Transplanting: A Tomatillo Adventure, Part 3 of 3

Alright, the time has come to scale the mountain, fight the dragon, and kiss the guy - we're wrapping up this adventure. The last part of the transplanting process was to provide lighting for the tomatillos, and of course, that ended up being more difficult than it should have been.

Choosing lights

The first step was to choose what kind of lights I needed. From a lot of online research (see references at the end), I gathered that you need a light with both a blue range for bushy, leafy growth and a red range for flowering. While not relevant to my tomatillos, seedlings should have a full spectrum light (red, blue, and some in between), so something to keep in mind since lights are an investment. As far as visible color, I was also hoping to get a light that wasn't overly purple since this whole setup did end up in my living room.

In addition to colors, I knew I wanted to invest in LEDs because they're more energy efficient and can last longer than traditional options for grow lights. From there, I needed to figure out what size and style to get.

According to a few of my references, you can think of light size in terms of wattage needed to cover an area. The estimates I saw were about 30 - 40 watts per square foot of space. My space was eleven-ish square feet, so I was looking at getting at least 400 watts total. As far as style, I wanted to get something that would hang from a bar. Not that I had a bar to hang them from, but one thing at a time.

From there, it was a matter of reading reviews, comparing prices, and at some point, just choosing something. I ended up going with two different lights with the intent of comparing them over time.

VIPARSPECTRA Reflector-Series 300W LED Grow Light

This light was all around recommended and was a pretty good price for the specs. Probably the only reason I didn't get two right off the bat was I knew it was going to be more purple-y than I wanted. In reality, it's not too bad, but definitely has a purple hue. It looks way worse in pictures.

Stats

Manufacturer VIPARSPECTRA
Model Number V300
Wattage 300w
Spectral ratio Included in product images on Amazon - high blue, medium red, low mids

Roleadro Full Spectrum 2nd Generation Series 300w Plants Light

This light was not necessarily as highly ranked by critics, but it was still very well reviewed by buyers and had a great price. What I really like about it is that each individual LED is full spectrum which both gives you an even distribution of spectrum over your plant and makes the visible light more white/yellow/sunshine-esque.

Stats

Manufacturer Roleadro
Model Number HY-G08-60x5W-W
Wattage 300w
Spectral ratio Included in customer review images on Amazon - high orange, medium-high blue, medium red and mids

What to do with the lights

Many people who are very serious about hydroponics have a grow tent that has a place to hang lights and also reflects the light inward on the plant and keeps it from escaping into the room. Those people clearly don't live in an apartment with limited storage space. Since I didn't really want a giant, black, rectangular box in the middle of my living room, I needed to find something else to hang these lights on.

There are actually a few light stands out there that are very ideal for grow lights, but unfortunately, they're kind of expensive (I did just buy a couple LED grow lights...) and they often come with a grow light that I don't want. The really critical features of a grow light stand are that it a) has a bar on which to hang the light and b) is adjustable so that you can start low when your plants are small and move it upward as it grows. It seemed to me other types of stands might have these features so I did some searching and found a backdrop stand for about half the price.

Since it's been about a month and a half since I actually set all of this up, I can definitely say it works well but isn't perfect. The first issue I had was that both lights came with a hanging kit which I thought I could just attach to the bar. Unfortunately, the bar is on the thicker side, so I had to get a chain to hook the lights to that I wrapped around the bar instead. It also has much larger legs than grow light stands so it increases the overall footprint of my setup by a couple feet. In addition, it doesn't really have anywhere to manage the wires, so I just clipped a powerstrip along the bars to work around this issue. After hanging the lights, I noticed some very slight bowing of the top bar, but it is only very slight and doesn't seem to get worse over time. The biggest issue is that because each side of the stand can be raised separately, it really needs two people to raise the lights at the same time or you have to remove the lights every time you want to raise the bar so they don't slide around. But, it was half the price of a normal grow light stand and its max height is much taller than a lot of the grow light stand options. I think it works really well for what it does once you get it set up.

Hanging the lights

Once I finally had everything I needed, it was pretty easy to set it all up and finally complete the transplanting of the tomatillos from the AeroGarden to the drip buckets.

What I Used

Steps

  1. First things first, I set up the stand for the lights. I had limited space, so I didn't fully expand the legs - I opened them just enough so they were stable. I raised the sides so there was enough room to hang the lights and have three or four inches between the bottom of the lights and the tallest plants.
  2. I then used some twist ties and spare plant clips to secure the powerstrip to the top bar as well as to guide the cord down the right bar of the stand.
  3. Following the instructions in the package, I programmed the outlet timer to be on from 6 AM to 10:30 PM every day and plugged it into the powerstrip. I chose this time span because it was the same one the AeroGarden was using for its peppers and tomatoes setting.
  4. Then I took a chain and wrapped it twice around the bar.
  5. Each light came with a hanging kit which was basically four cables that clipped to the light and a caribiner. After hooking all of it together, I clipped the caribiner to the chain links on either side of the chain that were closest to the bar so that the light was as high as it possibly could be.
  6. After doing that again for light number two, I plugged them both in to the timer and positioned them so they were each evenly over two of the plants.
  7. I turned the powerstrip on and that was it! Let there be light!

References

Check out my previous tomatillo post - Part 2 of the tomatillo transplanting advenure!