Lighting our homemade hydroponics (DIY)

As you know, Mrs.. HDLR and I are learning the principles of at home, hydroponic cultivation for vegetables, this article talks about the type of lighting that we use and how we have chosen that solution.

Light plays an important role in hydroponics, especially if it is indoors because plants need sunlight. According to the experts, normally a plant needs 4 to 6 hours of direct sunlight and about 10 to 12 indirect sunlight.

We will try to simulate those natural light exposure through the use of artificial lighting. Clearly, if you have access to a source of direct sunlight (saying that the crop is in a room where there is a window) need to provide 14 to 16 hours of artificial light and about 10 to 12 darkness. Remember that darkness is very important for plants as well. 

Like humans, plants also need time to rest and metabolize. If the plants we’re growing are perennials, these need to be more accurate with schedules and type of light, but will not go into that argument because we do not cultivate these kinds of plants.

Different types of plants have, different needs

Following the rule of 14-16 hours of light for 10-12 dark, most of the plants will be developed without a problem and generate “results”. However, as you can imagine not all plants are equal and some are best developed with average daylight and average dark. 

What we learned so far is that we can categorize plants depending on the amount of light needed and in short, we can say that:

  • Much darkness plants: These are plants that need longer periods of darkness to perform photosynthesis and make produce flowers if you expose these plants to more than 12 hours of light will not bloom and forget about generating feed them: S If you google for plants require little light find strawberries, cauliflower and chrysanthemums are some of them.
  • Bright plants: contrary to previous levels, this type of plant needs to less than 18 hours of light, are plants such as wheat, lettuce, potatoes, spinach, and turnips. This type of plant emulates the natural environment of plants summer where the days are longer and then there is more light.
  • Neutral plants: These types of plants are more “neutral” and less “demanding”. These plants produce the fruit regardless of the amount of light to which they are exposed, for example, eggplant, corn, rice, and other roses.

If for example, you combine within the same crop, bright plants, and neutral plants, you should give a midpoint of 18 hours light, although about 14 would be just fine.

The lighting

We learned that there are many different types of lights for hydroponics. Some systems suggest using two types of bulbs depending on the age of the plant because different bulbs generate different kinds of light that are better or worse for certain stages of plant growth.

T5 fluorescent light

T5 fluorecent light Hydroponics
T5 Fluorescent lighting

This type of light is made of white tubes, just like the ones you see in any office (before led lighting existed). They are easy to find and are very useful for hydroponics. These lights pipes are not heated, thus, they can be very close to the plants without harming them.

This type of light is good for lettuce, green vegetables and most of the herbs like cilantro, parsley, basil, etc.

They are not as expensive, a lamp with a tube can cost around 10 CHF (9 EUR), clearly, you have to see the size of your crop and look for a suitable lamp to cover the area. Games lamps more than one tube and come in various sizes.

Apparently, this type of light is good for the planting phase and young growth.

HID lights for hydroponics

HID Lamps for hydroponics
HID bulbs and lamp

This type of light is like a spotlight, where light is produced by generating an electric arc between two electrodes that are inside glass with a combination of gas and salts (that was very technical … hehe) but hey it is important that this type of Unlike T5 fluorescent light, HID lighting generates a lot of heat, but in reality this solution is the best available for hydroponics because you can grow almost any crop like lettuce and green plants, flowers or fruit.

Unlike fluorescent light, these HID lamps are more expensive and cannot find them everywhere.

LED-based light

Like everything else, the LEDs are replacing bulbs in all applications, from autos to streetlights, so, light for hydroponics is no exception.

With the technology today, LEDs fail to generate a sufficient amount of light required by the crop, along with the LED light that can generate a light spectrum that plants need at different stages of growth.

Prices are not cheap, but the lifetime is greater and is solid-state components.

To conclude…

Having researched almost everything about the type of lighting we have to install for our crop.  Mrs. HDLR and I decided to start with T5 fluorescent lighting.

Looking for some YouTube videos and reading more about these, seemed to be a good compromise between price and results. 

So, I will install the lighting and observe the results. I’m looking forward to being eating one of the lettuces grown by us!

Here is a picture of our culture with the first installed lamp.

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