Lights of the Future

Grow vs. Snow | Kate OdenDeep winter, northern New England, and I keep circling around the same subject: How can I grow more things to eat — right now, indoors, six months before the last frost date? I mean, this is the 21st century, and it must be possible (so my thought process usually starts…and ends, hours later, after I’ve concocted yet another wild design that might just reflect, intensify, or bend the natural light effectively enough). I’m willing to bet that I’m in good company, that many Northern gardeners are enjoying the same sort of winter escapism right about now. Once again, it’s grow vs. snow.

Well, here’s a new nugget of hope for all of us who fantasize about growing more edibles mid-winter: Future advances in LED lighting, up to 500% more efficient than CFL’s, that could generate full-spectrum light over a much longer lifetime, without the heat output, and which could revolutionize agriculture, not to mention indoor gardening. And they’re predicted to be on the market within the next decade.

Needless to say, this sent me on an hours long flight of fancy over the Internet. There’s a cadre of gardeners bolder than I who’re making their own LED arrays, and even some who’ve posted experimental results — in short, existing LED products don’t beat out fluorescent lights for growing plants, but there’s a lot of promise here, and it’s pretty exciting. Just the sort of technology that I’m hoping the Obama administration will encourage.

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