Archive for the ‘Gardening General’ Category

Sodium Lights for Hydroponics Systems

Monday, November 11th, 2013

 

Sodium lamps were first produced commercially in the 1930s by the Philips company. Sodium lights come in two forms; the LPS (low pressure sodium) and the HPS (high pressure sodium) lights for hydroponics systems. Both are used for street lighting and in the commercial sector, with the LPS being most common in Europe. So, which bulb type is the most suitable for hydroponics systems?

Low Pressure Sodium Lights

The LPS was the first type of sodium lamp to be made. It is known for its yellow signature color, and this type of lighting has been utilized throughout Europe; however it has a very poor color rendering or CRI, so did not appeal to places other than Europe. This type of lamp, though, is one of the most efficient types in the world, and this is because all the current it gets it uses to create light; this is done at the most sensitive color frequency for our eyes. When compared to incandescent lamps, we can see that they make light at many frequencies from infrared to UV, and at the opposite end of the color spectrum. Energy, which is utilized to create infrared or non-visible light, is basically a waste of energy. Another name for the LPS lamp is the SOX (SO means sodium) lamp.

This lamp has a few advantages. These advantages include the fact that it is a very efficient lamp, it can restart immediately even though approximately 5-10 minutes warm up time is required, it is very powerful and can be used for larger areas; and, unlike incandescent and LED bulbs, the lumen does not decrease with the age of the bulb.

LPS bulbs do have their fair share of disadvantages, though. These include the fact that they have the worst type of color rendering of any bulb type in hydroponics systems.  Hazardous materials are contained in these lamps, such as sodium, and when exposed to air it can combust; if the bulb is broken it could be a problem.

High Pressure Sodium Lights

HPS bulbs are commonly used for street lighting and in hydroponics systems. This type of lamp is an improvement on the LPS bulb. The difference in this upgraded version is that the light output is of a much more pleasing color when compared to the LPS. The better color comes at a cost though, as they are not as efficient as LPS bulbs in hydroponics systems.

HPS bulbs (high pressure sodium bulbs) are the only other bulbs than can really be compared to metal halide bulbs. The reason for this is that they have a very good spectral distribution, but, as far as the blue end of the spectrum is concerned, HPS bulbs do not perform as well as halide bulbs in hydroponics systems. This is a two way street though, as halide bulbs won’t perform as well as HPS bulbs at the red end of the spectrum in hydroponic systems. For HPS bulbs in hydroponics systems the red and the yellow portion of the color spectrum is their highest point. HPS lighting is generally preferred for indoor gardening because it is much cheaper to run and because of the wide color-temperature spectrum it produces. This type of lighting is best for both flowers and fruits. Because these lights mainly work at the red end of the spectrum, some types of plants, under these lights, may become long and leggy. However, HPS lights are good for flower and fruit plants, as they provide the necessary stimulation for growth in these plant types compared to halide light bulbs in hydroponics systems. So, if you were to combine both halide light bulbs and HPS bulbs in hydroponics systems you would get very good results. Another advantage that HPS bulbs have over halide bulbs is that they have a much longer life expectancy. They can last for up to 24 months in your hydroponics system. Also, HPS bulbs are smaller than LPS or fluorescent bulbs, and that HPS are versatile because they fit into many different light fittings.

The sodium contained in these bulbs is very volatile, and, if exposed to air it can be deadly, so these bulbs should not be disposed of in normal garbage. Many cases have been reported of garbage trucks that caught fire simply because these types of bulbs broke while being transported. The newer versions of LPS carry a smaller amount of mercury, but this greatly affects their performance.

For more Information:

Indoor and hydroponics 

How to Choose Patio Plants for Summer

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

Hyacinth flowers

Patio plants create a beautiful summer garden for apartments, RV parks, houses and anywhere in-ground plants cannot be grown. Thousands of plants are available on the market today in catalogs, big box stores and garden centers. Knowing which to choose can seem to be a daunting task; trial and error can be overly expensive. Here are tips for having a patio garden without the expense. 

Know Your Zone

The United States is divided into growing zones which are numbered from 1-9. Zone 1 consists of cold-tolerant plants with relatively short growing seasons. Zone 9 plants are tropical in nature. Some areas may have summers mimicking one zone and winters that mimic another; Bexar County, TX, is such an area. 

Look up your growing zone and make a list of plants that catch your eye within that category. List plants for growing all year long or just for your favorite season. 

The Growing Season Is Important

Knowing how many days your growing season has can make the difference between having blooms or dead plants. Whether you choose container vegetable or flower plants, you need to choose varieties that will produce during your growing season. For example, if your growing season is 100 days long and you choose a variety that needs 120 days or more, the season will end before your plants produce flowers or vegetables. You would have to move the plants inside and provide an artificial growing season to produce a harvest; providing the plants survive the shock of being moved. 

Consider Safety for Children and Pets

Some varieties and species of plants are beautiful, but dangerous or deadly to people and/or pets. Poinsettias and marigold flowers are good examples. Research your list and mark off those that are harmful to your pets and children. Never take the chance of assuming that dogs, cats or children will not nibble on a leaf; poison can transfer by hands or paws that touch the plants and placed in mouths. 

Size Matters

Consider the size of your patio and plants before making your purchases. That cute little plant in the three-inch pot might require a five-gallon container and stand three feet tall when it is full grown. Write down each plant’s full-size requirements on your list and consider the square footage your patio has to offer for gardening. Do not be discouraged when it seems your list of acceptable plants is dwindling; you are choosing plants that have the best chance of survival and provide you with the color/flowers/vegetables you want.

Shade or Sun?

If your patio rests in shade most of the day, choosing plants that require full sun will result in a disaster. Unless you want to move plant containers around all day, choose plants that will thrive in the available sunlight. You can provide shade for plants on a sunny patio with screening material or by utilizing taller plants for shade. 

Your final list might look small, but the plants will survive and thrive in your garden. You can choose plants that will need relocation indoors for the winter or extend your growing season with portable greenhouses if you wish. 

This article was written by Joe on behalf of potter-gardener.net. He is a writer and a hobby gardener, and loves spending time outdoors.