Indoor tropical LED experiment

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Indoor tropical LED experiment

Post  MrFancyPlants on Tue Dec 18, 2012 10:59 pm

I thought I would let the IBC in on a little experiment I've been running for the last month. Unfortunately, I don't really have the materials or time to be scientific with the experiment, so you'll have to suffice with old fashioned trial and error.

I was unsatisfied with my indoor growth over previous winters with a single 24w t5. On slightly more than a whim, I purchased a 50w LED floodlight from the internet for around $60, and I must say it is pretty bright(Nov 21):

The initial results were encouraging. Using just a large jar as an enclosure and poor Ficus nerifolia/salicifolia as my test subject, I was able to see signs of new growth in less than a week(Nov 27).

I had a digital humidity/temperature monitor in the jar to make sure things didn't get too hot. Fortunately, the LED does not generate that much heat, although it does become warm to the touch. Within 10 days I was starting to get excited with all of the new growth(Dec 1).

On Dec 1, I added another, similar 50w LED floodlight, and borrowed a 20 wide aquarium from a friend, because I wanted to get a couple benjamina in on the action.(Dec Cool

Unfortunately, here is where my results become less conclusive. Many of the new leaves on the initial test subject started to look a little prematurely aged or dry. I knew that a good part of the initial growth could have been due to the increased heat and humidity in the small jar, which was no longer being trapped in in the larger aquarium. The humidity level in the Jar ranged from 70-99, where as in the aquarium, it would drop as low as 30% and usually hover around 50%. To add another confusing variable, I also included a reptile lamp with (UV A, B) in the large aquarium, mainly to boost the temperature up into the 80s, which worked during the day when it was on, but in the morning the temp could be as low as 60.

To be continued...


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Indoor tropical LED experiment

Post  MrFancyPlants on Wed Dec 19, 2012 12:12 am

Here is the latest update. Last weekend, I purchased a 10g aquarium for $15 so that it would be easier to lock in the heat and humidity without need to fiddle with sheets of plastic.

You can tell from the pics of the original test subject that the leaves are a little ragged looking, but there are also the signs of new buds forming which is positive.

I am also a little worried that the new growth on the benjaminas is pale, but hopefully that is just because it is new growth. I watered earlier today and found that some water pooled in the aquarium by this evening. I am thinking I will need to relearn some moisture management techniques now that I am working in a small enclosure.

So there is my experiment so far. The results are far from conclusive, but I will check back periodically to let you know how it goes. I recognise that there is a possibility that the quality of light produced by these LEDs may not be sufficient for sustained, healthy growth, but that is a risk I am willing to take. I can always move them back kunder the t5 or try to use them as supplimental light for the t5, but I am liking the initial growth rates in the enclosure.

I would love to hear some questions, comments and recommendations as to how I could improve my setup.

Thanks,
David

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Re: Indoor tropical LED experiment

Post  coh on Wed Dec 19, 2012 2:02 am

I'm all for experimenting, but as you note, you're changing so many variables at once (and so often) that it's going to be really difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of the LEDs.

If you have 2 similar trees (same species, similar age/size), I'd suggest putting one under your "normal" lighting and the other under the LEDs...and leave everything else the same. Or, pick up a couple of non-bonsai houseplants and do the experiment with them. This is what I'd do if I was going to experiment with a completely new type of light that probably wasn't designed with plant growth in mind.

I've also found that willow leaf ficus doesn't seem to require very high humidity. 30-50% is pretty typical for my winter location, and they seem to do OK.

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Re: Indoor tropical LED experiment

Post  Ryan on Wed Dec 19, 2012 2:58 am

You don't have spider mites do you? The leaves on your Willow Leaf Ficus in that last picture look a little spotty...

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Re: Indoor tropical LED experiment

Post  MrFancyPlants on Wed Dec 19, 2012 3:30 am

Bam! Good eye! I was like "there cant be bugs in there", and then I took off a spotty leaf and one of the spots started crawling around. Man those things are tiny. Much smaller than the ones I experienced a few years ago, and no signs of webbing. I guess I need to let loose a few centipedes in there next time I am called upon to dispatch one. hmm or is it soap and oil time?

