Posted in Gardening & Backyard Farming, Sustainable Homes and Living

LED grow lights vs Fluorescents

We have been growing microgreens for a few years now and are in to our 3rd growing season for our Friends & Family Microgreens Club.  We have been using T5 and T8* Fluorescent lights since the beginning, but the old T8’s are only used in a pinch. Seeing as we have changed pretty well all of our home lights to LED’s now, we thought we better start looking into changing out the lighting we use to grow our microgreens as well.

I belong to a microgreen growers group on Facebook and this question comes up over and over again. What type of lighting should I use for growing microgreens? I’m sure the group admins pull their hair out every time it gets asked…

As with anything, there are many different answers to this, based on several parameters. What is the budget? What level of grower are you – Personal use only, Growing Club, Start-up Entrepreneur, Large-scale Commercial Grower or something in-between.

As Growing Club members, we need to keep our budget to a minimum, as we are not a profit centre. Because of this, we started looking at LED tape / strip lights, which come in a roll and run on low-voltage. There are mixed reviews on these lights, with concerns of safety, quality and growth of plants on one side and loving the low power consumption and ease of setting up on the other.

Because of this we popped into our local LED lighting shop to see what they might offer. Canadian Wholesale Lighting supplied us with 2 different versions of LED grow lights: The tape or strip light I was thinking of, along with a package of 5 – T5 LED Tube fixtures.

What did we compare?

  • Ease of use
  • Energy use
  • Quality of Microgreens, including:
    • Taste
    • Visual – Colour / Growth / Volume

Ease of use / Energy use

The TopLED Strip Light comes with cord / transformer and mounting brackets, but has no in-line switch. This means you would have to use a power bar as switch, as we have done, but if not using that growing shelf one growing cycle,  you have to unplug the light. Not a big deal, but a little less convenient.

As we were just doing a test, we used cable ties to hold it on to wood hangers. This will have reduced the efficiency a bit, as strip curled around each end. In proper install, we would cut to length and attach with cord connectors. Light is a Red / Blue at 4 – 1 ratio. 1 – LED Strip light tested at 38 watts

TopLED Strip Light

The T5 LED Series Tube fixtures are boxed as a set of five 280mm x 10mm LED strip lights built in to reflective tubes, with a power cord / transformer / switch, connection cords which allow for one power cord to run a series of fixtures and brackets. Very easy set-up. The light is very hard on eyes, so we mounted them on lowest grow shelf. If you were using this style in larger install, I would recommend wearing UV eye protection. 5 – LED T5 Tubes tested at 27 watts

T5 LED Series Tube fixtures

Our existing 60cm / 2 ft. Sun Blaster T5 Fluorescent lights are in their 3rd season. They also came with power-cord / switch,  built-in ballast, connection cords which allow for one power cord to run a series of fixtures and brackets. Tubes can be replaced as needed.  4 – T5 Fluorescents tested at 84 watts total.

T5 Fluorescent Lights

Quality of Microgreens

Now to the part you have probably been waiting for. How did the microgreens grow under the 3 different lights?

We grew three trays of each, making sure they were all given the exact same conditions. All were grown in 10 x 20 trays (standard greenhouse tray size), using certified organic ProMix container mix.

The grow room was kept at a 20 C / 70 F temperature (we keep it cooler then some growers as we work on a 2 week cycle).  We grew Sunflowers and a Brassica mix. All trays were put under light on day 5, which includes a day for Sunflowers to be soaked before planting.

During the first cycle, the approximate height from top of soil to bottom of lights were as follows.

  • LED Strip – 27 cm / 10.5 inches
  • LED Tube – 24 cm / 9.5 inches
  • T5 Fluorescent – 22 cm / 8.5 inches (our standard height for these)

During the second cycle, we lowered the LED’s hoping to get better results

  • LED Strip – 18 cm / 7 inches
  • LED Tube – 14 cm / 5.5 inches
  • T5 Fluorescent – 22 cm / 8.5 inches

How did they grow?

You will see below, that there is a considerable difference in volume and density of the crops. The two types of LED lights had quite different success with each variety of Microgreens, while the T5 Fluorescents remained more consistent.


Sunflowers        T5 Fluorescents          LED Strip / Tape Light         LED T5 Tubes

Sunflowers        T5 Fluorescents          LED Strip / Tape Light         LED T5 Tubes

Brassica Mix

Brassica Mix       T5 Fluorescents          LED Strip / Tape Light         LED T5 Tubes

Brassica Mix        T5 Fluorescents          LED Strip / Tape Light         LED T5 Tubes

Taste Test

We did a taste test at end of second cycle. A very experienced tasting team, which included two family members and myself 😉 We did a simple 1st, 2nd & 3rd rating system. The results are as follows…


  1. LED Strip light – Nice taste, good water content
  2. T5 Fluorescents – Not a lot of difference to above, just a hair behind
  3. LED T5 Tubes – Very bitter. We used in a smoothie.

Brassica Mix

  1. LED T5 Tubes – Nice taste, good water content
  2. T5 Fluorescents – Not a lot of difference to above, just a hair behind
  3. LED Strip – Limp. No appeal

Final Conclusion

It seems that the different Microgreen varieties fared differently with the different lights. All I can really say is that you will have to try out which Microgreens grow well under your lighting. The big difference for most of us will be the cost to buy and cost to run.

The LED Stip lights should be the least costly to buy, as you can easily take one 5m / 16.4 ft strip and cover a 4 ft. shelf. The LED T5 Tubes used the least amount of power, but I don’t really think that the five tube package covered all the plants on 4 foot shelf that well.

The T5 Fluorescents used considerably more wattage, but are quite consistent in growing a good crop. If you are growing a few trays for yourself, the overall cost wouldn’t be that much. If growing on a larger scale, that cost would add up quickly.

We definitely would need more time to really make a proper conclusion. 

*We didn’t use one of our old 4ft T8 Fluorescents as part of this test, but just for fun, its power was rated at 54 watts for a two tube fixture.

Posted in Gardening & Backyard Farming, Healthy (& Tasty!) Eating


wp-1476915124094.jpgWe’ve just recently started playing around with microgreens for our family. Taking two old window blind displays that are best kept out of landfill, I reconfigured them a bit to line up the horizontal supports to allow for continuous shelves across both units. The light fixture that was previously hanging vertically inside one of the units makes great lighting for the top shelf.



We also picked up a few grow-light units that were on clearance at a local indoor gardening shop for the middle. These use very little power, but as you can see below, the plants love them! We still have a couple of 3 foot fixtures sitting in shop that will work once we expand to using bottom section of displays. The plastic panels that used to sit in behind the display blinds were handy as shelf covers (makes easy cleaning) and light reflectors.

1 week old Peas – Can’t wait to try these!

This little storage room in our shop is heated with a small oil-filled heater each year already, so there will be no additional cost to keep the plants happy. We keep the heat very low and will see how happy the micro greens are once winter really sets in. About a week before this post, we were down to -4 C overnight and it was still comfortable in room.

Total cost to get going was only about $80.00 + cost of seeds. We decided to buy larger quantities. The two below we bought 10 kgs. of each. A little costly up front, but will save a lot over winter and spring. From what I can read, micro greens have an average 4 – 5 times the nutrients as their mature counterparts. There was a study at the University of Maryland that tested the claims on nutrition and found some exciting results. Here is the short version from WebMD.

We bought our seeds in bulk from a Canadian seed supplier that sells only organic, non-GMO seeds. Here is part of our first indoor crop!

The Sunflowers (Sunnies) are looking great as well. Diannes’ favorite! The black pieces are just the seed hulls that haven’t fallen off yet.

If anyone else is experimenting with microgreens, please let us know. We are thinking of starting a local ‘MicroGreens Club’ next year if all goes well, where we could have affordable monthly subscriptions. Let us know if there is anything along those lines in your area.








Posted in Gardening & Backyard Farming

Banned pesticides pose a greater risk to bees than thought, EU experts warn | Environment | The Guardian

Western honeybee (<em>Apis mellifera</em>) workers on flowers of oilseed rape near Shropshire, England.

New study by European Food and Safety Authority finds ‘high risk’ to bees from neonicotinoid pesticide sprays prompting calls for extending ban

Source: Banned pesticides pose a greater risk to bees than thought, EU experts warn | Environment | The Guardian

Posted in Gardening & Backyard Farming

Should you grow native plants?

Here is an interesting perspective from Toby Hemenway on: Should you or shouldn’t you grow native plants in your yard. He is a powerful advocate of native plants. And, at the same time, is concerned that the passions of some other native plant advocates might lead down a path that is not as good for native plants. Specifically, the planting of exclusively native plants vs. planting of an edible garden.

Have a look and let us know what you think.

