As of 2013, 24 states and Washington, DC, have either legalized marijuana or decriminalized possession of it. One of my friends lives in a state where medical marijuana is now legal, and he has taken full advantage of this to start growing the plant, which helps him manage the symptoms of a chronic illness, in his basement. Rather than use his real name, I'll just refer to him by his online handle, GrowingGreenLED. I've known GGL for years, and I knew that even when it was illegal, he used marijuana for medical reasons. The whole grow-your-own was a new thing for him -- and me. Curious about the enterprise, I asked if he'd be willing to chat with me about the ins and outs of growing one's own plants. In particular, I was curious about his all-LED setup.
LED lights have been taking over all areas of normal life, replacing horrible blue-tinted compact fluorescents, incandescents, and even specialty bulbs (stage lighting, street lights and the like) such as metal halide high-intensity discharge lamps or high-pressure sodium lamps, but they're still something of a controversial topic in the pot-growing world. Until recently, they simply did not put out enough photons to keep plants happy. LED technology has improved markedly over the last five years, and today's 10-watt diodes can give out something like 800-900 lumens, on par with standard metal-halide grow lamps, and slightly lower than high-pressure sodium.
In order to grow healthy marijuana plants, then coax them to flower and produce a lot of cannabinoids, the grower must provide the plants with lots of light of the proper wavelengths, control the length of "day" that the plant experiences during its life cycle, and control the temperature so as to not stress the plants.
The grow-lamp setup of choice in the recent past was a combination of metal-halide discharge lamps and high-pressure sodium lamps. The two kinds of lamps present complementary spectral characteristics that marijuana plants needs for the vegetative and flowering stages, and the two kinds of lamps generate a lot of lumens -- that is, a lot of photons that the plants can use for photosynthesis. What those lights also produced was a lot of heat--and big electricity bills. And the bulbs themselves, while lasting longer than an incandescent bulb, still burned out fairly quickly. LEDs have much longer lifetimes than either of those lamps, on the order of 30,000 hours of use; metal-halide lamps live between 6,000 and 15,000 hours.
Another benefit of LED arrays is their capacity for spectral tuning. A single lamp could have both a collection of blue-light and red-light LEDs; selectively turning off some LEDs of a particular color will tune the overall color of the light.
To understand why, it's important to grok that plants, including marijuana, have two phases of growth. The vegetative (veg) phase is when the plants do their growing. The flowering phase is when the plants switch over resources to produce flowers or buds, which in the case of marijuana contain a very high concentration of desirable cannabinoids.
According to GGL, in veg mode, the plants like a bit of blue light mixed in with the typical yellow-red to encourage plant growth. GGL uses Solar Flare brand LED lights made by California Light Works, which add light between 475nm and 500nm to the spectrum. In flowering, light between 600nm and 700nm is best. So being able to tune the light source (by picking only certain colors of LED to use in a lighting setup) so that they're only producing the wavelengths that each phase requires will result in better flowers for less wasted energy and waste heat.
Waste heat is a problem, especially for growers who keep their plants in grow-tents--fabric enclosures that help the grower maintain the optimum environment for plant growth and flowering--that may not be well-ventilated. Stressed plants don't produce as many flowers (which means yields will be bad), and so maintaining temperatures below 80°F is desirable. (GGL also keeps humidity at around 55 percent, by switching a ventilation fan on and off, to suppress the growth of mildew on the plants.)
GGL says that he decided to splash out for LEDs for a couple of reasons: He doesn't want the family electricity bill to skyrocket. And, he admits, he's an early-adopter tech nerd. At present, he says he has about 1050 watts worth of lighting equipment, spread out between the two tents that he grows his crop in, the veg tent and the flowering tent. GGL uses light units made by California Light Works -- the aforementioned Solar Flare lights, plus Solar Storm rigs as well, but that company is far from the only producers of LED grow lights.
