Hydroponic gardening is all set to deliver a solution to climate change and America’s need for nutritious food no matter what the weather conditions are. Food can be grown during the winter, during storms, during times of too much rain, or in droughts. Hydroponic gardening can be done on a small, personal scale or at an industrial scale in large warehouses or other underused urban buildings. But it is more than growing plants in water instead of dirt. There is a whole important setup and maintenance process to follow for success.
Lighting the Hydroponic Garden
Hydroponic gardens located in buildings and in greenhouses need proper light. The grower’s understanding hydroponic grow lights is a key factor in success and making continuing profits and high yields. Grow lights have made a huge difference in people’s ability to grow plants for food in alternative settings rather than outdoor fields and gardens.
Growers can now plan their crops to be harvested year-round to stabilize income. But, the initial setup is the all-important factor in the success of hydroponic gardens. A wrong setup can spell expensive failure and no or poor crops. The lighting is now one of the most important factors. Regular light bulbs just won’t give the results commercial growers or hobbyists are looking for.
There are numerous lighting choices for hydroponic gardens and they are not equal. The high price is not always the best indicator of quality in garden lighting systems. The grower must look at independent rating services and studies that show what type and brand of lighting works best in a cost-effective way. Manufacturers such as AGRON have done their research and developed hydroponic grow lighting that works and is relatively trouble-free.
Each type of lighting system has pros and cons to consider. Each system is designed to work under different growing setups and conditions. Growers will need to do some advance planning before purchasing their grow lighting system. What types of plants or crops will be grown? What type of building or enclosure will be used?
General Types of Hydroponic Grow Lights Available
There are numerous types of grow lights that are designed to stimulate plant growth in an indoor setting when they provide the light that encourages photosynthesis. They can be used year-round or as seasonal lighting to supplement the sun in greenhouses. The main difference in the lighting systems is the sort of light they provide. Some kinds of lighting are designed to mimic the sun while others are made to mimic the conditions under which all plants will germinate and flower and then grow to produce a crop.
Some growers use several types of lighting depending on the growing cycle and time of the year. The different categories of lights include:
1. The High-Intensity Discharge (HID Lights)
These lights have large bulb systems manufactured to produce light by an ignition process. These lights come in three kinds: HPS or high-pressure sodium lights, MH or metal halide lights, and hybrid lights using a combination of the first two technologies. These lights perform by creating the electrical arc between a couple of tungsten electrodes, igniting the gas in the bulb.
The advantage of this growing type of lighting is that they provide a high light intensity and are adjustable. They offer a high yield per watt for conventional growing lights. The disadvantages of these lights include the possibility of burning plants with the extra heat they produce and the additional equipment they need such as ballasts and reflectors. A fan system would deflect the heat.
2. DE or Double-Ended Lights
These lights are a little different than HID lights because they connect to the required ballast at both ends instead of just one. This helps them maintain efficiency over time. Their efficiency can however be reduced by nitrogen contact. These lights last longer and have a slimmer design. They spread light more evenly over plants. These lights can also burn plants and are more expensive than single-ended types. Fans can help disperse the extra heat.
3. Fluorescent Lights
Fluorescent lights have gained popularity with hydroponic growers because they run cooler and work well for growing and propagating crops. But they aren’t as good for supporting crops while they are flowering or in vegetative states. This requires them to be used in conjunction with additional types of growing lights for best yields.
Fluorescent lights are still valuable for the propagation phase of crop growing, and they are long-lasting, energy-efficient, and able to cover a large plant area. They are also good for growing in small or short spaces since they run cooler.
You can choose a CFL or blue-grow spectrum bulb and compact fluorescent reflectors to overcome the lighting limits and increase crop yields.
4. LED Lights
Led lights are a newer technology for the grow light market. They offer a solid return for their higher initial investment because they are energy-efficient and bring lower power costs. They have a wide light spectrum and are easy to use. They provide a slightly smaller yield per wat than HPS lights. The price may get lower as they gain a bigger share of the lighting market.
5. Ceramic Metal Halide or CMH Lights and LEC or Light Emitting Ceramics
These light choices are made with ceramic elements and insulation and make plenty of growing light to support all stages of plant growth. They come very close to duplicating natural light and are good all-purpose growing lights. These lights can even be used interchangeably in both lighting systems. They are another light that produces heat that must be managed. With these lights, growers need some kind of fans and tall ceilings.
There may be state and federal incentives to use these more energy-efficient lighting systems instead of incandescent lights. It pays to check your state’s incentives as part of the lighting system choices when planning a hydroponic garden.
Basic Set UP Elements
When setting up a hydroponic indoor garden, there are several elements to include for success.
- The growing containers or bins
- The pump-to-pump air into the water to enhance growth.
- Air stones, tubing, and the related elements. These also help put air into the water to help plants grow better.
- The all-important lighting.
- Net cups or other plant support systems.
- Timers to automate the system and make sure lighting and other elements of the hydroponic garden come on and off at the correct intervals.
- The correct type and amount of nutrients delivered at the correct times.
- The fresh seeds and starter plugs. The seeds go in the plugs and then in net pots. This basic setup will change as the size and volume of the growing setup increase. Do the research for a proper growing setup for every size operation before starting.