Working On The Move: What Is The Lightest And Most Compact Solution?

Q My son is in FFA and is a senior and has taken a greenhouse class and fell in love with it and wants to pursue that in the future! This year he would like to grow some things at home. We have a small building that I built a few years ago that he could maybe use to grow stuff in. It is insulated and has electricity and could be heated with a small ceramic heater. The building is 8’x15’ and only has a couple windows in it. I believe he would just like to start plants for his garden and maybe a few flowers. Just wondering what it would take for lights to make this happen and what other things we need to think about?

A A few years ago, I would have suggested you pick up some 4’ shop light fixtures equipped with fluorescent tubes. But now LED versions of these sorts of shop lights are readily available and quite reasonably priced. They put out more light than the old fluorescents did, are more energy efficient and last a lot longer too. You can use them to supplement the available light, like what would be coming through the windows you mention, or they can be used as the sole source of light for the plants.

There are few important factors to keep in mind. First, all light sources, even the sun, emits light in different wavelengths — think of the colors of the rainbow. This is called light quality. Plants mostly require light in the red and blue wavelengths, which corresponds to how chlorophyll responds to different wavelengths of light to undergo photosynthesis. The old, cool white fluorescent tubes, for example, mostly put out blue wavelengths. Warm white tubes put out a better mixture of blue and a bit more red-orange. So, if you look for LED lights that say they are for growing plants, the LEDs that make up the lights inside, are more likely to have a better balance of red and blue wavelengths. One of the really neat aspects of LEDs is that they can be manufactured to produce very specific wavelengths.

A shop light fixture will usually be 4’ long, but if you look for fixtures specifically for plant lights, they can be of different lengths or even more like a flood or spot light with a built in reflector that could be used in a variety of light fixtures that accept the typical round screw base. You may also find the compact fluorescent type of grow lights that can also work well.

The next factor to keep in mind is light intensity. Plants need sufficient intensity to get enough light to grow strong, stocky plants. Too little light will result in stretched plants that do not have strong stems or would make weak transplants, in the case of growing bedding plants or vegetable seedlings to be used for planting in your garden in the spring. I would suggest that for most of the shop light type fixtures, these would need to be suspended a foot or less above the top of the plants. The more powerful the light source, the higher it can be suspended above the plants, or in other words, provide light to more plants. You can purchase higher-end LED grow light fixtures with a mixture of red, green and white LED lamps, that can be hung several feet above the plants, but these are still pretty expensive. Some greenhouse growers have begun to switch to these, replacing their older high pressure sodium (HPS) greenhouse lights. But at this point, it is still more economical to continue to use the digital ballast equipped HPS fixtures than move to the LEDs. I think this will change in a few years as LEDs continue to come down in price and put out more light.

The last important factor is lighting duration per day, also called photoperiod. Our natural photoperiod changes over the course of a year, with our shortest photoperiod centered around the first day of winter and our longest photoperiod at the first day of summer. Many plants respond to the length of photoperiod to determine if they will just produce leaves and stems or switch over to produce flowers, fruit or storage organs like onion bulbs. We can also compensate somewhat for lower intensity lighting by increasing the photoperiod because plants generally respond to the total amount of light energy they receive per day for growth. So, leaving the lights on a few hours longer each day, can allow plants to grow larger, much like using more powerful lights. Sometimes lights are even used 24 hours per day! As long as you are not concerned about some photoperiodic response that needs a shorter photoperiod, like trying to get your Christmas cactus or poinsettia for example, which is triggered to bloom under short days, to bloom in time for Christmas, this would work.

So, after a very long answer to your question. You could start by checking out local hardware or big-box stores to see what they might have as far as LED fixtures or lamps. If you want to get lights more specifically designed to aid plant growth, then I would suggest you do some searching online for plant grow lights. Depending on how many plants your son might want to grow, you could start with a simple fixture or a few lamps and go up from there.

What is this on my tree?

Q What is this? Please see the attached photo. I noticed this on my tree after all the leaves dropped. I’m not sure if it’s an insect cocoon, eggs or something else. If you could take a look and let me know when it is, and if it is something I need to control, I would appreciate it. Thanks.

A The photo shows a good example of a fungal disease called black knot. Choke cherry trees and other closely related trees are very susceptible to this disease. The most obvious symptom are the ugly blackened, swollen sections of the smaller branches. Often the tips of those branches will die. This gives the disease another of its common names, “dead man’s fingers”. At this time of year, you will likely be able to find some twigs with lighter green swollen areas. These are new infections of the disease that were spread this past growing season during wet weather. Next spring, these will continue to develop and produce spores that we will create more infections on other parts of the tree.

If you catch this disease very early, when there are only a few of the swollen places on branches, you can possibly prune them out, cutting the branches back behind the swollen areas by about a foot or so. It is possible to contain the disease. But in most cases, a severe infection just keeps getting worse, no matter what you do and eventually you end up just cutting down the tree. There really aren’t any good fungicidal treatments that will work very well either.

Source : https://www.farmforum.net/farm_forum/igrow-gardening-what-lights-to-use-for-indoor-plants/article_8ab30b52-b61b-5b9b-bc5b-867c5ee25d3c.html

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