What is Light Deprivation and How Can it Help My Garden?

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Light Deprivation

Many gardeners would love to discover a technique whereby they can grow whatever plants they want at whatever time of year they choose. This might seem like an impossible task, unless you happen to have access to some kind of climate-controlled facilities, of course. However, we know that by using artificial lights to recreate the light cycle that would trigger the plant to grow in the wild, we can grow things more efficiently, and whenever we choose.

Light deprivation makes use of similar principles to achieve the same thing in a slightly different way.

Read more after the jump:
Light Deprivation

What is Light Deprivation?

Light deprivation, sometimes referred to in its truncated form, light dep, is a method whereby a gardener is able to force a plant to flower from sunlight outside of its usual flowering period. This is achieved, as the name suggests, by strategically depriving the flowers of sunlight at the appropriate times. You may well have come across the idea of controlling a plant’s growth by controlling the supply of artificial light to it; light deprivation works using the same principles but in the opposite way.

The most common type of cycle used is called a ‘12/12’ (pronounced ‘twelve-twelve’) because, as you’ve probably guessed, it involves 12 hours of natural sunlight followed by 12 hours of blackout conditions. The blackout conditions can either be provided manually by blocking off all sources of sunlight falling on a plantar automatically by use of a special system on a timer.

Using an automatic system is more reliable, as it removes any element of human error and ensures the cycle will be as close to perfectly regular as you can achieve. The good news is that gardeners who want to experiment with light deprivation can purchase blackout light deprivation greenhouse kits that retrofit to current greenhouses, and start using this technique today.

Why Ventilation Still Matters

It is essential that you maintain good ventilation in your greenhouse, especially when the blackout or light deprivation is in effect. Many gardeners underestimate the effect that using these blackout measures will have on the flow of air, as well as the flow of light. As well as excess heat build-up, it is also more likely that humidity will form where you have blackouts underway. Either of these things alone can interfere with a plant’s growth – both together cause even more problems.

Think about the blacked-out area as being like a small indoor room in its own right. Obviously, the area is not physically sealed in, but if you treat it as if it is, this will help to guide your decisions regarding the ventilation. There are some blackout products known as breathable walls. These are designed to block out light but allow air flow to continue.

Light Deprivation

Efficient and Eco-Friendly

Using an artificial light cycle to induce plants to behave in particular ways is nothing new. However, particularly in recent times, the most efficient way of using these techniques has been to provide plants with bright, high-powered lighting at certain times. The problem with this is those lights require a lot of energy to keep shining, energy which is often not coming from sustainable sources. Light deprivation makes use of natural sunlight, but obviously, you are at the mercy of the sun, and the Earth’s position relative to it.

However, now we have the ability to reliably and efficiently control the light cycle a plant is exposed to, taking advantage of natural light rather than artificial light. The only energy that needs to be expended here is in running a small motor to move coverings over windows. This allows gardeners to take full advantage of a controlled light cycle, but without the potentially significant environmental costs of doing so.

Natural Vs Artificial

Depriving plants of light at strategic intervals can be just as effective as exposing them to very bright lights. However, just as when we are using light to induce growth, when we use the deprivation of light to induce growth, the darker it gets during those blackouts, the more effective it will be. When conditions are optimal, light deprivation can produce results that are every bit as good as those achieved with high-powered lighting.

If you are looking for a way to take your gardening to the next level, look no further than light deprivation. You can have a system retrofitted to your greenhouse today, or you can invest in an advanced light deprivation greenhouse.

Images – Gerakas Apartments by Office Twentyfive Architects

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