A Brief Guide to Pairing Hydroponic Systems and LED Grow Lights
Let’s say you’re either just getting started with indoor hydroponic gardening and want to go straight to the best LED grow lights, or you’re transitioning over to LED from fluorescent… this blog post is for you. Because everyone’s setup is different, we’re going to focus on general steps you can take to make life easier and your plants more productive.
1: Address Your Grow-Space Environment
Old-school grow lights suck up a ton of energy and have a different effect on the grow space than LED lights will. LEDs don’t get so hot. So with indoor hydroponic gardens, you want to shoot for temperatures in the range of 70°-80°F. Why? Well, because the colder the place gets in most cases the slower your growth will be. Monitor how the LED lights change the room temp and adjust accordingly using your heater (if required).
2: Evaluate Your Watering Cycle
Remember, because LEDs aren’t going to be such energy hogs and bombard your plants with harsh heat, there will be less water evaporation. That’s why it’s quite common to over water when you first start using LED lighting systems. For best root development and quick growth, you need to reevaluate your water requirements and adjust accordingly.
3: Deliberate & Careful LED Placement
When it comes to placement, you’ve got read the recommendations for your specific light. But if you’re going with estimates, be conservative and remember to adjust your light placement slowly, only an inch or two at a time. Then wait and allow the plant to respond before moving it up or down from there. If it’s too close, growth will be stunted. If it’s too far away your plants will get stretch marks (not really, but you know what we mean)!
4: Ease into Your Nutrients
The way your plants grow is going to change with LEDs. Once you get the environment, watering and light cycle down, it’s all about using nutrients in the correct manner. Beginners tend to go a bit overboard here. Start small. Start with a notch below the recommended amount for your plant and watch. You do not want to put too much stress on your plants by asking them to process too much. This is especially the case with fruiting plants.
Which LED Lights are Best?
When we look at the most sought after characteristics and specifications of modern LED lights, here’s typically what we find:
- Harmless: An 11-Watt LED light is so gentle that you could literally lay it on top of your plants and they wouldn’t be harmed by the light. And, there’s not enough heat (drying or burning) to do any damage either.
- Savings: With smaller inputs, like say 120v, people will save upwards of 60% on their energy costs vs. older power-hungry lights.
- Replacements: LEDs that are designed to take over for HPS lights are roaring with popularity these days. People are commonly looking for LEDs that can do the work of 400 – 600-Watt HPS.
- Investments: The pricing for even the most popular LED grow lights is very reasonable. Imagine buying one light that’s rated at 50,000 hours! Plus, they tend to come with great 3 and 5-year warranties from reputable brands.
- Colors: Good LEDs provide a spectrum of light: red, blue, orange, etc. They provide light beam angles with enough wattage to handle any indoor growing or gardening need. The ratios vary, but popular models have ratios around 7:1:1 with red at 620-630nm, blue at 450-460 and orange at 610-615nm.
What’s Your Circumstance?
Maybe you’ve been an avid indoor herb gardener for 20 years and you’re ready to take advantage of the many superior benefits of LEDs. Perhaps you’ve just got a couple sage or tomato plants in the kitchen. Or, you might be into growing aesthetic plants not for consumption. LEDs are the way to go, but which particular system will work best for you isn’t an easy thing to answer.
How many plants do you want? How much growing space do you have? Are you going to use soil or not? How big is your budget for setting up a new more complex indoor hydroponic garden? How many different early, vegetative and flowing stages are you trying to juggle? Make sure you do your homework. There’s ample amount of data online from home users, especially in online forums pertaining to home gardening. If you still have questions, send us your questions using the comment section below.