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How to Use Grow Lights for a Winter Garden

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fluorescent lighting,grow lights,HID bulbs,high-pressure sodium bulbs,light bulbs,metal halide bulbs

Word on the street is that NASA plans to grow turnips and basil on the moon, which gave us a thought – if the white coats can grow herbs and veggies in space, surely you can grow a winter garden in your house.

Ah, we know what you’re thinking – heat, but no light! And, you have a point. A lot of plants need lots of sunlight to grow, which is sometimes hard to come by in winter. But, there’s good news that comes in two flavors:

1. Not all plants need lots of light.

Whether herbs or vegetables, the leafy stuff performs best in low light. Things like lettuce, basil (take that, NASA!), cilantro, parsley, dill and spinach are all things you can grow in shady places that still get a little light.

Plant pros agree that most leafy things need as much as 6 hours of direct sunlight per day to flourish, but what they don’t tell you is that shade is not the same as cloud cover and that “dappled shade” is not the same as “full shade.”

The upshot is that, in winter, there’s no such thing as too much sunlight. Place your potted plants in the sunniest (though not the draftiest, so beware of loose windowsills) area you can find and water as the Internet instructs for the plants you’ve chosen.

2. You can use grow lights to supplement sunlight for a wider variety of plants.  

High-pressure sodium and metal halide high-intensity discharge (HID) bulbs, high-intensity fluorescents and traditional fluorescent bulbs are all fine options for growing plants indoors. They all emit the same kind of light – the kind that will make plants grow – but HID bulbs are more efficient than fluorescents.

Choosing the best grow lights for your plants will depend on your budget. A combination of metal halide and high-pressure sodium HID bulbs best replicates the full spectrum offered by sunlight and is an ideal option, but they’re more expensive than fluorescents. If you opt for fluorescents, choose full-spectrum bulbs or a combination of cool- and warm-colored bulbs for greatest effect.

Some specific tips on how to light:

- If using tube lights like those in grow light fixtures, rotate plant positions as light tends to fade fast at the tubes’ ends.
- Use a reflector to further enhance the light.
- Keep lights close; 3 inches for seedlings and 6 inches for older plants.
- Wattage will depend on the plant, but low-light plants will grow with 40-watt fluorescents and mixed sunlight, while tomatoes and other fruit-   bearing plants will need HID bulbs.

ATGStores.com hopes these tips will help you light your winter garden with the proper grow lights.

Or, you can skip the lights and try your hand at a greenhouse garden with this freestanding model from Palram that features unbreakable polycarbonate panels to protect your bounty from the elements. 

This glass-paneled terrarium from Design Toscano features hardwood construction and can provide an ornate place to start a winter herb garden.

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