HPS vs LED Grow Lights

Mar 21, 14 HPS vs LED Grow Lights

We know that LEDs are all the rage in household lighting, saving you hundreds in energy and maintenance costs over the life of the bulb. But what about when it comes to indoor growing? Are they worth the extra investment? Do they provide extra benefits that HPS bulbs don’t?  The most popular types of grow lights are high pressure sodium bulbs (HPS) and LEDs. While both are used to mimic the sun, the differences between them are substantial.

HPS

High pressure sodium lamps have long been a staple of indoor growing. They are favored amongst growers because of their ability to produce a variety of light across the lighting spectrum and because they can be used in all stages of plant growth, from the vegetative to the flowering phase.

HPS grow light fixtures have a few things going for them. For starters, they’re relatively cheap. For example, for about the cost of a night out on the town, you can get a 250 or 400-watt reflector complete with ballast; you need only to supply the HPS lamp.

Sun System 900514 250 - 400W Grow Light Kit

Sun System 900514 250 – 400W Grow Light Kit

Not only is the cost of the whole kit pretty inexpensive, but so are the replacement bulbs. The same 250-watt replacement bulb for your grow light kit will run you about $12. So all in all, when the time comes to replace your bulbs, you’re not looking at a whole lot of out-of-pocket expense. Plus, these all-inclusive kits are ready to go right out of the box, making it super easy to start growing.

However, there are some downsides to HPS bulbs. For one, they produce heat, and a lot of it. Heat is detrimental to your plants, so it’s important to have air circulated throughout your grow space. That being said, adding a ventilation system will up the cost of your indoor growing experiment.

Another downside of HPS bulbs are the life hours. While a bulb with a life hour rating of 24,000 hours isn’t too shabby, you’ll go through those bulbs faster than you think. For example, during the flowering stage, your plants will need 12 hours of light, while the vegetative stage requires about 18 hours. So with those numbers, and assuming my math is correct, your 250-watt HPS bulb rated for 24,000 life hours will last about 1,333 days, which equates to roughly more than three and a half years. Not bad, but it still doesn’t compare to LEDs.

*From the moment an HID bulb (high intensity discharge), such as an HPS or metal halide bulb, is switched on, the quality of light steadily decreases. For best growing results, replace these bulbs every 9 to 12 months. 

LEDs

As mentioned above, LEDs (light emitting diodes) are gaining popularity in the household sector as more and more people are realizing their incredible energy efficiency and impressive longevity. The same holds true for LED grow lights.

Unlike their HPS counterparts, LED grow lights emit very little to no heat, therefore eliminating a detrimental factor to your plants and a further expense from your grow room since you don’t have to add a circulation system.

California Lightworks CLW-SF-200-VM 200W LED Grow Light

California Lightworks CLW-SF-200-VM 200W LED Grow Light

While your HPS bulb may be rated for 24,000 life hours, some LED grow lights are rated for nearly four times that. For example, this 165-watt LED grow light is rated for 80,000 life hours, which equates to 4,444 days or roughly 12 years, based on using the lights for 18 hours during the vegetative state. With such a long life, the LED fixtures won’t have to be replaced nearly as often as the HPS bulbs. Chances are, the paint will fade before the lights go out on this thing.

So we know that LEDs offer incredible longevity, but what about energy efficiency? The 165-watt grow light mentioned above is equal to a 200-watt HPS bulb, but only consumes 165 watts, thereby saving you 35 watts and lowering your energy bill.

What about the colors your plants need to thrive? For the proficient growth of plants, there needs to be a combination of cool and warm light. Tall and spindly plants love cool light, while warm lights produce shorter, fuller plants. With LED bulbs, both tones are available in a single bulb, striking that perfect balance your plants need.

The only downside of LED fixtures is price. Just like household bulbs, LED fixtures are going to be noticeably more expensive than standard light fixtures, about double to be exact. However, their longevity and energy savings more than makes up for the initial cost.

So, decision time: HPS or LED? Honestly, either one will work just fine for indoor growing. The question is whether you want to shell out the extra money up front and not have to worry about changing your fixtures for a decade or save some dough upfront and lose the longevity. Many people opt for what they know and are familiar with, so HPS usually gets the nod. But as LED technology progresses and prices drop, we should see more and more diodes being used in indoor grows.

Which fixture are you more partial to, LED or HPS? Tell us in the comments below or drop us a line on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, or Pinterest!

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Do I Need a Grow Tent?

Mar 14, 14 Do I Need a Grow Tent?

Growing indoors offers you incomparable control of the growing environment: you can manage the temperature, amount of light, and even the color of light. That being said, grow tents offer you even more control. But why would you need a grow tent, and what advantages do they offer?

