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Modern Farmer Discussion started by Modern Farmer 4 months ago
Your starts or seeds are planted, watered and fertilized. Now the final thing you need to do is make sure they have access to enough light while being shielded from harsh growing conditions.  The steps you need to take vary depending on whether your container garden is indoors or outdoors. Read on…
Outdoor Gardens
 
If you’re growing your plants outdoors, then you need to pay attention  to how much light the plants are getting and whether your plants are being exposed to harsh conditions.  Let’s look at these two issues separately…
1. How Much Light?
Your seed packets or transplant instructions will tell you whether your plants need full sun (12-16 hours), partial sun (six to eight hours) or if the plants prefer shade (four hours).  The advantage of growing your plants in containers is that you can move them around the patio or yard to give them more or less sun, as needed.
2. How to Protect Plants?

Obviously, your outdoor plants are going to be exposed to harsher conditions than your indoor plants.  Here’s how to protect these plants so they’ll thrive:
Protect your plants from freezing.  If there’s a chance of frost or freeze, then ideally you should bring your plants indoors. If that’s not possible, then at the very least you need to cover your plants during the night.  You can buy special covers for plants, but even an old sheet or light blanket will do.
“Harden off” your indoor plants. If you’re bringing tender plants from the indoors to the outdoors, then you’ll need to let them adjust for a few weeks by letting them spend part of the day outdoors. This is referred to as hardening off your plants. After a few weeks of being exposed to the elements, your plants can start living outdoors permanently.
Shield your plants from the wind. If you have strong winds in your area, and especially if your plants are young, then you may need to put them someplace where they’ll be shielded from the wind.  You can put them alongside a building, fence or even a row of hardened plants, shrubs or trees. Just be sure that these natural shields don’t also block the sun.
Indoor Gardens
If you’ve transplanted plants that are going to remain indoors, then you may be able to put it in a sunny place in your house, such as under a south-facing window. 
However, this really only works if you already have a robust, healthy plant. If you have a struggling seedling or you’re trying to get seeds to germinate, then even your south-facing window probably won’t provide enough light.  That’s why you may need to invest in artificial lighting.

You’ll quickly realize that there are plenty of lighting sources to choose from at your local gardening supplies store. These include:
Incandescent lighting.  You’ll see some of these bulbs labeled as “grow lights,” but these aren’t the best choice for your plants.  The light wave spectrum isn’t ideal for growth. Plus, the bulbs tend to throw off a lot of heat, so you can burn your plants.  If you do use incandescent lighting, perhaps for ornamental and highlighting purposes, be sure to place the bulbs at least two feet away from the plants.  You’ll also need to check growing plants regularly to make sure they’re not getting too close to the light bulbs.
Fluorescent lighting. One of the benefits of using fluorescent lighting is that the tubes remain relatively cool. In fact, you probably won’t burn a plant unless it’s touching the tube.  Nonetheless, keep the plants four or five inches from the light, and regularly check to make sure that your growing plants don’t reach up and touch the tube.
High-pressure sodium (high intensity discharge) lighting. HPS lighting is a pretty good choice for a grow light, with one exception: the plants tend to get bigger than they would under other lighting conditions. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, of course. Indeed, plants do extremely well under these lights when the plants are flowering.
Metal hydride or HID (high intensity discharge) lighting.  Many gardeners prefer this type of lighting, simply because it produces plants that most closely resemble how the plant would grow in its natural climate and environment.

TIP: Some gardeners use metal-hydride lighting for seed germination and to initially grow a plant. Then they switch to high-pressure sodium lighting to help the plant fruit or flower.
Your seedlings will generally require up to 16 hours of light per day.  Many seedlings can sit under constant lighting without consequence, as can certain plants. However, most plants actually require darkness for at least part of the day.
How much light do your mature plants need? As usual, it depends on the plant. Check the instructions to see whether your plant needs full sun (12-16 hours), partial sun (six to eight hours daily) or shade (four hours of sun exposure daily).
TIP: Keep in mind, however, that shade plants growing in nature would continue to receive filtered light during the day, so don’t put your shade plants into darkness after four hours.  Rather, you can give them some access to natural light by putting them near a window.
There are two things you can do to make this artificial lighting process easier for you:
1.      Attach a timer to your grow lights.  Many grow lights some with timers. If not, it’s easy enough for you to get a separate timer for your lights so that you don’t have to worry about remembering to turn them on or off.  Just be sure to check the lights for the first few days to be sure they’re working properly on their timer.

2.      Mount your grow lights on an adjustable chain or wire. You’ll need to move your lights up as your plants grow, so make this easy on yourself by making your lights adjustable.
Finally, keep an eye on your plants. If it looks like they’re not thriving, then adjust the amount of light they get each day.  Usually, a plant isn’t thriving because it’s getting too LITTLE light (not too much).
Quick Recap
You’ve selected your plants, picked out your containers, and planted your garden.  If your seeds sprout and your seedlings thrive, you’ve won half the battle. But the other half of the equation is to take good care of your plants in terms of watering them, weeding them, keeping the pests out and otherwise keeping them healthy.  That’s what you’re going to discover how to do next…