| Dec 17, 2009

Back to HomeMaster Gardeners - December 17 2009 Growing under lightsby Helen Halpenny, Lanark Master Gardeners

Just when you thought the gardening season was over, it turns out that another type of gardening is getting underway...gardening under grow-lights! It is so satisfying to gather fresh herbs, in January, or see geraniums continue to bloom through the winter months, or seeds pop up in March and April.

I have used grow lights for years. Instead of buying the more expensive special florescent grow bulbs I use one cool and one warm white bulb in each of my florescent fixtures. This gives a fairly good range of the light spectrum; about 14 hours of light each day keeps most plants happy and seedlings may want 16 hours. A timer will turn the lights on and off and make life easier. Temperature in a basement is often suitable.


Although herbs will not be as robust as those grown outside in summer, some will be quite successfully grown under lights. Now is the time to plant pots of parsley, basil, dill, and coriander. Next year, save a rosemary plant to bring indoors, get it under good light and water sparingly, misting daily will be a big help. Rosemarys are notorious for drying out in mid-winter. Lack of light is often the killer. Since chives need a dormant period, dig a clump and leave it outdoors to freeze for a few weeks before bringing it indoors. It will spring to life quickly. It is fun to try some baby lettuce for salad greens. Having some fresh herbs to snip onto your salad in February is worth the effort.

By mid-March gardeners get itchy fingers and want to plant seedlings to transplant into the garden in May. The seed catalogs are arriving now in the mailbox. The pages are laden with new varieties and old favorites, too. Ordering seeds from a seed company gives you access to heritage varieties and organic seeds. Having grow lights enables you to plant at optimum time to have sturdy, well-developed plants for setting out after frost and you will have the satisfaction of raising them from babies. Seedlings grow best when they are placed about 4 inches under the lights and as they grow the light source needs to be raised.

Some house plants suffer from a lack of light during the winter months. Putting them under grow lights for a couple of weeks is like sending them off to Florida for a tropical holiday. They will revive and thrive. African violet fanciers know the value of growing under lights. Many orchids will only reach their full potential given adequate light. Six to eight inches below the light source is good.

When the temperature plummets and the icicles hang from the eaves, there is no better therapy than to tend your plants. For more information call: Helen Halpenny 613-256-3219

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