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Re: Indoor tropical LED experiment

Post  Ryan on Wed Dec 19, 2012 4:04 am

MrFancyPlants wrote:Bam! Good eye! I was like "there cant be bugs in there", and then I took off a spotty leaf and one of the spots started crawling around. Man those things are tiny. Much smaller than the ones I experienced a few years ago, and no signs of webbing. I guess I need to let loose a few centipedes in there next time I am called upon to dispatch one. hmm or is it soap and oil time?

They are small indeed. Never heard of centipedes for bug control. This is what I use:

SOAP solution! (Underline Revised 11/07/2011) by Carl L. Rosner

Fill a gallon jug with water and add one (1) or two (2) tablespoons of dishwashing detergent and one (1) tablespoon of vegetable oil (or Neem oil). Shake up the gallon jug to mix the ingredients.

I fill this solution from the gallon bottle into a spray bottle and just before using I add 1 to 2 two caps full (from the rubbing alcohol bottle) of rubbing alcohol and spray immediately. If you do not use the full bottle of spray, I suggest the next time you are going to use the soap/alcohol solution add the same amount of rubbing alcohol again, since the alcohol will evaporate. I store this soap/oil solution in the gallon jug for months on end. It does not seem to go bad.

Spray on plants* covering all leaf and stem surfaces. You may have to spray from three to four times with intervals of three days. I have eliminated almost any kind of pest that has attacked my trees, including scale. I usually put aluminum foil around the pot. Just in case any dying Scale drop their babies into the soil!

I do not wash off the spray and have seen no adverse reaction to the trees from this mixture.
*CAUTION – I am not sure whether it is the soap or the alcohol, but when spraying only Fukien tea plants, I find that the majority of leaves turn brown. I still spray in three-day interludes for at least a nine-day period, and then place the tree/s in an ICU. They will recover within a month. I have never lost a tree using this spray.
** CAUTION – 11/07/11 – Do not spray Portulacaria afra. They will drop their leaves. Hopefully, I did not kill the tree!



Works like a charm.

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Spider mite Q.

Post  MrFancyPlants on Wed Dec 19, 2012 3:37 pm

Thanks for the recipe; I will definitely give it a shot. It is actually a bit of a relief that my new lights weren't causing the issue. (new yellow benjamina growth indeterminate)

Here is one follow up question that I have regarding spider mites after a bit of research. I read one source saying that spider mites "don't like" humid environments (which goes along with the timing of the mite damage occurring after I moved into an open topped aquarium), but I have also heard that the soap solution(pun intended) causes cell wall damage and the mites to dry out. Is it possible that soap + humid will cancel the effects of each other out? I'm sure I am over thinking this new issue of mine, but I was just curious.


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Re: Indoor tropical LED experiment

Post  Ryan on Wed Dec 19, 2012 4:24 pm

MrFancyPlants wrote:Thanks for the recipe; I will definitely give it a shot. It is actually a bit of a relief that my new lights weren't causing the issue. (new yellow benjamina growth indeterminate)

Here is one follow up question that I have regarding spider mites after a bit of research. I read one source saying that spider mites "don't like" humid environments (which goes along with the timing of the mite damage occurring after I moved into an open topped aquarium), but I have also heard that the soap solution(pun intended) causes cell wall damage and the mites to dry out. Is it possible that soap + humid will cancel the effects of each other out? I'm sure I am over thinking this new issue of mine, but I was just curious.


I grow my trees in a 90-100% humid area and use the soap to treat for bugs, and they don't seem to cancel each other out. It's true that spider mites don't like humidity, it slows their reproduction rate. I've been using the soap for a couple months now with great results.

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Re: Indoor tropical LED experiment

Post  giga on Wed Dec 19, 2012 9:28 pm

Led are very effective to grow trees I've only use led for my vivarium and its full of orchids bromileads and such. Also my white and black mangrove are going on 2.5 years on LEDs and are growing woderfully

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Re: Indoor tropical LED experiment

Post  MrFancyPlants on Wed Dec 19, 2012 10:15 pm

That is great to hear. Are the LEDs you use marketed for plant growth? do you happen to have the wattage and/or lumen output?

