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Most common herbs can be successfully grown indoors with proper planning and execution. Many people have productive indoor herb gardens using just the light from a southern facing window. The key to success in this manner is having unobstructed natural window light for at least six hours per day. Since natural sunlight through a window is generally only affecting one side of the plant at any given time, it is best to have your herbs in containers in such a way that you can easily rotate them so that all sides of the plant receive their fair share of the light.
Using Plant Grow Lights for Indoor Herbs
If you don't have a south facing window, or perhaps would rather grow your herbs in another area of your home, you couldn't have chosen a better time in history to try your hand at growing herbs indoors.
Thanks to advances in plant grow light technology, anyone can grow a very productive herb garden indoors, using nothing but artificial light.
Without question, the ideal artificial lighting source for herbs commonly available to indoor gardeners would be one of the many fluorescent options, including standard fluorescent tubes, high-output T5 fluorescent tubes and compact fluorescent lamps, or bulbs.
Standard fluorescent tubes, also known as T12 or T8 fluorescents, are the tubes most commonly associated with a standard fluorescent shop light fixture. They are available in 2-foot and 4-foot lengths, and generally hold two individual tubes, although some fixtures can hold 4 tubes. A standard two tube 4-foot fixture will illuminate an area approximately 1 foot wide by 4 feet long. Keep in mind however, that the very ends of a fluorescent tube are significantly dimmer, especially as the tubes age... so the optimal growing area under a 4-foot tube will be 3 feet in length. Using multiple fixtures side by side increases the coverage and provides better coverage by creating multiple points and angles of light to the plants.
Fluorescents are an ideal source of light because they can be placed very close to the light source since they don't produce much heat. Keep in mind that lighting is subject to the inverse square law. How that law works is if you have determined the amount of light reaching an object at a particular distance, than that amount of light will not be halved at twice that distance, rather it will be 1/4 the strength. Since the energy twice as far from the source is spread over four times the area, the intensity is one quarter.
The inverse square law illustrates the importance of placing the artifcial light source as close as possible to the plants without physically damaging them. In the case of standard fluorescents, you should either hang your fluorescent fixtures on chains or be able to raise the plants to a point so that the light source is between 2 and 6 inches above the plant canopy, the closer the better. Since fluorescent tubes burn relatively cool to the touch, the fixture can be placed this close to the plants without physically damaging them. The typical lumen output for a standard 4-foot fluorescent tube is approximately 2400 lumens.
Providing a balanced spectrum of light is of primary importance for success under fluorescents. Virtually all fluorescents are available in differing color spectrum outputs. Standard fluorescents are available in color outputs commonly referred to as "cool white" or "warm white". There are also fluorescent tubes that are color formulated specifically for plant growth. If not using a dedicated "grow tube", you will get best results by mixing one cool white and one warm white tube per fixture.
A better fluorescent technology used for growing plants that is now widely available is known as high output T5 fluorescent. The primary improvement is efficiency. High-output T5's produce almost twice as many lumens of light per watt of energy consumed than standard T12/T8 fluorescent tubes, and due to that improved efficiency, even less heat is output. A typical 45-inch T5 fluorescent tube produces 5,000 initial lumens of light using 54 watts of electricity versus the 40 watts consumed by a standard fluorescent tube producing 2,400 lumens.
The other benefit of high-output T5 fluorescents is the sheer number of fixture options available. Not only are T5 fixtures available in 2-foot (22-inch) and 4-foot (45-inch) approximate lengths, they are available in 2-tube, 4-tube, 6-tube, 8-tube, even 12-tube fixtures of varying widths. These fixtures enable the indoor herb grower to grow herbs in larger areas with more even light distribution than old-fashioned T12 fixtures. The fixtures can be placed further above the plant canopy as well, although it is still recommended that they be placed no more than 12 inches above the plants.
As with standard T12/T8 tubes, high-output T5 fluorescents are also available in differing color outputs, the most common of which are a "day" white (6400-6500K) and a "warm" white (3000K) color. As with standard tubes, most growers blend a mixture of these two color outputs in a fixture to provide as wide a range of color spectrum as possible. However, "day" white tubes are promoted for green vegetative growth cycles while "warm" white tubes tend to promote fruiting and flowering.
Another option is known as CFL, or Compact Fluorescent Lamp. While compact fluorescent lamps of sufficient wattage will work for growing herbs indoors, it is a less than ideal configuration of the light, as the "tubes" are configured in such a way as to provide a single point of light as opposed to spreading the light energy evenly over a broader area as regular and T5 fluorescents do.
Ideally, when using artificial light as the sole light source for the indoor cultivation of herbs, a period of 16 to 18 hours of light per day should be provided on a regular basis. It is easiest to accomplish this scheduling by connecting your grow lights to a grounded 24-hour timer which will automate the daylight hours for your herbs. When using fluorescents to supplement a less than ideal window location, provide at least 12 hours of artificial light.
Indoor Climate Considerations
Comfortable household temperatures are generally fine for most indoor cultivation of herbs, generally between 60 degrees F. and 74 degrees F.
Humidity should be maintained at a comfortable level as well, with extra care being taken during the winter months when forced air heat is operating, as humidity levels will decrease dramatically, causing soils to dry out more frequently and increasing the likelihood of insect pests such as spider mites. Regular misting can keep humidity levels in a desirable range.
Placing a small oscillating fan near the garden and operating it for a couple of hours a day will help your herbs grow shorter and stronger by more accurately simulating outdoor conditions. You don't want a hurricane, just a gentle breeze that causes the herbs to sway slightly for a couple of hours a day is fine.
