If you are new to growing crops (or trying, or planning on trying) in an urban farm, you may at first think that you'll at least get decent results by planting seedlings and watering occasionally.
Unfortunately, this philosophy is far from reality. There are many more factors important in cultivating crops in a small scale indoor environment.
These include but are not limited too:
- soil acidity
- light exposure
- pest control
- growing medium,
- air circulation
- and much more.
Perfecting all of these challenges can be extremely difficult, even for seasoned experts. But if you are growing indoors, there is one mistake too many beginners make.
What's the mistake?
All plants, including many of the common crops you will grow in an urban farming project:
- herbs (basil, dill, etc)
- loose leaf lettuce
- leafy greens
- bok choi
Relay on photosynthesis to grow.
Simply put, this process starts with light, water, and CO2, and ends with plant growth (see image below).
Consider for a second how bright and warm the sun is.
When you try to grow plants inside, even if you place your plants "near a window", the light exposure is simply not the same.
Why is this?
A basic explanation is that light is defracted or split up into weaker parts when it shines through a material like glass.
Depending on the refraction angle, rays of light will scatter after crossing the window. This is not great news for your indoor plant, as it will receive a much weaker light source, and hence, its photosynthesis will be limited resulting in limited growth ability.
In fact, for an herb such as basil (or any "warm weather" crop), you may need to as much as double your light exposure per day to see any results when growing indoors.
But what if there is simply not enough direct sunlight in a day to support 2x as much direct light for your indoor farming operation?
It turns out, there is a solution. What is it?
Before going further, let's quickly review, we've established:
a) you will need more light exposure if growing indoors because your exposure strength will be much weaker
b) you may not have enough natural light hours available to have the necessary natural light exposure for the crop you desire to grow (especially when growing a warm weather crop like basil).
c) another solution exists, and you need it to have any real shot at success for most crops
In order to supplement your growing operation, you will need grow lights. Also known as artificial lighting, grow lights are the best solution to any lighting deficiencies for indoor urban farmers.
In fact, proper use of indoor grow lights can be the key difference between spindly and gross looking plants and abundant yields that continue to prosper and bear fruit.
> Exploring the 3 fundamental types of grow lights
At this point you may be starting to realize grow lighting may be the missing tool in your early attempts at growing fresh local produce for yourself (or to sell to local restaurants).
The good news is, grow lights are readily available online and can sometimes even improve over sunlight as far as plant production.
The bad news?
There are a couple different options to choose from with grow lights, and the "best" choice will depend on your level of expertise and scale.
For more details, check out our post "3 Fundamental types of grow lighting for urban farming beginners"
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