Based on the test results below, I'm afraid that LED grow lights for microgreens aren't the answer for home growers.
At least not affordable LED grow lights that most homeowners trying to raise a few trays of microgreens would buy.
The test compares LED shop lights purchased at a box store to similarly priced, highly rated, LED grow lights purchased on Amazon. Not the expensive, high wattage, commercial LED grow lights, which I'm sure would do a great job growing microgreens.
LED Grow Lights for Microgreens
This article is the second of a two-part (likely to be a three-part) series comparing LED lights that a homeowner could easily purchase, install, and use in any room of the house.
In the first article, What’s Better for Microgreens, LED Grow Lights or LED Shop Lights?, we compare the same two light systems using microgreens with a reddish tint to their leaves.
The reasons for using microgreens with reddish leaves is explain in the first article.
Read Part One of this Two Part Article Series
Herein, we grew broccoli and basil microgreens. The former, a very fast growing microgreen, the later much slower growing plant.
The reason for choosing fast and slow growing microgreen is to see if the length of time under the lights has an affect on growth rates.
If you're not sure what a grow light is, click this link.
LED Lights in the Test
The first article goes into more detail about the lights, the set-up, and why those particular lights are used.
The lights are shown below. Click on the image for more information.
Commercial Electric LED shop lights, 15-watts (2 x 15 = 30-watts same as the grow light) 3-feet long, 1,350 lumens, color temperature of 4,000 k. It's labeled as a cool/bright white LED light.
Amconsure, 30-watt, full-spectrum grow lamps, with 60 efficient growing LEDs (39 red and 21 blue lamps). At the time of publishing, 92% of reviewers gave this light a 4- or 5-rating.
LED Grow Lights and LED Shop Lights Locations
The location of the lights could have an affect on this test, because the growing conditions are a bit different. It's also the reason why there will most likely be a third test.
The LED shop lights are located in the living room on a storage shelf. The area does get some indirect sunlight from a bank of windows. However, Syracuse receives little to no sun in January.
The LED grow lights are located in the kitchen with no windows. The microgreens would get some indirect light from the fluorescent and LED lights when food is prepared, but not for an extended period of time.
The trays are placed next to a white wall and stainless steel table that reflects a majority of the extra light back onto the plants.
The living room, is on average, warmer than the kitchen by a few degrees.
Again, the reason for the LED grow lights to be located in the kitchen is explained in the first article.
Side-by-Side Growth Comparisons
Two trays of Waltham Broccoli and Genovese Basil seeds were planted, and covered.
After 3-days the broccoli trays were placed under light, one the LED shop lights, the other, the LED grow lights.
Below is an image of the broccoli microgreens after one day under their respective lights.
Even after one day, you can see that the broccoli under the LED grow lights is not as green. Mainly because the leaves aren't as developed, but you can still see the yellow in the center of the tray.
Day 3 for Broccoli and Day 0 for Basil
After three days, the broccoli microgreens show similar disparities as the first. The microgreens grown under the shop lights are greener, the leaves are larger, the stems appear sturdier, and overall in better health than those raised under the LED grow lights.
On the same day, the basil microgreens were uncovered and are ready to be placed under their respective lights. Below is an image of each pair under their lights. First under LED grow lights, the second under the LED shop lights.
Day 6 for Broccoli and Day 4 for Basil
Stop the Madness!
First let's talk about the photos, then the madness.
The photo shows it all. The broccoli microgreens on the left (LED grow lights) are scraggly and at the best light green.
However, the broccoli microgreens grown under the LED shop lights are full, the leaves are much larger, very shiny, and the stems have some reddish color to them.
Looking at the photo, it's obviously better to grow broccoli under LED shop lights rather than under the Amconsure grow lights.
It's hard to tell in the little photos, but if you click on them to expand the size, you'll see a similar story.
The basil grown under the Amconsure grow lights have smaller leaves, they're not as green, and truthfully, they don't look nearly as good as those raised under the LED shop lights.
Stop the Madness!
The broccoli microgreens are ready to harvest after day six. We put the tray of straggly basil under the shop lights and they quickly greened up. No problems there.
But no way are we going to sacrifice the basil, it takes too long to mature, we like it too much, and weren't not going to waste even a tray of it for poor results.
We stopped the basil test after four days. We not going to waste 15 to 20 more days to mature the basil. It's obvious, even after only four days, that the LED shop lights would produce better looking basil.
LED Grow Lights verse LED Shop Lights for Microgreens
Admittedly, we thought green leaf microgreens would grow well under LED grow lights; better than red leafed varieties. Instead, the red-leafed microgreens did a lot better under the LED grow lights compared to the green micros.
Though, in both tests, the LED shop lights grew better microgreens.
Right now, we have a hard time recommending the Amconsure LED Grow Lights to those that do have a place to install LED shop lights.
However, using the Amconsure LED Grow Lights is better than not using lights. The attachment clip and light settings are convenient and useful for home microgreen growers that don't have a sunny window or a place to install a shop light.
At Least One More Test with LED Grow Lights
Next, we'd like to set up a LED shop light in a room that doesn't have a window so we could see how microgreens grow beneath it without the effects of indirect light.
But that might be easier said than done.
In the meantime, we'll test the Amconsure LED Grow Lights in the same room as the LED shop lights. Besides the indirect light, the air temperature of the room could be make a difference in growth rates.
The kitchen was always a little cooler than where the shop lights are located.
The link to the article will be posted here once it's published.
Current Thoughts on LED Grow Lights for Microgreens
This section is labeled "current thoughts", because, well, this is a work in progress. New data will always be available possibility changing my opinion. That's the beauty of blogging platforms, it's easy to change the text in a couple of minutes.
Try that with a book.
Currently, and we're referring to the Amconsure LED Grow Lights here, we believe they are better than nothing, but LED shop lights will grow microgreens better.
However, the Amconsure, and others very much like it, will fit the bill in places where hanging a shop light is impossible or too unsightly.
But if you can use LED shop lights, please do so. You'll be much happier and so will your microgreens.
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