Living in New England, my outdoor garden slows to a halt by late September. I used to get sad thinking about how long I’d have to wait before growing another crop of fresh tomatoes and peppers. (Is there anything worse than a grocery store tomato in January?) Then I decided I would try my hand at indoor growing, so I could enjoy fresh tomatoes and peppers all year long. At first, I experimented with hydroponic grow kits, some with built-in grow lights. Now my set-up includes both hydroponic and soil methods. Even in my sunniest room, my indoor tomatoes and peppers require supplemental light. Through trial, error, and research, I’ve discovered the best grow lights for tomatoes and peppers.
Regardless of location, tomatoes and peppers need six to eight hours of sunlight (artificial or natural) each day. There are various structures and rigs you can assemble for your indoor tomato and pepper plants. You can even opt to just use your indoor system to start your tomato and pepper seeds and eventually move the seedlings outside when the weather warms up. Whatever you decide, the most important element for growing your indoor tomatoes and peppers is choosing the best grow lights.
Types of grow lights
There are a few different categories of grow lights, each with its own benefits. Note: I’m not including incandescent lights (standard home-use lightbulbs) in this list because they aren’t a preferred choice for growing vegetables as they end up producing more heat than light.
These types of grow lights are generally a bit cheaper to purchase. However, most fluorescent lights won’t give off full spectrum light deep into tomato and pepper plants, and you’ll wind up with a smaller yield of tomatoes and peppers.
HID (high-intensity discharge)
There are two subcategories in the HID type of grow light (HPS – high-pressure sodium; MH – metal halide) and you need to use both kinds at different stages of a plant’s growth cycle. These lights are very powerful and require specific rigging and fixtures. The HID bulbs need to be replaced more frequently adding to the cost. These are great bulbs for a professional or semi-professional set-up, but for growing tomatoes and peppers at home, I don’t recommend starting here.
Saving the best for last, LED grow lights are more cost-efficient in the long run since they use the least amount of power and they are safer because they don’t produce the hot surface temperatures like other types of lights. Beyond being energy-saving, the light wavelengths are fuller which will yield more tomatoes and peppers per plant. This is my recommendation for the best grow lights for growing tomatoes and peppers in a home set-up. I also really like that these lights are fully integrated and don’t require purchasing and replacing extra bulbs. These are the bulbs my hydroponic setup uses too.
What to look for in grow lights for tomatoes and peppers
When I first started researching different types of grow lights, my head spun! I wasn’t familiar with many of the terms used and thought I was decoding a secret language. Here are a few terms you might run into when shopping for the best grow lights:
In grow-light marketing terms, “full-spectrum” means the light can reproduce the effects of sunlight on plants. For tomatoes and peppers, using a “full-spectrum” light is a must!
A heat sink is a part of a light fixture (most often found in LED lights) that increases the heat flow away from the hot light. While not necessary, a heat sink is an important feature that will prevent too much heat from being cast onto your plants causing them to dry out faster. A heat sink also improves a grow light’s longevity.
For lighting purposes, the K (Kelvin) value is the scientific measure of the color of light. Values over 5000 are white and higher numbers even give off a blue tint. 4000K is more of a neutral off-white, and lower numbers in the 3000K range are tinted yellow/brown. In terms of growing tomatoes and peppers, grow lights that are similar to natural sunlight (something in the 6000K range) are best.
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Do you grow tomatoes or peppers indoors? What grow lights work best for you? Let me know in the comments.