Growing indoors is all about creating the optimal climate conditions for your plants. To thrive, they need soil/ water, nutrients, air, heat, and light. It’s not exactly rocket science to understand how these fundamentals affect the growth and yield of your plant.
However, in this post, we’re going to look at lighting for your plants, specifically LED lighting. In the past, High-Intensity Discharge (HID) lighting was the popular choice for growing indoors. While these lamps are effective at producing huge yields, they are also inefficient and expensive to run.
HID lights also create huge amounts of heat in the indoor garden, causing the need for air-conditioning units to bring down the temperature.
Over the last ten to 15-years, we’ve seen the launch of LED grow lights. These lamps come with a full-spectrum output that mimics the sun, claiming to be just as powerful as HID, providing gardeners with outstanding results.
Modern Diodes in LED setups have huge outputs, and many of them have enough juice to give you HID-like results. However, there are a few tricks to using these lights. Follow these tips to optimize the output and safety of your LED lighting system.
Set the LED Light Up at the Right Distance
Many newcomers to LED lighting systems make the mistake of setting their light up at the wring height. By getting your LED lamp too close to the plants, you’ll end up burning them, causing crop failure or stunted growth/flowering.
With traditional HID lights, gardeners would worry about the heat coming from the lamp, keeping them at a distance that wouldn’t affect the growth and health of their crop.
However, since LEDs produce significantly less heat than HIDs, many growers underestimate the power of the light. So, they end up placing it way too close to the canopy, damaging their plants.
The reality is that you need to place your LEDs even further away from the canopy than you would with an HID light.
Always check the manufacturer’s instructions for distancing your light from the canopy. If you can’t find the instructions, visit a few forums online to find the right distance for your model and its wattage.
Make Sure You Choose the Right Type of LED Grow Light
Most LED lighting setups come with a “Full-spectrum” feature. This setup allows for vegging and flowering with the same light.
However, it’s more of a buzzword than a real benefit to the light. We recommend looking for lighting setups that have specific functioning for flowering and vegging in two different modes. These lights offer you a convenient switch setup; click it over to change the light from vegging to flowering.
Choose a High-Quality LED Light Manufacturer
If there’s one issue with comparing HID to LED, it’s that the top-shelf LED models are horrendously expensive in comparison. We recommend you avoid buying the cheaper brand of LED grow lights. These lights don’t have the Lumen count or the PAR to achieve good results with growing your plants.
The best-LED lighting systems cost money, but you’ll save in the long run. With HID systems, you’re supposed to throw out the bulb and replace it each season. This strategy ensures your light and plants receive optimal output throughout the growing season.
Over ten to 15-years of service life, you’re going to spend a significant amount of bulbs for your lights.
With LEDs, you get a service life of 10 to 15-years for each diode, with most top manufacturers guaranteeing their products. A guarantee ensures that if any of the diodes fail, you can get them repaired or replaced.
Cheaper lamps won’t offer you any guarantee. In most cases, the poor quality of the diodes means that the light ends up failing in multiple spots before the end of the growing season. Plus, LEDs are way cheaper to run than HID systems, and you’ll make back the costs of your light in electricity savings in a few years of use.
Give Your Plants Sufficient Light
One of the problems with the lower-quality LED grow lights, is that they don’t meet the output levels stated by the manufacturer. As a newcomer to growing, we doubt you have the technical skill to check the PAR and Lumen outputs from the manufacturer specs. As a result, you could end up growing with a severely under powered light.
Under powered lights won’t give you the kind of light penetration you need through the canopy. You’ll end up losing up to 60% of the potential of your harvest, or even more. Sticking with a top-quality diode manufacturing brand like Samsung ensures you get a proper grow light for your indoor garden.
It’s important to choose the right wattage for your grow area. Typically, we would use a 300W light in a 2 x 2-foot grow space, but some growers may find it suitable for gardens up to 3 x 3-feet. If you’re unsure about the right wattage for your LED light, look around forums and ask for advice from top growers and participants.
Stick to the Right Light Schedule
Your plants rely on light to signal the change in seasons. When the summer is in full swing and the days are long, the plants experience vegetative growth. During this period, lasting until the early fall, the plants try to grow as big as possible.
While substrate quality, water, and nutrition are critical elements of yield size at harvest, the light provides the single biggest difference to getting a big or small crop. During the vegetative stage, you’re going to need to give your plants at least 18-hours of light each day.
Some growers prefer to give the plants 20-hours, but that’s up to your unique growing style. Don’t leave the lights on for 24-hour light cycles. Your plants need some darkness to help them recover from the stress of the day. During the flowering cycle, reduce your light cycle to 12-hours of darkness each day. Your LED lamp should have a feature that lets you change the light spectrum to simulate the fading daylight hours of the fall.