Grow Lights: Cheap and Easy

Now that Christmas is over and seed catalogues are arriving in the mail, it's time to start thinking about starting the summer's seeds indoors. The easiest way to start a few plants is in a sunny windowsill, and the fanciest way is with an elaborate lighting system

If you don't have a sunny window available and don't want to spend a lot of money on lights, compact fluorescent bulbs allow you to provide light to a few plants in any room in the house without needing any special light fixtures or very much space.

Fluorescent bulbs come in different "colours", usually specified by a number followed by a K (for Kelvin). Look for one with a rating of 5000 K or 6500 K, or the word "daylight". This light spectrum most closely matches sunlight, and is especially good for green growth. Among similar lights, a higher wattage will mean a higher light output, so more watts is better, in this case. A 42 watt compact fluorescent will provide ample light; 27 watt bulbs might be less expensive, but you might need to use more of them.

A 42 watt bulb can cost as much as $14, but it will fit in just about any fixture. A cheap desk lamp (no more than $10) will hold it and allow you to adjust it so that it is close to the seedlings as they grow. This set-up will be adequate for a small number of seedlings, takes up little space, is easy to set up or store, and is pretty inexpensive. In my next post, we'll look at some options for indoor gardeners who need a little more space.

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