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How to Choose the Best Lights for your Indoor Vegetable Garden

Updated on August 13, 2011

indoor lighting

The factors to consider when planning to grow vegetables indoors are temperature, humidity, light level, air circulation, and nutrition.

The most important element of success in indoor vegetable growing is light. Light determines how long plants remain active and is essential for photosynthesis.

You need to pay close attention to light intensity as it affects the manufacture of plant food, stem length, leaf color, and flowering.

The intensity of light a plant receives indoors is dependent upon how close the light source is to the plant as you move away from the light source light intensity decreases.

This means you are not likely going to be able to grow much in the way of vegetables relying solely on light from a window.

Before planting anything asses the area where you plan to set up the garden. Consider the factors, paying close attention to available light. If you are planning to grow vegetables, in quantity, indoors, you will likely need to add lighting.

Sweet peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes are vegetable garden favourites but they like other fruiting vegetables have high light requirements. There are other choices such as salad greens and lettuces whose light requirements are less.

After lighting the next most important choice is your growing medium which is basically either a soil mix or hydroponic. If I do decide to grow more than culinary herbs for personal use indoors I will use an appropriate hydroponic system.

When it comes to indoor lighting sources the illegal grow op has lead to the development of equipment that will assist you to set up an indoor vegetable garden.

It is possible to guide your garden from seeds to fruit under fluorescent lighting and the gardener who wishes to do has a number of options.

The standard fluorescent bulb can be used to start seedlings and for salad gardeners they can suffice throughout the whole season as long as the bulbs are close to the plant tops, say about four inches above them.

Compact fluorescent grow lights may be more efficient but will cost more and still may not provide the green peppers and tomatoes the gardener seeks.

The best solution for growing fruiting vegetables (tomatoes, peppers etc) indoors may well be a combination of metal halide which puts out an intense light that is high in the blue spectrum and ideal for vegetative growth and then switch to high pressure sodium lights.

The high pressure sodium lights favour the red and orange spectrum which is needed for the development of fruits.

To effective grow fruiting plants indoors under artificial lights you are likely to need to switch three times as the as the metal halide are too strong to start seeds.

Stage One: Fluorescent grow lights for getting started

Stage Two: Metal halide for vegetative growth

Stage Three: High pressure sodium for fruiting.

This may not be advisable for the home gardener who seeks to turn a basement into a vegetable garden, unless herbs and salad green are the desired output. A greenhouse in the yard may be a preferred alternative.

There is another option that is making some ground LED grow lights are reputed to be very efficient, my suggestion is do your research before buying anything.


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  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 4 years ago from New Brunswick

    You are welcome, happy growing.

  • Travis Gilliard profile image

    Travis Gilliard 4 years ago from Roswell, New Mexico

    I've done some research like what you suggested about what LED grow lights to buy and I've come across this site ( I think their lights are great but I'm still having trouble choosing though.

    Btw thanks for this article and video, this is really a big help.

  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 5 years ago from New Brunswick

    Thanks for your input.

  • profile image

    rbchurst 5 years ago

    Thanks for the information! I have always wanted to get some led grow lights, but I wasn't sure if there was a specific kind I should get. This was really helpful!

  • profile image

    Nicusor Chirca 6 years ago

    Marijuana, as an herb, is supposed to grow nicely with the very efficient and advertised very long lasting LEDs. You can even build your own custom LED grow light with Blue, Red and Orange LEDs and experiment. My "problem" is that I want to grow sweet peppers and tomatoes indoors, not marijuana. And tomatoes will grow very tall and bushy, it will take a lot of time to produce fruits and require staking. I started 8 tomato plants inside my apt, planted them outside later on and, to my surprise and joy, they did survive and are doing well, despite the various near death experiences they went through mostly due to me not being there many days at a time. Peppers, vegetative wise, might be easier to grow inside. They don't grow too big and tall. I was trying to find out what are the light intensity requirements for tomatoes and peppers when trying to grow them inside in pots (will deal with the increasing complexity of hydroponic systems later) to actually see if they can be grown with self made led lights. I have some pictures and two notes on the electronics needed to make your own custom led lamp or bulb at home on my facebook profile, gave the link above, if anybody finds useful my "research" or details. I think I will try to build an blue led lamp to try to use it in growing lettuce in a pot, on the window shelf and maybe even in a closet, later on to see if and how it grows. Easiest way would be to use one or two fluorescent bulbs close to the plant, but I want to someday make use of the ultra energy efficient and long lasting LED lamps, so I was wondering if anybody has experimented with it and what light intensity specific plants need.

  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 7 years ago from New Brunswick

    You are welcome.

  • profile image

    Earthbeat 7 years ago

    I appreciate the article Bob, especially the suggestion to check out LED lights. Thank you.

  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 8 years ago from New Brunswick

    I try to keep my references to what I have seen work, depedning upon yout investment and space available, I think other vegetables would grow as long as they get the nutrients they need and enough light.

  • Deborah-Lynn profile image

    Deborah-Lynn 8 years ago from Los Angeles, California

    Thanks for your Hub and that great video, our next step is adding a small windmill up the hill on our property, then some solar panels, (do it yourself kind not the expensive installed for thousands of dollars,) thenhydroponics sounds like a great way to produce salad veggies....How is it that you only suggest salad and herb type hydoponic gardening?

  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 8 years ago from New Brunswick

    Thank you for dropping by.

  • suziecat7 profile image

    suziecat7 8 years ago from Asheville, NC

    I have been watching LED grow lights on Ebay. They are supposedly energy efficient and do the job. Great Hub as usual.

  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 8 years ago from New Brunswick

    Some methods are less expensive than others, thanks for dropping by.

  • Katherine Baldwin profile image

    Katherine Baldwin 8 years ago from South Carolina

    Thanks for the info, Bob. These days and times, I think that a lot of people are trying to find ways to grow their own food. It's cheaper and safer.