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Nico’s Nuggets: Using Supplemental Lighting to Veg Plants Outdoors

Nico Escondido

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Hello, Nico!  After reading your recent “Tips For the New Outdoor Grower” article, I have a question for you. I’m from El Salvador, in Central America. As you may know, our situation with cartels and gangs is no different from Mexico at this point. Shitty weed is very, very common down here and the prices are very low. You can’t find any good stuff, but all with a ridiculous price tag. I’ve paid less in Barcelona and the U.S. for loud, frosty and sexy flowers; plus, clean BHOs and tasty bubble hash, as well. So as you imagine, supporting the black market is not an option anymore. 
In terms of hours of sunlight, due to our location, we have no more than 12h 40m and no less than 11h 40m (approximately) of light, but basically we have sun the whole year. Should I take advantage of the sun and extend the vegetative process with artificial light once it starts to get dark, or should I grow strictly indoors? I’ve seen outdoor grows with guys basically starting to germinate the seed at any point of the year regardless of the season (we only have a summer and a rainy season) and they do get flowers at some point (without knowing anything about veg, flowering, 18/6, 12/12, etc.); this really confuses me. 
I look forward to reading your reply. Thanks & Blessings!  — Carlos M. via NicosNuggets@hightimes.com

Greetings, Carlos! Thanks for reading and writing in…

Your problem is a unique one, but there are solutions. For starters, you have the right idea in taking advantage of the sun’s natural light – should you decide to grow outdoors or in a greenhouse. The solution, as you correctly pointed out, would require supplemental artificial light during the vegetative stage. To do this, one would simply hang an HID lamp (preferably a metal-halide for the veg cycle) over your plants and light it up an hour or so before the sun begins to set. The goal here is to have continuous light over your vegging plants for 18-20 hours per day. Once your vegetative cycle is finished (anywhere between 4-6 weeks will suffice, but for bigger yields you can veg longer if you prefer), the supplemental lighting will no longer be needed as your 11 hours of sunlight will be enough to trigger the onset of flower and will provide ample light for flowering, assuming your garden receives mostly direct sunlight during those 11 hours.

It is important to also keep in mind that using supplemental lighting outdoors generally requires a greenhouse of some sort. There are many options here – some of which are quite inexpensive. While proper greenhouses are excellent options for the right locations – and great fun – smaller hot or cold frame set-ups can be acquired for much cheaper and with much less stress setting up. Alternatively, simple wooden frames or even wire trellis systems have been used to hang a lamp or two over an outdoor plot.

Should it become a problem obtaining direct sunlight during those 12 hours, you may need to continue using your supplemental lighting, albeit this time with a high-pressure sodium (HPS) bulb. Alternatively, you may consider doing your grow completely indoors if the sunlight is not adequate for plant growth. This is the real crux of the matter for you – determining whether or not your sunlight is strong enough for healthy plant growth. Given your geographic location, the sunlight should be plenty, though the only consideration will be shading from nearby trees or structures. You can also test you outdoor plot with a chile plant to ascertain the viability of your outdoor garden space.

Moving your garden indoors will obviously bring a completely new set of horticulture parameters with it. In your location, heat will be a common problem, especially when you HID (high-intensity discharge) lamps indoors. Environmental control as well as light cycle timing will be your first project, followed by medium and irrigation control. Not to mention you will be paying for your light. I’m not trying to put down indoor growing at all, as indoor buds are almost always more potent than sun-grown buds (I hate to say that, but it’s true), however, I always encourage people to grow outdoors whenever possible and it sounds like you have a good opportunity and mindset to do so. Go for it, amigo & best of luck!

Thanks for reading everyone and remember: Grow… And help the world grow, too!

Got questions? Email ‘em over to Nico at NicosNuggets@hightimes.com and be sure to put “Nico’s Nuggets” in the subject line!

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