No-fail seed starting method

If you’re not starting seeds indoors for your garden you’re missing out on a fun and rewarding activity, one that you can do while it’s still blustery outdoors. Or, if you’re homebound due to the CoVid virus it will give you something you can do while you’re home.

When you start your own seeds you’re not limited to what the local garden centers have to offer: rather, you can experiment with some vegetables or flowers that you think would be right for your garden. 

After a few years of trial and error, I’ve come up with what I’d like to think of as a no-fail seed starting method. I know, a promise not to fail at a gardening endeavor is kind of risky.  But I think if you try this method you should have a great deal more success germinating seeds than you would with other methods, such as putting the seeds in a “sunny window.” 

My seed starting operation utilizes a four-foot shop light that is suspended over the top of a heat mat and germination tray with a plastic dome over top. This is the cheapest way I’ve found to set up a no-fail seed starting operation. How cheap? Less than $100!

Steps to successful seed starting

Building the frame

Step 1: Start with building the frame to suspend the shop light. Assemble the frame by using 2-2 X 4’s, 52” long, and 2, 12” wide. The finished frame should measure 15” wide by 52” long.  Nail or screw the plywood to the 2 X 4 framing. Screw the vertical 2 X 4’s, each 20” long, to each side of the frame. Now screw the 52” 2 X 2 that the light is suspended by to the vertical 2 X 4’s and suspend the chain on either side, about 8” in from the ends to hang the shop light from.

Sowing the seed 

Step 2: Moisten the seed starting mix by adding one part water to three parts germination mix. The mix should be moist but not dripping wet. 

Step 3: Fill the shallow container(s) with the mix, tamping it lightly to firm it in. 

Step 4: Plant the seeds of your favorite vegetables or flowers, following the recommendations for planting depth. Seeds can be spaced fairly close since they’re going to be transplanted after they get their true leaves. Firm the seeds in nicely to ensure good contact with the moist growing medium. 

Step 5: Place your heat mat inside the frame and put a cookie sheet over the heat mat to ensure that the mix is not getting too warm, which will cause it to dry out. 

Step 6: Place a clear dome over the tray(s) and place it on the heat pad.

Step 7: It is critical that the germination mix stays moist, but not soggy during the germination phase. Spritz with water once or twice daily and bottom water with room temperature water about every three days.

Step 8: When the seed leaves (cotyledons) begin to appear and it looks like most of the seeds have germinated, transplant them to the 11” X 22” covered tray by gently lifting the seedlings out of the mix by grabbing hold of the leaves. I usually use a popsicle stick to loosen the roots underneath while pulling upward on the seedling.

Step 9:  Lower the fluorescent light within about 4” of the transplanted seedlings. Start a regimen where you bottom water in one of those large totes (or a bathtub if you clean up after yourself!) using room temperature water. Place back over the heat mat and don’t water again until the mixture has dried out slightly. This causes the roots to expand, which is what you want. Fertilize with a weak solution of soluble fertilizer or seed-starting fertilizer each time you water. I usually use Jobes liquid fertilizer at half strength.  

Step 10: When the plants have developed a nice root system and look big enough to be moved outdoors, they will need to be hardened off by placing them outside for a few hours. Be sure to protect them from any downpours which would damage them. I have a small greenhouse I can move them to until I can actually get them in the ground. A lean-to covering of any type (window, plastic, etc.) works as well.     

Timing is everything

Different plants need to be started at different times indoors. It’s almost better to plant a little later than to have huge plants that are starting to stretch, which makes them harder to transplant in the garden. I usually plant (indoors) no earlier than the middle of March, however, there are exceptions. Mid-March is best for most flowers, however, be sure to read the directions on the packets before planting. 

The first of April is fine for tomatoes and peppers and a little later for things like lettuce and cole crops, such as cabbage, unless you have a hoop house you can put them early. Vine crops, such as pumpkin and squash I usually plant in biodegradable peat pots around the last week of April just to get a little jump on the season and avoid insect damages that often occurs when I direct seed vine crops

When they’ve developed a few leaves I set them in the ground, peat pot and all, as to not disturb the roots. 

Good luck and let me know if you have any questions.

Materials needed:

For a frame to suspend grow light:

  • Nails or screws 2 ¼ inches long
  • 2-2X4 by 8’ pine lumber
  • 1-2×2 by 52”
  • 15” by 52” plywood
  • 1-2” X 2” X 52” pine lumber 
  • 2 lightweight chains measuring 18” each (to suspend the shop light)
  • 48” long fluorescent shop light
  • Heat mat specifically for seed starting (from $25-$50)
  • 11” X 22” cookie sheet
  • Shallow (1/1/2 inch deep) container for germinating seed with holes in the bottom for drainage 
  • Seed starting tray with a dome (you can find these in most garden sections)
  • Brand name germination mix such as Sun-Gro, Pro-mix, Bacto or Burpees (not potting soil) 
  • Plastic flats or pots to transplant the plants into after they’ve developed true leaves

Posted in gardening, horticulture | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Will we see the return of Victory Gardens?

After receiving yet another nightly dose of anxiety-producing news on the COVID-19 outbreak, I decided I needed to do something to get busy and try to relieve my own anxiety. 

 Being a gardener, my thoughts naturally turned to what I could do to get my hands in the soil. This is not as easy as it sounds as there is still a foot of snow on the ground here in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. 

The answer came in the form of two 8-foot long shop lights I have for starting seeds. I usually only use one of the 8-footers to start a few peppers and tomatoes inside, but under these extraordinary circumstances, I thought I’d dig out a second shop light and set it up. I’ll plant some quick-growing microgreens, lettuce, and arugula under the second shop light, which should give me some fresh greens in a few weeks.  

