We are trying something new right now: grow lights on the veggie seedlings.
Whereas, in the past, we have grown fairly successful veggie gardens by starting seeds and then putting them under the south-facing windows, we have now graduated to a system of fluorescent lights, with which we hope to grow a wildly successful veggie garden. (This is thanks to the diligent efforts of Mr. Green Scene. While he was rigging this up, I sat on the couch and read the Ikea catalog cover-to-cover.)
The ballasts were hand-me-downs from a relative, the bulbs are two each of the "warm" and "cool" 40-watt varieties, and the rest of the rig is made from 2x4s and chain and two kitchen stools. The idea is to get the lights three to four inches above the baby plants, and leave them on for 14 hours per day.
Main advantage? Instead of craning toward the windows and getting all leggy, the seedlings grow straight up and are stronger when it’s time to put them in the ground outside. They get the same amount of light every day, whether it’s sunny outside or not. This is how the pros do it.
Main disadvantage? A bit of an uptick in our household’s electricity usage. I don’t know how much; we’ll see when we get the bill. It’s one of these choices that’s quite difficult for an average home gardener to weigh: Is it O.K. to use more power on the front end, if the end result is more produce from our backyard, and therefore less bought from the store?
Actually, the average home gardener is probably neurotic if she gets too worried about this stuff. I usually prefer low-tech methods in the garden, but if the apocalypse comes and we haven’t hoarded enough fluorescent lightbulbs, I know we can always put our seedlings under the south-facing windows and do O.K.
Any other gardeners out there who occasionally wonder about the impact of garden gear and tools? More importantly, who besides me loves beets?