Gardening under lights

Departments - Straight Talk | Honest insights from an IGC expert

As the pandemic pushes people indoors, gardening follows suit.

July 6, 2020

Good lighting and humidity are crucial for the best indoor gardening outcomes.

The shutdowns this spring pushed many stuck at home to turn to their gardens for solace and purpose. As many consumers looked for new ways to keep their hands busy at home, gardening and growing food saw a big uptick in popularity. Victory Gardens 2.0 got a push as a new movement, and many tried their hand at growing plants and seeds for the very first time. For many without outdoor garden spaces, houseplants — and the accumulation thereof — became a primary focus. With more indoor plants and seedlings comes the need for more indoor grow lighting.

Growing trends

If you are not increasing your focus on indoor gardening, both for starting edible transplants and keeping houseplants indoors year-round, then you are missing out on a good opportunity. Not to mention the increasing opportunities for home growers to dabble in legal hemp or cannabis growing — depending on where you live. At the beginning of the year, even Gardener’s Supply Company — a company firmly associated with wholesome mainstream gardening — released a hemp growing kit, for which I wrote a primer. This felt like a big deal to me.

Even more interesting, Facebook’s casting agency contacted me to include my Plant Parenting Facebook group in their #MoreTogether advertising campaign. This is a huge campaign. It was clear many users were relying on houseplants and their indoor gardening online community to help them through social isolation and shutdowns. When Facebook decides indoor gardening is popular enough to include in their promotions, we would all do well to pay attention.

Grow rooms

Customers who are new to indoor gardening will want to see what the setups look like in person.

Indoor garden rooms are also becoming a thing again. Basically, people are running out of windowsill space for all their indoor plants, or they want to grow lots of transplants along with their houseplant collection. Indoor gardeners are recapturing their unused guestrooms, and the like, and repurposing them as dedicated indoor jungle spaces. Often, plant parents are doing this because these days many are collecting large high-humidity aroids; which means they are resorting to running humidifiers. Dedicated garden rooms allow them to place all their high-humidity plants together near a humidifier. I love this!

Most indoor gardeners are not blessed with enough huge unobstructed south facing windows to support their hordes of houseplants. Dedicated grow rooms may only have a window or two — or none. More and more indoor gardeners are turning to grow lighting to help them support their indoor green habits. New vegetable gardeners are quickly discovering success with indoor seedlings is pretty much grow light dependent.

Light power

LED light systems provide an accessible solution for indoor gardens.

Ongoing improvements in both the quality and quantity of useful light output of LED grow lamps is making indoor gardening much more accessible. As smaller LED lamps get more powerful and efficient, indoor gardeners can tuck better lighting into smaller spaces, without breaking the bank or their style.

In fact, style plays a big part in all of this. One question I am asked, as much as any other grow lighting question, is “are there any good grow lamps that will look stylish in my living space?” Well, there are only a handful so far, but the options are slowly increasing and getting better. Look to companies such as SolTech Solutions, Gardener’s Supply Company, and Modern Sprout for a few examples. Plus, small LEDs with E26 or E27 bases can simply be screwed into nice looking home lighting fixtures to provide light for small plants, or small groups of plants.

Be the expert

Understanding natural light and grow lighting for indoor gardening is one of the most complicated topics for new plant parents. If you and your staff are a bit behind on gardening under lights, now is a great time to get up to speed. Indoor growers will have a lot of questions they will need answered. Grow lighting can also be pricey, so jumping in can be intimidating for new customers. They do not want to spend good money on a grow light if it is not going to be the right one for their plants or projects. Nor does anyone want to waste money or electricity on an inefficient lamp, or one that puts out more light than one really needs.

If you are growing your indoor gardening department, consider setting up vignettes with a variety of grow lights and the types of plants to use them with. Create both utilitarian setups customers can use in out of the way spaces, such as garages or tucked away grow rooms, and more style-friendly options they can set up in their living spaces. Those new to grow lighting will need to see visuals and examples of exactly how to set up grow lights in their own homes.

When you talk to hydroponic store owners, they will tell you August is when they start to see a big upswing in indoor gardening sales. As August can often be a slower month at the garden center, now is the perfect opportunity to light up your fall sales season.

Leslie (CPH) owns Halleck Horticultural, LLC, through which she provides horticultural consulting, business and marketing strategy, product development and branding, and content creation for green industry companies.