LED Versus Fluorescent Bulbs

Here’s a comparison of a LED shop light versus a T8 fluorescent shop light.

For me the big consideration is the amount of light or Lumens that is going to be available for the plants. The four bulb fluorescent fixture is a big winner at 11,000 Lumens over the paltry 3200 for the LED bulb. Another thing I notice is that the LED has a much different color spectrum than the fluorescent – 4000 versus a range of 5,000 to 6500. I know that plants do well with fluorescent bulbs, but have never tried the LED.

I also like the fact that I can just use one fluorescent fixture to get the 11,000 lumens, but I’d have to use four fixtures to get up to 12,800 lumens with LED. The cost would also just to $160 for the four LED fixtures.

Comparison Cost Lumens Watts Life Color
T8 – 4 bulb fixture $50 11,000 128 30,000 5000-6500
LED shop light-1 bulb $40 3200 36 50,000 4000


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Best Bulbs for Shop Lights


I just bought a couple of  new shop lights and wondered what kind of bulbs would be best and also cost efficient.

New fixtures use the new T8 bulb. It uses less electricity and puts out as much or more than the old T12 bulbs.

Bulbs also come in a number of colors from Day Light (5000K), Warm Light and Cool Light (6500K).

Most of my research indicates that the Cool White bulbs are as good as the special Grow lights which are much more expensive.  They do lack some of the red spectrum, so some sites recommend using a mixture of incandescent and cool white. That seems a bit complicated and more expensive.

In my experience over the years, plants do well under just about any types of fluorescent lights.

Here are the sites which talk about lights.

I’ve decided to do a mixture of Cool White and Warm Light/Daylight bulbs.

This light fixture is available from Home Depot or Amazon. It does seem to be built better than the typical shop light and can also be plugged into each other. They also have a pull on/off switch.

Click here for a comparison of LED versus Fluorescent Lights.

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How to Make Seeds Sticks


The cost of some seeds can be quite expensive in some cases, so it just makes sense to not waste them or use more than you need.  A single packet of 15 seeds of Cheyenne Spirit cost $8.25 and last year I had poor germination with this cultivar.

Also some seeds are very tiny and hard to handle just using your fingers.

In the past I bought a plastic seed spoon, but thought I could come up with a replacement with little effort on my part.

I tried a couple different sources for my wood. I used a wood wedge, cut off a piece, sanded it and it works well. I also tried a stick from a frozen treat and with a little sanding it worked well also. The advantage of the wood is that it’s easy to see the seeds and count how many are on the stick. The wood also holds the seed well in place. A Popsicle stick should work well also.

I did try using a heated nail to put in a dimple into the wood, but found that I didn’t need it.

The seeds you see in the picture are Maltese Cross and are very small and normally would be hard to handle, but with the home-made seed sticks, they are much easier to work with.


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Park Seed – Free Shipping on $40+


One of the gardening sites I buy from almost every year is Park Seed. They offer free shipping if you are a new customer for any orders over $40. Just give them your email address and they will send you the Promo Code for the free shipping.

If you’ve been a customer in the past you just need to give them a new email address.

Note – the promo is toward the bottom of the page.

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Seed Starting Tips


The beginning of March is a good time to start seeds inside if you plan to plant them around May 1st. While there are many ways to do this, here’s the method which seems to work well for me.

1. I start with a heavy duty plant tray on the bottom. You can use these trays every year and they will never leak. You don’t absolutely need this, but it makes everything easier to work with and a lot safer. These are hard to find and I usually buy these from Park Seed.

2. I then use a standard black plastic tray which fits inside the heavy duty tray. These trays are flimsy and will leak and break over time.

3. I prefer to use inserts which are a bit larger – usually 36 will fit in a tray. I usually take off two cells in one tray so that I can easily add water to the tray – so I am left with 34 cells. This way your plants will have more root space and be heartier when you plant them. I don’t use the Jiffy pre-made pots as they are a bit expensive and you will need to buy them every year.

4. You will need a good potting mix. Don’t use soil, but you want to get something like Miracle-Gro Potting Mix and make sure it has added fertilizer.

5. If the mix is VERY dry, you will need to wet it down first. I usually put some in a large plastic container, add water and mix it all up until it feels moist. If the mix does have some moisture, I just add it to the inserts and fill it to the top.

6. I then take the inserts over to the sink, thoroughly soak the mixture and let it drip for a while.

7. I then add the seed to the top of the soil – two or three seeds per section.

8. Most seeds like to be covered up a bit and I like to use Vermiculite for this step. Vermiculite holds water and keeps the seed moist. Look at the directions on the seed packet as to how much to cover the seed. Some seeds don’t need or like covering so read the packet or do your research.

