Hyper Tough 4' LED shop light from Walmart (5000 lumen 5000k 45w)


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I've had bad experiences with the flood light type LED grow lights so I recently bought this cheap LED light from Walmart to start my vegetables with. I've been playing around with it with some test vegetables to gain some insight before giving it a go in the Spring.

I rigged up a light sensor out of an old Moultrie game camera to a multimeter that gives me an ohms reading with light intensity. With the setup out of the sunlight and the sensor in place, I move the bulbs up and down and test the readings.

I realize this does not allow my readings to be compared to anything else other than what I test with my meter so for a comparison I have tested:
Outside Full Sun: 0.8 kOhms.
Outside Shade: 6.0 kOhms.

20221123_123105.jpg 20221123_123759.jpg


DISTANCE FROM TOP OF SOILSENSOR ON EDGE OF FLATSENSOR IN MIDDLE OF FLATNOTES
1.25"235.0 kOhms1.8 kOhmsHood too close and shading the edges of the flat.
2.5"9.4 kOhms2.7 kOhms
3.5"8.5 kOhms3.4 kOhmsSeems to be optimal distance for edge and center readings (whole flat).
4"8.5 kOhms4.0 kOhms
5.5"8.5 kOhms5.1 kOhms
7"9.0 kOhms6.2 kOhms
8.5"9.9 kOhms7.3 kOhms


I've had the bulbs 3.5" away from the soil for about two weeks now. The setup is sitting in a southern window for extra light which has been about half sunny and half cloudy so far. I turn the lights on when I wake up and open the curtains and turn the lights out when I go to bed.

Even though the readings say they are slightly shaded these tomato seedlings don't appear leggy and are growing towards the bulbs and not the sunlight but I think the sunlight must be helping them. I'm not sure if the bulbs would produce enough light on their own without some sunlight to back them up. But as the seedling grows towards the bulbs they get more light and so far it seems like they are happy but that could change as things progress.

I did previously remove a couple tomato seedlings that were a bit leggy on a higher distance and have recently started test cucumbers which haven't emerged yet.
 
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One thing I have noticed is that the normal amount of fertilizer I am used to giving seedlings is not enough nitrogen for this inside starting of seeds. Ambients temps are consistant of about 74F. The leaves are a pale green color, not too bad but I can tell. I am used to starting my seedlings outside in the sun or in a mini greenhouse and I have learned what amount of fertilizer works for that. Not sure why because I usually start my onions Feb 12th where the natural sunlight is short lived outside anyways so surely that cant be the reason. The soil does stay damper longer inside so maybe that is why, but that doesn't make sense to me. I do blow a fan on them about once per day to help with evaporation and fungi avoidance.
 
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At this point they seem to be doing pretty good. Better results than what I've had with the flood light grow bulbs. They aren't leggy. Nitrogen input or uptake still seems a bit low. I gave the cucumbers 200 ppm N as soon as the baby leaves flattened out so I'll see if that does better than what I gave the tomato seedlings to start with which was 30 ppm N.

20221127_202129.jpg
 
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The light seems to work well if I place it 3.5" above the soil and turn it on when they sprout and then raise it again when the plant is 1.5" from the bulb. This is still inside a southern facing window that has a tree that shades the window somewhat midday this time of year.

I decided to start over fresh with some pepper and tomato seeds to see if I can do better with the fertilizer which was lacking a bit at an early age on the previous plants.
 

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