Solatube and vegetables

11/8/2013 ~ I longed for Solatube to bring light to my veggies, so I could grow them indoors during the winter. I have almost no windows in my living room, just a narrow clerestory.

Tomato plant I brought in about a month ago when overnight temperature was freezing. Photo taken 11/8 2013

Tomato plant I brought in about a month ago when the overnight temperature was freezing.
Photo taken 11/8 2013

Today, November 8, 2013, the Solatube is installed in my living room ceiling, and it’s not adding nearly as much light as I had expected, much less hoped.

So, I Googled for veggies that will grow in “low light”. I found several excellent choices, except the definition of “low light” appears to be “two hours of full sunlight” a day.

The Solatube is producing about as much light as on a cloudy day. There’s not going to be one hour of “full sunlight.”

So, what exactly is full sunlight? I don’t mean that I have no idea what sunlight looks like outside on a sunny day. What I am asking is, does that mean with all the UV included? Because I know for sure that Solatube excludes UV. Solatube advertises how it will not raise the temperature of a room, nor fade furnishings, so that aspect of sunlight, the heat and bleach aspect, is not a part of what Solatube delivers.

To compensate for the lack of heat to accompany the light, I’ve begun today to water my indoor veggies with very warm water. I think I can water them with quite hot water, but I haven’t yet gone that far. I know that during the summer I water my garden from a hose that sits in the sun, and that water is very hot. I try to remember not to use the water directly on plants, due to the fact it feels scalding hot to the touch. But, I sometimes forget, and to this point no plant has appeared harmed by the hot water.

The rather comprehensive article I found on low light vegetables said that the only thing I will grow with tomatoes, is frustration. It grouped peppers and squash with tomatoes.

Nevertheless, my eagerness to get Solatube was spurred by my desire for home grown tomatoes during the winter. And, my three pepper plants have peppers, they just aren’t maturing as quickly as they did outside during the summer.

Three nice sized buds on my tomato.  Photo taken 11/12/13

Three nice sized buds on my tomato.
Photo taken 11/12/13

11/12/2013 ~ In the bottom right of the photo you can see three nice sized buds on my tomato.

Now that I’m aware of them, I think they were in the first photo, too, but much smaller.

This is exciting for two reasons, first of all, it means the tomato set buds since it has been in the house, so the low temperature in my living room does not seem to be inhibiting it from flowering, and second, the buds seem to have grown quite a lot since the Solatube began bringing in light.

Happiness!!!

11/18/2013 ~ Here is a list of the vegetables I’ve planted already, to see if they will grow and flourish indoors with Solatube for light ~

Carrots

Celery

Chili Peppers

Cilantro

Onions

Peas: Green Arrow and Snow Peas

Potatoes

Radishes

Squash

Tomatoes

12/13/2013 ~ Tomorrow my tomato seeds arrive, for smaller tomatoes. I think it’s easier for smaller tomatoes to grow from seeds to maturity. I hope I can get tomatoes to grow indoors, in the winter, with Solatube and candle heating. Fingers crossed.

2/19/2014 ~ Same veggie list, but with results

Carrots ~ came up but didn’t grow very much. Taking them outside today 2/19/2014. The wind and overnight cold temperatures killed them, as observed 2/20/2014.

Celery ~ Pretty good. The stalks grew tall, but not very thick.

Chili Peppers ~ The taller, stronger plant is getting new leaves, tiny new leaves 2/19/2014. The leaves are growing, but not very fast. 4/8/2014.

Cilantro ~ The best I can say is that most of it didn’t die. Outside, it’s still not looking happy. Then, it died.

Onions ~ I’ve picked and used lots of greens, but the best growth was under T5s and that doesn’t compare to the onions outside.

Peas: Green Arrow and Snow Peas ~ a Bust! Or, it’s also possible that armadillo bugs got them.

Potatoes ~ to my surprise I noticed one plant is up and growing, but fairly spindly. 4/8/2014 ~ There are several plants up, so they must respond to the warmer weather. It appears they came up when nights were no colder than 54*.

Radishes ~ In the pot with the peas. Tiny plants, never got big. Outside now. 4/8/2014 ~ I can’t say they are flourishing, but they are developing large leaves. In a week or so I can do a taste test.

Squash ~ Armadillo bugs kept getting it. So, no idea. Though I was supplementing light with a GE Plant light.

Tomatoes ~ Tiny plants, not maturing much, but looking good. 4/8/2014 ~ It’s taken this long for secondary leaves to develop on the first plant, under Solatube light with a candle for added warmth. The tomatoes under the T5s did much better, but that still isn’t more than secondary leaves. Lizzano Tomato Seed from England  ~ Read More.

Useful Articles

Growing Plants Indoors Under Lights, University of Massechusetts, Amherst

2 thoughts on “Solatube and vegetables

  1. Reply Joyce M Feb 8,2014 10:44 pm

    How is the growing vegetables under sola tubes coming alone?
    I want to do this too, and am seeking encouragement and the fruit of other’s experience.

    –Joyce M

    • Reply Karen Feb 9,2014 9:50 am

      Hi Joyce, Well, first of all this has been the most fun of any winter, because of my indoor gardening efforts.

      Radishes, peas and potatoes were a total bust.

      The tomato seeds from England, where it’s not nearly as sunny as here in New Mexico, are looking hopeful. They raise the question of heat… my house isn’t very warm, at best it’s about 55* on a Really Warm day with lots of candles going for heat.

      Also, much to my surprise, the chili pepper plants I brought in last fall are getting new leaves. Again, it was websites from England that alerted me to pepper plants being “annuals” only because of severe cold over months. Once brought inside, they look pretty happy.

      My garlic is … questionable. It looks like it’s doing fine, but then all of a sudden the plants droop. It could be that I’m not watering them enough. Or, it could be that they’ve developed as much as they intend, and the garlic should be pulled up. I’m going to wait another couple of weeks before I pull up.

      My lettuce and collards are going well, but that’s under a T5 light setup with two bulbs.

      I used a light meter in the kitchen, and up toward the ceiling there’s 2,000 Lux, but a few feet down, almost none. So Solatube does deliver a farther reaching light.

      Be that as it may, I’m going to try hanging a pot of trailing tomatoes in the kitchen, up toward the ceiling….

      Thanks for writing.

      Karen

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