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Jeannine Anne June 16, 2016 03:49 PM

Check out my lights please
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This is the light fitting I have for starting or growing short things through the winter. I think the bulbs are T8 or T5, whichever is the oldest. I have heard somewhere that the newer one is better does anyone know if I can upgrade/ Also are their any suggestions as to how I can increase the light from the back or sides with something reflective to give more light.One more thing, Each layer gives me about 18 inches when the lights are at their highest which is not a lot when things are in pots. If I remove one light and tray I have a much taller area, it has a metal support bar running across the length, would I then be able to use it for some taller things or would the light not be enough.

It is great for starting and transplants and I can grow salad greens and some micro toms but I am restricted. Any ideas would be welcome.

Also if anyone has any suggestions for a set up that will do what I want it to do I would be obliged if you could let me know.

I should add this picture is from the place I bought it and not my room, I don't have the natural light coming in as shown on the picture here, in fact I have very little natural light coming in, The fitting is in basement , it is in front of a window but it is not a huge one and it really only shines on to the top tray.

Cole_Robbie June 16, 2016 04:02 PM

I think the most important tip to remember with flouros is that the light degrades rapidly with each inch it travels from the bulb. To get the most out of the light, you want the bulb to be as close as you can have it to the plant without getting things too hot. That sounds easy, but it involves a lot of daily adjustments.

As for reflective material, I would say that the disadvantages of blocking air flow and trapping heat would outweigh the advantages gained from any extra light.

To get more light, you'd need to add more light. Any fluorescent fixture is better than nothing, like cheap shop lights.

Another idea is to buy a few clip lights:

And then screw a spiral CFL into the clip light. It's easy to attach and adjust.

Jeannine Anne June 16, 2016 04:18 PM

I keep my plants about 2 inches from the light, the picture shown is much lower than I do them.

So if I bought the clip lights where would you suggest I add them to the fixture and how mant to each level please.

I have the long black trays that the pots sit on covered with aluminum foil, is it making any difference do you think. I could sit them on mirror tiles.

Cole_Robbie June 16, 2016 04:35 PM

Honestly, I wouldn't bother trying to reflect any light. The returns are so minimal it's not worth your time.

The thing about light, more is always better...until it isn't. You'll eventually run out of money, space, electricity, or cause heat problems.

A clip light or two would be handy if you had a few plants that were taller than others. Long fixtures work great for coverage, but it's hard to keep them adjusted for varying plant heights. But if you're just doing a single run of plants that will all stay the same size, it won't matter. I tend to find that I have runts, re-plants, slow to germinate seeds, and end up with a very inconsistent plant height.

Jeannine Anne June 16, 2016 04:42 PM

Yes I agree with the different heights, I do then use the separate three levels to better balance them and if I have just a few small plants I have blocks that will raise the pots an inch, two or even three inches. There are three bulbs in each canopy .

I am curious as to what most folks are using indoors to grow taller plants

dmforcier June 16, 2016 04:53 PM

No, you can't upgrade T8 to T5 (or vice versa) - the ballasts are incompatible and using the wrong lamps will toast the ballast in a short time. There's no need to do so, though. The only real difference is a slightly better efficiency for the T5. Nowhere near the step in efficiency from T12 to T8.

For large plants there is a whole range of products, including HPS (high pressure sodium), MH (metal hydride), and LEDs. You can thank the pot industry for providing the money for developing these commercial products. Perhaps a sordid history, but now we legal gardeners can take advantage. Here's a sample of what is available: [url][/url]

dmforcier June 16, 2016 05:02 PM

I disagree with Cole_Robbie on the issue of reflection. The back of my rack is lined with shiny aluminum foil and the front is closed with a white towel. The aluminum foil makes an obvious difference to the light level at the plant. Presumably the towel contributes too. (The ends are open for fans to blow through.) I don't have a luminometer to quantify the difference, but just looking at all the light that spills past your trays should be convincing.

whistech June 16, 2016 05:07 PM

Jeannine Anne, my opinion is that you have great lights for growing anything you want to grow. I don't believe you need any additional light or reflective material. Just keep your lights as close to the plants as you can without touching. If a glands grows enough during a day and touches the lamp, it's not a big deal. One or two leaves may show some tip burn but the plant will out grow it quickly. If the bulbs are several years old, it may be a good idea to replace all the bulbs with new ones, otherwise I believe you are good to go.