 While I was at the store picking up the fluorescent bulbs for the shop light I got to thinking of the Victory Gardens of WWI and WWII.

During these two epic wars, citizens were encouraged to grow gardens as a way to supply fresh fruit and vegetables for the war effort at home and abroad. It was also hoped that it would boost the morale of those who were at home worrying about their loved ones abroad. I don’t think the term “anxiety” was battered around back then like it is now, but I think it’s safe to say that’s what they meant when they said gardening would “boost morale.” 

Like the time we’re living in right now, there was a lot of uncertainty about the future as these wars were going on. No one knew for sure how or when it would end. People were most likely staying pretty close to home like we are now. However, unlike our current situation, which we hope will only last a few weeks or months, these wars lasted for several years. 

People needed something to keep their hands and minds busy during the two wars. The answer came in the simple act of planting gardens, which were appropriately dubbed “Victory Gardens.” 

One of the unintended or at least unexpected consequences of the Victory Gardens was how victoriously productive they were.  

During WWI there was a severe food shortage in Europe because farmers in the U.S. and Europe were needed in the war effort and the countryside where they once grew crops had become a battlefield. The burden of supplying food to our allies in Europe fell on the U.S. 

In 1917, just weeks before we entered the First World War, Charles Lathrop Pack organized the National War Garden Commission. The sole purpose of the commission was to encourage Americans to pitch in with the war effort by utilizing every available space–including parks, school grounds, backyards, and parks–to grow fresh produce.

The idea took off like a soldier on a mission and soon the government went from helping to educate people on how to garden, to educating them on how to can and store fresh produce.  

By 1918 there were over 5.2  million Victory Gardens that went on to produce a whopping 1.45 million quarts of fruits and vegetables. The population in the U.S. at that time was just over 100 million.

After WWI ended Victory Garden went out of the collective vernacular, but not for very long. During the WWII, the crops grown on U.S. soil were mostly shipped overseas to the men and women fighting the war, resulting in rationing at home.

Once again the Victory Gardens were called upon, this time to supply fresh produce to folks on American soil, and again as a way to “boost morale”. 

The most popular produce grown in the Victory Gardens of WWII included beans, cabbage, kohlrabi, kale, lettuce, peas, tomatoes, squash, turnips, and Swiss chard. 

By 1944 these Victory Gardens numbered about 20 million, which produced 8 million tons of food. 

Will Victory Gardens make yet another comeback? Most folks, even those ordered to “shelter in” can be outside in their backyards, as long as they’re a safe distance from others. If so, planting a garden may be a good way to “boost morale” and have fresh food available should things get really wonky.

I’ve come to the conclusion that during the COVID-19 outbreak, I can put my head in the sand or my hands in the soil and grow fresh produce for my family and our neighbors. Alas, there are days when I’d rather just put my head in the sand. But I think it would be better for myself and those around me if I get out my seeds and start planting!

Happy gardening and be safe!  

P.S., if you need instructions on setting up a grow light and starting seeds indoors, check out my No-Fail Seed Starting Method.


Posted in gardening | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Can great copywriting help recruit the best candidate for a job?

In the case of this help wanted ad it may have made all the difference!

Dream job

A few weeks ago I received the copy below. It was a want ad to fill an important position at the company. They wanted me to spruce it up a bit before they posted it. 

Take a look at the original copy and then the revamped version I did of the job posting. 

The boss said they received a lot of good candidates!

Before it was submitted to a professional copywriter

Altman Plants – Trials Manager Job Opportunity

Summary: Altman Plants is looking for a talented and energetic Plant Trials Manager. This person will shepherd the evaluation of new succulents, annuals, perennials and roses for the company. This role will include evaluating internal plant breeding, as well as other breeding on the market. There will be hands-on responsibility for trials in Vista, California and also coordination and leadership for trials in Salinas, California, as well as in Giddings and Troup, Texas.

Take advantage of this opportunity to be an important member of Altman Plants plant development. This role is a key one, working to support new plant selection and development of new programs in coordination with sales, production and marketing.

The position may also serve as the Director for the Center for Applied Horticulture Research (CfAHR). CfAHR is a non-profit dedicated to helping the industry with plant research projects.

Keys to success will be enthusiasm for horticulture – and a passion for plants – in addition to a keen eye to how they are commercialized and fit into the supply chain that enables them to come to market. This position will require an engaging personality that enables a clear and positive communication with a broad spectrum of people within the horticultural community. Please visit our website to better understand the company and our culture: www.altmanplants.com

Education and Experience: This position requires a Master’s degree or PhD, although a Bachelor’s degree with substantial experience will also be considered. The position is located in Vista, California.

Skills:

Excellent verbal and written communication skills

 Ability to present in front of a group

 Strong growing and technical skills

 Willingness to travel.

 Self-directed with high organizational skills & ability to multi-task.

 Able to interact with other departments and be part of a diverse team.

 Skilled in problem-solving.

 Computer experience with emphasis on Excel, Word and database applications.

 Flexibility & willingness to learn.

Salary dependent on experience.

After

Altman Plants – Plant Trials Manager Job Opportunity

Altman Plants is looking for a talented and energetic Plant Trials Manager

The ideal applicant will evaluate new succulents, annuals, perennials, and roses for a nationally known company. This role will include evaluating internal plant breeding, as well as other breeding on the market.

There will be hands-on responsibility for trials in Vista, California and also coordination and leadership for trials in Salinas, California, as well as in Giddings and Troup, Texas.

