Growing Vegetables Indoors with Grow Lights: In-Depth Guide


Growing indoor plants with grow lights within home.

Do you want to grow fresh vegetables indoors? Don’t worry about space and light. If there is not enough light, you can still grow all kinds of vegetables indoors. Nowadays artificial lights are a blessing for indoor gardeners.

So, Growing year-round fresh and tasty organic vegetables is possible with the help of artificial lights. You just need to know about the best vegetables that grow indoors.

First, find out if you have the necessary space and lighting requirements, and then get started growing vegetables indoors

Note: The obstacle to growing vegetables indoors is the lack of natural light for plants that like to grow outdoors. You have to install grow light for indoor vegetable production. So, you need to make a shortlist of indoor growing vegetables that you can grow indoors with grow lights

Growing Vegetables Indoors

Sometimes it is difficult to find space for growing vegetables. Also, the environment may not be favorable for the specific vegetable you want to grow. 

But nowadays you can grow any kind of vegetables indoors. You can provide artificial light for the proper growth of your vegetables and other growing conditions. 

So, get ready to learn about some amazing vegetables that grow well indoors with grow lights!

Best Vegetables for Growing Indoors

You can grow almost all kinds of vegetables indoor. Except for lage vegetables like pumpkins! But the list of indoor growing vegetables may surprise you.

Before going for growing vegetables indoor you need to consider a few things. Space and growing conditions are very important factors to consider.

Now, it will be very easy if you start with easy to grow indoor vegetables. Among them, you can consider growing tomatoes, green onions, bails, and peppers.

Note!

If you do not have enough natural light in your apartment then you can still grow vegetables with artificial lights.

Now, here are some vegetables that you may consider growing with grow lights. 

  1. Spinach

Spinach grows very well indoors. In this case, a container about 20 cm deep will be needed for each spinach plant. This is a heat-sensitive plant. So, try to avoid incandescent lamps. Otherwise, the leaves will wither. 

  1. Courgette

You can grow all kinds of courgette in containers. In fact, the courgette is able to grow almost anywhere it is planted. It is a very resistant and versatile vegetable, requiring little more than a few containers, seeds and some maintenance. 

You should keep in mind that it will be necessary to harvest the courgettes regularly when they start to grow at a good rate. In order to avoid that the container gets stuck. 

You should be able to get about three courgettes a week, so it is important to harvest them in order to give space for others to develop.

  1. Cucumber

In most cases, you can grow cucumbers indoors throughout the winter. In addition, you can grow it vertically in order to maximize the available space.

Make sure there is plenty of space. You need to harvest regularly so that they do not become overweight and weaken.

  1. Cabbage

Cabbage is good for indoor gardening and does not need much space. You can grow about five cabbage plants in a 50 cm container. 

It is important never to allow them to become dry. But be careful not to overdo it in the water.  You need to ensure the proper amount of light every day.

  1. Lettuce

If you do not have enough natural light, no need to worry. Lettuce is one of the easiest vegetables to grow indoors with grow lights. 

Just sow the lettuce seeds directly into the soil in a large container. In addition, lettuce can be planted with other vegetables such as coriander or arugula. 

  1. Radish

Radish adds some flavor to salads and other dishes. The good thing is you can grow radish very easily indoors. They respond well to grow lights. 

Red radishes can be grown in almost any container you have at hand. White radishes thrive very well in empty buckets or similar containers. 

If you are a beginner gardener then this vegetable is for you to grow. Because it grows very easily and guarantees a large harvest. Just water them every day and place them under grow light to receive a little light for a few hours.

  1. Carrot

You can grow carrots in containers and will thrive throughout the year.  You need to provide proper care to get a good harvest. It is important to provide the ideal amount of water, without exaggerating.

Growing them indoors follows approximately the same rules as growing them in a garden. The containers should have drainage holes to drain out the excess water. Carrots need a little light every day, which can be natural or artificial.

  1. Beet

Another easy to grow vegetable for you.You can grow it indoors during most seasons of the year. There is no need to germinate it in one container and then transfer it to another. In fact, beet prefers to grow undisturbed. So, you should choose a suitable sized container before planting.

