First time indoor garden, reasonable MH setup

jbaker699August 14, 2013

Hi all,

First time poster, but I've gone through a handful of threads here on indoor gardening and appropriate lighting (many of which include amusing exchanges), read a book on it, and looked through various other internet resources. At this point I feel like I might have most of the lingo down, but...still really don't know what I'm talking about.

As much as I hate to say it, my intention is to start with a handful of tomato plants in the basement as a bit of an experiment, so I'm inclined to at least begin with something that doesn't cost an arm and a leg.

My question is, am I going to put myself in a poor position by going with a system like this:

It seems to be much lower cost than many of the other systems (or single components) that I've seen, but the ballast is electric, it includes both MH and HPS lights (though those may be throwaway quality and need to be replaced), and, importantly for me, seems to be easy to set up.

Anyone have any thoughts either way? Would love to have a few sun sugar cherry tomato plants indoors, but not sure that I can justify spending $300+ on it.

Thanks all,


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The price on your link is $119.98, how did you come up with $300? Secondly you'd probably will be able to grow 2-3 of those sugar cherry tomato plants as their spread is 2-3 feet.

Here is how I look at it. If you're just doing it for fun than it's an expensive hobby to see how those tomatoes will grow :)
Let's say you'll be running this 400w bulb for 14 hours daily and your price per kilo watt hour is 20 cents.

400/1000= .4 kilo watt x 14hours=5.6 kilo watts daily x 30 days = 168 kilowatts/month x .20 = $33.60 cost per month to run it. Now that's only a rough estimate. Best way do determine is to use a energy usage meter such as this

You can punch in your cost/kwatt and it will calculate how much energy you're actually using and what is you cost per hour. Hook up your fan, lamp etc. to a power strip before connecting it to the meter and you'll have total cost.
Plus you have other costs such as growing media etc.

Anyway , what am I getting at ? :) If you're trying to justify cost of growing just your 2-3 tomato plants than you will grow some very expensive tomatoes :-) I'm not sure how many pounds of tomatoes you might get at the end from each plant but lets assume it's a total of 10 lbs for all three plants. Grow time from germination to harvest 80 days. Your cost of running lights $89.60/ 10 lbs = $8.96/ lb :) and that's not considering other costs.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 11:14AM
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Hey slimak, thanks for the quick reply.

THe $300 was in reference to prices that I've seen for other systems or even just components of systems. I checked my electric bill earlier and calculated that I should be running an expense of around $20/mo between fan and lighting (based on cost/KWh of ~$0.095 and 18-20h/day).

And, I agree with you about them being expensive tomatoes. I'm justifying it with the following:
A) my parents are growing a few sun sugar plants now and...I'm embarrassed to say, but I might pay $9/lb for the damn things, they're that good. If I can have them downstairs for the picking during the winter I'll be a very happy man.
B) I'm looking at this as a trial run for indoor planting and if it goes well I will likely add more, and use it to start seedlings indoor next year. The last two years that I've tried them I've had relatively weak seedlings, so it serves a dual purpose.
C) Per above, the electricity costs should be somewhat lower, lowering the expense to be slightly more reasonable
D) I just think its a really cool idea and I have a really bad habit of picking up expensive hobbies. Trust me, it can't be nearly as bad as fly fishing in that regard.

So, for now I'm mainly hoping that the system I was looking at is serviceable. I figure If I'm going to start an expensive hobby and it really really doesn't work out, I can stop spending the extra $20 (or $30) on electricity and I'm just out the upfront cost of $120+-, versus getting a more expensive system. At the same time though, there's no point in getting something that's too cheap to be effective. Just trying to meet the right balance there.

Finally (and apologies for the length), I had read about bending (training) the tomato plants to vine up a circular trellis, with the implication being that it should lead to more efficient use of the light and likely provide enough room within the light's effective area for an extra plant or two. Any thoughts on that?

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 2:35PM
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My thinking is always " You get what you pay for" :) so if something costs more there is a good reason for it, better material, performance etc. If you're thinking long term than invest the money if you just want to try it out than just spend $119 and see what happens. Worst comes to worst your lamp will break down sooner. However, people give it pretty good reviews and that really what you should pay attention to. People who actually use that particular lamp can tell you a lot more than someone who hasn't :)

A) If they're that good, as you say to justify that cost so there is your answer

B) There you go, another positive :)

C) I guess I'm getting screwed in Illinois :) gotta love those taxes

D) I do understand you completely about Fly Fishing :) spend plenty of $ on that too lol. Bottom line is if it will make you happy than go for it. We spend plenty of money on worthless sh&t in life anyway and this actually is education as far as I'm concerned so it's a good investment rather than an expense.

Back your equipment quality issue. It's like with fishing equipment :) Think of your line with bait as a "Bulb", rod as a "Light fixture" and reel as an "Electrical ballast" :)

If you have a good line with bait, but so so rod and reel you still can get good results. A good bulb will give you the right PAR ratios and low depreciation in output that your plants will like.

The better rod you get you get the better action and strength you'll have. Fixture with good reflector will deliver and diffuse more light back to the plants.

The better reel you have the more efficient your power consumption will be and silent. Some ballast consume more power than others, are noisier and heat up more.

and over all the better the quality the longer it will last.

I hope that analogy didn't confuse you even more LOL

Sorry, don't know anything about the circular bending :) but it sounds painful

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 4:41PM
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I'll give you the best advice that one of the other members on this forum gave me. Stick to the KISS method (Keep It Simple Stupid) LOL

Give what the plants want and don't worry too much about improving efficiency. It doesn't matter if you get 2 or 3 more tomatoes in our case. Focus on delivering sufficient light, nutrition,air temperature and your plants will thrive.

I'm new to this either so take my advise for what it is but until you actually start growing your plants and try to control the environment for your plants you truly won't learn :) so buy some light and get started bud!

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 5:07PM
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Ha, glad to hear I'm not alone as far as expensive hobbies go.

Your examples make perfect sense. The way I see it, I start my friends off on a starter rod and real with hand-me-down or deep discount waders and boots for their first times, just to make sure that they like it before shelling out big bucks for serious equipment. I guess I'll look at this the same way.

Thanks a ton for all the feedback, I think I'll pick this up. And if you like tomatoes (or candy) I'd strongly recommend grabbing some sun sugar seeds for next season.

And good luck with the taxes. Trust me, we get 'em here too. What they don't get from us on electricity, they make up on something else.



    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 5:09PM
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Good luck, have fun and let me know how it goes! :)

I'll try those tomatoes , thanks!

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 5:32PM
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SouthCountryGuy Zone 4b-5 SE BC(Zone 4b-5 SE BC Canada)

Hehe, I see fly fishing, growing under lights and OCD really have a lot in common. You know your fly fishing and tying gear is out of whack when your insurance company requires you to carry a special rider for it *cough*.

While I don't run HPS or MH I have done a bit of research and it appears the technology in the ballasts has come a long way. From what I gather the newer tech ones are worth the money. Unlike rods I think you get your money out of ballasts. You can spend the same money and get a slug like a Winston or a real cannon with a GLoomis. Then again some people are twisted and like click pawl reels. LOL. Look for a thread about venture ballasts good info there.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 8:25PM
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