Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Supplemental lighting time

In our locale , on average, our risk of frost is from
September 28 through May 8, and we can expect a growing season of around 143 days.

The greenhouse extends my season for several weeks in each direction, however, the decreasing day length does have an effect on the rate of growth. I have added a few hours of supplemental lighting, both in the morning and evening hours, to compensate for the decreasing photoperiod.

The above photo shows my mixing tub ebb and flow system illuminated by a 6400K 95 watt compact fluorescent grow light. I am starting plants every few days to get a sequence going to provide a continuous supply of salad greens.

A fair question would be: is it worth the effort, and is it economical? My answer to both would be a definite yes.

The light may add four dollars a month to the electric bill, which is no big deal. The tub cost twelve dollars, the reservoir was rescued from the recycle bin, the pump cost eight dollars, the timer cost four dollars and the nutrients cost less than five dollars for two pounds, and I only use four teaspoons every three weeks. And, there is virtually no maintenance, as I only drain and add new nutrients every three weeks.

The price of purchasing produce will soon begin to reflect the end of the growing season, and having to ship produce from the south and west coast. Last winter the cost of a lettuce was just under three dollars a head. This small system will comfortably hold in excess of twenty plants, so, in my opinion, growing my own is worth the effort and expense.

Additionally, I factor in the variety, freshness, taste and the elimination of exposure to pesticides and E coli when I ask myself if it is worth the expense and effort.

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