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Seedlings do need lighting

Q: I’m growing plants from seeds this year.What is the best grow light I can use for them?

• Drew from Canfield

A: Drew, if you don’t have a greenhouse or a sunny window for your seedlings, you will need to put them under a grow light once they have sprouted. There are different types of grow lights to choose from, but for most homeowners, it usually is a choice between fluorescent and LED lights.

Before we get into the pros and cons of the lights, it’s useful to know what type of light your seedlings need. As we know all plants grow and produce their food when they are exposed to light via photosynthesis, but not all light is the same.

For the best growth, plants need light from specific parts of the visible spectrum.

In general, seedlings need more light in the blue and blue-green parts of the spectrum represented on the left side of the bar graph. Mature plants, producing fruit and vegetables, need more light from the red part of the spectrum, on the right side of the graph.

So long as the light source produces the type of light needed by your seedlings, either a fluorescent light or LED will work. But LED lights have some advantages over fluorescents.

The University of Minnesota says LED lights are more energy-efficient, last longer and produce less heat than fluorescent lights. Also, you’ll have a wider choice in size and shape with LED lights. Plus, some LED lights are designed to produce light only on the parts of the spectrum needed by plants making these lights more efficient still.

Fluorescent lights used to have a price advantage over LED lights. But as LED prices have come down, they have become the go-to choice for homeowners.

In addition to the type of light, your plants will need the right amount of light or light intensity, the more intense light the better. This light intensity is usually listed as lumens on a product. Once you have the grow light, position it about 6 to 10 inches above the top of the seedlings and raise the light as plants grow to maintain this distance.

Fluorescent lights which produce more heat need more distance from the plants. And if you have any old incandescent lights around, don’t use them — they produce too much heat for seedlings.

Thanks for your question. For more information on grow lights, visit http://go.osu.edu/growlights.

Sprague is an Ohio State University Mahoning County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer. The Extension Plant and Pest Clinic is open for help with plant issues, soil testing and insect identification. Winter hours vary. During the off season, questions can be submitted at any time. For details, visit go.osu.edu/mahoningclinic.

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