This is an opportunity to be an important member of plant development at Altman Plants. In this key role, you will be working to support new plant selection and development of new programs in coordination with sales, production, and marketing.

The position may also serve as the Director for the Center for Applied Horticulture Research (CfAHR). CfAHR is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping the industry with plant research projects. Keys to success will be enthusiasm for horticulture, a passion for plants and a keen eye to how they are commercialized and fit into the supply chain that enables them to come to market.

An engaging and optimistic personality is a real plus to communicate our mission and brand to a broad spectrum of people within the horticultural community.

Please visit our website to better understand the company and our culture: www.altmanplants.com

Education and experience: The Plant Trials Manager position requires a Master’s degree or Ph.D., although a Bachelor’s degree with substantial experience will also be considered. The position is located in Vista, California.

Skills:

  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Ability to present in front of a group
  • Strong growing and technical skills
  • Willingness to travel
  • Self-directed with high organizational skills & ability to multi-task
  • Ability to interact with other departments and be part of a diverse team
  • Skilled in problem-solving
  • Computer experience with an emphasis on Excel, Word and database applications
  • Flexibility & willingness to learn

Salary: based on experience and education

If you’re interested in this unique opportunity send a resume with a cover letter to Ken Altman at kaltman@altmanplants.com.


Posted in gardening, green industry, horticulture, writing tips | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Now hiring: Plant Trials Manager for Altman Plants

Altman Plants – Plant Trials Manager Job Opportunity

Altman Plants is looking for a talented and energetic Plant Trials ManagerAltman plants logo

The ideal applicant will evaluate new succulents, annuals, perennials, and roses for a nationally known company. This role will include evaluating internal plant breeding, as well as other breeding on the market.

There will be hands-on responsibility for trials in Vista, California and also coordination and leadership for trials in Salinas, California, as well as in Giddings and Troup, Texas.

This is an opportunity to be an important member of plant development at Altman Plants. In this key role, you will be working to support new plant selection and development of new programs in coordination with sales, production, and marketing.

The position may also serve as the Director for the Center for Applied Horticulture Research (CfAHR). CfAHR is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping the industry with plant research projects. Keys to success will be enthusiasm for horticulture, a passion for plants and a keen eye to how they are commercialized and fit into the supply chain that enables them to come to market.

An engaging and optimistic personality is a real plus to communicate our mission and brand to a broad spectrum of people within the horticultural community.

Please visit our website to better understand the company and our culture: www.altmanplants.com

Education and experience: The Plant Trials Manager position requires a Master’s degree or PhD, although a Bachelor’s degree with substantial experience will also be considered. The position is located in Vista, California.

Skills: 

  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills 
  • Ability to present in front of a group 
  • Strong growing and technical skills 
  • Willingness to travel 
  • Self-directed with high organizational skills & ability to multi-task
  • Ability to interact with other departments and be part of a diverse team 
  • Skilled in problem-solving 
  • Computer experience with an emphasis on Excel, Word and database applications
  • Flexibility & willingness to learn

Salary: based on experience and education

If you’re interested in this unique opportunity send a resume with a cover letter to Ken Altman at kaltman@altmanplants.com.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Articles from 2019 to help grow your business in 2020

The past year has been a downright thriller in horticulture. The legalization of hemp in late 2018 has opened up a huge market for growers and suppliers while the legal cannabis market continues to evolve at a dizzying speed. And changes are taking place for the ornamental and fruit and vegetable market as growers look for ways to be more sustainable while responding to the needs and wants of the consumer.

Green industry professionals need information, and there was no lack of thoughtful commentary, how-tos and in some cases, not so reliable reporting

As a person who is keeping their eye glued to the industry, I continually try t separate the wheat from the chaff, which isn’t easy when information is coming to us faster than aphids multiplying in a greenhouse. 

So to cut to the chase, here are my pick of articles, including some of my own, I feel are particularly beneficial to professionals in the green industry as we roar into 2020!

Hemp, hemp, and more hemp!

Hemp may have been the biggest issue over the past 12 months. While conducting research on growing hemp I discovered that there is a shortage of quality hemp seed in the U.S., largely because it has been illegal for so long so there haven’t been the usual breeding programs taking place that would bring an adequate supply of seed into the market. In other words, buyer beware of the seed you’re getting.

A few months after I posted my article on the hemp breeding program at Cornell news was arriving that some of the hemp grown had too much THC in it. The takeaway is simply “buyer beware.” Make sure the seed you’re purchasing will produce hemp that is uniform, vigorous, and can pass inspection for THC content. 

This past year we saw the launch of the first issue of Hemp Grower, a GIE Media publication. If it is anything like its sister publication, Cannabis Business Times, it should provide some great insights and knowledge into this burgeoning industry. One article, in particular, caught my eye and should be taken as a cautionary signal to hemp growers. The article, titled Newly Legal U.S. Hemp Industry Sees Early Supply Boom, Wholesale Price Crash speaks for itself!

If it’s not broke, break it!

Leslie Halleck, who always seems to be one step ahead of the game in the green industry encourages IGC owners, and business people, in general, to shake things up if you want your business to grow and stay relevant. “Pushing boundaries, bucking convention and making up new rules is my comfort zone, “ says Halleck in the December 2019 issue of Garden Center magazine.  “Friction drives creativity and ingenuity, and unless you’re willing to turn up the heat, you may never see the change you wish to create.”

The rise of natural ventilation 

Greenhouse growers are constantly on the lookout to maximize profits and reduce labor. Natural ventilation and automated controls will do both. One company, Advancing Alternatives is a leader in natural ventilation technology and can help configure your next greenhouse so it is as energy efficient as possible. They’re good folks to work with too! 

