Photo 1. Seedlings in a greenhouse
Officially, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and other heat-loving crops are short-day plants (it should be about 12 hours). However, the length of daylight hours in our Urals and in other zones of risky agriculture in spring (and even more so at the end of February, when the first shoots of these crops appear) are clearly insufficient for them even on sunny days. And it's not worth talking about cloudy days at all.
Seedlings under such conditions, even on sunny windows in ours and in other similar regions, grow weak and elongated (if they grow at all). It is clear that there is no need to rely on a large harvest from it in the future. And as a result, many gardeners are forced to sow seeds much later - around the end of March, and this makes it possible to grow only low-growing early varieties of tomatoes, the yield of which is minimal, and refuse from pepper and eggplant altogether.
If this state of affairs does not suit you, then you cannot do without additional lighting here. On large southern windows, on sunny days, it will be required only in the morning and evening hours, and on cloudy days - throughout the day. All other windows, especially the northern ones, need constant supplementary lighting. And in this article we will focus on a possible option for organizing such additional lighting.
As you know, fluorescent lamps are most effective for illuminating seedlings, since they are more durable and economical in operation and emit more natural light. To highlight a small number of plants (for example, seedlings in the initial stage of development), you can build a greenhouse from plexiglass and mount short fluorescent lamps inside it.
Grown plants can no longer be illuminated in this way, and then you have to contrive. You can try, combining several fluorescent lamps, build a lamp specially designed to illuminate the desired area of the space, based on the number of seedlings grown and other aspects. In principle, if there is male power in the house, there is nothing particularly complicated in this - there would be a desire.
The number of lamps in the luminaire can be different (3-4-5, etc.) and depends on the size of the illuminated area. And as a basis for their fastening, you will need to build a kind of housing in the form of a trough made of a fiberboard sheet. Why should the body be trough-shaped and not flat? Everything is very simple: if you take a sheet of fiberboard and attach lamps to it, then the light from the lamps will be scattered throughout the room. As a result, plants standing compactly in a certain place in the room will receive less light than they could.
In addition, if this room is used as a living room, then such a light will irritate the family members living in it. If the body is made in the form of a trough (such a trough is not difficult to obtain by slightly bending a fiberboard sheet with an arc and reinforcing it along the contour with wooden slats), then the light from the lamps will be concentrated under them (and not throughout the room), and, therefore, on the plants ...
Photo 2. Plants illuminated by a suspended lamp
The resulting trough body should be covered with foil from the inside before fixing the lamps in it - this will make the light emitted by the lamps even and provide illumination of the plants from all sides. The size of the trough in each case will be different: ideally, this size should approximately coincide with the area occupied by the plants.
The finished lamp is suspended above the table with plants. The table on which the seedlings are supposed to be placed is installed near the window, which provides at least some minimum of real daylight. In addition, it is necessary for fixing the luminaire. Naturally, if the window is not north, this will allow the lamps to be turned on only in the morning and evening hours.
The options for hanging the luminaire from the window may be different. However, it is more convenient if this is done on two chains, since in this case it will be possible to increase the height of the suspended trough body as the seedlings grow - at first, lower it very low, and then raise it as the plants grow. In this case, a special suspension structure is used to suspend the lamp and adjust its position above the table.
Fig. 1. View of one of the side surfaces of the frame
Let us consider an example of creating a luminaire structure based on three fluorescent lamps and a hinged structure necessary for attaching this luminaire to a window frame (the dimensions of all parts are indicated in mm).
Rectangular reflector made of fiberboard with dimensions 815x492x15 (main part of the trough body), which will be further bent by an arc to obtain the trough base
Fig. 2. Side view of the trough case
The frame is fastened with screws or self-tapping screws, and a fiberboard reflector is nailed to it with small nails from above (with a smooth surface inside the luminaire) (see 2, 3)
Fig. 3. View of the trough case from above
After assembly, foil is glued to the inside of the reflector, and then fluorescent lamps are mounted. In rails "B" for fluorescent lamps, in the shaded areas, before the assembly of the frame, slots were cut 10 mm wider than the diameter of the lamps in advance. At the end, loops are mounted on the side surfaces of the frame, which are needed to fasten the chains. These can be hinges commonly used for hanging cabinets on walls.
Fig. 4. Diagram of installing fluorescent lamps in the lamp
As fluorescent lamps mounted in the luminaire, you can install lamps of the required size, purchased separately, but in this case, each of the lamps will have to be connected independently through the appropriate choke and starter (and this is a separate topic for electronics lovers).
Nowadays, it is much easier to purchase the required number of fluorescent lamps of the required length (in which the entire set of elements is already available) and implement them in the above-described housing (see 4).
Laths "D" and "D" are connected using a conventional loop used earlier for hanging vents in windows - two sets of laths are obtained. These sets of rails are rigidly connected on one side with screws to the rail "B". It turns out the suspended structure shown in the figure (see 5).
Fig. 5. Side view of the suspended structure.
Screws are screwed into the rail "B" from the ends, but not all the way - about 10 mm remains for fastening the chain. Slats "D" are attached with screws to the window frame (if viewed in height, then approximately in the middle of the window frame, although the height may vary depending on the height of the window sill or table).
At the very top of the window frame, hooks are screwed to fasten the chain. The resulting structure should be attached to the window frame with "D" rails, and at the same time it freely rotates on hinges, which allows, by changing the length of the chain, to adjust the distance from the lamp to the plants. The luminaire is attached to this hanging structure by means of hooks with chain links.
