While you won’t be able to fool yourself that you are lying on a beach with a pina colada (Ingredients: 3 parts Pineapple juice, 1 part White rum, 1 part Coconut cream) in your hand, you will be able to fool your plants that summer is back and it’s time to get growing. I am not suggesting you remove the sofa and armchairs from your front room and plant beetroot and potatoes in their place but there are a number of more compact plants you can easily grow over winter with a little extra light.
A compact growlight system can be used to successfully grow leafy crops like lettuce, Oriental greens, micro-greens and herbs. Obviously small leafy plants are best because of their size but also because they use the same light spectrum as seedlings.
Unlike plants grown to their flower or fruit stages (which need more red light), leafy greens and emerging seedlings have the same requirements so the same setup can used for both. Growlights can be used for winter production but also to start plants like tomatoes, cucumbers and aubergines off in early spring without them growing weak and leggy from insufficient light.
One of the easiest and most productive methods of indoor growing is producing microgreens. These tightly packed trays of leaves are essentially just standard seeds grown to an immature stage. The young plants are very high in nutrients (said to be up to 40 times more nutritious than mature crops) so are great to liven up winter dishes with a healthy boost of fresh greens.
Most vegetable seeds are suitable for growing as microgreens but rocket, pak choi or radish are great as they are quick to grow and have a good peppery kick. Other brassicas like cabbage, kale, broccoli or kohl rabi are also ideal. Pea and bean shoots are very good and provide a taste of summer with coriander very worthwhile for the intensity of flavour the immature plants produce.
You can buy bulk seeds for microgreen growing from many suppliers but this method is also handy for using up old packs of seeds that may have been forgotten in the back of a drawer. You can also use dried seeds and pulses sold for cooking like marrowfat peas, mung beans, chick peas, puy lentils or sunflower seeds for a cost effective alternative to garden seeds.
The method is pretty simple, just broadcast sow thickly in a seed tray of multipurpose compost. As a rule of thumb the gap between the seeds should be approximately the same as the size as the seed but this is approximate, you don’t have to measure them all out! Cover with a thin layer or compost and leave in a warn place to germinate. Once the seeds come up they should be placed under the growlight if not placed there already.
Young leafy greens will like nitrogen so I find a mixing a small handful of seaweed/poultry manure in with the compost works well and gives lush green growth.
Microgreens are most easily harvested but trimming them down to soil level with a pair of scisssors, this gives clean leaves which will require minimal washing. Many of the Oriental salads (rocket, mizuna, pak choi, mustard) will re-sprout to give you at least a second picking.
Information on Sunblaster lights
We stock ‘Sunblaster’ light sets because we find them cost effective and reliable. The Sunblaster is a Californian made lamp that uses an economical T5HO 6400K lamp combined with a nano reflector. The unique reflector spreads the light in a wider arc across the plant canopy and penetrates deeper into the plant foliage without consuming any additional power.
The Sunblaster T5HO has an even light distribution with relative intensity peaks at 435 nm and 615 nm making them ideal for both propagation and longer term growth.
Where to place Sunblaster Lights
Sunblaster lights are designed to be either hung above a plant tray (fittings are included for this purpose) or can be sat on top of a propagator lid as shown with the Geopod and Vitopod products featured below. We also stock a ready to grow ‘Growlight Garden’ featured below which uses the same Sunblaster lights pre installed in the adjustable canopy.
Building a lamp frame
If you would like to make a frame to hold lamps above your seedling trays you can easily make one using our ‘Mainfame’ garden structure kits. The photo above shows the Mainframe used as a cloche by covering with polythene but the same structure also makes a perfect growlight gantry.
To make the above frame you will need: 4 x 120cm rods, 8 x 60cm rods and 2 x packs of corner joints. As already mentioned, the same frame can be used as a cloche in springtime with the addition of a sheet of polythene and a pack of netting clips.
If you would like to view our range of growlight kits or Sunblaster lamps please click the blue button below: