How to Measure Light for Indoor Gardens

Before the special agricultural lamps came about, we measured light for plants in foot-candles. Webster defines a foot-candle as, "A unit for measuring illumination: it is equal to the quantity of direct light thrown by one international candle on a square foot of surface every part of which is one foot away." Light readings can now be made with special meters, or, if you work with a photographic light meter, you can easily get on the internet and look for a conversion table which will help you ascertain the amount of foot-candles your plants obtain.

For those experienced enough, it has not necessary to bother with 4 foot-candle readings. They can tell by the appearance of the plants if they are getting the suitable amount of light, and you can learn to judge this too. If plants need more foot-candles to grow to better proportions and to flower profusely, these plants can simply be put closer to the lights or the lights can be burned longer every day. Foot-candles are meaningless as a guide to the effectiveness of agricultural lamps. Light meters measure all light, and the agricultural lamps are lacking in green and yellow spectrum. The spectral energy distribution of these lamps is measured in laboratories using a spectro-radiometer. In our gardens we measure the spectral energy through the condition of our plants, moving them closer or farther from the lights as growth indicates.

 Other resources on this topic:

 Basic Fluorescent Light Setups for Indoor Gardening

How Much Light Does Your Indoor Garden Need?

Plant Lights For Your Office Indoor Garden


Aquatic or Water Gardens and Aquariums

For those who want an indoor garden but do not like to deal with soil and potting, decorate with beautiful greenery growing in water in the form of an aquatic garden. Nearly all of the plants that grow nicely in water gardens are the low-light types, but all of the water gardens grow really lush when they get at least four hours of artificial light every day, or when given an occasional visit under the lights.

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Vases, shells, decorative bottles, brandy snifters, or glass bricks with openings in them offer suitable and interesting containers. Philodendron, english ivy, dracaena, pickaback (tolmiea), nephthytis, pothos, Chinese evergreen (aglaonema), and coleus are a few of the plants that flourish in water. The plectranthus, a relative of the coleus, has a trailing habit that's nicely suited to water culture.

Take out the plant from its pot, crumble the soil out, then rinse the roots in running lukewarm water. Non-rusting needle holders would keep big plants standing in containers. Stones and small shells may hold others in place. Little pieces of charcoal will preserve the fresh water smell. Colored glass, plastic bubbles, or bright beads add decorative touches to clear glass containers. These truly bring sparkling translucent color under agricultural lamps like Gro-Lux. If you raise tropical fish and aquatic greenery makes up part of the underwater picture, place a fluorescent or incandescent light on top of the tank and the plants will take on new life and vigor. A lot of the fish take on fantastic coloring when lit with agricultural lamps.

A 10-gallon aquarium tank would be lighted adequately with one or two 25-watt incandescent showcase lights or a 14-watt fluorescent. Several hobbyists believe they get the best results from warm white fluorescents. If the aquarium is located in a cool, dark place, burn the lights around eight hours a day. If it is in a sunny area or if algae forms too quickly, bring down the size of the lights or the number of light hours.

Waterscaping a fluorescent-lighted aquarium can be a really exciting. Right from the start there is this fascination while you select from the host of suitable plants, most having strange-sounding names. For instance, there is cryp-tocoryne, sword plant, vallisneria (eel grass), sagittaria (arrowhead), cabomba (fanwort), myriophyllum (milfoil), nitella, water sprite, hairgrass, anacharis (elodea), duckweed, banana plant, hornwort, and bacopa.

Aquarium Stands: How to Choose the Best


How and When to Fertilize Plants in Your Indoor Garden

Fertilizing plants is almost a ritual with some growers. Some just do it methodically at stated intervals without much regard for the individual plant and its needs. Usually, growing plants flourish with biweekly feedings of soluble fertilizer. Any well-known brands like Blossom Booster, fish emulsion, Ra-Pid-Gro, Hyponex, Plant Marvel, or Ortho are good. Before you fertilize, check the top-soil first to determine that it is moist. Fertilizer poured onto dry soil could bum the feeder roots and the leaves may droop over the edge of the pot. Never fertilizer plants during any period of rest or dormancy.

Some growers prefer to alternate types of fertilizer, using a chemical for one feeding, an organic type for the next. For instance, you could alternate Ra-Pid-Gro and Atlas Fish Emulsion.
A lot of growers report great success using Blue Whale, a mixture of shredded moss, seaweed, and ground whale parts. Simply sprinkle this on the topsoil, then water it in.

Other related reads on indoor plant management:

Effective Ways to Water and Fertilize Your Indoor Plants

How Much Light Does Your Indoor Garden Need?

Watering and Fertilizing Your Indoor Garden

Learning to water plants properly is something you truly have to discover for yourself. How much water a plant requires and how often it needs watering is dependent on the type and size of plant, the pot it is growing in, the soil, temperature, and humidity.

Gift plants like hydrangea, calceolaria and cyclamen needs copious watering. An ideal way to do this is by soaking them weekly in a bucket of water, then daily watering. Cacti and other succulents require less water as compared to thin-leaved plants. Flowering plants growing in pots need watering frequently than plants of the same size growing in bigger pots. Plants growing in clay pots however, need watering more often than those in ceramic, plastic, or metal pots. For plants growing in hot, dry air need watering more often than those in cool, moist air. Do note that sandy soil dries out faster than clay soil. Soil that is rich in humus, like leaf mold or peat moss holds water well and should never be permitted to become completely dry that it shrinks from the pot sides. This is damaging to the plant and the soil is hard to hydrate.
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You can get a watering gauge that will help you judge a plant's moisture needs. Stick the point in the soil and reading the top of the gauge. The old reliable rule still holds true though, "Touch the topsoil and if it feels dry, it's time to water." Abide by this rule for a while, and before you know it you'll be able to judge moisture needs just by the look of the growing medium at the surface. Until you become acquainted with your plants' water requirements, test plants like African violets, other gesneriads, and miniature roses, among others, by poking your finger almost a half inch into the soil. If it feels dry at this level, you can be sure that it's time to water.

Always use room-temperature water and water thoroughly from the top or bottom. You may alternate also, watering from the top one time, from the bottom the next. If you grow several plants, you can save time by keeping them in a waterproof tray of metal or plastic. There are handy gadgets for watering plants growing on high shelves. Use a watering aid by setting up a complete siphon set up, with a pail hung from a hook in the basement ceiling. A slender plastic tube attached to the pail equipped with cutoff makes for an easy start and stop operation.

Avoid spilling water on the crowns of budded gloxinias, calceolarias, African violets, or plants similar in habit, since rot may set in. Clean furry leaves using a soft camel's-hair brush or you can wash the leaves in the sink with tepid water. This is likewise a good treatment for all smooth-leaved plants. If you particularly like highly polished leaves, keep them glossy using a leaf polishing liquid or products that can give you similar effect.

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