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Balcony and possibly not enough light for some crops - possible solutions?

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Balcony and possibly not enough light for some crops - possible solutions?

Post  TGCooper on 9/2/2014, 10:55 am

Okay, I am only a couple weeks in to my first square foot garden.  In Houston, so most of the fall planting still lies ahead.  My balcony faces West and is covered.   I have no other options without moving.   I am guessing I am only getting 5-6 hours of direct sun on my plants, which so far is only tomatoes and radishes.  It seems my tomatoes are growing kind of slow.  So I was thinking of possibly adding a light on a timer for at least a couple more hours a day to see if that would help.  Has anyone else had a similar situation and tried this or other solutions?
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Re: Balcony and possibly not enough light for some crops - possible solutions?

Post  greatgranny on 9/2/2014, 11:42 am

I don't have that problem in my garden but am going to attempt to do some gardening in my sunroom.  I live in an area that has lots of darkness in the winter and so I too will have to use some grow lights if needed.  The room gets very hot in the winter - on sunny days.  The problem it not the heat but the lack of hours of daylight. 

Don't know if this will help your situation or not.  Someone with a lot more experience might be able to help.
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Re: Balcony and possibly not enough light for some crops - possible solutions?

Post  boffer on 9/2/2014, 12:02 pm

I recently learned that tomatoes need a minimum of 6 hours direct sun; heat alone is not sufficient.  You're pushing the limit, but they should be growing.  Based on my own experience, I don't think that supplemental light will be helpful for you.  On the other hand, if you're curious and want to learn all about lighting and the tricks to get the most out of it, then you should try it.

But first, I would consider other factors.  Did you direct seed or use transplants, either your own or from a nursery?  Transplanting will slow growth until the plants get established.  Poor nutrition in your MM will cause stunting or slow growth.  Is your compost homemade from 5 sources, or did you buy commercial products?
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Re: Balcony and possibly not enough light for some crops - possible solutions?

Post  sanderson on 9/2/2014, 2:04 pm

TGCooper, Your desire to SFG on a hot west facing balcony in Houston is admirable. A fall/winter/spring garden, without the brutal western summer sun, will probably be easier. Good grow lights will probably help extend the "light" hours but, from what I have heard, your electric meter will go crazy.

Grow lights verses seedling lights: Cheap fluorescent lights are fine for little seedlings that are started indoors. These lights don't use much electricity. But, the good grow lights for larger plants, such as used for growing marijuana plants indoors, are energy hogs. Some illegal growers have been caught because of their sudden spike in electricity consumption.

I'm wondering if strategically placed reflective panels can help capture some extra minutes of sun light. ???

PS: If you really get the gardening bug, it may be worth moving to another residence in a few months where you can have better sun conditions.

Best of luck. I hope other folks will offer their suggestions/encouragement.
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Re: Balcony and possibly not enough light for some crops - possible solutions?

Post  Marc Iverson on 9/2/2014, 5:29 pm

The reflective panels sounds like a good idea. Our dollar store sells reflective windshield screens for a buck that are fairly good-sized. Drape them over a chair or something and you may get much more sunlight in more places pretty easily.

I have a similar problem in that I have a hill very close to where I grow, and except for a couple of months at the height of summer, regardless of the heat, I don't get enough sunlight hours there for most crops. I'm thinking a cheap reflective solution might do a lot to change my growing conditions, but I'll have to carefully place anything I use since I don't want to wind up blocking out the sun anywhere, either.

Your situation sounds easier, as you only get sunlight from one direction. Even some posterboard wrapped with tinfoil up against your balcony door, facing outward, might make a difference.

Another side benefit might be, if what I've read here and there is true, that light reflected up under plant leaves can scare away some bugs. I don't know about you, but I've always gotten bugs inside and out no matter how careful I am. You can bring 'em right in on transplants pretty easy, and hardly any screen is fitted so perfectly or stays undamaged so long that some bugs can't get in somewhere.
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Re: Balcony and possibly not enough light for some crops - possible solutions?

Post  camprn on 9/2/2014, 5:32 pm

What are you using for garden mix?

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Re: Balcony and possibly not enough light for some crops - possible solutions?

Post  TGCooper on 9/2/2014, 6:13 pm

@camprn wrote:What are you using for garden mix?
Exactly what the book prescribes-1/3 peat, 1/3 coarse vermiculite, 1/3 compost (5 types -all purchased and seemingly decent quality).  All purchased from a highly regarded specialty garden store (Wabash), not any of the big box stores.  Considered two different pre-mixed mixtures, but asked here and got negative reviews on both.  I may be premature in my concern. Two of the tomatoes are determinate varieties, so perhaps they just grow a bit slower.  I also have no basis for comparison, last gardening about 25 years ago.
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