  1. Onions

You may have heard that onions grow very well in containers. All they need is adequate space to grow. You should choose a container that is at least 12 cm deep. This depth should be enough to allow the onion to grow to its full size. Onions do not require much maintenance. You can achieve a good harvest without too much work.

  1. Scallions (green onion)

Green onions need a lot of care and time to develop the bulb. However, you can enjoy the delicious seedling without even using seeds. You may have had great success simply by replanting the root of a purchased green onion.

To do this, you can let the roots sprout in a glass of water. Then plant it in a shallow container until it grows back. Harvest the green part once it is grown and wait again.

  1. Eggplant

You can make growing eggplant in a container easily. Depending on the size of the container, you can possibly put a pair of seeds in each one. 

You should choose containers that are at least 14 cm deep. Clay pots are excellent for this plant because they conduct heat to the plant, although other containers can be used.

  1. Hot peppers

Large pepper varieties will not give good results. So, it is better to opt for smaller species, such as hot peppers. Use a 25 cm deep container and plant the seeds. 

These types of peppers need about 10 hours of grow light a day. Then water the plant for better results. In fact, before watering again, you need to let the soil dry. 

While this plant is self-pollinated, you can help it a little by shaking it. This will help the pollen pass from one flower to the other. You can also do it manually using cotton. 

Besides, the above-mentioned vegetables, you can also grow other types of vegetables also. In fact, you can grow any kind of vegetables inside your lovely home. If your home does not have enough light, you need the help of artificial growth lights. That’s all! 

You May Also Enjoy: Can Plants Use Artificial Light for Photosynthesis?

Importance of Lighting

One of the main points in indoor cultivation is undoubtedly the lighting. Along with the choice of fertilizers and of course, the necessary maintenance routine.

Light stands out as a very important factor in the development of vegetables. Because it is the energy source that does the magic of transforming nutrients into the food.

This reflects in growth, in the production of flowers and seeds and obviously, in size. Thus, the wrong choice of lighting can harm the plant and even interrupt its development.

Before starting cultivation, you should do a little research. Try to find out the necessary information to know which lighting is most suitable for your cultivation.

This will avoid workarounds that could put your entire electrical installation at risk.

Types of Lighting for Plants

In order to provide illumination or full artificial lighting to indoor vegetables, you can use several types of lighting equipment:

  • HPS (High-Pressure Sodium)
  • Fluorescent
  • HQI (metallic vapor)
  • LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes)

HPS (High-Pressure Sodium)

HPS lamps provide light in the spectrum from about 540 to 700 nm, typically in the colors yellow, orange, and red. They are suitable for producing compact, large flowers and are used extensively by growers. 

But because of their relatively low level of light in the blue spectrum, you can use them for germinating seeds and increasing flowering and fruit set of plants.

In practice, you can grow vegetables under HPS lamps throughout the year. But under this light vegetables tend to grow higher and with more gaps between the leaves.

Some indoor gardeners use compact fluorescent lamps in addition to HPS to supplement the light during the vegetative phase.

This type of lamp will cost you a lot of electricity. They also have a reputation for being very warm.  

But what you may not know is that this type of lamp comes in different sizes, as do small 150W lamps.

This is almost the same amount of electricity that a 40 inch TV uses, so it won’t have a big impact on your light bill.

Fluorescent

Fluorescent lamps are available in various forms. Although they are more efficient than incandescent lamps (they produce more light for less electricity).

They produce a limited light spectrum (usually blue/cold) that is not suitable for stimulating the flowering of plants. 

CFLs or compact fluorescent lamps are other popular formats of fluorescent lamps. These are also more efficient than incandescent lamps, use less energy, and last longer.

HQI (metallic vapor)

Like HPS, it is a high-intensity lamp and an excellent light source for your indoor vegetable. It generates blue light, ideal for vegetation, with a large number of lumens per watt and high penetration of light rays. 

You will get a higher performance of HQI than fluorescent lamps. That is, 1 watt of power in an HQI produces more light than 1 watt in a fluorescent lamp. 