What’s ahead for your business?

We can’t plan very well if we don’t know what’s ahead. I always look forward to Garden Media Group’s Garden Trends Report for the upcoming year. The report looks at current and future trends that will shape the green industry. The report is essential reading for everyone involved in the green industry.

Lighting (finally) simplified and an affordable light meter

I’ve written and read 100’s of articles on gardening and commercial production of about every plant imaginable and have yet to see anything written about lighting, other than manufacturers pushing their brand of a light fixture. It seems growers are all in when it comes to measuring pH, nutrients and monitoring temperature but not so much on measuring light. I have to admit my own ignorance on the subject, at least until Leslie Halleck came out with her book titled: Gardening Under Lights: The Complete Guide for Indoor Growers. Between this book and the Spot On PAR Quantum light meter mentioned below, I can now say with confidence I’m smarter than the average bear when it comes to lighting. So much so, I wrote an article on lighting that is a good primer for starting to learn more about light as well as a springboard to more information on the subject. 

I was fortunate to be asked to be part of a launch of a product I truly believe in. The Spot On ® Quantum Par Light Meter, by Innoquest, Inc. is an affordable light meter for anyone serious about growing plants under lights, including LED lights and under cover, i.e, greenhouse growers and serious hobbyists. The user-friendly meter measures PAR and DLI, important measurements to ensure you are using quality lighting and also that the lights are hung at the proper distance. It is also a good tool to have to measure the light coming through a greenhouse covering, which can determine if it is time to upgrade your greenhouse covering.

What is your content marketing strategy for 2020?

And finally, I think it is fair to say more green industry businesses should be getting in on content marketing, a form of marketing where customers are attracted to a business for information and interesting content–as opposed to in-your-face advertisements and pop-ups that can get a little irritating. This article from HubSpot details why content marketing is the strategy of choice of businesses going into the New Year and beyond. 

With that said, I hope you have a safe, happy, and prosperous New Year!

Need help with your content marketing? I’ve assisted several green industry companies with blog posts, articles, press releases, white papers and more. Contact me for a quote or visit Green Industry Marketing

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Gift for the gardener: the Cobrahead Weeder

One tool I’ve found to be indispensable for my home gardening and landscaping jobs is the CobraHead Weeder. If you’re not familiar with this marvelous tool it’s a hand-held tool, a little over a foot long, shaped like a fish hook with a patented “Steel Fingernail.” which describes the tip of the hook that makes it a weeding tool like no other.

CobraHead mini

The CobraHead Weeder is ideal for removing weeds from difficult places, such as between the cracks in the sidewalk, between the stones in a stone walkway, and weeds crowding up against a raised bed. It can also be used to cultivate between plants and is especially useful in tough clay type soils. This is one of those tools, like a smartphone, that once you start using it, you can’t do without it.  

Now when I first starting using the CobraHead Weeder getting up and down from a kneeling position was no big deal. Now, quite frankly that hinge in my back for getting up and down is getting a little rusty, so I’d rather stand up and do this chore if at all possible. 

Luckily the CobraHead company has me covered. Apparently, I’m not the only one looking to stay off his or her knees as much as possible. A little while after the CobraHead Weeder came out the company made a long-handled one, appropriately called the CobraHead Long Handle weeder.

This tool is a real gem. It’s built from solid ash and just at the right height to be able to comfortably hoe from a stand-up position. Both the long handle and short handle weeder are manufactured by the  CobraHead company in Wisconsin with “environmentally friendly practices wherever possible.” The forged and tempered steel blade is made in the U.S., as well as the other materials that go into this product. 

To see how it works check out the video on their website showing how to use the tool in an ergonomic way so you too can avoid some of the pain and strain of gardening. 

Cheers to gardening and the Cobrahead Weeder!


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Freelance Writers Den offers bang for your buck

Like a veteran carpenter who has built everything from garages to kitchen cabinets, I’ve done a lot of different types of writing: blog posts, articles, white papers, press releases, etc. Ask me to do just about any type of writing and, like the carpenter, I have the tools and knowledge to do the work.

And like the carpentry profession, things change over time and I need to keep my skills current if I’m to continue to take on good-paying jobs. And quite frankly, there is always more to learn. 

Over the years I’ve taken some different courses and programs on writing and even paid for “expert coaching.” In both cases, they didn’t really offer a good return on investment (ROI), at least not for me. They were helpful, but perhaps just not a good fit.

One beef I’ve had with these programs and even the coaching is they were pricey and when you were done you were done. Once the program ended you no longer had access to the materials. 

The one program I’m glad I found is the Freelance Writer’s Den. The “Den” as it is referred to, is a subscription-based program that includes access to tons of material, including boot camps on writing and marketing, a forum, job board, podcasts, and articles. 

I was hesitant to join the Den at first, even though I had read some great articles by Den staff. I think I was hesitant mainly because of the experience I had with other freelance writing programs, but also because in the back of my mind I was thinking “boy, I should just be writing and marketing and not spending time and money on these programs.”

I also wondered, “could the Den really offer a veteran writer anything he hadn’t already read or heard about?”

In fact, I initially signed up for the Den and then canceled my subscription before the second billing cycle, mostly for the reasons given above. 

But then, for some reason, maybe because I knew there were gaps in my marketing and writing skills, I circled back to the Den.

I’m glad I did.

