Monthly Archives: December 2015

Growing Tea and Coffee Plants Indoors Under Artificial Plant Lighting

By   12/31/2015

Quick, what gets your day started every morning? I’m guessing most of you answered either coffee or tea (tea for me). I recently got a question from a reader about growing their own tea at home. I had never even considered the possibility, but after some research, I learned about a Japanese farmer who was actually growing tea indoors and decided to give it a try myself.

green tea leaves from japan

Loose leaf green tea from Japan

I read about this Japanese tea farmer in an article in a Japanese paper. Basically, due to poor growing conditions where he was living (for tea anyway), he decided to move his tea plantation indoors into a greenhouse. He was actually using LED grow lights to grow, but I began by using a combination of MH grow lights and HPS grow lights. I supplemented them with some florescent grow bulbs.

This setup worked really well to grow the tea, but I didn’t really know what I was doing so the resulting harvest wasn’t the greatest quality. I tried another grow and switched to LED plant lights. They worked better, but, to be honest,  standard HID lighting systems are fine for tea, since it doesn’t have as high a sensitivity to heat as many other plants.

So tea can be grown indoors, but coffee can’t. Or can it? Can you grow coffee using HID grow lights or LED grow lights, like you can tea? That’s what we’re going to explore now.

To answer this question, I tried to same setup for coffee. Have you ever heard of anyone growing coffee indoors? That’s a real question, actually. I really want to know. I want to claim that I’m the first, but I can’t be certain of that, so if you’ve ever heard of anyone using indoor lighting systems to grow coffee, let me know.

Anyway, I bought some standard Colombian coffee beans and put them in some pots. I placed these inside a standard grow tent and used LED grow lights that I hung from support beams of the tent using a ratchet hanger.

I actually used two different LED systems. The first one I used was by NextLight, specifically their Mega. These are excellent and you’ve heard me talk about them before. I’ve used these a lot. They provide 12 different spectra of light and are fully programmable. They give you all of the bandwidths that plants need to grow, nothing more and nothing less.

I also tried using Pro Max Grow’s largest light fixture, the MAX 1200. This thing is the equivalent of a 1000 watt HID system, but only needs 250 watts of power to run. It also produces so little heat that it doesn’t even need any cooling fans. It’s quite a remarkable light, but not many people know about it, for some reason.

Pro Max Grow MAX1200 LED grow light

Pro Max Grow’s MAX 1200 250 watt LED grow light fixture

Pro Max Grow LED lights only use white spectrum LED diodes. I’m sure you’re aware of the raging debate about which is better, white or multi-colored diodes, and that is why I used both lighting systems. I wanted to see for myself.

The theory is that using multiple colored bandwidths is more efficient, since you can limit the light to only the bandwidths plants require to grow and leave out the ones they don’t, like light in the green spectrum. White light on the other hand, contains those bandwidths and thus has some wasted energy.

The other side of the argument says that white light is much closer to natural sunlight and therefore is better, despite the “wasted” spectra. They say that plants do use that light, just maybe not as obviously. It makes them feel more comfortable and more natural, so they grow better, even if they don’t use those bandwidths specifically to grow.

The results of my little experiment are as yet inconclusive. Both lights have grown my coffee plants pretty well, but the real test, as we all know, is the flowering stage. Can these LED grow light systems encourage my coffee plants to produce a bountiful harvest? That is what I hope to answer soon.

As to which of the two systems, the multi-spectrum system from kind LED or the white LED system from Pro Max Grow, produces the better results, I honestly can’t say. They both did really well and I believe they outshone any HID system. Either one of these lights are pretty amazing for growing coffee and they were amazing for growing tea as well. I’m sure many of you know they are amazing for other types of plants, we won’t say which ones, since not everyone lives in certain states where certain plants can legally be grown, as well.

Now I’ll turn it over to you guys. Have you ever grown anything without the help of natural sunlight? If so, which grow light system did you use: fluorescent lighting, HID lighting (and if so, did you use high-pressure sodium bulbs or metal halide bulbs or a combination of both) or did you try your hand at LED plant lighting?

Whichever one you tried, what were your results? Also, do you have any specific recommendations or tips for the rest of us? I’ve done a bit of growing indoors myself, but I’m far from a real expert and there is so much more to learn. I would definitely appreciate any advice you guys have for me and I will also be happy to answer any questions you have about indoor grow lighting or just growing indoors in general. Feel free to ask me anything!