Grow Tents?

“What are these grow tents you speak of?” Well, grow tents are exactly what they sound like: tents that are specially designed for growing indoors. Grow tents are perfect for rooms where the temperature can fluctuate, or in spaces not really designed for indoor growing, like a garage or a closet.

Gorilla-Grow-Tents-GGT33Grow tents give you the ideal environment for growing: flood-proof floors and heavy-duty doors with zippers covered by thick Velcro panels designed to create an air-tight seal, keeping the odors and pests in and the air out. While many grow tents feature walls with a silver coating that reflects the light produced by your grow light fixtures, therefore preventing hot spots, some grow tents utilize adjustable ports for intake and exhaust ducting, keeping the air inside your grow tent fresh and circulated.

Hydrohut  IG3028Many grow tents, like the ones offered from Gorilla Grow Tents, feature a height extension kit, which is great for two reasons: one, it gives your plants more room to grow, and two, since heat rises, the heat generated from your grow lights will rise to the top of the tent instead of hovering right above your plants, which isn’t the best thing for them.

Grow tents come in all sorts of sizes, giving you the ability to choose the one that’s right for you. Whether you’re growing just a handful of petunias or a complete vegetable garden, the bottom line is that there’s a grow tent that meets your needs.

The Advantages of Grow Tents

As mentioned above, apart from total control, grow tents offer more advantages than just growing plants in a spare closet.

  • A major upside to using grow tents is pest control. While some of those pesky critters may find their way inside your science experiment, it won’t be anything compared to growing outdoors or in an open environment.
  • We here at 1000Bulbs.com are all for energy efficiency and lowering your electricity costs. That being said, grow tents are very efficient. Many grow tents feature a reflective inside coating that reflects light. The great thing about this coating is that light is reflected off the walls instead of being dispersed,  so your plants are exposed to a greater concentration of light than they would be, say, in your closet next to a pair of sweaty shoes.
  • There are some flowers that feel the need to release strong odors and allergens, offending the senses of those throughout the house who may be sensitive to such things. The best way around that is with a grow tent. Grow tents are completely sealed, which translates into odor control for you.

Which grow tent are you thinking of getting? Tell us in the comments below, or connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, Pinterest, or LinkedIn!

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How to Prevent Plant Disease and Pests

Mar 07, 14 How to Prevent Plant Disease and Pests

Your plants face multiple problems on a regular basis: too much water, not enough water, too much sunlight, not enough sunlight, etc. Besides the usual difficulties, there are also pests and diseases to contend with, both of which can greatly hamper your plants’ productivity and even kill them. Fortunately, there are a few ways to protect your plants, which we’ve gathered below.

Plants, like humans, are able fight off disease better when they’re stronger and healthier. So what does this mean for your plants? For starters, it means having proper airflow and not over or under-watering your plants. As we mentioned in an earlier blog post, too much water causes saturation, preventing the roots from uptaking the necessary nutrients.

*The products mentioned below can be used on all plants, whether indoor or outdoor.

Potassium Silicate

Botanicare BCSIBQT Silica Blast

Botanicare BCSIBQT Silica Blast

One way to strengthen your plants is through additives that contain potassium silicate found in Botanicare’s Silica Blast or in General Hydroponics’ Armor Si. The potassium silicate found in these products will thicken the stem and leaves, making them a less attractive target for pests and better equipped to fight off disease.

*If you’re growing vegetables, make sure you don’t overdo it on the potassium silicate. Using too much can impact the taste of your vegetables.

Hygrozyme

Another additive that will strengthen your plants and prevent disease is Hygrozyme. Designed to speed up natural chemical reactions in plants, Hygrozyme breaks down old root mass, promoting new root growth and allows your plants to absorb more nutrients, making the plant stronger.

The Guano Company GUST128 Super Tea Mix

The Guano Company GUST128 Super Tea Mix

Composted Tea

Composed of all organic materials, such as earthworm castings, bat guano, and soluble seaweed, composted tea is great for plants as it serves as a vegetative and root stimulator. This nutrient solution promotes balanced growth and lush vegetation and can be used during all stages of the growth cycle.

Pests

Nothing is more maddening than coming out and seeing some bug-eyed creature happily munching on your plants. Spider mites, white flies, gnats, aphids, caterpillars, and grasshoppers are a few of the pests you’ll probably encounter in your garden. All of these are incredibly destructive and will ruin your hard work. The good news is that you can keep these creatures under control without using harsh chemicals. Below are some organic methods to control those pesky pests.