Posted in Gardening & Backyard Farming

2015 Home Grown Food Summit

2015 Home Grown Food Summit.

Get ready to learn the essentials of food cultivation, harvesting and storage that will prepare you to grow your more organic life. The Summit offers 30+ presentations to help you get home grown food on your dinner table.   The Summit features the worlds leading experts in backyard food production.  These people have dedicated their lives to help you re-establish the skills of organic living as the foundation of good health and environment.

The Home Grown Food Summit is free to attend.

Here is what you can expect

Starting Monday April 6th and going through to Sunday April 12th, starting at 6:00 am EST four or five presentations will be posted.   The presentations will be up for a full 24 hours for you to watch and enjoy. Because we all deserve healthy food.

Meet The Presenters!
8 Reasons You Are Insane If YouAren’t Growing Some Of Your Own Food
Mike Adams

Youth Gardening:

Getting The Next Generation Growing
Julia Parker-Dickerson
GROW Bio-Intensive Gardening: Food
And Income In
Your Backyard
John Jeavons

The Natural Selection

Of The Wise
Sally Fallon
Aquaponics – Everything You NeedTo Know To Get Started
Sylvia Bernstein
Working With Kids So TheyWill Want To
Work With You
Joel Salatin
Picking Chicken Breeds BestFor Your Yard
Jeannette Beranger
Comparing The 6 Ways To KeepChickens and Which Is Best For You
Paul Wheaton
Growing Your
John Kohler
How To Preserve FoodWater Bath 
and Pressure Canning
Kendra Lynne

Secret Garden

Of Survival
Rick Austin 
Mulch Gardening Secrets
Jill Winger
Quality Seed
Stephen Scott
How To Preserve Food By Fermentation
Wardeh Harmon
7 Ways We Change
The World Growing
Our Own Food
Gary & Valerie

Beginners Guide To

Hunting Deer For Food
Jackson Landers

Detox Your

Leslie Parsons

8 Steps To Welcome Rain Into Your

Life and Landscape
Brad Lancaster

13 Wild Weeds Essential For

Human Survival
Katrina Blair
Permaculture Guilds: The BuildingBlocks For Food Forests
Toby Hemenway


With Plants
Doug Simons

13 Tips, Tricks,

And Lessons From Homesteading an Acre
David Goodman

How To Eat &

Enjoy Insects
Alllen Davisson

Botany In

A Day
Tom Elpel

Straw Bale Gardening
Joel Karsten

6 Laws Of Plant Growth And The Mittleider Method
Jim Kennard

Living Without Refridgeration
Woniya Thibeault

10 Reason To Grow Up Instead of Out
Laurie Neverman

Meet Your Host
How To Produce Half Of Your Food In Your
Backyard In Less Than An Hour Per Day

Marjory Wildcraft

Known as the Martha Stewart of self reliance Marjory knows just about everything
there is to know about growing and producing food sustainability in a back yard setting…
Posted in Gardening & Backyard Farming

Humus – the essential ingredient: Graeme Sait at TEDxNoosa – YouTube

Humus – the essential ingredient: Graeme Sait at TEDxNoosa – YouTube.

As Graeme Sait explains in this must-see Tedx talk, we all need to protect and increase our healthy soils, which have been devastated through conventional farming and other means. The humus in soil is what traps carbon, holds moisture and contains the minerals needed for healthy plants and food crops.

Graeme talks about one way we can all help keep our planet habitable for future generations, by simply making sure our towns and cities are collecting food waste and turning it in to compost, which is then put back into the soil to feed it.

Posted in Gardening & Backyard Farming

▶ Flow™ Hive Full Reveal – YouTube

Here is a rather successful Indiegogo campaign that allows you to support and own a very interesting new idea in Bee Hives. Instead of having to disturb the bees and endanger yourself to get at the honey, you can have the honey flow out easily through what looks to be a very exciting and innovative new hive technology. This could make it much easier for many more of us to enjoy our own home-grown honey and help to keep our honey bees around. If you do get one, let us know how it goes.

▶ Flow™ Hive Full Reveal – YouTube.

Posted in Gardening & Backyard Farming

Garden Pool

Here is a great way to make use of back yards pools. Many times you will hear people wondering how to get rid of their old in-ground pool. Instead of getting rid of it, take advantage of the structure to feed your family, or perhaps start an urban farm.

The use of home aquaponics has really been taking off among the urban homesteaders / backyard farmers over the last few years. Great to see all of the innovative ideas that people are coming up with. For more information, check out sources such as Aquaponics Source, where they have a blogs on how to build your own system along with inspirational stories from around the world.

Garden Pool from Dark Rye on Vimeo.