I live in a condo that receives a good amount of light and would like to grow tomatoes, peppers and herbs indoors. Please advise me on what supplemental lighting is required and how I should set it up.
The amount of light required to grow plants indoors will depend on the particular plant. Tomatoes, peppers and most herbs have similar requirements and grow best in full sunlight. Growing them indoors, even in a home receiving a good amount of natural light, will require supplemental lighting. 12-16 hours a day is recommended.
There are 4 main parts to an indoor grow light system:
Stand – the structure from which lights are suspended. You will want this to be adjustable, so you can keep the lights about 3 inches from the top of the plants as they grow.
Electrical ballast – the electrical component that houses the lights and attaches to an electrical source.
Lamp – the bulb that provides the actual light. Grow light systems typically use fluorescent bulbs. While they are relatively cheap to operate they do need to be changed every 6 months or at the very least every year. T12 tubes that are 1.5 inches in diameter are the most common and come in a variety of lengths. For growing plants, full spectrum tubes are recommended as they imitate natural sunlight as closely as possible.
Reflector – a shield that directs the light down onto the plants and controls heat produced by the lamps.
You will probably also want a timer in order to avoid having to manually turn lights on and off daily. These plants do need some complete darkness each day.
Complete indoor systems are available from many garden centres and through online catalogues. Garden Shows, such as Canada Blooms which is on in Toronto at the moment, are good places to view and compare such products.