Is this an acceptable cheap setup?

joeschmoe80(6 (Ohio))November 25, 2013

I'm trying to put together an inexpensive setup to start some tree seedlings in my basement to then move outdoors in May or so.

I'll probably start them around the time they've stratified in the fridge. Mostly oaks, possibly a few others too.

Would this setup work, and, provide enough light?

2 incandescent "work light" type fixtures, like the ones with the 8.5" aluminum reflector that you can get for less than $20, the "clip on" type, but mount them to some type of hanging fixture. The ones I'm looking at are rated to 150 watts.

Then two 85 or 105W CFLs...


1. How big of an area would I be able to light sufficiently for this task to where the seedlings won't be weak or leggy?
2. Do I need CFL "grow lamps" like what you can get from Hydrofarm, or would any "regular" CFL work?
3. I also have concerns that the large base of the typical CFL won't fit in the light fixture - which is something such as this:

Here is a link that might be useful: Light Fixture

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Well Joe, I'll try to help a little but let me start by saying that I've never grown an oak (or any other tree for that matter) from seed. So, this is going to be sort of a shot in the dark for me :-) Mainly because I don't know how much light (in terms of lux or foot-candles) your oak seedling need and I also don't know how many you intend to grow.

I looked around the web a bit and found a technical bulletin from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture called "Radiant Energy in Relation to Forests". From reading page 91 (see link below) I gather that the light requirement differs for different kinds of oak trees, but something around 2500 foot-candles (that's about one fourth the intensity of full midday sun) should be pretty good. I assume their foot-candle figures are based on the trees getting that amount of light for a large part of the day.

Anyway, based on that information, I do think your two lights (using either the 85 or 105 watt) would provide enough light if you didn't have too many seedling. You may have to experiment a little regarding the distance the lights should be from the plants and of course how many hours per day to leave the light on.

I did some math, based on the lights being about six inches above the seedlings. At six inches above the seedlings, each 85 watt bulb (about 5800 lumens) should provide about 1800 foot-candles without a reflector. With the reflector that would be bumped up to about 2300 or 2400 foot-candles. If you use the 105 watt bulbs (about 7100 lumens) each bulb would provide about 2200 foot-candles and with the reflector about 2800 or 2900 foot-candles.

You do not need any special "grow lights". You should however get CFL's that put out something close to daylight, as far as the color goes (5000k - usually referred to as "Full Spectrum" would be great). Don't know what fits and what doesn't fit in the fixtures you mentioned however.

I don't know how much area each light would cover either, you'd have to just experiment a little. If you feel you need more coverage, you could raise the lights a little. That, of course, would reduce the foot-candles received by the seedlings but I think, using both lights, you have plenty anyway.

Really wish I could be of more help.

Here is a link that might be useful: Light for Oaks

    Bookmark   November 26, 2013 at 1:18AM
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I've successfully grown swamp white oak seedlings under the T8 fluoro shop lights from HD. I use two "daylight" bulbs, on about 16 hours. I grow the seedlings in tall pots so that the roots go deeper instead of out, keep lights almost right on top of the trees. I usually get them to sprout around Jan/Feb, keep under the lights for a few months, then put near south window for a few weeks once they are about 2 feet tall, then acclimate to outside.

That's what's worked for me. Once they get fairly tall, they will need more light than what cheapo lights can provide unfortunately.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2013 at 11:28AM
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