More bang for my buck

I was about to find out for only $25 a month I would have access to a plethora of tools to refer to when I needed them, including a forum where I can network with other writers. Unlike a carpenter that has the advantage of comparing notes with other carpenters to stay current with best practices in remodeling, roofing, etc., writers, by and large, work alone. The only person I have in “realtime” to converse with on the subject lives 70 miles away in a different country and is very busy writing white papers!

So via the Den I’ve been able to tap into a lot of good information that helps me to make more money and stay current with the skills needed to work my craft and have a readily available reference when I take on different assignments. 

Making more of marketing

For example, at the time I joined the Den I really needed advice on marketing my business in this everchanging business environment. I got what I needed right away in Joshua Boswell’s Freelance Marketing Mastery boot camp. 

Unbeknownst at the time, I would also need to brush up on some specific skills needed to do a particular project, much like a carpenter may need to get some pointers on installing a walk-in bathtub. 

Here is what happened. 

About the time I was taking the self-paced marketing boot camp, I received an inquiry regarding my services. A company needed someone to write a press release. I hadn’t done a press release in a few years, but was able to brush up on these skills by hitting the pause button on Joshua’s marketing course and taking one of the Den’s short courses on writing press releases. 

I was also able to put Joshua’s training to work right away to negotiate the best deal writing the press release. And on the advice of Joshua, I asked for, and received, additional work with the company, which ended up paying me top dollar for my efforts. 

So after only two months and an investment of only $50 in the Freelance Writer’s Den, I  was able to brush up on my press release writing skills and picked up assignments from just one client: total earned? $2000.

So like a carpenter, we never know what’s up ahead for work, but with the Freelance Writers Den I know that I have plenty of tools in my toolbelt to improve my chances of landing an assignment, doing quality work, and making good money.  

If you’re looking to join the Den, follow this  and start making more money now!

Looking for good web copy? Check out my website or contact me at nmoran188@gmail.com.

 

 


Posted in writing tips | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Partnership provides tools to enhance water quality and food safety

Water intelligence coordinator KETOS, Inc., and agriculture leader Dramm Corporation today announced a strategic partnership to empower growers across the U.S. and Canada.  Understanding the correlation between water quality and food safety Dramm will use KETOS water monitoring solutions to provide growers with mission-critical water data to help enhance crop yields, quality, and taste. KETOS  empowers farmers read more…

 


Posted in green industry | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Indoor lighting simplified and the new SpotOn® Quantum PAR Light Meter

Indoor gardening is increasingly popular among home gardeners as well as professional growers. Plants grown indoors and undercover in a greenhouse extends the season and offers control of the environment much better than growing outside, where plants can be damaged by the elements. 

Home gardeners have traditionally used grow lights for starting a few flower and vegetable transplants or to add supplemental lighting for houseplants. However, the food, flower and medicinal palette has expanded quite a bit in recent years, prompting people to consider growing things like microgreens, hydroponic lettuce, and legal cannabis indoors under lights. 

An interest in grow lights

This has spawned an interest in grow lights, particularly LED’s. It has also spawned a lot of confusion over what the best light is for different growing conditions. Most of this confusion, I believe, is over the different terms used to describe light. So let’s see if we can dim the confusion about lights and simplify things. This way you, the grower can make the best lighting choice possible for your indoor growing situation. I’ll also introduce you to an affordable light meter that will ensure that your plants are receiving optimum light from light fixtures and through greenhouse coverings. 

Understanding the terms

It’s important to understand the terms used to describe light fixtures so you know what you’re buying. Terms like watts and lumens have really stuck in the minds with the consumer; however, they don’t address the quality and kind of light needed for the different growing phases of plants. 

Watts only speaks to the energy a bulb is using and lumen refers to the brightness and efficiency of a lamp. Since plants see light differently than us humans, the measure of lumens is irrelevant when it comes to selecting a good lamp for your growing operation. 

In the spirit of the phrase “keep it simple stupid” I can tell you that there are only a few terms and concepts we need to learn to make better lighting choices.

Veg or flowering?

In Leslie Halleck’s book on lighting, Gardening Under Lights: The Complete Guide for Indoor Growers, she does a great job explaining artificial light that will help the reader make better lighting choices. book on lighting

Light in the blue spectrum has a short wavelength and is used in the veg state of growing when you’re only concerned with establishing green growth. Light in the red spectrum has a long wavelength and is used in the flowering stage. Cannabis growers use lights in the red spectrum when their plants are in the flowering stage.

I’ve always used a standard flourescent shoplight (T12) to start my tomato and pepper transplants and a few flowers. However, a few years ago I picked up a relatively inexpensive T5 flourescent fixture with 5 flourescent bulbs or tubes. Compared to the T12, the T5 delivers more usable light than a T12. It is used when your plants are in the nonflowering or veg state. If I wanted them to flower and set fruit indoors I’d have to obtain a grow light that delivers light in the red spectrum. 

There are LED fixtures on the market that, rather than having to change from a “veg” bulb to a “flowering” bulb, you can simply flip a switch. Prices range from $100-$200, which is much cheaper than what LED light fixtures were selling for just a few years ago. Plus, LED light bulbs last longer than fluorescent and high-pressure sodium bulbs used in traditional lighting; they also put out much less heat than do high-pressure sodium bulbs, which can literally scorch plants if the plants get too close to the fixture. 

Understanding Photosynthetically Active Radiation

 One measure of light that is critical to growers and can be measured with a meter is PAR (Photosynthetically Active Radiation). PAR is a measure of the usable light plants have for productive growth. When you purchase lights, especially the more expensive type, the manufacturer should be able to provide you with the PAR range of the light fixture. PAR is a measure of the quality of light and is measured in micro mols per second. PAR readings for a light fixture should be between 400-700 and may fluctuate, which is okay. Like measuring pH, if PAR is in the acceptable range you’re all set.  

