LED Grow Light Experiments

Learning about DC, or Direct Current electricity, with my LED grow light experiments for growing vegetables indoors for winter.
Here are my first 3 home made arrays, or strips of 6-high intensity 3 volt each LED’s made from cut plastic strips from old clear, see through DVD cases.

Led lights are quite linear and focused and don’t spread the light too far, so many are needed to cover adequate area. The plus side is they are very low volts and do not consume a lot of power.

A pin was used to puncture the two holes through the plastic, matching the positive and negative LED connectors rather than one large hole for the bulb. This helped keep the bulbs in place without glue.

Foil was wrapped around to help reflect more light and to help keep wiring contained and tidy. Wiring connections to LED’s were soldered and then taped to make sure raw connections are kept from touching each other. A plastic strip placed on the back before the foil, also to cover and protect wiring.

A standard computer power supply was used as a power source to convert 120 V-AC (Alternating Current) household electricity to 12 V-DC electricity.
DC or Direct Current is the type of electricity that is used in solar power. The reason Alternating Current is used for the Hydro grid is because is has to supply many households and has to pump large voltages along it’s grid in order to travel or get to everyone, and then to cover everyone’s use. When solar power is used, it is used only for the consumption to and for one household, so less current and power is needed.

computer power supply color codes

Standard computer power supply wires are color coded to show their uses. Color codes have been upgraded only slightly over the years to accommodate more gadgets, but the basics are still there. Using any two of the ground (black) and the yellow wires connect to 12 volts that is needed. Connecting a wire from green to a black ground puts power on without a computer attached. It is important that there is something there to power before putting on the power. My standard power supply had a handy on off switch, so it wasn’t constantly on, and I didn’t have to always pull the plug.

I preserved my power supply and did no wire cutting, but used the pin connectors. By lightly coating and soldering the wire ends coming from the LED’s as capping, sometimes adding more bits of wire to make it slightly thicker at the end, wires would hold in the connector pin without slipping out. As I made a couple of arrays, two array wires together fit snuggly into one pin connector, and adding more wire wasn’t then that necessary, although soldering was, to stop frays and solidify the wire. All I had to do after soldering the ends was push the wire in snuggly without any special pin connectors. I connected only to the yellow (positive+) and ground (negative-) pins needed for 12V.

My resistor set up. I used a handy wizard tool to help me calculate the resistors from

led wizard
Mr. Andersen explains circuits the best on you tube.

Mr. Andersen circuits
Here is a homemade canopy experiment made from sample led strips, and foil from 2 simple cookie sheets together. Edge rims were cut off, and new foil rims were made bent and folded over. Slightly unbent they could slide in and out of each other to any length, and then completely bent to hold the position. This set up was lightweight.

Canopy unplugged, underside. White leds in center screwed onto light piece of flat wood covered with tin foil. Strips are simply taped. I wrapped the sheet foil around a pole to curve it a bit.

Light canopy, top. Wood was then attached and screwed onto foil by two hooks. Wires are pulled through the hooks and pulled through two more hooks screwed onto the underside of shelf. The canopy is plugged into the 12v power supply.

Plants are said to like the red waves more than blue, so I will be changing these to more red.
These lights are not strong enough for the lavender seedlings below, and I will need more. So I will keep experimenting. As you can see lights can get right up close without burning the plants.
Even though there is only one red strip its waves seem to carry further than the blue, and white, reflecting or touching over everything. The red hue can be seen in most of the photos above. Right now, with white, red and blue, and including clean halogen, my kitchen glows luminously with a warm sunset type coloring.

Posted a video on you tube channel, I’ll post it here also soon.


Making of “The Good Earth”

Composting is hot! Quite literally! I often pass by and give the container a touch to see if it is doing what is supposed to, and never cease to be amazed that it is a brew of activity that can generate heat all by itself. It is like a CSI moment lab experiment, and it is a kick to see how decomposition process works in its regeneration.

Home made kitchen compost bin made from a bleach container, drilled with holes-none on bottom for this method, and a cut flap as opening seems to give enough aeration. Hold hand over flap and give a shake over sink once a day. I often used a stir stick to make sure nothing stuck on the bottom.

