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Can You Grow Tomatoes With Fluorescent Light – How It Works

Some areas of the world tend to experience gray and gloomy days more often than not. Have you found yourself wanting to start an outdoor garden, but you don’t think your state or town receives enough natural sunlight? Maybe artificial lighting is necessary for starting your tomato seedlings properly. The question is, what kind of light? Maybe you are feeling a need to go this route. Specifically, you may find yourself wondering, Can you grow tomatoes with fluorescent lights?

Yes. Fluorescent lights have been a trusted method of growing tomatoes indoors for years. There are, however, a lot of specific requirements to ensure the best indoor tomato growing operation. The fluorescent lights must be labeled and made for the purpose of growing to assure they are the correct light spectrum, and the plants must be spaced far enough from the lights that they aren’t damaged.

There is also a strict amount of time that the tomatoes need to be under the light per day. All of these factors considered will contribute to a thriving indoor growing environment. If you continue reading, you will surely know whether growing your tomatoes indoors using fluorescent lighting is ideal. 

Why Should You Use Fluorescent Lighting?

Many states, such as Washington and Alaska, tend to produce more gray climates with lower amounts of sunlight. Growing your plants, specifically tomatoes, under fluorescent lighting may give you the opportunity to plant your seeds or starters earlier in the year.

Also, You may live on land surrounded by big trees or other natural elements that could shade most areas of your land. Many people have the desire to grow fruits and vegetables, but the setting of their land or home may not allow them to.

Fluorescent lighting is an excellent option for those living with insufficient sunlight. Tomatoes specifically can thrive under fluorescent lighting. They don’t need many outside elements besides water and light because they pollinate themselves. If your going to pick something to grow indoors, tomatoes are one of the best options.

How Much Light Do Tomatoes Need Every Day?

Tomatoes need anywhere from 6-8 hours of sunlight per day. Artificial lighting isn’t as strong as natural sunlight; therefore, they must be under direct light for 14-16 hours per day when growing tomatoes under fluorescent lighting.

This may seem like a lot of time, but it is necessary when growing indoors under artificial lights. Many people find it useful to buy timers to program their lights to automatically turn on and off to ensure an adequate amount of light time. 

Tips For Successful Growth Under Fluorescent Lighting

  1. Make sure that your tomato plants aren’t growing too close to the artificial lighting sources. The Light may not hit every area of the plant if it’s focused too close to the top of the plant. 
  2. Try to hang the light bulbs at least 12 inches from the top of your plants. The plants could possibly burn or become damaged if they are too close to the direct bulb. 
  3. Make sure that you aren’t using incandescent light bulbs. They are similar to fluorescent lights, but they become much hotter with time and can easily dry out your tomato plants.
  4. Plan on growing smaller varieties of tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes and dwarfs tend to grow the best under fluorescent bulbs. 
  5. Your fluorescent bulbs should be emitting the correct blue and red light ratio. Tomatoes require a much smaller amount of blue light than they do red. Make sure the fluorescent bulbs that you buy are suitable for your tomato needs. Most fluorescent lights labeled as “grow lights” should already emit the proper color ratio. 

What Fluorescent Bulb Works Best?

A great option can be T-12 fluorescent light bulbs for starting seedlings. They typically last around 20,000 hours. You could also purchase High Output fluorescent bulbs (T-5 or T-8). They produce more light than the T-12, but you will only get about half the life at 10,000 hours of light time.

Most people prefer Compact fluorescents (CPLs) to grow larger plants once they are past the seedling stage. CPLs are pretty much the same as high output fluorescents, except they possess a reflector that adequately reflects direct light onto the plants. 

What Makes Fluorescent Lighting The Best Option For Tomatoes?

Fluorescent bulbs are usually cool to the touch. They can still dry out your tomato plants if they are too close to the light, but compared to other types of bulbs such as incandescents, Fluorescents emit less heat. Fluorescent bulbs are also budget-friendly.

They tend to run on the lower end of cost, making them more accessible to a broader range of gardeners. They are also easy to find. They aren’t an uncommon bulb.

Also, they are fairly easy to set up. Some lights can be very complicated, and the average grower may not have the knowledge it takes to assemble them. Lastly, Fluorescent growing lights are very quiet while they are on. With needing to be on 16 hours a day, peace and quiet are a must for many.  

Last Thoughts

Most gardeners strive for simplicity, and they want to use the methods that work the best. Using Fluorescent lighting gives you complete control over the amount of light your tomato plants receive every day.

Of course, there’s always something special about growing an outdoor garden filled with fruits and vegetables, but not all areas of the world provide enough sunlight to do so. Growing indoors allows individuals to create their own light and not rely so heavily on on the sun to work its magic.

Fluorescence lighting specifically even allows tomatoes to be grown in the winter and all year round. As long as gardeners choose the appropriate bulbs and keep them directly shining on their plants for 16 hours a day, they should have plenty of success growing their tomatoes in their own homes. 

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