New light meter hits the market!

There is a new light meter that has hit the market which I think should appeal to small and large growers alike. I’ve had the pleasure of trying out the SpotOn Quantum PAR Meter, by Innoquest, Inc. Quantum PAR meters can be VERY expensive, but this one is being sold at a reasonable cost ($295 vs. up to $1500 for some meters). It is very easy to use and gives readings for both PAR and Daily Light Integral (DLI), which is the cumulative reading of PAR for any given period. DLI is a measurement that is very important because you can determine the total number of PAR units that reach your plants during the time your lights are on; it can also be used to determine the PAR in your greenhouse on a typical day.

Taking light readings in a greenhouse

PAR and DLI are important readings to take in a greenhouse where coverings, especially older coverings, can reduce the amount of light that actually reaches and is usable to a plant. AND, it can help you determine if it is time to replace your covering

This is an intentionally oversimplified description of light and how to measure it. If you want to learn more about lighting and the light needs of specific plants, I urge you to pick up a copy of Halleck’s book. The SpotOn Quantum PAR Light Meter can be ordered directly from Innoquest Inc.  Halleck’s book and the SpotOn Quantum PAR Light Meter is all you will need to make good choices for lighting and greenhouse coverings. 

Neil Moran is a copywriter helping green industry companies increase profits by writing effective press releases, blog posts, articles, and social media and email marketing.  

Disclaimer: I’m currently helping with marketing the SpotOn Quantum PAR Light Meter. 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

New light meter hits the market

PRESS RELEASE

Introducing the SpotOn® Quantum PAR Light Meter by Innoquest Inc. 

New light meter provides an inexpensive solution to measure LED and other sources of light

Woodstock, IL.–Innoquest Inc. maker of precision meters for the agriculture sector since 1993, has introduced a versatile quantum PAR light meter that is sure to appeal to large and small greenhouse growers, as well as hobbyists using artificial lighting to grow plants indoors. 

The SpotOn® Quantum PAR Light Meter is a scientifically accurate instrument that takes readings from any source, including LED lighting.

Up until now, growers have spent up to $1,500 for a PAR light meter. The SpotOn® Quantum PAR Light Meter will retail for $295, making it not only affordable to the hobby and small growers, but also for large growers looking to purchase multiple units for several greenhouses, researchers at universities, and anyone relying on artificial light to grow plants.  

“This tool was invented to allow growers to obtain fast readings in three different modes of operation,” says Bill Hughes, President of Innoquest, Inc. “Before this tool, inexpensive light meters weren’t compatible with LED lighting. Growers had to use expensive research quality light meters.” 

Why PAR readings are important

Photosynthetic Active Radiation (PAR) is the best measure of the quantity of photosynthetic light that is reaching the surface of the plant and is measured in micromoles per meter squared per second. Like monitoring the pH of the soil, taking regular PAR readings of a light source will help growers make decisions regarding the type of lights they are using, when bulbs need to be replaced, how close to suspend light fixtures from plants, and deciding if it is time to replace a greenhouse covering. 

Three modes of operation 

This compact, water-resistant light meter features three modes of operation that provides growers all the information they’ll need to monitor and make any adjustments to their lighting:  

  • Instantaneous PAR light readings
  • Scan function to quickly average a coverage area
  • Daily Light Integral (DLI) display (measures the cumulative total amount of PAR that reaches your plants during a 24-hour photoperiod).

How it works

The simple to use SpotOn® Quantum PAR Light Meter takes PAR readings about once per second. The meter’s software automatically stabilizes readings from 50 or 60 Hz light sources. To obtain an average reading for a lighted area press and hold the SCAN button and wave the meter throughout the area where you want to obtain the reading. Scanning can be done for up to 35 seconds.

This meter never sleeps. It takes light readings every 3 minutes, even when the meter is powered off. The DLI is calculated for the past 24 hours and is updated every 15 minutes. The reading will appear when the unit is powered on. 

About Innoquest Inc.

Since 1993 Innoquest Inc. president and licensed engineer Bill Hughes has designed over 75 products for the agriculture and greenhouse sectors, 17 which have won AE-50 awards from the American Society of Agricultural Biological Engineers for outstanding innovation. The company is located in Woodstock, IL.

Order yours today by contacting Dawn Robles, Sales Manager at 815-337-8555 or sales@innoquestinc.com. Visit innoquestinc.com for a list of dealers. 

Looking for great copywriting like the above press release? Give me a shout at nrmoran188@gmail.com. Check out my website Green Industry Marketing.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Advice to hemp growers: buy certified seed

I recently read about a crop failure some hemp growers in Kansas experienced as a result of purchasing poor seed. They paid a dollar per seed. The growers vowed to use certified seed next time around. Certified seed can be hard to come by, but it is available, at least from Canada. Read about how Cornell University is addressing the need for more research and breeding to come up with good strands of hemp. read more


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Plant profile: Colocasia ‘Distant Memory’

This spring I was given the opportunity (and a nice plant!) to be part of a competition growing Colocacia ‘Distant Memory,’ aka, elephant ear. I’m not sure how well I did in the competition (the results aren’t known yet), but I sure enjoyed watching it grow. I started it in a large pot with a nice mix of quality potting soil. I mixed about a cup of Espoma’s Hollytone right into the (damp) growing medium. I then planted the root I had received and pretty much sat back and watched it grow. And how it grew (see photo)!

