The wide variety of styles in plant grow lights can cause confusion when it’s time to select the proper grow lights to use for raising vegetable seedlings indoors.
My first choice in grow lights for nurturing young seedlings remains the good old fluorescent light bulbs. You can make do with the standard tubes, but for the best results purchase the fluorescent grow lights that are specially designed for growing plants.
Types of Plant Grow Lights
You may have come across spot light or bulb styled grow lights that fit standard sized light fixtures. These are great for providing additional light to houseplants, but they don’t distribute enough light over a wide enough area to use them effectively for seed starting.
Metal Halide, High Pressure Sodium, HID, Mercury Vapor, and the newer LED bulbs are all commonly used by professional growers and by serious hydroponic gardeners. These plant grow lights are designed to generate sufficient light output to grow plants to maturity and to even induce flowering and fruiting with no direct sunlight. But they’re overkill for basic seed starting purposes in the home, not to mention the high costs to purchase and operate them.
Fluorescent Grow Tubes
Fluorescent grow lights are convenient, relatively inexpensive, long lasting, and less expensive to operate. They are manufactured to produce close to the full spectrum of light output, which ensures that your plants’ light requirements will be met.
The fluorescent grow tubes can be used in simple shop lights or you can build a plant light stand or purchase a light cart that will make it a snap to grow a large number of transplants in a small area. The grow light systems are also designed to make it easy to adjust the height of the grow lights as the plants grow taller.
With average use you can expect your fluorescent grow lights to easily last for four or five years. Some grow lights produce a wider spectrum of light so check the listed light output and expected life before making your purchase.
Using Standard Tubes Instead of Grow Lights
Of course you can use standard fluorescent tubes for starting seedlings indoors, but your plants won’t receive the wider spectrum of light that they would enjoy if grown under the tubes that are designed to promote plant growth.
If you do decide to use the standard type of fluorescent tubes; mix one cool tube along with one warm tube in each light fixture to get a better mix of light output for those growing vegetable transplants.
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