So, how are his plants doing? According to a lab analysis of a couple of his plants, the THC levels are some of the highest that the lab had ever seen. For someone who uses the plant to alleviate pain rather than merely as a recreational experience, that's a good sign. And despite tending to his allotment of healthy plants (each state has a different number of plants one can legally grow), his power bill has not increased significantly. I think mostly, though, GGL just loves a good high/low tech project. Gardening is generally pretty low-tech. Growing plants in one's basement in order to maximize output while minimizing input is not, and it satisfies GGL's inner tech geek in ways that just cultivating plants would not. He gets the same way about brewing beer, about hunting for razor clams, and about re-engineering instruments for RockBand. GGL is a man after PopSci's geeky heart and brain if there ever was one.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was not only a terrorist, but also a fanatical prohibitionist.
"...GGL is a man after PopSci's geeky heart and brain if there ever was one..."
I guess this means besides PoPSCI\Martha Harbison being insupport of this article, so is "Bonnier Corporation Company".
This is SO F#CK up and disapointing.
When I lived in Colorado and grew my own Medicinal Mari-J I used the LED grow lights. Saved tons on electricity and ventilation/heat dispersion, and the magenta hue is purdy too. Seemed to grow even better than outdoors in the sun even. Grow LEDs are great because the distribute wavelengths of light the plants use for photosynthesis, and not much else, providing plants with all the artificial sunlight they need. I did use a CFL UV light just to provide UV radiation for the plants as well, they seemed to like it.
So instead of the potential to grow say food producing plants in places they normally wouldn't grow by providing them the light they need, they chose to talk about growing a stupid f@@@ing plant that provides no real benefit to the majority of the population?
Well that's one opinion blarg_king. My body has too high of a tolerance for pretty much any pain medication; NORCO, methadone, etc., and thanks to the Army I have severe chronic back pain. This "worthless" weed is the only thing that takes my pain away. People who say it's worthless are just subscribers to mainstream idiocracy, sorry. I do now use my grow lights for my indoor garden now that I'm in a state that doesn't know any better.
@Blarg_King Oxycodone is a stupid f@@@ing pill that provides no real benefit to the majority of the population but I still support the people who produce it for legitimate purposes.
Regardless of your opinion of its recreational usage marijuana is a legitimate medicine that is the most effective treatment for several conditions and I cant understand why you are not willing to tolerate its legitimate use.
Furthermore if a fried egg where the treatment for a debilitating condition why would you feel the need to go to a pharmacy and purchase powdered egg in capsules at 600 times the cost of frying up an egg yourself.
You don't have to go to a mechanic to get permission to replace a burned out headlight or add fuel stabilizer to your tank. Why are we swindled into paying physicians to prescribe treatments before getting permission to buy the overpriced treatments from pharmacies? The whole system is designed for gross inefficiencies and you conditioned not to just accept them but your conditioning done to such an extreme that you cower in fear of a free and open market.
Peoples of earth don't worry about personal responsibly, just follow your nanny states and they will be responsible on your behalf.
What was irresponsible about the article? Methods of attacking a problem efficiently are good to hear about, generally speaking. So what if it's about pot? Is he supposed to grow lettuce instead?
I have been growing medical marijuana for 5 years and your article sheds no light or reason how led lights work versus high pressure sodium. You claim that the marijuana was tested and it had some of the highest THC levels ever recorded? All real growers know that THC levels mainly depend on what kind of strain your growing. Also the better the environment is will increase the TCH levels of a plant.
Serious growers don't use LED's because the yield is from the plants are low and cause the buds to be fluffy where most smokers prefer there buds tight and compact. You can read more of my grow blog at dispensary exchange for good grower tips.
I can't help but note that the sun puts out light of the same exact color every single day, and yet plants have gotten along just fine all along, nonetheless.
Shikata ga nai
I've done many harvests with LED.. they work best in regions where heat and humidity is too high and you are not set up to control it.
To be honest if you mix up 6700k and 2500k CFL's (maybe a 5000k in there here and there) stadnard household cfl bulbs like you get from the grocers.. 24-28 watts (all the way up to 65 watts I've gone) and train the plant (it's called Low Stress training) to keep low....
I've taken 50 dollars worth of CFL Bulbs and fixtures from the grocery store and produced 2 to 3 ounces perpetually month after month of as potent of manicured product as the strain is capable of (well..) .. all from grocery store lights and done in a teeny box 1.5'x 2'x3'.
My result with LED lights, spending exponentially more, did not give me such results WITHOUT extra lighting from CFL's anyway.
Like I say, if it is hot and muggy, they can be a lifesaver and have a place there.