My concern with the lights that I purchased was that they were marketed as outdoor waterproof security floodlights and might not have an optimal frequency range for chlorophyll to use. I figured since they have white light they should have a good mix of the visible spectrum although that is not necessarily the case not knowing the science behind the (phosphorus?) LED microchips. It was a risk I was willing to take since each of the lights were rated at 50 watts and 4500 lumens, and only cost about $60 including shipping (each).

Kevster over on the "Nut" turned me on to the idea that the saltwater aquarium / live coral reef hobbyists were "light years" ahead of us as far as indoor lighting technology. I really liked the look of where this tech was going, and may eventually try a similar setup, but in the meantime I settled on these re purposed flood lights, because they were pretty cheap and almost ready to go out of the box. I did need a little solder and some tape to set them up, although I suppose I could have just twisted the wires together and added some tape in order to connect the wall plug.

interesting reef light thread:
http://reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?s=d6c9a1d800379d83629738f8d232fab4&t=2128756

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Spider mites

Post  MrFancyPlants on Thu Dec 20, 2012 4:21 pm

Hmm, tried the spray last night and a few of the guys were still moving around this morning. I may not have used quite enough oil as I scaled the batch down to a pint. I read a suggestion that the oil is the effective part of the spray and that the soap is just an emulsifier. I also used a double dose of tequila instead of rubbing alcohol due to supply constraints.

I am debating trying again with a little more oil
or
using a q-tip w pure oil or alcohol since it is such a small plant

I really want my poor test subject to get back to the kind of growth it was showing me a few weeks ago. I can see some new buds ready to go.

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Re: Indoor tropical LED experiment

Post  giga on Thu Dec 20, 2012 6:00 pm

http://www.dendroboard.com/forum/parts-construction/80829-83gallon-tower-tank.html

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Re: Indoor tropical LED experiment

Post  Ryan on Thu Dec 20, 2012 6:47 pm

MrFancyPlants wrote:Hmm, tried the spray last night and a few of the guys were still moving around this morning. I may not have used quite enough oil as I scaled the batch down to a pint. I read a suggestion that the oil is the effective part of the spray and that the soap is just an emulsifier. I also used a double dose of tequila instead of rubbing alcohol due to supply constraints.

I am debating trying again with a little more oil
or
using a q-tip w pure oil or alcohol since it is such a small plant

I really want my poor test subject to get back to the kind of growth it was showing me a few weeks ago. I can see some new buds ready to go.

It'll take a few treatments in order to get rid of all of them. Since you've used the tequila you've probably just made them drunk Wink

That plant may be small but since that tree is in with others there are great chances that the other trees have the bugs as well, or will soon have them.

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Re: Indoor tropical LED experiment

Post  MrFancyPlants on Thu Dec 20, 2012 7:02 pm

Giga,
That is a pretty cool setup. I see you have put a fair amount of thought and work into your lighting setup on your vivarium. I admit that I had to look up the latin root for viva after seeing that you had frogs in yours. It was a palm on forehead moment once I recalled the "Vive la France!" quote from the Mel Brooks' 'History of Time' from my childhood.
I just ordered a desktop spectrometer from breadpig to see was sort of output I was getting from the cheap lights that I bought. I've thought of doing some mods on them like separating the drivers to distribute the heat a bit more effectively, or maybe even swapping out the chips and/or drivers, and just using them as big heat sink chasis. But, as mentioned before, I've been fiddling with so many variables, that I might as well wait and see for a while, while I take care of this mite problem.

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Re: Indoor tropical LED experiment

Post  MrFancyPlants on Thu Dec 20, 2012 7:51 pm

Ryan,
I did treat the other plants last night as a precautionary measure, even though I didn't see any telltale signs of mite damage on the benjaminas and the other unknown plant, but I wondered if this was necessary since the salicifolia seems so much more susceptible. I have a theory that that the mites coexisted with a small clover growing in the pot of the franken benjamina that hasn't between repotted since it's summer outdoors. I am going to try another spray batch with a bit more oil and less soap since I've verified that the soap's role is mainly as an emulsifier for the oil, and the the oil does the suffocating.

