Reasons Lighting Is So Important in Hydroponics
Whether it’s set up on a sunlit deck or stationed in the basement, your hydroponic garden needs light to live. Light—whether from the sun or from cheap LED grow lights for sale at your favorite gardening supply store—is vital in the truest sense of the word. But why are plants so demanding, and how can you ensure they’re getting enough light? Here are the reasons lighting is so important in hydroponics and how you can look after your plants’ needs.
Sunlight Helps Plants Eat and Breathe
Photosynthesis is the process through which plants convert light into the food and air they need to survive. As autotrophic organisms, plants produce their own food. Taking in sunlight and carbon dioxide, they can form oxygen and sugars to feed themselves. It’s a bit more complicated than that, but those are the basics. In essence, every plant needs a combination of light and CO2 to live, grow, and thrive, and your hydroponically grown plants are no exception.
Now, here are a few specifics about proper lighting:
How Much Light?
Plants that don’t get enough light will die, of course. More specifically, they’ll fail to grow properly. Plants that don’t get enough sunlight will show it through withered and yellowed leaves and long, fragile stems. Oddly, they can grow taller without enough light (a process called etiolation), but this is because they’re searching for a light source. Gradually, they’ll stop growing. Plants that receive insufficient light also never fruit or flower, and, as we stated, they eventually die. That’s called famine—but what about feast? Plants that get too much light can dry out. Without water, they can’t feed themselves, leading to sickness and then death. In short, be sure to monitor how much light your plants receive through the day.
All in the Timing
Outdoor plants only get a few hours of sunlight a day, so keeping indoor plants under grow lights for 24 hours a day, seven days a week must be better, right? Wrong. Plants need to rest and get out of the sun occasionally, just like we do. Don’t cheap out and buy any old inexpensive timer. Buy a top-quality one and set your LED grow lights to shine for 12 to 14 hours a day, just like night and day in the real world.
Across the Spectrum
Grow lights can provide the same spectrum of light presented by the sun. This is called the action spectrum, and it covers the part of the spectrum between red and blue. The color of some grow lights is nicknamed “blurple” because it covers this span of light. The idea is that red light helps with photosynthesis while blue lights encourage certain actions in the plant, such as stomatal opening, leaf expansion, finding light, and preventing etiolation. Some grow lights are white, which mean they contain the green part of the spectrum as well; this has also been suggested to aid with growth.