If you want to grow enough for personal use at home, there are hopefully better options for you than to spend a huge chunk of change on LED (unless it is an environmental issue or a low profiles issue). And if you are growing for a few friends, there are CERTAINLY better options than LED..
That said, I've sued them successfully.. any harvest is a good harvest.. they 'mostly' work as advertised once you get the dynamics, but they just left 'me' unimpressed.. not let down.. but not real impressed. Make sure you get at LEAST the 3 watt output bulbs, anything less will veg plants fine, but leave you kicking yourself come flowering time,.
Them be my thoughts, everyone else's own mileage may vary,
Hey, Blarg_King, this "stupid f@@@ing plant that provides no real benefit to the majority of the population" is curing my wife's cancer. Her and thousands of others are using this "stupid f@@@ing plant" to cure many of their diseases. I know you've probably been brought up to believe all the BS that the government and the big pharma companies have been spouting for decades. But do some research and realize that this "stupid f@@@ing plant" isn't just a plant, it's keeping people from DYING. It's not just some "drug" that potheads smoke, it has amazing healing capabilities. If a family member of yours had some disease, would you rather have them take prescription drugs that will kill their liver, make them a zombie (no, not literally), feel terrible, and not be able to get out of bed? Or would you rather them take cannabis, which in reality, you could take as much as you want and it won't hurt your organs, It's a pretty benign "drug". More people are FINALLY finding out that this plant isn't just for smoking and getting high, it has MANY uses for the good of all of us.
I enjoy technology that supports growing crops, vegetation.
It is morally wrong to be supportive of devices that support illegal drugs and the writer is promoting currently towards that end. Shame on them!
I understand that a lot of people have doubt about growing with LED lighting, but I am here to prove that LED lighting does in fact work, and not only do they work, but they work extremely well as long as you are not using low quality LED lights.
I have been growing on my own for about 1.5 years now, and what I have seen is that there is a lot of potential in LED lighting. My quality, density, and overall yield has been just as good, and in some cases better then that of the HID lighting world, but my electric bill has been cut down by at least 1/3 if not more. When you take into consideration that I also need less BTU's for cooling, then you realize that my savings go even further. LED lighting has no harmful gasses or other harmful substances like mercury and such, therefore making LED lighting safer for the environment, and overall leaving a reduced carbon footprint.
If anyone would like to get in touch with me about this subject, or for any other reason, please feel free to email me at ( GrowingGreenLED at gmail.com ), this is my business email address.
AnyIcon, Auroria, Blarg_King and others are all sock puppets of one user. Please ignore guys. We have a troll. It has turned up since Popsci's drug series started and has gradually increased it's puppet numbers. If you need a clue then pay attention to the style of certain (but not all) negative posts on drug articles, then check when the user joined Popsci.
How high are you and are you part of this article to push the use of drug paraphilia?
StarShineBright "It is morally wrong to be supportive of devices that support illegal drugs and the writer is promoting currently towards that end. Shame on them!"
You realize it's not illegal everywhere and the people who complain the most about that are the same ones who say States should make the rules for citizens, not big Government, so which is it?
I had a loved one nearly die after suffering seizures from constantly being switched from one drug to another by doctors who couldn't give a damn about anything other than their fee each time he had to come back to the ER. Today he only uses Marijuana, yes, legally in his state, and he has NO side effects, no seizures, but also none of the things he was taking the pills for in the first place, so no depression, no anxiety. Please inform yourself and god help anyone in your family who may ever be unfortunate enough to become ill and rely on you to make decisions about their care. I've never heard of anyone lose hair from THC, or have nausea from THC, or be weak for months on end from THC.
Thanks Pop-Sci, you have shown me that you are a modern, free-thinking group of writers.
Yes what is legal or illegal does not stop stupidity and self-abuse to venture forth and continue doing its disastrous deed, while the users continues to lie to themselves, 'everything is all right', morons!
Get a doctor, deal with your problems like an adult, follow the prescription.
Yep... AnyIcon, Auroria, Blarg_King, StarsShineBright, animie:
all the same troll, ignore him.
One signature trait is that he often calls people names like 'moron', pokes fun at other peoples expense and often his remarks make no sense whatsoever.