One of the most influential limiting factors for those growing produce all year round in the UK are the low light levels in winter. These low light levels, combined with the relatively short growing season, can make it challenging to grow produce that needs a long time to reach maturity. LED grow lights could be one way to combat these challenges.
UK polytunnel growers are, for example, often left with a lot of unripe, green tomatoes at the end of the growing season. Starting these early in the year can make it more likely that you can enjoy a worthwhile harvest before the frosts arrive. But tomatoes sown very early in the year can suffer from low light levels. Seedlings can become weak and straggly as they grow tall, desperately seeking sunlight. LED grow lights can give tomatoes and other seedlings the light they need early in the year.
Tips For Choosing LED Grow Lights
If you have decided that you would like to invest in some LED grow lights for your polytunnel, here are some tips to help you make sure that you get exactly what you need:
– Look For Quality
LED grow lights can offer durability and efficiency – but not all LED grow lights are created equal. Make sure you choose quality grow lights from a reputable brand. Read reviews to discover what other gardeners have thought about the options you are considering. Choose an option with a quality semi-conductor chip (which converts electricity to light) that is sufficient for your needs.
– Consider Inputs & Outputs
Consider how efficient your LED grow lights will be and how much electricity they will use. Make sure you are aware of how much energy input they will require, since they will be running for at least 10-11 hours each day during the winter months.
You must also consider the power output of the LED lights you are considering. Will they emit enough light for your purposes?
– Consider What You Want to Grow
In addition to thinking about how much light will be emitted by the LED grow lights you are considering, you will also have to consider the wavelengths of the light emitted. Different plants will require different light wavelengths and will need different wavelengths of light during different stages of growth.
– Consider How Much Space is to be Lit
In order to work out how many LED lamps you will need, you should consider the size of staging or growing area available. As a general rule, you will need around 32 watts of actual power per square foot for high-light plants like tomatoes, and between 11-18 watts for plants like lettuce.
– Consider Ease of Use & Flexibility
Once you have determined whether the LED grow lights you are considering are fit for purpose, suitable for the space you have and the plants you wish to grow, you should also think about how easy they will be for you, the gardener, to actually use.
These are just some of the things to think about when choosing LED grow lights. For more information on polytunnel growing year round, check out our other articles and guides. If you have thoughts on LED grow lights to share, feel free to do so in the comments below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.