Let there be lights, grow lights I mean

sun blaster

The new lights rejuvenated rosemary and basil, plus New Zealand flax

As winter closed in late last year I visited my local Sheridan Nurseries  branch to buy a couple of replacement tubes for my 15-year-old basement grow-lights stand, and met the light of my life.

Sun Blaster T5HO and I were introduced by the smart and helpful garden supplies manager Sylvia Szot. I liked him right away. He’s much slimmer than the old fluorescent tubes I’ve been using for years and his packaging is great… a compact fixture that fits neatly under one side of our basement cupboards. He also cost 40 bucks –way cheaper than a new grow-light stand.

I liked Sun Blaster so much I took home two of him to try. He was easy to install and the two linked together with a simple plug. Sylvia told me I could link up to eight tubes on one outlet, but I don’t have space for that many and my old fluorescent light stand. He can also be installed vertically, to shine on a tall plant  set on the floor. In short, my new friend is really adaptable.

sunblaster closeup

We inserted the S hooks to hold chains later, when I want to lower Sun Blaster

Don’t ask me what T5 means, but I soon figured out that HO stands for High Output. Wow!  Sun Blaster lit up my whole basement.  The pots of New Zealand flax I’m wintering over straightened up and gained colour immediately and an azalea grew glossy and put out a couple of buds, loving the light. I moved a basil plant from the kitchen window, where it was merely surviving in the pale winter light, and it unfurled shiny new leaves in a week.

By contrast, the pots of echeveria  I nurse along every winter remained pale and decidedly unsucculent-looking under the comparatively dull fluorescent tubes of the old fixture. I felt sorry for them. But I’ve had them five years and I know they’re tough little plants and will revitalize quickly when they get out under the hot sun.


Echeveria looking pale under my old lights

I don’t normally rave about things like grow lights, but these  slim but powerful tubes have won me over.  They’re 72 percent brighter than older fluorescents (T5s, it turns out, are a new generation of fluorescents that have been around since sometime in the ’90s–who knew?) and provide 6400K full spectrum light. Yet the heat output is minimal.

This week I’ll be starting some seeds, so I went back to Sylvia to order two more Sun Blasters for under the adjacent cupboard.  Maybe Goodwill can find a new owner  for the old light stand. Next winter I plan to try some cut-and-come again greens in the basement. Actually, I can hardly wait.

I didn’t know about the reflectors till I called Sun Blaster for a little background information and spoke to Travis Brown. He  told me that the parent company, Future Harvest Development, a Canadian firm based in Kelowna, B. C., specializes in products for hydroponics and greenhouse growing and developed Sun Blaster. Travis has herbs and greens growing on his desk under his own Sun Blaster, and he says he and his fellow office workers think the lighting is a great cure for SAD.

“But did you get the Nano reflector when you bought Sun Blaster?” he asked. “We put it out a couple of years ago and it’s awesome. It clips into the fixture and triples the light, and also focuses it down to exactly where it’s needed.”

Okay Sylvia, order me four. I’m going to have the healthiest, shiniest, greenest  seedlings to plant out this year that I’ve ever had.

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