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Grow Lights on the Cheap

Now that some of my chilli seeds have germinated my main aim is to get as much light to them as possible.

While we’ve had a few glorious Spring sunny days the weather is still a bit unpredictable and the days not too  long. As a result it is crucial to get as much light you your chilli seedlings as possible. The more they get now the more developed they will be when summer finally arrives and the sooner you’ll get fruit from them.

I’ve written in the past about how I use regular fluorescent tube lights to help give my chili seeds a boost in the early spring. While this is cheap and very effective I’ve heard from quite a few readers that they don’t have the space for specific grow lights or a grow box.

I also use a couple of other methods to get supplementary light to my chilli plants early on in the year. Below are a couple of cheap ways you might be able to use without having to buy additional lighting equipment.

Kitchen Lights

After moving house last year I recently discovered the previous owners had fitted under cupboard lighting in the kitchen. Not only is this great when cooking in the evening but i have recently started to realize it’s potential to help boost my chilli growing!

Kitchen Lights

Our kitchen is nice and warm at night i move a couple of trays of seedlings into the kitchen (from the conservatory) each evening and switch on the lights for the night.

These low powered lights are only 16Watts so don’t cost much at all to run yet they produce perfect light to help keep chilli seedlings growing, especially at this time of the year when the days aren’t the sunniest. These types of lights don’t produce much heat so you don’t need to worry about scorching your tender plants or them drying out too quickly.

Desktop Grow Light

Desktop Fluorescent Lamps

If you don’t have under cupboard lights in your kitchen you may already have a desktop lamp that may be suitable for giving you chilli plants a boost.

Many desktop lamps, such as the one on the right use CFL bulbs which can be used as a temporary light source for your seedlings. You can pick them up on amazon pretty cheaply if you don’t already have one.

If you already have a lamp that might fit the bill be sure to check the type of bulb your desktop lamp uses as a regular incandescent bulb will not do the job. They produce the wrong spectrum of light and emit way too much heat which will scorch and likely kill your plants. Only use lamps with a Compact Fluorescent (CFL) bulb.

Cheap Grow Light Tips

It’s worth bearing in mind that with both of the types of fluorescent lights mentioned above that you need to keep the light very close to the seedlings to have the maximum benefit. I usually try to keep the seedlings within 15cm away from the light to get the most benefit.

These CFL lights are great for young seedlings however as chilli plants grow they require light from a different end of the light spectrum. As a result after a few weeks of CFL light your plants will either need regular sun light or a more specialized grow light that will allow the plants to flower.

General consensus states that plants should have at least 4 hours of darkness per 24 hours. As a result try not to keep your pepper plants under your grow lights 24/7.

When using higher grade grow lights it may become necessary to add a small fan to help circulate the air around seedlings in order to help keep them cool and reduce mold around the tender stems. Also circulating air will help strengthen the plants stems – essential if you are planning on moving them outdoors in the summer times.

When using grow lights you do need to keep an eye on your seedlings more regularly. As mentioned above you’ll need to check them regularly for excess heat (curled/scorched leaves), signs of being too dry or at the opposite end of the scale becoming moldy. Very young seedlings are very susceptible so be sure to check on them at least twice a day so you hopefully have time to rectify any issues before the plants are permanently damaged.

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