Nothing beats the Sun when it comes to growing, however, new types of High Intensity Discharge lighting have made growing indoors a viable alternative. Many of you are familiar with fluorescent "grow" lights designed to grow plants indoors. These products are fine for low-light plants where limited results are expected. But what if you want to achieve the ultimate growth potential of your favorite plants indoors or supplement sunlight in your greenhouse? Your answer is to use Horticultural High Intensity Discharge lighting, or HID for short. These lighting systems consist of a lamp, reflector and power supply and are designed to provide the maximum output of photosynthetic light for the amount of power consumed. HID lighting systems can illuminate your garden with the right quality and quantity of light to make for impressive results.
Horticultural HID lighting is used by the world's premier growers to provide many benefits simply unattainable with conventional fluorescent and incandescent lamps. HID lighting allows commercial growers to increase crop yields, bring crops to market on schedule and produce crops when out of season, making them even more valuable to the consumer market. HID lighting is so efficient and powerful that many indoor growers turn a healthy profits even after the initial investment and the monthly electric bills have been paid. Until recently, HID lighting for horticulture has been prohibitively expensive for everyday gardeners due to a limited market and the costs of production. But thanks to the ingenious lighting products by new manufacturers such as Sunlight Supply and Diamond Lights, lighting costs have been reduced to the point where everyone can enjoy their benefits.
In choosing an HID lighting system, blue and red are the two primary colors of light you need to be concerned with for HID lighting. Blue light is most pronounced during the summer months when the sun is highest in the sky. It is responsible for keeping plant growth compact and shapely. Red light, such as when the sun is lower in the sky during the fall harvest months, is responsible for triggering reproduction in plants in the form of flowers and fruits. Metal Halide (MH) lamps emit primarily blue light making them ideal for the vegetative growth stage. High Pressure Sodium (HPS) lamps emit primarily red light which causes exaggerated flowering and fruiting during the plant reproductive stage. Thus, if you plan to grow mostly leafy crops such as lettuce and vegetative herbs, your best bet is an MH lighting system. If you want to grow flowering plants, the Son Agro HPS lamp is your best bet since it adds about 30% more to the blue spectrum than does a standard HPS bulb. As a matter of fact, there are conversion bulbs which allow you to buy one type of system and use both types of lamps. These bulbs cost more but give you the added benefit of being able to start your plants with the MH bulb, ensuring tight, compact growth, and then switching over to the HPS lamp when the plants are ready to flower and fruit for higher yield. Remember, lights emit heat which needs to be vented to keep indoor gardens within 65-80 degrees and 50-75% humidity.
The primary benefit to employing a High Intensity Discharge (HID) horticultural lighting system is the control it gives you over your plants' growing environment. In many areas, once fall arrives the growing season is over, and if you're a hard-core gardener like me, you'll miss it dearly! Horticultural lighting systems allow us all to extend the growing season by providing our favorite plants with an indoor most closely equivalent to sunlight. This is a great advantage for those of us who appreciate having a year-round supply of fresh flowers, veggies and herbs! HID lighting is also great way to jump-start spring by starting your seedlings months ahead of last frost. Another great advantage of indoor horticultural lighting is your ability to control the length of daylight thus empowering you with the ability to force flower your favorite strain even when completely out of season. Vegetative growth photoperiods are 16 to 18 hours/day, more then 18 hrs. is minimally advantageous and not worth the cost in electricity. Flowering photoperiods are usually between 10 and 14 hours per day. Remember, to grow perfect plants, the secret to the right light is Color, Intensity and Duration!
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