Growing Food With Artificial Light

Overview

Growing food indoors is fun, economical, educational and good for you. If you do not have access to any southern sun--or even if you do--using artificial lights will boost your food production. There are a number of benefits plants get from the light they are offered. Do good by your plants (and yourself) and use the artificial light needed to grow your food indoors.

Characteristics of Light

To grow, a plant needs the correct amount of spectrum, intensity and duration of light. Spectrum is the shorter blue wavelengths and the longer red wavelengths combined to create a white light. While sunlight's spectrum is correctly balanced for plant growth, the sun's intensity is different from season to season. Winter sunlight has less intensity and makes it difficult, even in a sunny home, to grow indoor food without artificial light. Similarly, the duration of the winter sun is shorter in the winter months and needs to be lengthened with the help of artificial lights to keep your indoor plants thriving and producing.

Types of Lighting

There are three different types of lights commonly used for indoor growing. Fluorescent lighting may be suitable for starting seeds and growing plants that need less intensity, such as lettuce, but due to the tendency of fluorescent light to scatter, you need to use a large number of bulbs, and the bulbs need to be very close to the plants (1 to 4 inches away) to keep the light from scattering. High-intensity-discharge (HID) lights are either metal halide (MH) or high-pressure sodium (HPS) lights. The MH lights have more blue rays (like the sun), and the HPS lights are more golden, but both are adequate for indoor food growing. HID lights are more intense and therefore more effective than fluorescent lights. They need to be kept at least 1 to 2 feet above the plants.

Growing Tips

To help your plants from drying out, use an oscillating fan to move the air in your indoor garden. Use reflective surfaces around your indoor plants to optimize artificial lights. You can paint the walls white and even hang mirrors to make the most of the light. Change your bulbs regularly. Even though they may last 15,000 hours, they lose 25 to 35 percent of their intensity after 6,000 hours according to AltGarden.com. With a good lighting system, you can grow a variety of plants indoors; however, some recommended indoor food plants are sprouts, greens, tomatoes and herbs. Gomestic.com lists bananas, dwarf citrus fruits and pineapple guava as some easily grown (and exotic) additions to your indoor garden.

Keywords: artificial lighting, growing food indoors, lights for indoor garden

About this Author

Em Connell McCarty has been writing for 27 years. She studied writing at the University of Iowa and at Hollins University in Virginia. She writes fiction, creative non-fiction and essays. McCarty's work has been published in Hip Mama magazine.

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