Liquid Ladybug is an all-natural miticide that controls all sorts of pests, from aphids to fungus gnats to thrips. Available in an assortment of volumes in either concentrate or ready-to-use, Liquid Ladybug is an excellent choice when you need to control a wide variety of pests.

Got a problem with caterpillars or grasshoppers? These are particularly devastating as they eat the leaves of your plants, but can be controlled with AzaMax. Safe to use on all plants in all stages of the growth process, the active ingredient in AzaMax is Azadirachtin which is a naturally occurring insecticide from the neem tree.

Seabright Laboratories HGSLWFT Sticky Trap

Seabright Laboratories HGSLWFT Sticky Trap

A great option for controlling flying insects such as gnats, white flies, and aphids are sticky traps. Non-poisonous and weather-proof, these traps hang in your garden at plant height and attract these winged pests with their bright yellow and blue colors. Once the trap is covered in either insects or dust, simply throw it out and replace it.

For more organic pesticides, including products that eliminate pests indoors, visit our pests and fungicides section.

What do you use to keep away the pests and keep your plants disease-free? Let us know in the comments below, or hit us up on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, or Google Plus!

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Am I Over-Watering My Plants?

Feb 28, 14 Am I Over-Watering My Plants?

My approach to watering plants is similar to wrapping Christmas presents: there’s no such thing as too much. When my mom would send me out to water her garden, each plant looked as if it had had its own torrential downpour. There were massive puddles, and the water would take a good 30 minutes to soak into the soil. I mean, it’s summertime in Texas; surely these things need three gallons of water each, right? Not quite. In fact, over-watering your plants can be as detrimental as under-watering.

So how do you keep from over-watering your plants? We’ll throw some tips your way to maintain that perfect balance of moisture.

drooping leavesToo Much = Certain Death

While “certain death” may seem a bit extreme, it isn’t far from the truth when it comes to watering your plants. So what actually happens when your plants have too much water?

  • The soil becomes saturated
  • Saturated soil prevents the plant from drawing much-needed oxygen
  • The roots begin to decay, also referred to as “root rot”
  • Your plant is more susceptible to fungal diseases

Pythium, Rhizoctonia, and Phytophthora are the culprits behind root rot. While root rot is difficult to reverse once it has set in, Hygrozyme, an enzyme that breaks down old root mass and stimulates new root growth, can certainly help. Not only does Hygrozyme eat dead roots that provide protein for your plants, it also helps prevent disease and helps plants absorb more nutrients from the soil.

Time to Water?

Interestingly enough, the signs of over-watering your plants resemble the signs of a lack of water. When there is too much water, the leaves will wilt and droop, turn yellow, and will fall off the plant. So how do you know when your plants need water? Well, there are a few ways.

The Finger Test

The simplest way to find out if your plants need water is to put your finger in the soil at the base of the plant, up to your second knuckle. If there’s soil stuck to your finger, your plants don’t need water. However, if your finger is relatively clean, it’s time to water.

The Dig Test

A little more complicated and requiring a tad more effort is the dig test. The point here is to determine how long it takes the water to soak the soil. Before you start watering, check the moisture level about 6 to 12 inches below the surface. Start watering and take note of the time. After a few minutes (depending on the flow rate), shut the water off and check the moisture level again. If the soil is saturated, then you’ll know just how long to water your plants without overdoing it.

Luster Leaf LL01880 Rapitest

Luster Leaf LL01880 Rapitest

Moisture Meters

If you’re a little leery about sticking your fingers in soil, try a moisture meter. Often not requiring batteries, these simple, yet effective tools and test the moisture levels of your soil, taking the guesswork out of watering.

Watering Tips for Potted Plants

That Catnip you have growing in your kitchen windowsill can also fall victim to over-watering. Below are some tips to practice with your potted plants.

  • Make sure to moisten the entire root ball when watering. This can be tricky because as the root ball dries, it pulls away from the edges, and as it’s moistened, it expands. In order to accomplish this, fill the space between the surface of the soil and the rim of the pot with water. Let the water soak in, and repeat. This should sufficiently moisten the root ball.
  • Make sure the drainage hole at the bottom of the pot drains properly. If not, this will cause the saturation mentioned earlier. If necessary, expand the holes with a knife.
  • If you have containers underneath your pots to catch the water, empty those out when the plant is done draining. Otherwise, the root ball will absorb too much water from the container and the roots will drown.
  • Forget to water your plant for a few days? No worries. It’s ok to submerge your potted plants in water for a bit. Use the kitchen sink, or a bucket. Leave them in there for an hour or so, remove them, and then let the excess water drain.

*A good rule of thumb is to give your plants an inch of supplemental water whenever nature isn’t feeling too generous with the rain.

Were there any watering tips we forgot to mention? Let us know in the comments below or holler at us on Google Plus, Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn!