In terms of IRC (color rendering index, which defines how similar the color of the lamp is to that of sunlight), a 5200 K HQI lamp (color temperature) reaches 93%, while a 5250 K fluorescent lamp arrives at most 78%.

LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes)

You may have heard about LEDs a lot. The interesting fact is LED lamps are considerably new in the indoor gardening area.

They are energy efficient.  And also offer the full spectrum of light that your indoor vegetables require throughout the life cycle.

Its operation is much colder, and some even come with ventilation built into their panels.

You can simply plug in and hang over the plants, which makes it definitely easier to use than HPS. 

LEDs also have great light penetration between the plants. So you do not have to move them frequently or place them on the sides of the growing place.

Now that you know a little more about the types of cultivation lights available on the market, you can safely buy the most suitable light for your needs.

Advantages and disadvantages

High-intensity lamps generate a large number of lumens per watt. So, it is extremely effective for the growth of the leaves and flowers/fruits of the plant.

However, they also produce a high thermal quantity, you will need an efficient ventilation system, with exhaust fans, ducts, and air vents. 

Although it is warmer than HPS, HQI you should place HQI at a safe distance from the plants without touching them and avoiding stress. 

It is also important to remember not to touch the bulb of the lamps and to be aware of their life span (which is much longer than that of a fluorescent lamp).

Vegetables with LED or HPS?

You can choose between sodium vapor lamps (HPS) or LED lamps, the latter being the much better choice. LED technology has decisive advantages in terms of energy efficiency and luminous efficacy. 

Space Efficiency

You don’t need to think about the available space. Because you keep LED lamps very close to plants.

But in the case of HPS, it can burn your plant. Furthermore, the lifespan of LED lamps is much longer than that of sodium vapor lamps.

Lifetime

You have to replace HPS lamps every 6 months on average (approx. 2500 h). On the other hand, the lifespan of LED lamps can be well over 50,000 h.

This corresponds to an average operating time of 5 -10 years. This exceeds that of the HPS lamp by far.

Light Spectrum

You can take great advantages of LED light technology. The light spectra generated by the LED lamps are better adapted to the plants. So, this helps greater growth or development of your vegetables. 

They accurately simulate the natural light spectrum. So, it can create very good conditions for a high photosynthesis activity.

So you are able to support the growth of the plants more efficiently than lamps with only one light band / light spectrum. 

Energy Use Efficiency

In addition, LED light is generated much more efficiently than with conventional lamps. Since LED technology can generate approx. 60 – 90 lumen per watt of power used, this exceeds the capacity of HPS lamps by far.

LED and HPS performance

In the power comparison (with the same input power) you will see that those LED lamps generate 5-6 times as much light as standard HPS lamps.

You have already known that LEDs cost less electricity. You can save up to 85% of electricity compared to the HPS lamp.  This enormously relieves your own electricity bill and the environment. 

Furthermore, no toxic substances such as sodium, lead or mercury are required in the production of LED lamps.

So you are reducing the environmental impact, especially with regard to recycling. 

So, LEDs are impressive both in their functional (growing and rearing of the plants) and in economic aspects.

Also, protect the environment and measurably increase the yield of every indoor vegetable.

What kind of light do I need?

The first thing to consider would be the type of vegetables you have. if you have some sunlight or no sunlight at all.

These are the different situations that you can find. In each of them, the difference will be the power of light we need.

You know that plants need blue light and red light. Depending on how much blue and red light you will favor the growth of the plant as well as its flowering. The redder the more flowering.

With LED lighting you can get “pure” colors from a light source. You can provide blue light and red light that the vegetable needs for growth and development.

LEDs can provide the necessary light spectrum. This will make you save on energy consumption. 

However, it is important to consider what type of lamp we are using. For example, incandescent light produces a lot of heat and could burn the foliage.

On the other hand, fluorescent lights emit almost no heat. So, you keep them closer to the plants.

The right intensity

You can determine the intensity of grow light that a plant receives by the power of the bulb and by the proximity between the plant and the light source.

