The greenhouse at the Manhattan Country School Farm serves a variety of purposes: a sunny space to start vegetable and flower seedlings and grow winter salad greens, a warm teaching place for winter classes, even a space to dry wet boots. One challenge we have at the Farm is growing fruiting plants in the winter. While the sun provides enough energy to grow greens, the lack of total sunlight needed and the winter angle of the sun prohibit us from growing tomatoes, peppers and other produce in the depths of winter.
To maximize the growing space, we recently purchased a full-spectrum grow light. Over the years, we’ve enlisted the help of fluorescent bulbs to make up for lack of natural sunlight. However, fluorescents don’t provide the solar spectral from infrared to near ultra-violet that plants require. The light fixture we purchased employs LED technology, which uses different color diodes to replicate the sun at a fraction of the cost. Our hope this winter is to be eating both cherry and salad tomatoes long before our large outdoor gardens are ready to plant.