basham indoor growing

If you’re a green thumb living in a temperate area, chances are you move at least a few plants inside and out as the seasons change.

In most cases, keeping your plants alive and happy indoors can be more difficult than it seems. This becomes more pronounced the more plants one collects, with specimens able to transmit pests and diseases between each other over the winter months. For the greatest chance of success, I recommend setting a schedule for watering and casting a critical eye towards your plants in regards to pest outbreaks.

Devoting a block of time every third day to tending to your greenery is generally frequent enough to make sure everything is doing fine.

When it comes to large amounts of plants, or particularly sun-loving species, the addition of a grow light can make a positive difference in the condition of your collection. Even a single grow light can help your plants not only survive the winter, but also improve in health at the same time.

Grow lights of the past have traditionally been bulky, hot affairs that are dangerous to leave unattended and hog an oppressive amount of electricity. Luckily, recent breakthroughs in LED technology have led the way to LED grow lights, which are smaller, lighter, more efficient and safer than incandescent lights.

LEDs, or light emitting diodes, are small semiconductors that specialize in moving a current in a single direction, generating light as it does so. LEDs are usually made from silicon mixed with trace elements meant to change its conductivity.

They do not have a metal filament that is heated to produce light, such as in a light bulb, and LEDs require less electricity to create light while at the same time producing much less heat as a byproduct.

LEDs also last far longer than traditional light bulbs, normally staying bright for thousands of hours more than an incandescent bulb would work. The efficiency and tenacity of LED lights has led to their extreme popularity over the past 10 years or so, and old school orange bulbs are becoming harder to find as municipalities the world over replace their bulbs with diodes.

This is undoubtedly a good thing in regards to electrical efficiency and fire hazards. Unfortunately, there is also a downside – studies are beginning to show that while LEDs are indeed energy efficient, the light they put off might be impacting the plants and animals around us in ways we did not immediately realize.

It’s no secret that LEDs put off a certain slant of light.

A quick glance between an incandescent bulb and an LED is all that’s needed to tell the difference – incandescents give off an orange/yellow glow, while blue is the overwhelming color given off by most LEDs.

Studies have found that the blue light from LEDs can trick our bodies into thinking it’s daytime simply by bombarding our eyes with ample blue light at all hours. This can upset our circadian rhythms, and can even disrupt specific hormones if we stay bathed in blue for long periods of time.

Scientists have also found the strong blue light from LEDs to be particularly disruptive to plants and animals, especially moths and other pollinators that are mostly active at night. Recent studies have discovered that plants in areas with heavy light pollution tend to “green up” earlier than plants in areas without constant artificial light, potentially putting them in harm’s way if a cold snap moves through.

While the time is right to perhaps purchase an LED grow light for your indoor needs, refrain from changing any outdoor lights to LEDs unless you absolutely have to, and leave all outdoor lights in the off position whenever possible.

Brannen Basham and his wife, Jill Jacobs, operate Spriggly’s Beescaping, a business dedicated to the preservation of pollinators. He can be reached at brannen.basham@gmail.com.