Now that the sun has started shining again, I can finally see where it’s not shining. Getting the plants some sunshine has proven to be a bit more of a challenge than I expected. Part of this is because my windows are just above ground level so as the sun rises the angle makes it disappear more quickly. Another issue is that I have shrubbery outside my window, which further cuts into sunshine’s narrow window of opportunity. This wasn’t a problem until about a week ago when the shrubs finally started leafing out. I never noticed this issue before because when the blinds are open and I’m walking around the apartment in the morning, the sun gets in my eyes. So my hope is that as the plants get taller, the sunshine becomes less of an issue. Holding the plants up to the sunshine is yet another way that my microwave cart has come in handy. I spent Sunday morning logged on to the Dansville Baptist Church live stream and moving the plants around to catch as much light as possible. Obviously, this won’t work on weekdays when I need to be at the lab.
After consulting with my dad (a biology teacher and former plant nursery worker), I have come up with a couple solutions to this problem. First, I figured out on Sunday where best to arrange the plants where they could get maximum lighting. I also pulled out another shelf to arrange the plants on, and as an added bonus, it is more space-efficient! This still only gives them a maximum of a couple hours of direct sunlight each day, so I bit the bullet and set up some artificial lighting. I made the trip back to The Home Depot and picked up two 8.5” clamp lamps (i.e., heat lamps/brooder lamps) and two 120-watt plant light bulbs for them (both pictured below). We have a couple decorative shelves in the kitchen, which made a handy place for the lamps to attach.
There are a few points that I’ve kept in mind while setting up my lighting scheme. For one, I can rearrange plants! This is one of the perks of container gardening. I don’t have to worry about the tomato growing up and shrouding the other plants yet. When that is about to be an issue, I can simply move it.
Another thing that Dad told me is that cucurbits need less light than other plants, which made no sense to me until he informed me that cucurbits are a plant family that consists of the vining plants (cucumbers, squash, etc.). The logic behind this is that vining plants are designed to need less light because they live under things so they could climb. Knowing this helped me prioritize my lighting scheme. I have two cucurbits, the cucumber (Cucumis sativus) and the zucchini (Cucurbita pepo), so I don’t have to worry as much about whether or not they are getting enough sunlight. According to gardenguides.com (link in the list of references on the right side of the page), plants need AT LEAST five hours of direct sunlight per day, and as a rule of thumb, leafy plants can tolerate the most shade while root vegetables need the most sun. So once my carrots sprout, I will have to prioritize them to get as much light as possible. I can already tell how much the beefsteak tomato loves the sun; he contorts himself to get as much as possible! Fortunately, with my new artificial lighting system, I can give them as much light as I want, so I’ll be letting them get what they can during the day and giving them about 5 hours of artificial light once the sun goes down. Go, chloroplasts, go!