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How beneficial is supplemental light?

This is a discussion on How beneficial is supplemental light? within the Semi Hydro / Lights / Greenhouses / Accessories forums, part of the Orchid Culture category; So, my plants are in a west-facing window. I have two 32 watt florescent bulbs ...

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  1. #1
    sand_tiger86's Avatar
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    Default How beneficial is supplemental light?

    So, my plants are in a west-facing window. I have two 32 watt florescent bulbs about 6 inches above them during the day...realistically, is this even any help? I just thought I'd use them for a little help, but don't want to bother with them if they make no difference. They're certainly not the only means of light the plants get but I'm curious to know the benefits, if any, they would receive. The specs of the bulbs are 48 inches, about 1,740 lumens each, 70 k.

  2. #2
    Chris1140's Avatar
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    Not sure if supplemental fluorescent tubes would be strong enough for Vandas and Catts. You might try positioning the lights very close to the plants. I grow Paphs and Phals in a window with supplemental
    Compact fluorescent 120watt grow light bulbs in clamp on work light fixtures. The plants seem to love it.
    Last edited by Chris1140; September 24th, 2012 at 04:22 PM.

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    I have been using supplemental light in the winter for a couple of years - but rather stronger than this - I have 400watt "mixed spectrum" "sun " lamps on a travelling track above some of my benches ; they raise the light , on a dark English winters day, from a few hundred Lux to 18K lux at cat' leaf level. Produces wonderful growth. The problem is how to taper that off when Spring comes - otherwise the plants growth "falls off a cliff" when I turn them off.. No easy answer - if I leave them into Mid-Summer, the light is too much, and anyway they are not cheap to run- but in the winter cost does not matter very much because what I spend on lighting also reduces the heating bill to a nearly similar extent ( the bulbs obviously enough give off the equivalent of a 400 watt heater - each one bulb...). Last year I compromised , instead of having them on 12 hours a day from September to March, I made it 6 - and simply switched them off at the equinox ( time to switch them on again soon ! ) . I think I'll do the same this year, but it's not ideal. I have experimented with electronics to try and switch the lights on when the light level falls , and off when the sun comes out , but the gear easily obtainable is intended for much lower current levels, and just des not work properly - but no doubt anyone good at that kind of thing could do better ( I was a lawyer/ academic engineer - not a practical chap in my working life)..
    Last edited by Dorsetman; September 24th, 2012 at 09:59 PM.

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    A difficult question to answer definitively.

    I use 40W 4ft fluorescent tubes on my plants stands ... four on the top shelf and four for the bottom shelf. I have bloomed a number of my catts this way repeatedly over the years. However, there is no supplemental lighting in that room of any consequence which is why I use so many bulbs.

    You best course of action may be to simply experiment -- though a long term view may be needed to determine the result. If your plants were growing and blooming fine without the supplement, then you could just chalk it up as 'unnecessary'. If, on the otherhand, you notice improved growth whilst using the lights (though it is possible that improvements may only be noticable certain times of year) then you will have proven that it can be beneficial under your conditions.

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    Asmentioned this is a very hard question to answer. Particular as we do not know the native light profile during the day at your window.

    The best abswer you can get is what you can investigate yourself, but it include a little investment. If you get a cheap (!!!!) lightmeter you can measure the relative amount of extra light your plants get. This should help you alot to see if the extra light contribute.
    Probably very little on a sunny bright day but maybe it helps a rainy or cloudy day.

    /M

    You do not need a particular lightmeter with fancy probes but the most simpliest you can find, should not cost more than 30-40 dollar.

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    Maybe this article from our Orchid Care Pages that Louis wrote will help. Orchids Need Light to Bloom | River Valley Orchidworks We also published this in the forum book, ORCHIDS THROUGH OUR EYES.

    cheers,
    BD

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    That article wasn't much help for the question at hand: how to supplement with artificial light. I'm in a similar position, in the middle of a gloomy winter, with no more than 6 hours of useful light daily, and very little sunshine. I want to add lights, but I'd like to know how to go about it. Do I turn them on late morning and keep them on a couple of hours past sundown? Do I extend the light period by, say, 5 minutes every week? Do I wind it down in the spring and confuse the heck out of the plants?

    My plants are in a south facing window, so when it's sunny, extra light is the last thing they need. But when it's overcast 18 days out of 20, like this winter, they're not doing well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ECC_lectic View Post
    That article wasn't much help for the question at hand: how to supplement with artificial light. I'm in a similar position, in the middle of a gloomy winter, with no more than 6 hours of useful light daily, and very little sunshine. I want to add lights, but I'd like to know how to go about it. Do I turn them on late morning and keep them on a couple of hours past sundown? Do I extend the light period by, say, 5 minutes every week? Do I wind it down in the spring and confuse the heck out of the plants?

    My plants are in a south facing window, so when it's sunny, extra light is the last thing they need. But when it's overcast 18 days out of 20, like this winter, they're not doing well.
    I had the same problem . After trying several ideas, I now have the lights on from 10 am until 6 pm every day from October through March - more or less between the equinoxes. Actually I found that 12 hours light in mid-winter was ideal , but far too much in early March. Ideally , I reckon, it would be necessary to adjust the timer every day, but that is too difficult , and yes, it is a shock to the plants if the 12 hour light is just shut off completely . Don't be tempted to add a few hours morning, and a few in the afternoon. Anything less than say a 5 hour continuous stretch of light does not allow photosynthesis to go to completion, it seems.Otherwise,

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    Geoff, I feel like I'm reading a book with the last page missing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ECC_lectic View Post
    Geoff, I feel like I'm reading a book with the last page missing.
    Sorry about that - I did try to get rid of that last word, but it just wanted to stay there...

    And I have a new Mac, and currently it is in charge of operations, not me...( I threw Windows out of the Window after some bad experiences , and have not quite got there with mac yet.).

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