I love the dark foliage and large leaves. I’m going to bring it inside before we have a killing frost. Hopefully, it will overwinter well for us and we’ll be able to put it outside on our patio next spring.

Colocasia ‘Distant Memory’ is being sold by Walters Gardens to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s research. Read more of what Walter’s Gardens is doing to help find a cure for Alzheimers and to honor the memory of Harriet Walters


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Adopt-a-Hive Program: A Welcoming Way into Beekeeping, Mother Earth News

For the past several years, I’ve wanted to get into beekeeping. Adding beehives to our property seemed like a natural fit, because we already have a large garden, some chickens, and lots of native flowering plants. However, beekeeping seemed a little daunting. What would I need to get started? Where would I get bees? How would I manage a hive? The answer came read more 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Indoor lighting simplified and an affordable light meter

Everywhere I look I see people getting into growing indoors. Gardening indoors extends the season for most of us and allows us to control the environment much better than we can outdoors. While growing houseplants and starting some flower and vegetable transplants indoors has been the obvious choice for indoor gardening, lately more people are getting into growing things like microgreens, hydroponic lettuce, and legal cannabis. 

This has spawned an interest in grow lights, particularly LED’s. It has also spawned a lot of confusion over what the best light is for different growing conditions. Most of this confusion, I believe, is over the different terms used to describe light. So let’s see if we can simplify things so you, the grower can make the best choice possible for your indoor growing situation.

Understanding the terms

It’s important to understand the terms used to describe light fixtures so you know what you’re buying.Terms like watts and lumens have really stuck in the minds with the consumer but in reality they don’t address the quality and kind of light needed for the different growing phases of plants. 

Watts only speaks to the energy a bulb is using and lumen refers to the brightness and efficiency of a lamp. Since plants see light differently than us humans, the measure of lumens is irrelevant when it comes to selecting a good lamp for your growing operation. 

In the spirit of the phrase “keep it simple stupid” I can tell you that there are only a few terms and concepts we need to learn about our current lighting or the  lights that we are considering purchasing. 

Veg or flowering?

Light in the blue spectrum has a short wavelength and is used in the veg state of growing when you’re only concerned with establishing green growth. Light in the red spectrum has a long wavelength and is used in the flowering stage. Cannabis growers use lights in the red spectrum  when their plants are in the flowering stage.

I’ve always used a fluorescent shop light (a T12) to grow my tomato and pepper transplants and a few flowers. However, a few years ago I picked up a relatively inexpensive T5 fluorescent fixture with 5 fluorescent bulbs or tubes. Compared to the T12, the T5 delivers more usable light than a T12. It is used when your plants are in the nonflowering or veg state. If I wanted them to flower and set fruit indoors I’d have to obtain a grow light that delivers light in the red spectrum. 

There are LED fixtures on the market that, rather than having to change from a “veg” bulb to a “flowering” bulb, you can simply flip a switch. Prices range from $150-$200, which is much cheaper than light fixtures were selling for just a few years ago. Plus, LED light bulbs last longer than fluorescent and high pressure sodium bulbs used in traditional lighting.

Understanding Photosynthetically Active Radiation

 One measure of light that is critical to growers and can be measured with a meter is PAR (Photosynthetically Active Radiation). PAR is a measure of the usable light plants have for productive growth. When you purchase lights, especially the more expensive type, the manufacturer should be able to provide you with the PAR range of the light fixture. PAR is a measure of the quality of light and is measured in micromols per second. PAR readings for a light fixture should be between 400-700 and may fluctuate, which is okay. Like measuring pH, if PAR is in the acceptable range you’re all set.  

There is a new meter that will be hitting the market soon that I’ve had the pleasure of testing. It is called a SpotOn Quatum PAR Meter, by Innoquest, Inc.

Quantum PAR meters can be VERY expensive, but the makers of this one have told me it will be sold at a reasonable cost. It is very easy to use and gives readings for both PAR and Daily Light Integral (DLI), which is the cumulative reading of PAR for any given period. DLI is a measurement that is very important to determine the total number of PAR units that reaches your plants during the time your lights are on; it can also be used to determine the PAR in your greenhouse on a typical day.

PAR and DLI are important readings to take in a greenhouse where coverings, especially older coverings, can reduce the amount of light that actually reaches and is usable to a plant. It can help you determine if it is time to replace your covering. 

This is an intentionally over simplified description of light and how to measure it. If you want to learn more about lighting and the light needs of specific plants, I urge you to pick up a copy of Leslie Halleck’s excellent new book, Gardening Under Lights. Her book is a practical guide for growing virtually anything under lights.

You can purchase Gardening Under Lights by following the link to Amazon.com on the right column. If you’re interested in trying out the SpotOn Quatum PAR Meter and live in the area (Sault Ste. Marie, MI) give me a shout and perhaps I can stop by so you can take a reading of your light fixture or available light in your greenhouse. 

Check out my blog for more information on growing and the green industry.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

What you should know about growing hemp in a greenhouse

Hemp could be the next gold rush for agriculture. However, before you rush in and start growing hemp in a greenhouse, it’s critical to learn all you can about not only growing Cannabis Sativa, a cousin to the marijuana plant, but also the regulations contained in the 2018 Farm Bill regarding growing hemp.  Growing hemp is only useful if you can learn to grow it profitably.more


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Are you taking advantage of dissolved oxygen?

Adequate aeration to the plant root zone improves root development and helps enhance overall plant growth. Studies have shown that supplementing oxygen to the root zone via the delivery of dissolved oxygen (DO) can improve crop yields while reducing the incidences of disease (Markhart et al.). 

