As you see from my last post about indoor gardening, my setup has umm… expanded.. just a little! 😀 Ok, it has expanded a lot. And part of that process was adding more grow lights. Grow lights are one of the beginning steps to building your indoor garden. And choosing the right indoor grow light can make be the difference in happy plants vs sad plants.
Sure, you can just buy an AeroGarden or similar as many of us do. But, as you will quickly learn, for many of us that fuels a fire to wanting to do more with indoor growing. Then you might want to add Kratky, DWC, or starting your own outdoor garden seeds. A great grow light can help you with all of that.
Now, if you know me you know I do not get into the tough technical talk when explaining things. I try to keep it simple so newbies and those who are not technical understand. I do not like when folks throw terms at me that make me hear the teacher from The Peanuts, so I try not to do that either. LOL! If you want to get into lumens, testing the wattage, and the spectrophotocolorimeter (that is a mouthful!) reports, etc. there is plenty of that on YouTube! Curious about the PPFD of some lights and what it means? Check out this great article from Urban Leaf.
Grow Lights for Starting Seeds
Sometimes in gardening groups you see people posting photos of sad, spindly, leggy seedlings asking why they look that way. After a couple of questions you realize that they were growing seedlings in a windowsill. Leggy seedlings come from the plants starting to grow and reaching to find the light. Growing in a windowsill can work if you have a south facing window that gets 14 hours or more of direct sunlight all day. And that is just not happening in the winter.
So, even if you have a sunny windowsill you might still need a grow light. Otherwise, you will notice your seedlings start to get leggy. If you only want to start seeds inside and move them outdoors, you can get away with cheaper lower wattage lights because you only need to grow the plants until seedlings, so they will not be there long.
I am not a fan of them at all, but some buy the cheap pink/purple/blue hue lights on Amazon. Those may work ok for seedlings for a while. But, it’s better to just get a good light from the start. Why??
If you decide that you want to grow plants in Kratky (or even in soil) and grow them to full size you need a grow light that can handle carrying the plant for its full life. And if it’s a fruiting plant like tomatoes or peppers that light needs to be able to supply enough “sun power” to not only help it grow lots of leaves, but support fruiting and ripening.
What to Look for in a Grow Light?
There are a few main things that you want to remember…
- # of watts – Many articles say that you want to shoot for 20-40 watts per sq foot of growing space. So, one 10 watt light is not going to cut it to grow several Kratky jars. It would not have enough reach.
- Strength – Whether or not the light is full spectrum. Full spectrum lights mimic the rays of the sun providing plants with all of the colors that they need to grow.
- Spread – Some lights will say they cover a 2 x 2 space. This will work fine if hanging above one shelf, or to cover one or two 5 gallon buckets. Be sure the light you choose will fully cover your grow area.
- Tone – stay away from cheap blurple (purple/pink hue) lights. Many of them may work well on houseplants, or maybe leafy greens, but your plants may not thrive. And they will not work out well with fruiting plants. You may notice flowers fall off of your tomatoes and peppers. You want a light with balanced colors to prevent that.
There are a LOT of grow lights on Amazon. A LOT!! There are a few grow lights at decent prices that may look very tempting. The one you get will depend on your budget and where you are putting it. But, even if you do not go by my list… READ THE REVIEWS. Look for reviews that include photos. Look for people to mention that they are growing vegetables, lettuce, etc. If you choose a light from an unknown manufacturer and the reviewers are all using them on houseplants only that may be a red flag that your Kratky plants will not thrive.
I have a few different grow lights and I am happy to share my thoughts and recommendations. Now, this is just a few! But, once you see the basics, how they look, and know what to look for you can even look at some of the higher end lights from these brands and make a decision.
Oh, and you might also want to think about whether or not you want to use a smart timer. Ironically, many of the cheap brands have built in timers. You can set them for 4H, 8H, or 16H. But, this also means that you cannot use it with a smart timer which is what I prefer to use. The higher end lights do not have built-in timers. This makes them more versatile. I use a few Kasa Smart plugs. This allows me to automate the light with the others in my space using Routines in Google Home.
These are all lights that I own and am actively using. Most for several months to over 2 years.
The below includes affiliate links.
Table/Stand Grow Lights
If you are looking for one to stand on a table these are great choices. These 3 lights are identical. They are all built by the same company (sub company of Scotts, AeroGarden, etc).
- AeroGarden 45w Grow Light Panel – Prices change often, so check the prices on both Amazon and AeroGarden website. Go with whichever is less. However, if you purchase direct from AeroGarden you can use my code, LTG20, to save $20 off your order of $100 or more.
- Root Farm Grow Light – It is identical to the AeroGarden light (same manufacturer), but is usually a few bucks cheaper
- Black Magic Grow Light – Identical to the ones above, and has been sale for great prices lately.
The above all come with hanging hardware, but are great for standing on a table with the included legs. Since they are all identical, check the prices and go with the best price at the time.
You can choose these to hang from your ceiling, the rafters, in a grow tent, on a metal rack, a grow light stand, or even a garment rack.
- Viparspectra P1000 (250w/100w) – This is an exellent light that needs to be hung. I have the p600 version and I love it.
- Mars Hydro TS 600w (100w) is also a great one, but I did not like that it does not have a dimmer. Might not be a big deal for some.
- Viparspectra V1000 (100w) is a new model for 2023 that is priced right.
- Viparspectra XS4000 – If you have a really large grow tent, or need to cover a large space in your grow room this is the light for you. This light covers a space of 5′ x 4′.
Barrina Strip lights come in various wattages and lengths. You are able to get what fits your shelf. These are great for sticking under a bookshelf, on the side of the bookshelf, or for building your own light stand.
Check out all of the Barrina strip lights on Amazon.
- LBW Grow Light with Stand – Very reasonable, great light that can be used with the tripod or taken off and hung. These work great for leafy greens or herbs.
- GHodec Grow Light – Nice, bright clip on light. I am currently using it clipped to the top of my Farm to help along a fruiting tomato plant. Available in 75w and 150w.