Grow Under Fluorescent Lights
The fluorescent lights will provide sufficient light for growth during any
month of the year, however another requirement of plants is sufficient
warmth. The garage will provide protection against much of the
temperature fluctuations throughout winter, but not sufficient for
germinating and growing seedlings nor for the propagation of cuttings.
There are two alternatives available. Firstly an electric heater with a
thermostat control. One of these will cost roughly �15 new or a fiver
secondhand. The second alternative is a paraffin heater - this is not recommended
from a safety (especially within a garage) or efficiency view point.
A typical electric heater with thermostat
The energy efficiency of the electric heater can be increased by
partitioning that area of the garage which is to be heated, although this is by no means necessary.
Position The Fluorescent Lights
In order to mimic natural sunlight, the fluorescent lights should be
between 18 to 24 inches above the top of the plants. The odd inch or two
will not make much difference, although young seedlings will be 'burnt'
if the lights are too near.
As a guide, a 6 foot fluorescent light will provide a growing area of 6 foot
long by 1 foot wide. The more fluorescent lights, the larger the growing area.
Usage of the Lights
If the above advice is taken, plants under the fluorescent lights can be
treated exactly as normal. Heat can be varied using the heater's thermostat as required.
The principal use is to enable the raising of seedlings and the propagation
of cuttings a month or so earlier in the season than would normally be possible.
For example, geranium seeds are normally sown in January or February. Using
fluorescent lights, it is possible to sow them in early December, and
place them under the fluorescent lights when the seedlings emerge. When
the weather is kind enough to allow planting outside, the plants will be
one or two months further advanced than conventionally sown seed.
Another prime example is sweet corn. These can be sown under fluorescent
lights a month earlier than normal. In the case of sweet corn, the
lights should be on for 12 hours and off for 12 hours - sweet corn grow when it is dark.
It is also possible to sow seed in mid-October, raising the seedlings under
the fluorescent lights until early January. At this point, the plants
will be large enough to provide three or four cuttings for raising under
the lights. In this manner, one F1 seed will provide three or four plants.
One word of warning! Remember that seedlings and cuttings will need more
space as they grow. Plan for this space requirement taking into account
the growing area you have available.
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