9. Since the vermiculite is dry, I spray it down with water.

10. I also add some more water to the bottom of the dry to make sure the soil mix stays moist. The water will be wicked up by the soil. After the first day or so you can get rid of the excess water.

11. I now put the plastic dome over everything and make sure it fits tightly.

12. Most seeds like a warmer soil to germinate so I use a shop light with regular bulbs and set it down over everything. There are some seeds which like a cooler soil to germinate so again read the instructions. The shop light will warm the soil and provide light which helps many seeds in their germination.

13. In a week or two or three your seeds will germinate and you can take off the plastic top.

14. You may notice the chains on the shop light and these are what I use to hang the lights from my basement ceiling. If you use a rope, you can make it adjustable. You want the lights as close to the plants as possible. I have also used a standard metal type book shelves to create a garden area. You can put one or two lights under each shelf and create quite a large growing area. Obviously you don’t want water dripping on the electrical fixtures, so use the heavy-duty trays and water from the bottom – put the water in the trays and let the plant roots pick up the water.

15. At this point you can also connect the lights to a timer. I would just turn off the lights about four hours per night. The plants are not getting much light from the shop light and need all the light they can get.

16. When the seeds germinate and are doing well, snip off all but one – the strongest.If you don’t want to do this, you can break take out the extras and replant them. I’ve found it best to put them in a covered dome for a few days to allow them to regain their strength.

Note – most of the supplies can be found at your local nursery.




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Soil Health – No Till

I’ve been watching and reading about soil health and will put the information I find on this page.

Here are some of the things I’m going to try.

  • No fertilizer in the garden beds – instead add compost to the top. Let the earthworms bring down the compost to the lower levels of the soil.
  • No fertilizer on lawns – try and find someone who will spread fine compost onto the soil.
  • Rotate plants – move plants around to different areas
  • Cover crops? I might try this –

Cover Crops for Home Gardens

Ray Archuleta’s Soil Health Demonstration

Below – this is a long video, but has a lot of great information.

Gabe Brown

Under Cover Farmers Video




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Asclepias curassavica – Tropical Milkweed


This particular milkweed has been the focal point of some recent controversy, so I thought I would put together as much research as I could find on this Monarch favorite.

Definition – Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE) is a protozoan parasite that infects Monarch and Queen butterflies.

Karen Oberhauser indicates that in Southern and Costal States + California – that OE can be a problem as the plants don’t die and OE can build up. Some sites advise to cut it down to the ground at the end of the season if you are in one of the warmer climates.

Thanks to Andy S. with this article from SciencMag.org. It again talks about the Southern State problem with OE and what can be done.

Here’s a recent TedTalk which seems to indicate that Curassaivica is good for Monarchs and is in fact medicinal against OE.

I emailed Chip Taylor, a well known expert in this field, about this video and this is his response.

“I haven’t had time to view the TED but here is my take from what I know about the issues.
There is a twist to the story – or interpretation. Monarchs surviving on A.c. having acquired an infestation of spores – are able to mate and pass on the spores to offspring since spores would be transferred to the new eggs or surrounding leaves. Monarchs receiving similar doses of O.e. spores but which have fed on other milkweeds would likely die – ending transmission to the next generation.
If you follow this, O.e. is a self-limiting disease (but you will never hear the researchers talking about it in these terms). Mortality/viability is dose related. Too much and you are dead, a little bit and you live to carry to spores to the next gen. A.c. allows more to survive and hence favors spore transmission.
That’s an issue in the south where A.c. overwinters (almost exclusively in gardens so the scale of the problem is quite limited) where O.e. can build up on leaves. It is less likely to be an issue in the north. Cutting back A.c. in the south at least twice a yr is recommended. It wouldn’t hurt to do that in the north if expecting to produce more than one gen on A.c.”

Here is a AskNature Article with the same information as the video.

Cardenolides per Species - interesting that Curassaivica has a very high percentage.

  • Asclepias curassavica – 1055
  • Asclepias syriaca – 50
  • Asclepias incarnata – 14
  • Asclepias tuberosa – 3
  • Asclepias verticillata – 1

My summation –  it always makes sense to be aware of the OE problem and if in the South or California to take measures to limit use of Asclepias curassavica or at least cut it back a couple times a year. While only 8% of migrating Monarchs have OE, 85 % of the non-migrating Florida population have it. 


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