Thanks for the help!

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Re: Indoor tropical LED experiment

Post  Ryan on Thu Dec 20, 2012 7:56 pm

MrFancyPlants wrote:Ryan,
I did treat the other plants last night as a precautionary measure, even though I didn't see any telltale signs of mite damage on the benjaminas and the other unknown plant, but I wondered if this was necessary since the salicifolia seems so much more susceptible. I have a theory that that the mites coexisted with a small clover growing in the pot of the franken benjamina that hasn't between repotted since it's summer outdoors. I am going to try another spray batch with a bit more oil and less soap since I've verified that the soap's role is mainly as an emulsifier for the oil, and the the oil does the suffocating.

Thanks for the help!

It's always good to treat as a preventative Smile

Here's my setup in case you haven't seen it yet:
http://ibonsaiclub.forumotion.com/t10302p30-how-i-grow-my-ficus

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Re: Indoor tropical LED experiment

Post  MrFancyPlants on Thu Dec 20, 2012 8:13 pm

Ryan,
I have payed attention to your setups. They are a good part of what has encouraged me to upgrade my setup this year. I just don't have quite as much space to work with and I wanted to see what these LEDs were capable of. I am pretty happy with the results so far minus these pesky mites. After a few hours run time, my setup evens out at 82f and 82% humidity. At night the temp drops down to about 70 and the humidity goes up to 99.
I am still a little iffy on the watering though. The turface on the surface seems to dry out in a couple days and even seems dry with a little digging at the surface but it seems like it could go longer with all that humidity. I may need to break out the chopsticks.

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Re: Indoor tropical LED experiment

Post  coh on Sun Oct 19, 2014 11:25 pm

I'm looking for an update on how the LED spotlight experiment is working out. I recently acquired a largish ficus and don't have room for it in my current light "garden", so was thinking about adding a supplemental spot light. Thanks in advance.

Chris

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Re: Indoor tropical LED experiment

Post  MrFancyPlants on Mon Oct 20, 2014 1:37 am

The LEDs have worked out just fine for me. The floodlights I bought were pretty cheap and eventually burned out, but I replaced the chips with higher wattage chips and they are still plugging away on year two.  
I like how the flood lights fit the aquarium and help lock in more heat and humidity.  However if you really want a spot light, and you want higher wattage than the traditional screw on light bulb, then I would consider getting a chip, a CPU cooler/fan, a power supply for the chip and a 12v? (Usb) power supply for the fan.  Make sure you use thermal epoxy instead of paste so that the chip doesn't fall off of the fan.  You could the. Retro fit and old spot light with the newest in lighting technology for pretty darn cheap.  You can get all of the parts for well under 50 and have more light then you would want to look at with unprotected eyes.  If you could fit the fan/chip into a spot type housing you could angle it down and towards the plant and away from any viewers.

I am thinking my next project will be to 3-d print a lid to a aquarium with spots for a bunch of these chip/fan combos I might then invest in a fancy power supply so that I could find tune the spectral output and/or maximize the light output while keeping the temperature within a certain range, and be able to swap out the chips that would require different currents.  It is kind of a pipe dream at this point but I do like to tinker.
The chip/fan can be had for less than 20$, and my electrician friend says they should last "longer than you" with the fan/heat sink there to cool it off.

Here is an update of one of my ficuses looking happy, although a couple subjects are showing signs of spider mites nibbling.  I gave them a a spritz or 7 of neem.

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Re: Indoor tropical LED experiment

Post  Ryan on Mon Oct 20, 2014 4:43 am

MrFancyPlants wrote:.
Here is an update of one of my ficuses looking happy, although a couple subjects are showing signs of spider mites nibbling.  I gave them a a spritz or 7 of neem.


It's the heat and humidity. The mites love that. That was the reason I really gave up the humidity enclosures. Fans help, but the mites can still find a way to spread.

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