How to Use Artificial Lighting in a Hydroponic System

When hobbyists take up hydroponics, it is often because they want to grow crops but lack the natural outdoor space. Without the much needed natural light from the sun, it can prove to be difficult to grow crops in a hydroponic system, but it can be optimized if using the correct light color spectrum, which has proven to be a substantial substitute for natural light.

For beginners, choosing the correct hydroponic lighting system for your garden can be daunting. There are numerous options on the market today and understanding that depending on the size of your system and the type of crops you are growing, will determine which type of lighting is appropriate.

When you grow vegetables outside, they require 4-6 hours of direct sunlight per day along with 10 hours of “bright light” or indirect sunlight. Your ultimate goal when growing crops in a hydroponic environment is to mimic this using your artificial light sources. One should plan on having 14-16 hours of bright artificial light, and just like animals, plants need time to rest and metabolize, so follow up with 10-12 hours of darkness.

Each plant or crop is different so knowing how to properly allow for them to go through their natural stages of growth and flowering phases is important. For example, with perennials, they have a stricter lighting schedule to allow them their natural growth pattern of vegetative all the way to flowering. Automatic electric timers are the easiest way to control lighting under these circumstances to eliminate human error and protect the crops.

Different Plants Different Needs

If you are growing several different types of crops within your hydroponic garden, each may require different lighting circumstances. Using an automatic timer allows you easy setup of customized lighting options to maintain the needs of your crops. Some plants require longer periods of light while others require less, so customizing your growing environment is made much easier by automating your lighting system.

Short Day Plants

Plants such as cauliflower, strawberries, Poinsettias and chrysanthemums require longer periods of darkness to flower. If exposed to too much light, over 12 hours per day, they will not flower. The shorter day cycle of light mimics that of the natural environment of which plants that flower in the spring.

Long Day Plants

The long day cycle of lighting creates the natural environment for plants that flower in the summer, like lettuce, wheat, spinach, potatoes, and turnips. These plants require up to 18 hours of light per day to grow and produce naturally,

Neutral Day Plants

Plants such as rice, roses, eggplants and corn are considered neutral day lighting plants. These plants will grow and flower regardless of how much light they are exposed to.

When you mix together short and long day crops in your hydroponic garden, you have the option of making your lighting customized when you use automatic electronic lighting systems. To customize a mixed crop hydroponic garden you should choose a lighting program directly in the middle. Somewhere around 14 hours per day of light should be about right.

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