For years I misunderstood what compost actually consisted of because of the term “table scraps”. A term I have used myself, and was the reason I was initially turned off from trying it. I pictured “table scraps” as dinner scraps all greased up, before they hit the garbage bin, was grossed out, and immediately decided against composting without truly understanding it. I pooh-poohed people who kept bins, all the while admiring their gardens,-“Boy they must really love gardening to go to that extent! Guess I’m not a gardener.” After research and trail and error, table scraps is not a term I would use any longer to describe what goes into good compost.
Although many people have composted with all types of content, my formula has nothing that includes any meat or grease, living worms, or discards from the dinner table, or cooked food at all, and more of raw vegetable scraps before any cooking, and simply dried plant material.
My first trial was to make compost tea which was unsuccessful, as I had no water pump to aerate it. Composed of water and just basic dried leaves from my household plants it was supposed to decompose naturally, according to an article. I thought I could stir it frequently instead of an air pump. I got to see my first decomposition lessons in a very dramatic fashion, when I stopped stirring it overnight. I woke up to a mound or bubble of fermentation. It was more fascinating than seeing my first yeast bread rise. A brew of activity and bad smell when I stirred again, that gradually dissipated the more I stirred. After several days, I realized that my compost tea wasn’t working out, as I learned it shouldn’t smell bad, but if done properly should smell earthy. So out it went, and a lesson of aeration was learned.
I also learned that compost tea if applied too much could make the plant grow too big. Without forming proper development to hold its new weight, it was top heavy, and caused it to topple. To me this meant some skipped steps which might be crucial for a plant and its resulted fruit, so I decided against compost tea. I wasn’t in the business trade, or wanting fast and big at the cost of fewer nutrients. I wasn’t in any rush, and I wanted the whole nutritious fruit, not some showy, but empty, store shelf decor.

After aeration was learned, the next trial of regular compost, was finding the proper proportions to eliminating any fowl smells. My second and successful compost was basically 3 parts green, to 1 part brown.

One part brown. Dried out used tea, their ripped up bags, with a touch of dried and chopped lemon peels.

Meaning 3 parts whatever vegetable peels of the day and 1 part dried leaves (my finished tea bags that I left out to dry). Brown could also be dried leaves and clippings, and various other items, which are well listed on internet.
Types of things that went in my brew; broccoli, strawberries-(mostly the green leaves of their top and less of the strawberries, due to excessive wetness), banana peels, green pepper remains, (not the seeds), carrot peels, just basically any vegetables (not including potatoes-smelly), some fruit rinds and peels-but not too much as it would make it too acidic. Generally I avoided overdoing any one vegetable or fruit, and tried to keep everything in good proportions for my batch.
My bin was a thoroughly rinsed bleach plastic container which was drilled with holes, and a cut open lid. As it was indoors it was not drilled on the bottom, but I made sure it was never wet enough to drip or be waterlogged on the bottom. My bin size was more wide than tall, and that gave it enough air that seemed to work in it’s favor, as when I tried a different container that was taller than wide, it seemed to choke and start to stagnate. I usually never had to add any water with daily additions and a daily stir, as most vegetables contain enough water to keep the compost damp enough while decomposing, but not sopping. I chopped matter quite fine before I threw it in so it would decompose faster. If it was too moist or did become too soppy, I just added more dried leaves and saw dust, and a just a bit of earth until it’s consistency was more like damp earth.
After two months..voila! earthy compost! And, it smelled good and wholesome, almost like fresh cut grass! I am letting my first batch sit for another month, while I have started a second, to make sure it is thoroughly decomposed so as not to burn my plants.
I learned that it is continually active, and truly a living process, a brew and concoction. It is only good for plants at a certain stage, before it too starts to loose its nutrient value, while it continues on its path to change into something else again, timelessly regenerating.
I always thought earth was just something that was mysteriously there under my feet, I never realized you could actually make good earth!

Into the Light

It was a good day for finally finding some good LED lights locally for my plants.

Here is my golden wax bean sprout changing leaf color from light to dark after only 1 hour of being under new LED lights which had a better 5500k rather than the 3000k of Halogen before it.

I haven’t been posting as I have been madly reading up on how to grow, and trying to understand what plants need in every respect including light.  I’ve been browsing through paper  seed catalogues, and it has been quite a tactile experience, flipping through pages at a leisure pace over tea, enjoyable, and surprisingly calming compared to all the flash and sales pitches of the internet. A steady visual diet of flowers, even pictorially, really does something to enrich the spirit.

Some traditions are worth keeping, paper catolgues make better compost than computer chips.

As you can see above, I have been recycling water bottles into planting pots. The tops snap over the bottom, and the bottom snaps into a draining dish. Also some plastic egg cartons, but once seeds sprouted, those had to be transplanted quickly. The plastics worked better than peat pots that either lay soggy or were too dry, and kept moisture in adequately. Halogen light was the best I could find in the general stores, and when plants were becoming spindly, I had to jump into research on lighting.  Almost going with florescent, but discovering they were potentially harmful to health (mercury), I found LED lights, and fell in love with them.  The heat from the halogen was creating a lot of moisture build up on the egg carton ones, that could be dangerous for plants making them susceptible to rot and fungus.  I had to leave those covers propped slightly open to avoid total sogginess.  Even before the seedlings on the Lavender started sprouting, the earth began smelling somewhat aromatic and filled me with great anticipation.

I am very impressed with the LED lights so far, good response from the plants, low electrical consumption, a lot less heat to worry about. The lighting for photography isn’t bad either, and they should fit right in for the DC change over to solar power,  I am just in love with them.  So now I will be designing a total light set-up for a greenhouse in the planning stages that should keep me growing through out winter months too.

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