Dear Dan, I want to grow outdoors, but first I want to start my plants indoors early. The question I have is what should I set the light to? When I plan to put them out they'll get 13 hours of light. So should I give them 13-9, or 16-8. Or what? I'm worried that they will flower earlier. - Eugene S.
Starting outdoor plants indoors is the way to go. This gives you several advantages to those who plant outside from the get-go. First, your plants will be stronger and bigger when you take them outside, leading to a bigger eventual harvest. Also, you will be able to monitor them better during their seedling stage to prevent any unforeseen tragedies that can occur outdoors due to rain, wind or pests.
The important thing is to acclimate them to their new environment instead of just putting them outside to face the elements. When you’re ready to take them outdoors, do so for just a few hours for the first few days and then slowly increase the time they spend under the sun. This way they won’t suffer from any shock going from their indoor light source to the much more powerful sunshine.
I recommend using 18 hours on and 6 hours off for vegetating plants. You can boost it up to 20 on 4 off if you wish but I don’t believe in 24 hours of continuous light for vegging. Plants need at least a few hours of darkness to rest and use up the energy stored during the light cycle to grow. This way your plants won’t begin flowering until you put them outside.
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(photo by Felix Green)