Jeannine Anne June 16, 2016 05:09 PM

Ok thank you about the lights, if it is just a matter of economy I won't worry about that for now. The link was very interesting, thank you,

The reason I bought my light fixture is because it is a free standing fixture, I don't have to suspend anything from the ceiling or build a frame etc which I am not able to do. My fitting was very expensive but I would just like that bit more height and light. I do have a few single strip lights with little canopies on I think they are the t5 ones, I used to have them suspended on chains above my window sills, maybe there is some way I can add them to the fitting at the side or back.

I really want to grow more micro toms through the winter but sometimes they get just a bit too tall, the fitting works fine for anything that comfortable grows up to the 2 inches below the light then stays there. I can keep myself in salad greens with no problem, even a cucumber plant left to ramble across a tray works well

I was hoping to find a similar free standing fitting that would give me more height but I can't build anything. Thank you, the help has been great and some of my questions answered.

Jeannine Anne June 16, 2016 05:17 PM

OOps, missed two answers.

DM.. I just fastened a roll of aluminum foil across the back of one of my levels a few days ago. You mentioned your rack, can you describe it and tell mw what you are able to grow with it please.

Whistech, I agree a wee bit of touching won't matter but some of the micros totally outgrow the height I have. If I take one canopy and tray out I have double the height, the bar probably doesn't make much difference, but the plant is not surrounded by light it just has the bit at the top and I don't know if that is enough. The clamp on lights may well help with that though.

I have just measured the exact height I have from the floor of the base tray to the light and it is less than I thought, just 13 inches, so to get a pot with growing plant does not give me much height even for a micro tom. I have done it many times but end up discarding the ones that grow over the measure, the ones that stay tiny grow very well,.

luigiwu June 16, 2016 05:19 PM

My setup is a chrome restaurant shelving rack (about $85 at Costco) and the cheapest T8 shoplights (4 bulbs per shelf.)
But yours looks very nice and professional.
I use can food cans to raise certain plants closer as needed.

Nematode June 16, 2016 05:23 PM

Thats the same setup we use for all our starts. It works pretty well, but I agree the light level isnt quite there to keep things from getting leggy.
Was thinking of converting to LED's but $$. Might be though if we used it for winter lettuce.
Saw somewhere where they were putting led strips among the plants in a greenhouse for supplemental lighting. They run cool so no burning the leaves, and can be placed right in there to keep the intensity up.

Cole_Robbie June 16, 2016 05:31 PM

[QUOTE=dmforcier;569626] The aluminum foil makes an obvious difference to the light level at the plant. Presumably the towel contributes too.[/QUOTE]

I respect your opinion. The towel gets my vote over the foil, though. Flat white has a diffusing affect on the light it reflects, allowing more to hit the plants.

The best reflector is a mirror....but not one you buy at Wal-Mart, it would be more like the mirrors they used on the Hubble Space Telescope, which are polished to microscopic perfection. Under a microscope, the Wal-Mart mirror isn't flat at all, but our human eyes can't see that. Every imperfection will reflect light unevenly, which is what happens with foil and mylar.

I think most gardening trays and pots are black with the thinking that they will be in a greenhouse trying to gain heat from the sun in the winter or early spring. In that case, black plastic works great. But for indoor gardening, I think white plastic makes a lot more sense, for the sake of reflection alone.

Jeannine Anne June 16, 2016 05:36 PM

Nematode, it is wonderful for starting things that get moved on, you have it exactly .Led strips among the plants, now there is an idea, but nervous of the damp and electricity though

The Costco rack sound good. I like the food cans, I often have to go to my lights to get a can of tuna.

It is very professional but very limiting. The picture above shows a potted plant if full bloom, I don't know how. I occasionally pop an African violet in there and there is no height to them but it just about takes up most of the height. I think the flowering plant in the picture is a phoney LOL.

Mine grows winter lettuce very well but I only ever grow the small varieties anyway as I am alone and the bigger ones are too much fr me. It grows great microgreens I have them going all the time

Jeannine Anne June 16, 2016 05:40 PM

So, should I cover my black trays with something white , my canopies are white inside and out not black like in the picture. Would regular mirror be better than nothing though.The size of the black trays would take mirror tiles very easily as they are each one long tray. Do you think that would help Is there anyway of knowing when to change the bulbs, they all seem very bright.

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