The Q&A Archives: Grow Lights

Question: I am a first time seed planter and I am confused about grow lights. I have three pairs left from five years ago when my son did a project on hydroponics.<br><br>A friend is telling me that I must replace the bulbs every year. Others tell me to use just aregular bulb in Soft White.<br><br>What's the story? Also, your catalog tells us to put the lights at 6". If I do that, I can't water the plants.

Answer: It's true that fluorescent lights do dim slightly with use, so if you were a commercial grower or trying to grow something quickly and intensively, and if you had been using those bulbs for years, then I'd say go ahead and replace them. But if you are simply starting some seedlings for your garden, they should be fine. I've been using the same bulbs for at least 6 years, and they work fine.<br><br>Also, although special full-spectrum grow lights do provide a better light source, again, if youare just starting seedlings, regular "cool white" fluorescent bulbs are fine. And do keep them close to the tops of the plants--even as close as an inch or two. You'll just need to figure out a system where you can either raise the lights (I use chains and "S" hooks) or pull out the planting trays to water, or water from the bottom by putting water in a tray and setting the pots in it until they are moist. It's a little bit of a pain in the neck--but it's very important to keep the lights close to the plants or they will be weak and spindly. Inadequate light is the number one reason people have trouble growing their own seedlings.<br><br>

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