Lighting Hints for Indoor Herb Gardens
It is a long and loving relationship that humans have developed with herbs; evidences for which date back to around 25000 BC. The popularity of herbs somewhat suffered during the medieval ages, nevertheless, with the Catholic Church giving way to logic-based wisdom, herbs once again returned to glory.
Now, a lot of people are making herbs an integral part of their lives; while the majority is happy with being in a habit to use the commercially available herb varieties as medicines and for garnishing, a handful have opted to trust only the homegrown variety of herbs. This, however, has both up sides and down sides and for the latter, it is an inappropriate light source that mostly stays responsible.
Those who prefer to raise an herb garden outdoors usually face very little or no trouble at all regarding the light; however, they need to depend on the seasonal varieties entirely whereas those growing it indoors don't care what season it is. Besides, weeding is also a problem that never troubles them. The problems crop up in other forms; for example, lighting, which may also make the herbs grown indoors less productive, less robust and possess less flavor. The only option is making available plenty of sunlight besides a good quality soil that drains well.
Now, that takes care of a part of the problem. The spring and the summer pose no problem regarding sunlight but it does during the winter or in tropical countries like India, during the monsoon. The only option then remains is getting hold of artificial light sources, which, if selected wrongly, shall be as good as making your money flow down the drain. So here is a little lowdown on the best artificial light source available and the types of fixtures that prove to be most appropriate.
For the spring and the summer months, the windowsills make great choices; even better, if they face either the east or the south. Regarding the supplemental natural lights (grow-lights), read on.
Bright, artificial lights form an essential part of indoor herb garden kits and you must have at least eight of them. They also come handy when the natural light levels are lower than usual and for those herbs that are sensitive to direct sunlight. You need to arrange the plants in such a way that each of them receives the light from at least two or three fluorescent light sources to increase greatly their growth and yield.
Incandescent lights make the best choice in this regard; they also produce the necessary heat. Just take care that the herbs requiring strong light and heat remain at a good distance from your herbs. This will be to prevent the plants from getting burned. Ideally, an incandescent bulb of 25W should be placed at a distance of 1 foot from the plants; for 100-watt bulbs, it's 2 feet and for 150-watt bulbs, it should be between 3 and 4 feet.
On the other hand a mercury vapor lamp emitting ultraviolet radiation-giving out a strong bluish light-is preferred for the primary light source for general illumination of the herb garden. It is also a good option for the herbs that are sensitive to heat and light. A mercury vapor lamp is more powerful than any given incandescent light and generates less heat, albeit a little more expensive.
For a low-budget solution, you may consider the fluorescent lights. They burn the coolest and prove to be most energy efficient among artificial lights. However, unless you follow certain procedures regarding the usage of an herb garden light, it shall bestow upon more harm than benefits. So always remember the points mentioned underneath:
1. The light source must stay at an adequate distance. This shall make the light spread more without burning the foliages. For mercury vapor lamps, a 5 feet distance shall prove a good one; it shall help the light to spread more. With fluorescent lights, closer they are placed, the better.
2. Since light acts like food to the plants, it must be measured. A foot-candle meter is thus essential; foot-candle is a unit of luminance on a surface that is everywhere 1 foot from a point source of 1 candle. Plants usually require 250 foot-candles of light for anything between 12 and 16 hours, though for some, 1000 foot-candles are essential.
Growing an herb garden is a task as easy as it is tough,
which can't be accomplished properly if a person doesn't have an eye for details. Unless you are keen upon meeting the requirements, such as the need for an herb garden light, your herb garden shall be as good as the tinsel town offering a lot of eye candy and yet no value.
by Paul Zeman
Paul Zeman is an Herb Garden Enthusiast who enjoys helping other folks get started with this most beneficial and rewarding hobby. His latest book, the Secrets of Successful Herb Gardeningteaches herb gardeners everything they need to know about herbs and herb gardening. Paul offers his members an awesome 10-lesson mini-course free, which is packed with cutting edge information. http://www.heavenlyherbgarden.com/