At the very beginning of the season (that is, immediately after the emergence of seedlings, when the plants are still very small), the lamp is suspended from the hooks by the most extreme links of the chain - that is, so as to be at a minimum distance from the plants. Then, as the seedlings grow, it rises and is attached to the hooks with the following chain links, etc.
It is also worth noting that in order to increase the level of illumination inside the enclosed space on which the plants are located, it is additionally desirable to build some kind of curtains (or something like that) around the lamp from foil. In this case, the light emitted by the lamps will be more uniform and will provide illumination of the plants from all directions.
Photos and drawings by the author
Today, there are two main types of seedling lamps on the market that are suitable for home use: fluorescent (energy-saving) lamps and LED lamps.
“The most budgetary and at the same time the most effective option is conventional tubular fluorescent lamps,” noted Mikhail Vorobyov. Fluorescent lamps, also known as fluorescent lamps, do not generate heat or burn plants.
In addition, these lamps are easy to install and replace. Moreover, their energy consumption is at the level of 40-60 watts. The cost of fluorescent lamps is from 100 rubles.
“Fluorescent lamps can be replaced with conventional energy-saving lamps, which are essentially the same fluorescent lamps, but only in a more compact form. Naturally, several of them are needed to illuminate the window sill, at least three or four, ”the specialist said.
LED bulbs emit blue and red light, which is most effective when growing seedlings. However, these lamps are distinguished by their high cost (from 2,000 rubles). “Of course, they are more efficient, but they are quite expensive. The question always arises: is the harvest that we get worth the costs that we will incur? " - noted the expert.
Like fluorescent lights, LED bulbs do not heat up the plants. They are also energy efficient and easy to use.
Experts are sure that the key to excellent plant growth is illumination. Today, the market for lighting devices of this type is represented by a wide variety. However, any vegetable grower will be interested in knowing which lamps to choose for lighting seedlings at home so that they are as efficient as possible and less costly.
Lighting of seedlings with LED lamps. It is this type of lighting that is gaining popularity among summer residents. Since the ratio between efficiency and power consumption is several times higher than the efficiency and economy of incandescent lamps.
When using LED lighting for seedlings, the grower receives the following benefits:
Supplementary lighting of seedlings with LED lamps allows you to avoid excessive drying of the plant and excessive thermal moisture, which becomes a good environment for the development of fungal diseases.
Before discussing the highlighting of seedlings, often inevitable in the middle lane, where there is still little sun in the spring, let's see where you grow seedlings. "As where? On the windowsill, where else! ” - the citizen will exclaim in bewilderment. But window sills with tables moved to them in the rooms and in the kitchen are far from the only and not even the main place for the seedlings.
In fact, the highest seedling activity of the owners of vegetable gardens and flower beds falls on sunny April-May. In the second half of April, most garden and flower crops are sown for seedlings. And in March we sometimes have only 1-3 trays with small unopened tomatoes, peppers and eggplants.
There are four main seedling spots that our growers use, depending on the living conditions.
In a city apartment or a country house, where there is a hot room, warm and cool, with the same illumination, choose a cool one for seedlings.
Without bright light, no living plant can survive. If we talk about seedlings and seeds, then supplementary lighting at home can work miracles. The lack of sunlight in winter and spring is detrimental to plants. Young stems will, with all their strength, reach for the sun, which is fraught with their thinning. Lack of light can also cause a "black leg" or even the death of seedlings. It is of great importance with the help of which lamps the additional illumination of plants is provided. An overly bright lamp will burn them, and conventional incandescent bulbs consume a huge amount of electricity. Let's talk today about how to grow full-fledged seedlings using artificial light, when and for how long to turn on the lamps, which ones are suitable for seedlings, and which ones will be of little use, and, finally, we will touch on the most reliable and proven types of lamps in different price categories.
If you want to grow the perfect seedlings, you must know her desires. For example, tomatoes like to bask in the rays for up to 4 pm. As for peppers, eggplants and other crops, 12 will be enough for them. But it all depends on the weather outside the window - if it is cloudy and raining, then it is better not to turn off the backlight even during the day, but if the sun is shining, then why overpay for electricity?
Usually, supplementary lighting lamps when growing seedlings work for 2-3 hours before sunrise and the same amount after sunset.
In addition to the duration of the "daylight hours", the distance to the light source is also important, but it all depends on the lamp.If it can work for half a day and remain cold, then you can place it at a distance of 20-22 cm from the seedlings, if it heats up, releasing heat, then 10 centimeters further away.
The ideal illumination level of seedlings, which can be measured with a device called a "luxmeter", ranges from 5000 to 7000 lux.
First, let's figure out why seedlings need additional lighting at all?
Light is almost the most important condition for growing seedlings. If there is not enough light, then the most complex apparatus of plant photosynthesis will simply not work normally, and this will certainly negatively affect both the root system and the aboveground part. Plants can begin to stretch out in search of light, bend, their immunity will be completely or partially depleted, and there can be no question of any quality of seedlings, or of any harvests in the future, at best everything will be mediocre.
Let's make a reservation right away: if your window, on the windowsill of which there is a street lamp of night illumination, then close the window with foil as soon as possible, so you will save the plants from disorientation and provide more light coming to the plants at the "correct" hours from the supplementary lamp. In the daytime, the foil, of course, needs to be removed without turning off the additional lighting if necessary.