Supplemental UV Plant Lighting – Is It Worth It?

By   12/04/2015

We’ve been writing a lot of articles on plant grow lights recently. One of them main questions we get asked all the time when it comes to indoor lighting concerns ultraviolet lights. There is so much information out there about UV bulbs that it is difficult to know what the truth is and what is just a rumor or guesswork. With this post, I hope to clear up some of the confusion surrounding supplemental ultraviolet light for your plants.

Fluorescent UV grow light tubes

A fixture with 4 fluorescent UV light tubes

First, I want to clarify that there are actually two types of ultraviolet bulbs. There is UVA and UVB light and every bulb or tube gives off one of the other. UVA light has longer light rays and UVB light has shorter light rays. When it comes to humans, UVB light is the one that will give us sunburn and can cause skin cancer. The other one, UVA is generally blocked by glass, but doesn’t really harm us anyway.

UVA and UVB light graph

Here’s a look at how the ozone protects us from ultraviolet light rays

In terms of plant growth, you’ve probably seen quotes from the recent study that showed that UVB light increases yields and especially resin production in cannabis plants. But this is a bit misleading. They tested plants with no exposure to any UV light against plants with exposure to UVB light. They did not actually test UVA light. So all they found was that exposure to UVB light increases yields as opposed to no exposure to any UV light at all.

Other studies have shown that UVA light has a similar effect on yields and resin production. Basically, the conclusion we can draw from this is that both UVA and UVB rays will help your plants grow more flowers and will increase the resin production, making the flowers they grow more potent.

I mentioned above that UVB light is harmful to human skin. Well, it is also harmful to plant cells. Too much prolonged exposure to UVB rays will damage the plants. One theory is that this is what leads to the increase in resin production. The plants produce it to protect themselves from the harmful rays. Of course, given that we’ve established that UVA light also leads to an increase in resin production, this theory would not seem to hold water. Unless, of course, the other theory that only UVB light helps resin production is the correct one.

Do you see what I’m saying? It’s confusing. So many studies and so many different results. And none of the studies are really all that scientific or that far-reaching. A lot more research is needed into the matter.

So my advice for growers: get a light that includes both UVA and UVB rays. I’d only use UV light toward the end of the blooming stage and limit exposure to a few hours a day.

Many of the top LED grow light companies, like Kind LED and California Light Works include UV light in their fixtures. Kind includes LED diodes that give off both UVA and UVB rays, while California Light Works has fluorescent UVB tubes. They do not include UVA and clearly subscribe to the study that stated only UVB light is helpful. Black dog LED does the exact opposite. They include only UVA light and no UVB. Obviously, they are following a different study.

Again, this is why I would go with a light includes both. Until more research is done, we simply can’t know which of the two types of UV light is the most beneficial to plants. That’s why we use Kind LED lights; specifically, we love the Kind K5 XL 1000. It includes both UVA and UVB light as well as infrared light. Overall it has a full 12 band spectrum that also includes some white light. The spectrum on the light is completely customizable, so you could tailor it for whatever plant you are growing and whatever grow cycle you are in. You can also tailor it for the growing environment, so you’d use different settings depending on whether you are growing in a tent, in a greenhouse, or in a different type of grow space.

Another option is to just get a regular LED light that doesn’t include UV bulbs and then get some UV fluorescent tubes to supplement your light. This way you can even run your own experiment. You can get some UVA tubes and some UVB tubes and test only one type of UV light during a grow.

CFL grow lights

Not tubes, but compact fluorescent grow lights that can also put out UV light

So you could do one grow with using UVA light towards the end of the blooming cycle and another grow using only UVB and then compare the results. Then you could do a third grow with both types running at the same time. It would take you three grows, but you would have a much clearer picture of which UV light is the best or if, as I am suggesting, it is best to just go ahead and use both. I’m not sure why this is such a hard concept for researchers to grasp and why they have not been able to do this yet, but it seems like it would be easier, right?

If you don’t have the money to spend on a Kind LED grow light or similar unti that includes ultraviolet light in its spectrum, I’d suggest going the supplemental route route. Just get some florescent UV grow tubes and use them as supplemental lighting for your HPS plant lighting or your LED fixture. Hook those UV tubes up when there are about two weeks left in the blooming cycle and you should enjoy increased yields and a much more potent harvest. Happy growing!

Here’s some additional reading on UV light and its effect on plant growth.