Prepare for growing in the dull days of winter with artificial lighting, says

AG gardening editor Kris Collins

Rather than just sit back and hanker for the spring sowing season (which seems like a long way off) it is possible to grow a range of vegetables, herbs and annual flowers, or to grow on plants that would normally die back in winter. You just need to install some artificial lighting.

The most economical form of growlight is the compact fluorescent lamp (known as CFL). This is essentially a large version of the household energy-saving bulb, but adjusted to provide the right kind of light that your plants will need for good growth.

I’m experimenting this winter with a 200W CFL bulb, hoping to grow a few tomato plants, some peppers and a range of salad. Read on to see how it was all installed.

Step 1 Connect bulbs to the mains to check that they are working; a plug socket should be nearby, but not so close to be dangerous when watering. Make space to house the reflector unit, pot(s) and plant(s)

Step 2 As your plant(s) grow, the bulbs will need to be raised to prevent scorching of the foliage. To do this, start by hanging two lengths of chain or similar in order to suspend the bulb and reflector unit

Step 3 Attach the unit to the hanging chain, making sure the bulb sits level. Use ‘S’ hooks or similar – as plants grow the hooks can be moved to links further up the chain to provide more growing space

Step 3 Sow your chosen seeds in the usual way. I’ve opted for two tomato varieties: ‘Cherry Falls’ and ‘Gardener’s Delight’, as well as cayenne pepper, an oriental salad mix and two varieties of rocket

Step 5 Plug the lighting unit into the mains (although this can wait until seedlings start to appear).
It is worth using a timer switch to remove the hassle of remembering to switch the light on and off

Use grow bulbs to:

  • Extend the daylight hours your plants receive – create a 12hr day to produce fruiting in crops such as tomatoes.or to
  • Increase the light intensity during normal daylight – useful for improving the cropping of winter lettuce in cool greenhouses