You’re listening to Fish Grow Plants—A podcast all about practicing and sharing the love of aquaponics; hosted by Logan Schoolcraft.
Hello, and welcome to Fish Grow Plants! In today’s episode we’re talking about the aquaponic process of light! Well, plant lighting specifically.
To start with, I’m reminded of what is probably my best long-term growing plant ever. An aloe. And I don’t do anything special with it at all. It lives inside the house and only gets bad room light and mixed sunlight depending on the season. I’ve moved with this plant and moved it several times within the house. It’s incredible. And it serves as a great example of what a plant needs, namely light in this context.
What blows me away is that the aloe is so forgiving and resilient when it comes to its light requirements. I guess most plants have a range of tolerances for light requirements, but this aloe has shown me that to get the best out of a plant, you want to find what works best for the plant you are growing in your given circumstances.
A bad example, to counter the aloe one, is my potted rosemary plant. Unlike the aloe, the rosemary seems to crave the light. It does this so much so that I have to routinely rotate the plant because it is leaning and stretching so much for light. Where the aloe looks strong and healthy, the rosemary looks like it’s spent its life doing nothing but reaching for more. Don’t get me wrong, the rosemary looks fine, but it’s still craving more. Sadly, I can’t really offer it more, so I just try to stay on top of rotating it so it looks more normal than abnormal.
So what does all this talk of my plants really mean?
Well, nothing I guess, other than an introduction to the importance of light on growing your plants. It’s critical. So, let’s talk about ways to make sure you know you are providing the best light you can to your plants, no matter how you are growing them.
OK. Let’s just ask the basic question here first. How many ways can I provide light to my plants, and what do I have to do to with each method of lighting?
In a nutshell, you have sunlight and artificial light. I’m going to say “artificial light” as a way to say anything other than sunlight. This could include incandescent bulbs, fluorescent bulbs, LED’s and more. The short of the matter, is that you’ll need bulbs, fixturing, and a reliable source of electricity. So let’s take a peak at what’s involved with each style.
Hands down sunlight is the best source you can get—and it’s free!
When is sunlight a good option for you?
When you have a lot of open space, clear views to the south, in the northern hemisphere, and clear views to the north when in the southern hemisphere (that means without any shadowing from trees, buildings, and neighbors), and if electricity is spotty, or unreliable.
When is sunlight not a good option for you?
When it includes extreme temperatures that make plants wilt no matter how much light they actually get. Or when it’s in such limited or indirect quantities that your plants cannot collect enough to grow.
So what are some actions necessary when growing with sunlight? Thankfully, for the most part, not a lot; at least not many expensive things. Providing occasional shading and ventilation may be necessary, as could moving your plants as the sunlight changes (either through the day, or seasonally). An easy way to think of this could be your own aloe plant in a window. As the seasons change, you may want to slide the plant this way or that or move it to a completely different window altogether.
Non-sunlight alternatives come in many forms to meet a variety of grower needs. I won’t pretend to know all there is about the plethora of options here, but I will share a bit of my advice with the LED types.
As I mentioned earlier, if you use artificial light, you’ll need a bulb, fixture, and electricity. From my experience, the LED bulb and fixtures have come integrated, but getting a handy hanging point, or method is completely up to the user, as is getting the electricity to reach the location you want. The electricity requirements is one reason I went with LED’s. Not only are they a great low-heat option (for my hot area of the world) but they use less electricity than other options and have a super long life.
I won’t go into the minutia of computing lifespan electrical cost vs upfront unit cost, but the take away to me was that I knew the unit cost now, but I could only guess that electricity prices would be going up, and up, and up in the future. So, being able to save on the ongoing electrical costs was a plus to me.
I guess I’ll be the elephant in the room and say artificial light is usually an indoor application. I have neither seen or heard of anyone using them outside. Saying that, you need to plan accordingly to make sure you get the most out of your lighting in a safe, and easy to use manner. Ensure you follow common sense and manufactures recommendations when mounting and connecting your light. As a preference, make sure you like the way it looks and you are comfortable working around it. And if you get a specialized spectrum, be sure to read the safety warnings—you don’t want to hurt your eyes simply by working near the light. Be safe, be smart, and grow great things.
What is the actionable items to do from today’s episode?
Well, decision number one is to figure out if sunlight or artificial light is your lighting choice.
Next, figure out what you already have that will work well with your decision. Then, figure out where you could help it. This is probably easier said by doing research on your lighting method, style, and quantity.
Then, later down the road, all you have to do is take action; be it buy a light, or just get some plants in the sunshine! Either way, have fun lighting up your plants’ growth!
Take care and happy aquaponicing!
This has been another episode of Fish Grow Plants—the podcast all about practicing and sharing the love of aquaponics; hosted by Logan Schoolcraft.