Preferred Light Levels for Herbs
Varieties that require high light conditions include Anise, Arnica, Basil, Borage, Calendula, Caraway, Catnip, Chicory, Cilantro/Coriander, Dill, Fennel, Hyssop, Lavender, Mustard, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, Summer Savory, Tarragon, Thyme, and Yarrow. A high light scenario would require plants to be in full overhead direct sunlight for a minimum of 6 hours per day or under T5 high-output fluorescent plant grow lights or HID grow lights for 14 to 18 hours per day.
Varieties that can tolerate some shade include Aloe, Beebalm, Chamomile, Chervil, Chives, Comfrey, Echinacea, Garlic, Lemon Balm, Lemon Verbena, Lovage, Marjoram, Mints, Nasturtium, Parsley, Soapwort, Sweet Cicely, Sweet Woodruff, Tansy, Violet, and Wintergreen. These can also be grown under standard T8/T12 fluorescents at 14 to 18 hours per day, or under T5 fluorescent or HID grow lights for a minimum of 8 to 10 hours per day.
2014 Relay For Life of Elk County is currently seeking new teams for the 2014 season. Meetings are held the third Tuesdays of every month at 6 p.m. at the Sacred Heart Activity Center. If you are an individual and would like to become involved in any way feel free to stop by as well. For more information call Susan Babik at 800-458-3856 ext 3507, or Bill Babik at 594-1962, or Erin Barnett at 594-9726. This year's Relay is June 7th beginning at 9 a.m. at Fox Twp. Park, Kersey. All Elk County residents are invited.
3D Printer Pennsylvania Road Show
date & time: March 13, noon - 3 p.m.
location: Elk Mountain Winery
description: You're invited to see how the Stratasys 3D Printing Technology is changing and accelerating the design and manufacturing industry worldwide! Join Cimquest for lunch at the Elk Mountain Winery in Weedville from noon to 3 p.m. on March 13 and see how 3D printing can help you on the manufacturing floor and beyond. Space is limited so please sign up soon!! CLICK HERE TO REGISTER - https://www.eventbrite.com/e/3d-printing-comes-to-elk-mountain-tickets-10697563701
2014 LHOT Housing Expo
date & time: March 13, 1 p.m. - 7 p.m.
location: Sacred Heart Social Hall, St. Marys
description: Attention all returning vendors, sponsors, and interested parties - it's time once again! Registration fee $35.00.
Bowl For Kids' Sake
date: March 15
location: Olympic Lanes
description: Teams needed for the Big Brothers Big Sisters Bowl For Kids' Sake event on March 15 at Olympic Lanes. You can register to bowl from 2 - 4 p.m., from 5 - 7 p.m. (adults only) or from 8 - 10 p.m. (adults only). Free food and lots of prize giveaways! Proceeds support mentoring for Elk County Children. For information call 877-776-1636.
St. Patty's Dance/Benefit
date & time: March 15, 2014, 8pm-2am
location: Wilcox Community Center
description: Team Hannah will be holding their annual St. Patty's Dance/Benefit. It benefits the American Cancer Society. DJ Mike Kreckel will be DJing from 8pm-10pm and SIX PAK will be performing from 10pm-2am. Cost: $20 per person. This includes admission and food. Must be 21 years of age to attend. ID required. It's a BYOB event. There will also be a chinese auction and 50/50. Hope to see you there!!
Mary Wendel Pancreatic Cancer Fundraiser
date & time: March 16, 11am-4pm
location: St Marys Moose Lodge
description: Spaghetti Dinner, Basket Raffles, and Bake Sale. $8 for adults, $5 for kids
Even the smallest patio or porch can boast a crop of vegetables or a garden of flowers in containers. Planter boxes, wooden barrels, hanging baskets and large flowerpots are just some of the containers that can be used. The container gardener is limited only by his imagination. Consider the following guidelines when choosing your container.
Make sure your planting medium drains rapidly but retains enough moisture to keep the roots evenly moist. Your compost will make an excellent potting soil. Check the requirements of the plants you grow to determine whether you will need to add sand. If compost is not available, purchase a good quality potting mixture or make your own from equal parts of sand, loamy garden soil, and peat moss. Commercial potting mixes are usually slightly acidic, so you may want to add a little lime.
Most container gardeners have found that a "soilless" potting mix works best. In addition to draining quickly, "soilless" mixes are lightweight and free from soil- borne diseases and weed seeds. These mixes can be purchased from garden centers.
When you add your soil to your container, leave a 2 inch space between the top of the soil and the top of the container. You will be able to add 1/2 inch or so of mulch later.
Your container garden will need at least five hours of direct sunlight each day, and many plants will benefit from even more. As a general rule, leafy vegetables such as cabbage and lettuce can tolerate the most shade, while root crops such as beets and carrots will need more sun. Fruiting vegetables such as tomatoes and cucumbers need the most sun. The amount of sunlight needed by flowers varies depending on the varieties grown. Check the flower guides for sunlight requirements.
Since potting mixes drain water rapidly, fertilizer will be washed out of the container as you water. Lighter mixes will require more frequent fertilizing than heavier mixes. It's a good idea to use a dilute liquid fertilizer with every other watering. Liquid fish emulsion or liquid seaweed are great plant boosters, but remember that you need to provide your plants with a variety of nutrients. Check the labels on the products in you garden center to be sure that they contain a complete, balanced solution that includes trace elements.
In an exposed location, container plants loose moisture quickly. Some plants will need to be watered daily, especially during hot, dry weather.