Florescent or grow lights

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I will be starting my seeds this weekend for the first time and am not sure what to do about lighting. I read the post about mold or algae being a result of a grow light and I don't want that. What I originally intended was to use florescent bulbs. Will florescent do the job or do I need a grow light. My neighbor uses one of each. I'd really rather just use florescent if it will work. Will it?

-- Denise (jphammock@msn.com), February 14, 2001


I've always used plain fluorescent lights with no problems.

-- Steve - TX (steve.beckman@compaq.com), February 14, 2001.

Same as Steve. I had always grown mine in a spare bedroom with the lights, but this year since I changed all my rooms around, the bedroom is really a bedroom now. I have a large South facing window in another room. Does anyone use just natural light in a room to start their seeds? What would I do differently?

-- Annie (mistletoe@earthlink.net), February 14, 2001.

I don't use any lights to start things, just natural daylight, I've read in several places that regular flourescents work just fine for growing though. I've been going to try some but just never got around to it.

-- Bob Johnson (Backwoods_Bob@excite.com), February 14, 2001.

Anne, I tryed growing mine in natural light for years. It worked but I was never pleased with how "leggy" the plants got, even turning several times a day. Even a ordinary florescent light, placed very close to the top of the plants, keeps mine from going leggy.

-- diane (gardiacaprines@yahoo.com), February 14, 2001.

We have started all of our bedding plants for veggies under flourescent shop lights for at least the past five years. Plain old cheap bulbs work just fine as long as they are adjusted to be just above the foliage. Not good for long term growht, but the 4-6 weeks they'll be under light won't hurt them. Also be careful of overfertilizing. Too much nutrient can cause many of the algae and mold problems metioned in another post.

-- ray s. (mmoetc@yahoo.com), February 14, 2001.

I've used the plain old fluorescent lights for 11 years now with no problems. I usually mix warm white fluorescent bulbs with cool white fluorescent bulbs as this seems to work the best for me.

I do buy new bulbs each growing year and use the old ones as replacements for worn out lights in any of our shop lights.

-- Jim Morris (prism@bevcomm.net), February 14, 2001.

I too use the inexpensive flourescent shop lights. For years I used just the regular bulbs but a couple of years ago I switched to one "plant" flourescent light bulb and one regular flourescent bulb. Seem to work better for me.

-- Barb (bjconthefarm@yahoo.com), February 14, 2001.

Cool white flourescent bulbs are fine if the plants are still exposed to some natural light. If you're growing your plants in a dark basement or a place with very little natural light then mixing in some warm white or grow lights is beneficial. This will provide the plants with all the light wavelengths they need to be happy.

-- Diane (dshogren@uswest.net), February 14, 2001.

Jim Morris is correct in using a balance of cool white and warm white florescent bulbs. The balance of the two bulbs closely matches that of true sunlight. I do illustrations and that is necessary in doing my color work. I also have used them for years for starting plants.... the key is to keep them just above the foliage as is already stated.

-- Larry L. McWilliams (lmcwill@dellepro.com), February 17, 2001.

I used to use florescent light with great success. Even in my dark basement. The florescent "grow lights" did not make any visible difference in my experiences. One thing to watch is to time your lighting schedule to match the daylight hours when you get close to replanting outside or the plants "clocks" will be off. I say I used to use florescents because I now use a metal halide lamp. I have a 20x32 unheated greenhouse and to start that many seeds I had to use 12 fixtures. One 400 watt halide puts out more light with less power usage.

-- Jay Josselyn (banjoandchilly@aol.com), February 17, 2001.

I grow hundreds of seedlings every year in our cellar under plain old shoplight bulbs. The biggest issue is to use fresh bulbs each year because the older ones don't produce enough light. Make sure the fixtures are adjustable so that you can keep the lights mere inches above the foliage. Don't buy the reduced wattage bulbs, get the true 40 watt ones. If the area is dark make some flat white reflectors (painted cardboard or something like that) for the sides of the growing area. Flat white reflects light more efficiently than shiny materials do. Also you have to realize that the light intensity is best in the middle of the bulb and drops off toward the ends - keep your leggy plants toward the middle and the shorter seedlings on the ends and rotate the flats every couple of days. In my experience most flowers and herb seedlings need less light intensity than do veggie crops so if you're crunched for space, you can arrange accordingly. As far as using natural light from a window, you can raise decent seedlings that way depending on your window's exposure and where you live, but they might be leggier because window glass tends to block out much of the sun's rays. An unubstructed south-facing or southwest window is a must or you won't get enough light intensity to make good growth. Up here in NE CT our winter and spring days are often gloomy so window growing doesn't produce good seedlings and I would have to use supplemental light anyway. I use banks of flourescents in conjunction with a timer set for 14 hours and a soil-heating cable under dry (clean) cat litter in my seedling starting box. That way when the woodstove goes out at night, everything warm-sensitive stays toasty. Air circulation is important - running a fan or letting in some fresh (not frigid) air now and then will cut down on mold and mildew problems and damping-off. Be careful with the watering too and use a well-drained soil that doesn't compact and containers with ample drainage. Don't forget to wash and sterilize all pots and flats in soapy water with a bit of chlorine bleach before reuse and rinse well. That cuts down on soil-borne pathogens that infect seedlings considerably and also eliminates bugs and mites.

-- Nancy (bittergreen1@prodigy.net), February 19, 2001.

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