Grow lights : Beginner’s guide

cannabis plants require both blue and red light

Beginner’s guide: growing with LED grow lights

Growing plants indoors using grow lights is becoming really popular. LED grow lights are a great way to cultivate all sorts of plants in a discrete, controlled way. Here is a step-by-step beginners guide to growing plants indoors.

Choose a place to grow indoors

Grow Lights / where to grow

Grow lights – easy to grow indoors

The main benefits of growing any indoor plant is that you can better control the climate and it’s much more discrete. Plants do not require a great deal of upkeep but it does take some basic knowledge to get the best out of any project. In order to increase the yield of your indoor plants, you should use the following information. Happy growing!

When you grow indoors using LED grow lights (we recommend using LED grow lights for many reasons including the fact it’s cheaper, quicker and easier to grow plants indoors using them), you have much more control over everything. This means that if you get it right, you can produce fantastic results (yields of your crops) consistently and quickly. However, growing indoors also means that you have more responsibility because if you do not look after your plants correctly, they will die. When you grow outdoors, you have light and rain so you can be more ‘carefree’. That said, when you do grow indoors using LED grow lights, your results will often be better and much, much quicker.

First things first. You will need to find a suitable place to start growing your indoor plants. Pretty much anywhere will do if you are using grow lights because natural sunlight is no longer required. Here are some places we have seen used;

  • A spare room
  • A cupboard
  • Garage
  • Outdoor building (with electricity)
  • A tent in the garden

When you consider growing plants indoors using LED grow lights, you need to ensure there is going to be enough room for your plants. Depending on the type of plant you are looking to grow, they can get quite large. There are techniques, using LED grow lights, to control whether your plants grow long and tall or short and stocky for example. However, that is for another article.

Grow Lights - Regulate Temp / Humidity

It’s important to monitor temperature and humidity

One consideration you will need is the baseline temperature. When you are using LED grow lights you are ideally looking for a baseline temperature of 20-30 Celsius. This is a rule of thumb depending on the type of plant you are growing but either way is a fairly accurate baseline.

Your baseline temperature is important so it’s important to have some control over the temperature in your grow area. If you are using old halogen type grow lights which give off heat, you may need some ventilation to reduce excess heat build up. This is much less of a problem with LED grow lights. Often an open window to reduce any excess heat is sufficient.

What type of grow lights do you need?

We recommend LED grow lights for all indoor growing but there are alternatives available.

here are the different types of grow light available on the market today. The majority of grow lights in 2018 are LED grow lights but you can still get older style grow lights.

  • Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs)
  • Other Fluorescent Lighting (T5 / T8)
  • LED grow lights
  • Metal Halide (MH)
  • High-Pressure Sodium (HPS)

Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs)
Those starting out with growing plants indoors often start with CFL bulbs, because they’re cheap and easy to get a hold of. They do lack the power of dedicated grow lights. We do not recommend using CFLs for growing indoors.

Other Fluorescent Lighting (T5 / T8)
These grow lights are often quite low powered so they are suitable for some indoor growing but not all plants (for example, larger plants that require more light during flowering stages). They are generally not powerful enough to grow plants and for this reason, we do not recommend using them.

LED grow lights for growing weed

LED grow lights are effective at growing weed

LED grow lights
LED grow lights are expensive BUT they are much more effective than other lights at growing indoors. One reason for this is that LED grow lights can emit the correct colours for optimum plant growth meaning you get much better results. Not all LED grow lights are the same. Generally, if you buy cheap, you will get cheap. For example, you will see massive differences in results if you buy a cheaper LED grow light rather than if you use an LED grow light using an OSRAM driver for example. Higher quality LEDs will produce superior light and last much longer. Buying cheap LED grow lights is often a false economy. Buy the most expensive LED grow light that you can afford.

Other benefits of LED grow lights

  • LED grow lights are perfect for growing indoors because they are cheaper to run
  • LED grow lights don’t produce excess heat
  • LED grow lights can emit the optimum balance of colour wavelengths for plant growth.
  • LED grow lights can help control the size of the plants you are growing
  • LED grow lights can help you grow a plant and flower it within 6 weeks
  • LED grow lights do not damage plants as much as hot grow lamps
  • LED grow lights are easier to use for beginners

Metal Halide (MH) / High Pressure Sodium (HPS)
These grow lights are also called HID and have been used to grow plants indoors for many years. They are relatively cheap and powerful and produce great results. However, one downside is the fact that they can cause a surge in your electricity consumption (big peaks can alert your supplier that you are consuming lots of energy) and can get very hot which can both damage your plants and create a fire hazard.

We do recommend using HID grow lights but only if you cannot, for whatever reason, use LED grow lights.

What equipment do you need to grow indoors?

Soil required for indoor growing

Plants will get their nutrients from the soil. For that reason, the ideal option is to create your own compost (which is not as hard as you would think). We will write a different article on how to make your own compost at a later date)

The easiest way to get started is to buy pre-made soil. What we are looking for is compost with plenty of nutrients in. Different countries have different brands of compost but if you aim for the highest quality soil you can afford, you won’t be far off the mark.

One grower’s tip is to mix perlite into the soil to add more air. If you look at mixing 80% soil with 20% perlite, you won’t be far off again. Perlite keeps the soil aerated and healthy.

There are options available where you can grow indoor plants without soil which is called hydroponics. We will keep things simple in this beginners guide to growing indoor plants and use soil. You are best to use standard, nutrient-rich soils and LED grow lights and learn the basics of growing indoors before getting too complicated and involving hydroponics.

Using liquid nutrients for indoor growing

Liquid nutrients can be expensive so sometimes you can just use these for increased crop yield in the start (vegetative stage) and the flowering stage (the final stage). Always ensure you read the instructions carefully as using too many liquid nutrients for your plants can damage them. A good rule of thumb is to use less than what you think you need.

Type of water to use on your indoor plants

Rainwater is perfect for growing weed

Rainwater is perfect for growing weed

Some people use standard tap water to water their indoor plants. Tap water is not ideal for your plants but what is also to be taken into account is the ‘hardness’ of your water. The hardness of your water all depends where you live and the additional stuff that is put into your water such as liquified chlorine, fluorosilicic acid, aluminium sulphate, calcium hydroxide, sodium silicofluoride etc. All these additions are designed to kill harmful bacteria for humans and to keep our drinking water safe but are not ideal for plants (which have evolved to use untreated rainwater).

Personally, we have found the best water for growing your indoor plants is natural rain water. This can easily be gathered in and around the garden and is the best option (and it’s free)

PH levels in soil for home growing

Maintaining optimum pH levels for your soil is very important. If the pH at the plant roots is too high or too low, your plants won’t be able to absorb nutrients properly. This means that you are fighting an uphill battle and your plant yield will be significantly reduced. The pH of your soil is especially important to growing indoors when your plant gets to the flowering/fruit stage where nutrients are key to big yield. Even if your soil nutrients are spot on, your plant will not be able to absorb them well if your pH is out.

There are various ways to test the pH of your soil (LINKS) and the target for your pH should be somewhere in the region of 6.0 – 7.0 pH.

So, there we have the first things to think about before you grow plants indoors using grow lights. Get your basics sorted and your project is much more likely to succeed.

Next, we will look at selecting the correct seeds to for your plants indoors

About the Author

I first got into LED grow lights when a close friend started suffering from multiple sclerosis and needed medicinal solutions to help manage their condition.

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