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Hydroponics DIY: How and Why to Grow Indoors

Feb 21, 14 Hydroponics DIY: How and Why to Grow Indoors

For all you gardeners out there, you know the frustrations of growing outdoors: the unrelenting heat withers your plants and makes it almost impossible to enjoy working in your garden, the weather can change in the blink of an eye, bringing a heat wave or torrential downpours, or that giant garden spider that’s made itself nice and cozy around your Rosemary bushes. With all these variables, it’s no wonder outdoor gardening can be so maddening and why moving your growing indoors isn’t as crazy as it sounds. While this isn’t a comprehensive how-to, we’ve gathered the high points of starting your first indoor grow.

Hydroponics?

So what exactly is hydroponics? Hydroponics is the art and science of indoor growing using all sorts of growing mediums, from growstones, clay rocks, rockwool, soil, coco, and soilless mixes. The beauty of hydroponics is that there’s no one way to grow and there’s no limit on what you can grow. Some choose to grow vegetables to have purely organic vegetables, bypassing all the pesticides, while others grow indoors as a hobby. Plus, hydroponics gives you the control to grow whatever you want whenever you want. Whether it’s 15 degrees with three feet of snow or it’s 110 degrees with 90 percent humidity, your indoor grows aren’t affected.

Where to Start?

First decide what you want to grow. Do you want to grow non-flowering herbs like cilantro or basil, or are you looking to grow flowering plants like vegetables? Your set up will depend on what you choose to grow. For example, if you want to grow vegetables or flowers, you’ll need a 400-watt HID grow light fixture, with both HPS and metal halide bulbs for the different growth stages. For those non-flowering plants, like basil and cilantro, you can stick with T5 grow lights for the whole growing cycle. Commercial growing will need a bigger coverage area, produced by multiple 1000-watt HID fixtures.

*Note: Since hydroponics can be a bit overwhelming, we’ll save many of the details, such as coverage area, for a later time.

As we know from elementary school science, plants need light to grow. If you’re growing indoors, you have to supply your own sun in the form of HID (high intensity discharge) grow lights, which include high pressure sodium (HPS) and metal halide bulbs. There are also LED grow lights, which, just like their household counterparts, use less electricity and last longer than other types of bulbs.

Plants go through stages: a growth stage, also called a vegetative stage, and a flowering stage, also called the budding stage. Both of these stages need different color temperatures in order to flourish: the vegetative stage requires color temperatures of 5000K or higher as this produces the blue part of the color spectrum, while the flowering stage needs a color temperature of around 2000K, which produces light in the red spectrum ideal for this stage.

Just like the sun doesn’t shine 24 hours a day, neither should your grow lights. For the growth cycle, it’s recommended to have between 18 and 20 hours of light, while that amount decreases to only 12 hours during the flowering cycle. The easiest way to control your lights is with timers. Timers streamline the entire growing process and eliminate forgetting to turn your lights on and off.

XtraSun XT8AC 8-Inch Reflector

XtraSun XT8AC 8-Inch Reflector

Now let’s talk grow light reflectors. While there are many different types of reflectors, from parabolic to wing reflectors, to all-in-one reflectors, to air cooled reflectors, and each one offers its own advantages. Wing reflectors, for example, feature adjustable “wings” which increase light coverage, therefore helping to reduce the number of areas without light. Not to mention they’re usually cheaper. All-in-one reflectors, beside the bulbs, include everything you need, like the ballast. All you have to do is plug it in and go. Air-cooled reflectors have ducts on each end for cooling hoses and are determined by the diameter of these ducts, ranging from four to eight inches in diameter. These types of reflectors are usually for the serious grower as they require the proper ducting for cooling. The type of reflector you need depends on the size of your grow area.

Start Small

HydroFarm EMSYST Emily's Garden

HydroFarm EMSYST Emily’s Garden

Before getting too hot-to-trot over setting up a professional grow space, it’s best to start small. Try an all-in-one hydroponics kit, like the Emily’s Garden. This kit comes with everything you need to start a small, successful grow: growing medium, seed starter cubes, even nutrients. While this may seem like child’s play, it’s a great way to get your feet wet with the world of indoor growing.

Jump Start JSV2 2-Ft. Stand

Jump Start JSV2 2-Ft. Stand

For great beginner experience with grow lights, check out the Jumpstart T5 reflectors. Available in heights from two to four feet, these reflectors include the bulbs and the fixtures and are adjustable as the plants grow taller.

*Note: For more information about indoor growing, check out our hydroponics books.

What do you plan on growing in your indoor garden? Tell us in the comments below, or give us a shout on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, or LinkedIn!

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