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Grow lights

New technology in fluorescent and LED lighting will please your plants

Every year I get itchy to plant something long before it’s warm enough outside to do so. I have a fixture with a couple of fluorescent bulbs set up in my house for seed starting and to grow some salad greens.

Ward Upham is an Extension horticulturist at Kansas State University. He says there are specific grow lights on the market, and fluorescent bulbs also work well for growing plants indoors. Now there’s something new with fluorescents.

"And that is we have new lamps that are smaller in diameter and yet put out more light, last longer, and are cheaper to run. Those are known as T-8’s, the old traditional ones were T-12’s," says Upham. "The T-12’s were 1 ½”  diameter, the new ones are 1” in diameter. And so people are moving to those T-8’s just because of all those advantages."

If you’re buying new fixtures, it’s a good idea to get T-8’s because the cost has come down, making it more affordable.  Some older T-12 fixtures might be able to fit the T-8’s and you can just switch out the lamps.

Upham says the very newest kid-on-the-block for growing plants indoors is LED lighting.

"The reviews I’ve seen have been good. I haven’t seen a controlled study to compare what a homeowner can get with like, a fluorescent lamp, and so I suggest that people use them on a trial basis but so far they look good", he says. "The nice thing about them is you can control the wavelengths of light that they put out, and plants only use certain wavelengths of light. So in this case with an LED you do want a grow light, rather than just a traditional LED."

LED’s are durable, have a long life, and a cool running temperature. Traditionally they’ve been very expensive, but prices are coming down.

Newer lights available for indoor gardeners

Learn about the different types of grow light technology

How others are using LED grow lights

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