You know that each vegetable differs in its need for certain colors of light. They also need different intensities.

Generally, those vegetables that come from tropical climates do not require as much light as those that grow in dry and sunny climates.

Most flowering vegetables, such as tomatoes are happy to be about 25 to 30 cm away from the light source.

You should adjust the light source height for foliage vegetables like spinach. 

You need to place 90 cm away from artificial light sources for foliage vegetables.

However, many flowering vegetables require higher light intensity to flower and produce their fruit.

Now, let’s have an idea of the duration of grow lights for indoor vegetables. 

Proper Duration of Grow Lights

No matter what kind of vegetables we’re growing, they all need a break.

During the hours of darkness, plants breathe, which is a fundamental part of their growth process.

This resting time affects many biological processes in plants, including their growth rate and the production of new shoots, fruits, and flowers.

Botanical experts usually divide plants in general into three large groups according to the number of light hours they need per day. Now, let’s dive right into the groups:

  • Short day plants: Like mung bean, sweet potatoes, onions are the types of vegetables thrive on less than 12 hours of light per day. In fact, these plants necessarily require a period of even shorter days to start their flowering process.
  • Long day plants: require 14 to 18 hours of light per day. Most seasonal vegetables are long-day plants. When they don’t get enough light, they turn pale and do not grow properly.
  • Neutral day plants: Tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers and generally foliage plants are usually happy with 8 to 12 hours of light per day throughout the year. 

Lighting calculations

First, you need to understand what measures define the amount of light in a lamp:

Lumens

One lumen is the amount of light emitted by a candle that falls on one square foot (width X length) of a surface at a 1-foot distance (1 foot = 0.30 m).

Watt

The measure for the amount of electricity flowing through the wire. Watt per hour measures the number of watts consumed in one hour. One kilowatt-hour (KWH) is 1000 watts/hour.

Amount of light in watts

You will need a minimum of 30 watts per square foot. For indoor vegetables 50 watts per square foot is ideal. 

To determine the amount of light for a surface, you have to apply this formula: 30 or 50 watts X your surface in square feet. 

For example, if you have an area of 10 square feet, the calculation would be 30 W x 10 s.f. = 300 watts/per square foot or 50 W x 10 s.f. = 500 watts/per square foot. 

The light intensity has a direct effect on the quality and yield of vegetables. It will be affected if less than that is required. You need to do some experiments to determine the best solution for each plant.

If the plant does not get enough light, it doesn’t grow proportionately.  As if it were stretching for light, and the foliage turns pale green.

If you place them too close to the light, they can have problems such as discolored or burnt leaves and flowers.

Lumens per square foot:

First, you must calculate the area of the room (width X length = square feet). Then you need to divide the number of available lumens by the square footage of the area. 

For example, in a room 3 feet deep and 4 feet wide = 12 square feet and a total lumen count of 45,000 lumens, the result would be 3,750 lumens per square foot (45,000/12). 

But what is the ideal amount? Current research shows that the minimum amount of light needed to sustain growth is 2,000 lumens per square foot.

The average is 5,000 lumens per square foot and ideally 7,000 to 7,500 lumens per square foot.

Cost of light

To calculate the cost you should find out how much you charge for Kwh on your light bill. For example, a 1000-watt light bulb that is in use in a city with a charge of  $0.5/hour.

If one kilowatt equals 1000 watts, the investment is 5 cents per hour to keep the light on. 

If the bulb has 400 watts and the charge is $.3/hour, you should divide 400 by 1000 = 0.4 and multiply by 0.3 to get a result of  $0.12 per hour of light.

Conclusion

So, if your home doesn’t have access to natural light don’t be discouraged. Artificial grow lights have made it possible to grow vegetables indoors without sunlight. I am curious to know what type of grow lights you are using for growing vegetables indoors. Let me by leaving a comment below. 

Arifur Rahman

I'm the owner of gardenforindoor.com. After completing my bachelor of science in agriculture, I'm serving as a civil service officer at the Department of Agricultural Extension, Bangladesh. I started Garden For Indoor to make your indoor gardening journey easy and enjoyable.

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