The Urban Farmer, Issue #042 * Hydro Herbs * Reflectors * Lettuce Lighting
“Gardening is how I relax. It’s another form of
creating and playing with colors.”
~Oscar de la Renta
Creating an indoor herb garden is quite an easy task, as herbs are
inexpensive, easy to maintain and undemanding. An indoor herb garden can serve
as an introductory course for any beginner to the art of hydroponics gardening.
Depending on their use, herbs can be classified into culinary herbs,
medicinal herbs and aromatic herbs. Culinary herbs include basil, rosemary,
parsley and oregano. These herbs are used to add spice and flavor to food.
Medicinal herbs include plants like echinacea, valerian, hypericum, and gingko,
which are widely used in medicinal preparations. Oils from plants like lavender,
rose, mint and basil are used for aromatherapies. Most of these plants are not
suitable for an indoor herb garden as it is difficult to extract the medicinal
parts of the plant. Ornamental herbs are those that are grown to enhance the
beauty of homes.
You can start with herbs like oregano, rosemary, garlic chives, mint and
thyme. You can either buy baby plants at a garden center or can use stem
cuttings. You can also start an indoor herb garden from the seed level. Heavy
clay or terra cotta pots are preferred as these pots facilitate good circulation
of air and water.
You can have a beautiful indoor herb garden if you follow certain tips.
Soilless mixtures of vermiculite, peat and perlite ensures proper growth of
seeds and seedlings. Keeping pots in the southern or western window ensures
proper sunlight and air. Pots should be kept in shady regions during summers.
The growth medium should be moist but not wet. Humidity around indoor
plants can be increased if they are grouped together. Or use a mister as you
talk to your babies.
Here is a very popular hydroponic herb unit that looks great in the kitchen:
Reflectors – Let there be Light
And let there be light. Lots and lots of light. But… accumulated heat from
the lamp can be a huge detriment to a hydroponic garden; possibly burning
leaves, and without proper ventilation, contributing to the formation of fungus.
The solution is to maximize your light radius by adequately distributing your
light. Eliminating heat is actually secondary to the redirection of otherwise
useless light. Think of using a reflector as supercharging and economizing your
grow system. Reflectors come in many shapes, sizes and models.
No matter the size of your growing space or your budget, you can find the right
solution for your garden.
The finish of the reflector determines the maximum possible percentage
of redirected light. The whiter and brighter the finish the better. Titanium
Oxide provides a high quality sheen that will last for a couple decades without
any noticeable loss of quality, as long as you keep it clean. The ‘Sunray’
reflector is possibly the most economical version of the reflector, both in cost
and design. It is merely a small sheet of aluminum with 2 bends, lending it the
appearance of an upside down trough. This form of reflector is more than
adequate with a single bulb over a flow table, or small rectangular grow area.
Other simple variations include the “wing-type” reflector, as shown below.
The “Flat” or “cone” reflector is a circular sheet of metal, with one thin pie-slice shape
removed from it. Joining the remaining sides of the pie turn the reflector
into a very gradual cone. This reflector is best used in a multi-bulb
environment or larger garden, as it diffuses light over a larger radius, rather
than concentrating it.
Taking the “Flat” reflector, and improving on its simplistic design is the
“Parabolic” reflector. The parabolic also is cone-shaped in design, but
manufactured by assembling trapezoid shaped pieces of aluminum. Its design
‘curves’ below the bottom of the actual bulb itself, capturing the light and
redistributing it. It is extremely efficient at reflecting moderate light over a
“Natural Convection-Vented” reflectors share their basic design with the
“Sunray”, however, their ends are completely contained. Louvers are built into
these reflectors to allow heat to escape upward, instead of becoming trapped
close to the bulb. Its highly concentrated direction of light makes this a good
choice for a small, compact garden, or where available space is a concern.
“Mechanically Vented” reflectors are the “Cadillac” of the reflector world.
Instead of relying on natural convection to dissipate heat from around the bulb,
ducting, fans and ventilation force the heat out of your grow area. These models
are completely enclosed, with a base of tempered glass. This aggressive removal
of accumulated heat allows these reflectors to be positioned much closer to the
garden itself, resulting in much stronger, more concentrated light. Below is a
vented lamp with ductwork in place.
If possible, do a little research before making your final decision. Keep the
size of your garden in mind, and visit your local hydroponics store. Chances
are, they will have demonstration gardens utilizing a couple of the different
reflectors mentioned here. Ask to use a light meter, should they have one on
hand, and check the levels for yourself. Whichever option provides the best
light for the best price will be your best bet.
Hydro Tip of the Month
If all you want to grow is lettuces and greens
like spinach, then a high-output T5 fluorescent lamp will work just fine. You’ll
need one 4-bulb X 4-foot long lamp for each HALF of your 4’X4′ system. In other
words, each lamp will cover a 2’X4″ section…. perfect for a 2X4 foot lettuce
raft like we often use. If you want to go with a huge, 4X4 raft, you will need
two T5 lamps.
Read more about high output
T5 fluorescent lamps here . There is also a link to order one on that
page if you would like.
We hope you have enjoyed this issue of The Urban Farmer Ezine. Each month, we will bring you another inspiring photo, gardening quote or idea, plus fresh new hydroponics news, techniques & products.
Insiders tips to get you growing…
~Stella and Simon from