Grow lights can make you and your plants happier.

If the longer and warmer days of spring aren’t coming fast enough for you, go ahead and take the plunge: buy a grow light and start your seedlings now.

Unlike the days when unsightly grow lights and tray racks were banished to the basement (making it especially difficult for urban gardeners) there are many options now that allow you to enjoy your plants in your living room at a variety of price points.  There are also many options in terms of size, regardless of how much space you have to start your indoor seedling – even if you’re an urban gardener.

Gardener’s Supply Co. and Harris Seeds carry a wide variety of grow lights.  I like the Compact Tabletop SunLite ® Jump Start Kit, from Gardener’s Supply which can easily sit on my kitchen counter, or the Compact 2-Tier SunLite® Garden, a sleek black tray and light combo that’s kitchen-worthy, but can also be conveniently wheeled into another room to make room for company.

Seed Starting Kit

The Compact Tabletop SunLite® Jump Start Kit from Gardener’s Supply is perfect for even people with limited space to start seedlings indoors.

Another option is the AeroGarden line of garden appliances, which grow plants in a method of hydroponics called Aeroponics. Aside from throwing a nutrient solution in the water base, and refilling the water every few weeks, the AeroGarden does the rest. Using its full-spectrum fluorescent bulbs, the devices can grow everything from herbs and tomatoes to peppers and flowers. Gardeners only have to raise the light on the AeroGarden as the plants grow; lights are all on an automatic timer.  When I ran my AeroGarden for several years, I always had fresh herbs winter-long.

Seed Starting Kit

Seed Starting Cabana from Gardener’s Supply

Here are some tips for starting your plants indoors:

  • Light: If you use an automated system – it can take the guesswork out of lighting needs, which vary from plant to plant. If you need to set your own timers, carefully read up on how much light your plant requires before you start. For instance, most vegetable seedlings and garden plants need 14 to 18 hours of light a day.
  • Timing: Depending on your zone, you can start many plants inside in February, just count backwards from their germination dates. For instance, the last-frost dates for zones 5 and 6 are between March 31 and April 30. If cauliflower takes between 6-8 weeks to germinate, and should be transplanted outside just before the last frost, then mid-February is a good target. Resist planting any earlier or you’ll risk weakening the seedlings by keeping them indoors too long.  You can start flower, herb and vegetable seeds indoors.
  • Materials: You’ll need seeds, potting soil and containers, which can be store-bought or as simple as an egg carton or a homemade newspaper pots. Some experts suggest topping off the seedlings with vermiculite to help prevent damping off, a horticultural disease that afflicts seedlings.
  • Labeling: Don’t forget to label your plants as many seedlings look the same during their early stages, especially various varieties of squash and pumpkin seedlings.
  • “Mood” lighting: There’s an added perk of grow lights. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or the “winter blues” affects up to 14% of Americans, according to the National Institute for Mental Health, and many doctors are prescribing light therapy with a light box for patients. Grow lights can help achieve the same results. So, when you go to buy a grow light, consider it a dual investment in your garden and your mood.

Patricia Riedman Yeager first started growing flowers and vegetables on her fire escape in Manhattan.



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17 Responses to Grow lights can make you and your plants happier.

  1. John Yeager February 8, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

    Thanks for the update. Things have changed since the days of starter boxes on the fire escapes and window sills!

  2. Danielle Mergner February 8, 2013 at 4:52 pm #

    Thanks for the idea! I love fresh herbs all winter and they have not been fairing well; maybe this will help!

  3. L.Uhm February 8, 2013 at 5:40 pm #

    That’s great to know about these better products. I can’t wait to try this!

  4. M. Palermo February 8, 2013 at 8:41 pm #

    The tabletop tray & lamp looks very useful!

  5. Jennifer Gervasio February 8, 2013 at 9:24 pm #

    I like that compact tabletop one too! I think I’ll have a lot better luck starting my seedlings if they don’t have to take up so much space.

  6. Cristina Burke February 8, 2013 at 11:16 pm #

    My mood is definitely affected by these long winter days. Having a “sunlight” would really be a help. I also love the idea of having fresh herbs all winter long.

  7. Norma Riedman February 9, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

    The lamp & tray would make a nice birthday present.

  8. Jill marisie February 9, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

    What great new products. I don’t have to banish my husbands pepper plants to the basement anymore.

  9. Mair February 9, 2013 at 9:24 pm #

    Thanks for all the tips – I start my seeds indoors every year and this will definitely make it easier!

  10. Mary Luther February 10, 2013 at 1:20 am #

    Very interesting. I like the good looks of the grow lights and containers. How many do you need for a few herbs and vegetables?

  11. Ginger Austin February 10, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

    What a great idea. It doesn’t use too much space either.

  12. Patricia Riedman Yeager February 12, 2013 at 5:49 pm #

    Gardener’s Supply Co. also makes something called a Fast Start Success Kit, which I think would work nicely with the Tabletop SunLite Jump Start Kit, and raises about 24 seedlings. It includes a seedstarter (biodegradable tray with plastic cover) and planting mix, plant markers and fertilizer. You just supply seeds.
    The nice thing about the Fast Start kit is that it is self-watering up to a week. I love anything self-watering!

  13. MaryAnn Govert February 14, 2013 at 5:15 pm #

    Thanks for the tip! I love cooking with fresh herbs — this will be very helpful. And add a little light druing the bleak mid-winter!

  14. Your Easy Garden Team February 14, 2013 at 7:52 pm #

    Thanks for your comment Mary Ann. A little light during the mid-winter is indeed something to look forward to, but don’t forget that daylight savings time starts on March 10th this year!

  15. dave February 14, 2013 at 11:06 pm #

    great article, one thing that your readers might add is a clip on fan to add air circulation to cut down on airborne diseases and give the plants some strength

  16. Your Easy Garden Team February 15, 2013 at 2:49 pm #

    Thanks Dave. Helpful tip!

  17. Theresa February 26, 2013 at 5:58 pm #

    I was looking for something like that since we do not receive enough sunlight this time of year. Great idea! Thank you!

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