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Sunday, November 11, 2018

How to Easily and Cheaply Build A Vegetable Garden Grow-Light Closet: Part One - What Kind of Lights Do I Need (Kelving and Lumens)?

The Rusted Garden Seed and Garden Shop

How to Easily and Cheaply Build A Vegetable Garden Grow-Light Closet:
Part One : What Kind of Lights Do I Need (Kelvin and Lumens)?


I will be doing a series on my YouTube Channel, through the beginning of 2019, that takes you through all the steps of building your own vegetable garden grow-light closet. Follow my blog and channel for the next entries!

The first question to ask is: What Kind of Lighting Do I Need to Grow My Own Vegetable Seed Starts and Transplants?  The answer is expressed in Kelvin and Lumens. I will explain those terms in detail but they are basically light color and light intensity. Once you understand these terms and ratings, you can buy bulbs and receptacles/fixtures yourself and save a lot of money. There is no need to buy specialized grow-lights for seed starting and transplants. They just cost more.


Basic Grow-Light Bulbs and Fixtures: The Rusted Garden

Let me talk briefly about the importance of the right amount of light which I will detail more in future entries. The bottom line is you need 12-16 hours of direct light on your seed starts and transplants for healthy growth. Most windows do not provide this as they provide indirect light. Direct light means the sunlight is coming from the sun to the plants in a direct line. You can see the sun from the window.

Windows rarely provide enough light and you end up with tall, spindly, weak looking plants. This problem is called ‘leggy’ plants or plant ‘legginess.’ That’s too much stem (or leg) and not enough bushy leafy top growth. This can  also happen with the wrong indoor lighting. Therefore, you really need indoor grow lights with a specific Kelvin and Lumens ratings to have success.

The goal is to grow healthy seed starts and transplants. You don’t need specialized expensive grow lights. You don’t need red, blue and white lights. You just need to address two factors associated with your lights/bulbs. That is the Kelvin rating and Lumens rating on the lights. It is the same for LED lights and fluorescent lights. If you were growing indoors plants to flower and fruit, you would need specialized lighting systems. My video not only explains the details needed for building your grow-lights, I also take you shopping to find the products you will need.




The Kelvin and Lumens ratings can be found on the bulb packaging. If you can’t find it, don’t use those bulbs. The Kelvin scale represents the color or type of light. You want a Kelvin (K) rating of 4000K to 6500k as that represents the color of light when the sun is at its highest point, which is more white. I recommend a minimum of 5000K. 6500k is the best (as it is full daylight). I have been successful (years ago) using 4100K bulbs if that is all you can find. However, 6500K LED and fluorescent bulbs are now easier to find and less expensive in today’s markets. You want the whitest light possible, the lower the Kelvin rating, the more yellow the light. The top lights in the picture below are rated at 6500K. Notice how white that light is compared to the yellow light of the 4100K rated bulbs in the lower part of the picture.


Kelvin Rating Grow-Light Color Differences - The Rusted Garden


Lumens represent the intensity of the light. It makes sense that you want intense light as that is what helps your seed starts mature. You will need 2000 to 5000 lumen bulbs for your grow lights. I have used bulbs over the years that have been rated between 2000-3000 lumens and they have worked effectively. That is the most common range you will find.

Over the last several years higher lumen LED and fluorescent lights have become more common and less expensive. I now recommend a minimum of 3000 lumens when possible. I have not used bulbs beyond 5000 lumens. They work extremely well. The more lumens you have the greater the distance the lights can be from the seed starts. In future blog entries I will talk about how close the lights need to be to your seed starts and transplants.


Basic Fluorescent Bulbs and Fixture - The Rusted Garden

LED System - The Rusted Garden


You can use LED lights or fluorescent lights. They key to success is the right Kelvin and Lumen rating ranges. You can buy lights based on your budget. LED's are more expensive but use less power. I recommend 4 foot fluorescent bulbs or 4 foot LED systems. This length provides the coverage of light needed for healthy seed starts. Check out the above video for more information and a visit to a couple of stores where you can buy bulbs and fixtures. Please subscribe to my YouTube Channel: The Rusted Garden and follow my blog!

Good Luck In Your Gardens,
Gary (The Rusted Garden)

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