Setting Up Indoor
Grow Lights

Indoor grow lights can help extend your growing season giving extra light to seedlings. Grow lights can also enable you to grow an indoor garden.

The indoor garden needs as much cool, clear natural light as you can provide. Sunny windows offer a fair amount of light, but as winter comes day light hours shorten.

Fluorescent lights are the least expensive and produce safe cool light that can be intensified on the plants. Fluorescent lights are low wattage which costs less to use the bulbs come in several different varieties.

    Full spectrum fluorescent bulbs provide a balance of cool and warm light simulating natural sunshine. Seedlings to full grown plants do well under full spectrum lights.

    Cool white fluorescent bulbs provide blue and yellow-green light. This bulb is the most common type used in schools and businesses.

    Warm white fluorescent bulbs provide orange and red light but less blue and green light.

Indoor grow lights in the full spectrum cost 4 times as much as the cool or warm fluorescent bulbs. I have grown successful winter vegetable gardens indoors using only the cool bulbs.

If you locate your growing area in front of a sunny window, the seedlings will get the full light spectrum during the day. If you don’t have a space near a sunny window you can use one cool white bulb and one warm white bulb in your light and get a good balance of both light spectrum's.

Best Indoor Grow Lights

Plants depend on volume of light and the cool bulbs deliver more light volume than any other color. The best indoor grow lights for the least amount of money are the four foot shop lights.

Shop lights come complete with bulbs and can be found in your local hardware stores. Indoor fluorescent bulbs provide 15 to 20 thousand hours of operation. That’s pretty cost effective.

I use two sets of shop lights side by side for a nice 4 foot long by 14 inch wide growing area. To set up one 48 x 14 inch growing area you’ll need the following supplies;

    1. Two 4 foot shop lights with bulbs.

    2. 4 screw eyes (I use white one’s they aren’t as visible in the ceiling)

    3. One package 20 feet #16 jack chain.

    4. One lighting timer with a 24 hour variable setting with a1000 watt rating.

    5. Grounding plug adapter.

    6. Grounding wire.

Grow lights can be hung by the ceiling with chains, from a shelving unit or on bricks on a small table. Hanging the lights from chains allow you to adjust the lights up or down as needed.

This works well if you are growing tomatoes and other tall plants. If you use a table and bricks you can add bricks to adjust the lights up as your vegetables grow.

Setting up Indoor Grow Lights

Shop lights come with hooks and short chains. Discard the short chains. Attach hooks to the brackets openings on both ends of lights. Divide the 20 foot jack chain into 4 pieces 5 feet in length. Use pliers to spread chain links apart to separate.

Attach one 5 foot piece of chain to brackets on lights, squeeze chain loops back together with pliers.

Measure ceiling and lights for placement and insert screw eye in ceiling. Hang lights from chains and adjust according depending on the height of your table.

Indoor grow lights hanging inside window using hook eye and chains. This setup allows the lights to be adjusted up and down as needed.

The window blinds are opened during the day and let in outdoor light increasing the light spectrum for seedlings.

Indoor grow lights set up on a table using bricks. This setup has two tiers using shelving boards.

The lights are adjusted adding and removing bricks to adjust the height of the lights. 

Plant Light Cycle

Grow lights will add extra light indoors to simulate normal daytime hours for your growing vegetables. Gradually adjusting the time you turn on the lights will imitate spring, summer and fall depending on the type of vegetable you are growing.

Seedlings need less light so 8 hours of light each day is enough for the first 3 weeks. Increase the light by 1 hour per week until 12 hours per day is reached. More than 12 hours of light a day is a waist of energy. 12 hours a day simulates summer growing conditions. The lights should be 6 inches above the top of your vegetables.

Short cycle plants like lettuce; spinach etc should be harvested and eaten as soon as they are ready and then new seeds planted. Don’t try to extend the plants, they grow quickly so just replant. Longer cycle plants like tomatoes will continue to grow as long as enough light is provided.

Grow Light Timer Setup

Using a timer is the easiest way to keep the grow lights turning on and off with little effort.

Light timer and grounded adapter.

All light fixtures should be grounded. Most small light timers do not have a ground plug. Using the grounded adapter, setup as follows;

    Attach the grounding wire to the small loop on the grounded adapter.

    Plug the adapter into the side of the timer.

    Remove the outlet plug cover and attach the grounding wire to green screw.

    Replace the outlet cover.

    Plug timer into outlet.

    Plug the outlet strip into the adapter on the side of timer.

You can now plug each shop light into the outlet strip. Set the timer to come on 30 minutes before sunset and to go off at the appropriate time to give 12 hours of total light during the day.

Once your grow lights are setup, you can begin growing winter vegetables as well as tomatoes, cucumbers and more.

The possibilities are endless so have fun!

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