Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Growing Environment Contraption

In case I haven't mentioned it before, we live in a 3rd-story two-room condo and all of the windows and doors are drafty and covered by a roof overhang. This makes keeping houseplants a rather finicky process unless you stick entirely to plants that are hard to kill like pothos and spiders. It also makes seed starting indoors a daunting task.

But where there's a will, there's a way...

I discovered last year, quite by accident, that the majority of plants absolutely LOVE fluorescent lights. They'll take incandescent if that's all they can get, but they absolutely adore fluorescent. I haven't done any digging to find the exact science behind it, but I believe it has to do with the spectrum of light that is given-off by fluorescent bulbs (i.e. that white glow versus the yellowish glow of regular bulbs). That's why you'll often see grow lights in seed catalogs labeled as "full spectrum".

What does this mean? It means you can use cheap CFL bulbs and some basic hardware store items to set-up your own "grow light" system for less than $15 instead of shelling-out the big bucks for a proper grow light system. In fact, you probably have a lot of the items at home already.

Items Needed:
1 "100 watt replacement" Compact Flourescent (CFL) light Bulb
1 Aluminum clamp-on construction project light like this one
1 Christmas Tree/Lamp Timer like this one

1) Screw the CFL bulb into the clamp-on light. Don't use a regular incandescent bulb here. Not only will it not be quite as effective and use more electricity, but it'll produce a lot of excess heat that we don't want to start a fire.

2) Find something to clamp the light onto and position the light so that it is shining directly onto the table where your seed-starting trays or seedlings are. While the aluminum mostly stays cool to the touch, try to keep it away from fabrics, wood, and other things that can burn or scorch.

3) Turn the lamp on and plug it into the Christmas Tree Timer. Set the timer to go on some time when you're not at home or not in the room such as while you're at work or in bed. Start with about 4 hours of on time and increase it later if you feel it is necessary. This way, you don't have to be blinded by the light while you're in the room trying to do something else. Also, by having it on at night, you're basically extending the plants' growing day--and they'll like that.

That's it. It's really that simple.

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