growing cannabis, then yes, head down the rabbit hole.

If not, then you don't need the migraine of information. You just need to understand a few basics to get the right light and then use the light correctly. And good news! Using your light correctly is as easy as moving things around. You'll shift light heights and move plants every now and again. It's trial and error and you'll catch on quick if you just pay attention to your plants. 

See below the basics so that you can pick the best bulb for you. 

Watts: Bulbs usually come between 30 and 50 watts. Watts alone don't provide much information for a small indoor garden. However, it's likely that the higher the watts, the more space the light will cover. Fruiting plants generally need more watts. 

PPF and PPFd: PPF stands for Photosynthetic Photon Flux and the "d" stands for density. These measurements identify how much plant-friendly light may get to your plants. You want these numbers to be high. Compare across the brands you're interested in and consider going with the bulbs that are higher. 

Spectrums:

  • Balanced/Full Spectrum: Many grow lights claim a "balanced spectrum" light. Balanced spectrum lights are great for greens, herbs, and most microgreens. Some can handle seed germination, roots, and fruits (that includes all the fruiting veggies like tomatoes, cucumbers, etc.). 
  • Blue Spectrum: Lights with a more dominant blue spectrum are ideal for greens, microgreens, and herbs.
  • Red Spectrum: Lights with a more dominant red spectrum are best for the rooting and fruiting process. Seedlings don't do great if there's too much red, so depending on the light, you may need to move plants to these lights only after they look strong and sturdy.

Spectrum Summary: Most indoor gardeners do best with balanced spectrum lights. They're easy to use and handle the variety that most folks like in their indoor garden. A boost light can then be added as needed. This means adding one red heavy and/or one blue heavy light to speed up or strengthen a process (e.g., get a tomato to fruit more quickly).

Growing Tips

How Far Should Your Light Be from Your Plant?

You'll need to play around with this as you grow and learn more about your indoor growing environment and plants. See what your specific light instructs, but generally:

  • LEDs do best about 12-24 inches from the plant tops.
  • Fluorescents generally sit closer at 3-12 inches.

How Should You Arrange Your Plants Under the Light?

Your light should tell you approximately how much space it can cover. Pay attention to that as a starting point. You can then position your plants to simulate full and part-sun conditions. Plants that need full sun should be closer to the bulb and at its center. Part-sun plants can be further away in every direction. 

How Long Should You Keep Your Light(s) On?

Most herbs and greens need 10-14 hours of light daily. 

Fruits, roots, and plants that generally are full-sun may need up to 18 hours daily. Most LED grow lights can do the work in 16 hours or less. 

How Do I Know if My Plants Need More/Less Light?

You'll get to know your plants more and more, but key signs include:

  • Not enough light: Yellowing leaves that may be dropping, stunted growth, long & weak stems, dull coloring. 
  • Too much light: Burned leaves! Leaves may fall off and look singed.

 

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