Yet, growers often overlook DO as a beneficial variable that can enhance plant growth.(more)


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

So what’s so smart about Smart Pots?


Apparently the pots I grow my plants in aren’t too smart. Because now comes “Smart Pots,” the trade name for fabric pots that allow good aeration to the root system of plants. These pots fall into the category of “now, why didn’t I think of that?”

Perhaps I was too busy gardening.

So what’s so smart about Smart Pots? I think the biggest selling point is that they are somewhat porous, allowing air to more directly enter the root system of the plant. They’re made of a tough landscape fabric and come with handles so you can more easily move them around. The fabric also allows the roots to expand with a little more ease than they might in a plastic or clay pot.  Use Smart Pots to grow things like a lemon tree and other houseplants, tomatoes, and (legal) cannabis. 

Have you ever noticed when you take a rather large plant out of a pot that it has been in for several months that a good portion of the root system is pretty dry? How could this be, you think? I’ve been watering them good all along, you say. I recently discovered that when I watered six of my tomato plants, each with the same amount of water, the five plants that I had in Smart Pots absorbed the water in the Smart Pots. The sixth plant was in a three gallon plastic pot–and, guess what? Some of the water ran right through the plastic pot into the tray underneath. 

I guess that is kind of dumb. One can only assume the more sophisticated Smart Pot, you know, the one with the higher IQ, absorbed the water that can then be taken up by the root system. 

So if you’re smart you may want to rush over to your nearest garden center, hydroponic store or Amazon and buy a few Smart Pots, which, incidentally, aren’t very expensive. You can get a package of 5 for about 10 bucks. Now that’s smart!    

Read more of Neil Moran’s blog posts on the green industry and topics related to gardening and horticulture.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Dissolved Oxygen: Low cost solution for increased plant health and yield

Adequate aeration to the plant root system improves root development and helps maintain overall plant growth.

Studies have shown that supplementing oxygen to the root zone via the delivery of dissolved oxygen (DO) can improve crop yields while reducing the incidences of disease.

Yet, growers often overlook DO as a beneficial variable that can enhance plant growth.

Learn more about DO and how it can be delivered to the root system with low cost nanobubbler technology in this white paper I recently completed.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Danger: Keep out!

In my latest article for Greenhouse Management magazine I share advice from the experts on installing protective insect screens that will reduce pest populations and ultimately, the use of pesticides.

Consumers’ desire for pesticide-free ornamental and edible crops, coupled with the increase of greenhouse pest populations and their resistance to traditional chemical pesticides, has led to many growers taking a different approach to their pest management plan.

With continuing advancements in insect screening, greenhouse growers can take a proactive step toward reducing insect pests and installing this technology over greenhouse vent openings.

“Screening isn’t cheap, there is an initial investment. But in the long run there is a savings in the reduction of pesticide applications, cleaner plants [and a] healthier environment,” says Dr. Raymond Cloyd, an entomologist, professor and extension specialist at Kansas State University. more…

Posted in green industry | Tagged | Leave a comment

The “not my New Years Resolution” Resolution

We all know what becomes of New Year’s resolutions. No matter how resolute we are most of these resolutions to “exercise every day” or “lose 20 pounds in a month” go into the dust bin of good intentions before Valentine’s Day.

Yet, I still see the New Year as a new start and I like jotting down some goals for the year. Although, admittedly I don’t look at these goals again, at least not until there is a crisis of procrastination in the form of things like not paying my bills on time or not getting the freelance writing jobs I want to get.

But this year was different. Instead of writing down things like “climb Mt. Everest” or “read 50 books in a year,” both goals I’d never reach, I simply listed 5 things I want to do each day. My daily to-do list comes from things I already like to do, as well as a few I need to do, including reading, exercising (walk, bike, etc.), stretching/yoga, studying photography, and marketing for more freelance copywriting jobs (I already have pretty good writing habits, having spent years honing this skill).

Unlike the resolutions I’ve made in the past there is no pressure to do things for a certain amount of time, like “exercise for 50 minutes on a treadmill every morning.” The 5 things I listed are simply reminders to do these things. With all the distractions I encounter during the day and the incessant pull of digital news (my downfall) on my tablet and Iphone, it is easy to get away from the things I truly love and have neglected somewhat, i.e., reading and photography.

What I like about this approach is that if I don’t spend much time on any of these things on my list, such as, “spend time reading a book,” at least I’ll crack that book and read a page or two, and perhaps the next day I’ll read more. The same with the other “not resolutions” on my list, like exercise, stretching and photography. I think the problem with setting a goal of doing something for a certain amount of time is that if and when you get off track it is easy to just give up.

I started this routine before Christmas and I can say this–so far so good! I can’t claim perfection, but that’s alright. What I have is a reminder to engage in these positive activities during the course of the day. If I’m killing time waiting for my grandson’s hockey practice to get over, I go for a walk to get in my exercise. Waiting for a doctor appointment? I have an excellent photography book on my Kindle I can study.

I’m also developing some good habits, like taking a book with me when I leave the house and stretching most every day, which helps me with other activities, like gardening and exercising.  

If you’re not already practicing some good habits it’s hard to keep an unrealistic goal just because it’s a New Year. There is no magic dust. However, writing down some things you already like to do could lead to the real goal you’re looking to achieve. If you like walking the dog a couple of blocks perhaps you can gradually expand on this to “walking a quarter of a mile.” In other words, start with a small goal and see if it leads to achieving a  larger goal. At least I hope so, which is what I’m trying to do.

Maybe one year I will read those 50 books and at least climb a steep hill!

Happy New Years!


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment