Review: Garland Grow Light Garden

Being an impatient so and so occasionally, last winter I couldn’t wait to get sowing and growing.  After a failed attempt to grow plants from seeds the year before on our windowsill (due to lack of light), I investigated grow lights and stumbled upon the Garland Grow Light Garden (see images above and below).

The first signs of life in mid-winter - it's working!
The first signs of life in mid-winter – it’s working!

The Garland Grow Light Garden is made of plastic, about two and bit feet long by one and a bit feet deep, it was bigger than I expected. The lid houses two full colour spectrum fluorescent tube bulbs.

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All of the reviews on Amazon warn you that raising and lowering the light to help you water seedlings is a pain. “Yeah, yeah. Can’t be that bad.” I thought. I was wrong, the reviews were right. It is a real pain.

The lid slides up and down on two metal rods attached to the base. Stopped only by two rubber O rings you have to roll up and down the rods. As the lid is so tightly attached to the rods, you have to lift it up and then slide the O ring up or down to position. As it’s large and heavy, you can only do one side at a time, and it gets stuck and… well, just trust me and everyone else. It’s a nightmare.

Overall, the build of the Garland Grow Light Garden is a bit flimsy, considering the price of £65, despite the solid plastic.

BUT does it work?!

Well, the proof is in the salad.

propagation02

propagation06

Yes it did work. There are some major problems I came across however.

First up, is that you can buy an optional tray insert and capillary mat, to draw water up from the tray and magically water your plants.

propagation05

Do not buy the tray and capillary mat! It was a disaster for me. It went mouldy after a week or so, and generally made the atmosphere far too humid. Everything quickly became infected with a weird blotchy fungal disease. Worse, using this mat, most of the seedlings in the second batch died of damping off. An entire tray of Solenostemon and Mimosa pudica succumbed.

In fact, humidity and fungal diseases for me were a big problem. Even after using Jeyes Fluid (which I no longer use due to its toxicity) most seedlings had problems.

The other problem I had with the Garland Grow Light Garden was general weakness of plants. I can’t entirely put my finger on this, but all plants, lettuce included just felt a little floppy and weak. They weren’t etiolated, they were getting enough light to prevent that, but the leaves weren’t crisp. Perhaps due to the heat?

Second time lucky

While this review may sound negative, I don’t want it to be. I did have some successes with the Grow Light. In particular, some tomato plants, a basil, french beans and Lupins were all started off well in here.

I’m willing to concede that I may have been doing things wrong too. I had no real idea of how near or far the light should be from the plants, it was guess work.

Despite some heavy losses, I am going to give it a second go from January- March 2016. A period where light levels for everyone (especially us in our dark flat) are too low for sowing normally. I’m going to try Mimosa again, and try growing some cacti from seed. Ooh, exciting.

Summary: Garland Grow Light Garden

It is flawed: adjusting the lid and lights is a pain in the backside, and the electricity cable is loose. It’s expensive at £65, yet flimsy. The growing conditions don’t seem to be 100% perfect. The capillary mat accessory was a problem but an optional extra you can ‘opt’ to avoid. It obviously uses electricity that anyone with lots of light in a conservatory or greenhouse probably won’t need, though I’m reliably informed it doesn’t cost that much to run.

There was salad!
There was salad!

Despite all of that, it worked and I did get plants from seed from it out of season, as well as kick-starting others in season. So, it was fun. And it is the first all in one indoor plant light box for novices. I just hope there is a version 2 which irons out some of the problems.

My opinion may get better or it may get worse this coming winter and spring. I shall let you know! For now, if you can afford it and feel experimental, give it a whirl.

Score: 3/5

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Jack Wallington

I'm an RHS qualified garden designer living in Clapham, London who loves growing plants and designing with them. Follow me on Twitter.

12 thoughts on “Review: Garland Grow Light Garden

  1. Very cool post. The indoor plant box looks like a good place to start. Awesome to see the progress of your grow light garden.

  2. I just purchased the item and I notice that it now comes with a plastic and small screen to raide or lower the might instead of the plastic Rubber ring. It should solve the problem.

    1. I have one and mine has screws that pinch against the rods and it’s okay for moving. I could imagine having O rings would be much worse.

      I was finding the same thing with the plants not seeming to get enough light. I put an additional 24” bulb in and wow it made a difference. I put succulents in and even they grow nice and compact. If you want to get one I would 100% recommend adding one more light. Looking at it you could fit up to 5 though I can’t comment on how well it’ll work.

      I do like the tray. Hated the capillary mat, maybe in a well ventilated space where you have a fan for your set up but otherwise give it away not worth it.

  3. Hi Jack, I was thinking of getting one of these, and spotted your review high up on the Google search page… Thank goodness!
    Did your opinion change second time round? And I’m wondering if there’s better options out there… Ikea now do an aquaponics version, which is Leo more attractive in off-white. I’m not convinced by aquaponics though.

    1. Hi Judy, good question. So I think the Garland Growlight box is good (without the watering matting!) I don’t personally use it now because I’ve found better results in general propagation from our bay window. If growing things in winter however it does work you just have to pay extra attention to fungal diseases but that’s quite easy. Personally, if I were to go for grow lights in future I reckon I would just opt for the more general lamps that you stand overhead, the only thing is that they don’t look very good and that matters inside where people will see it. The more stylish ones like Ikeas look great but they always seem to be too small to me but maybe worth trying?

  4. Hi Jack

    I own 2 grow light stations, they are really good, but when growing chiliplants the light roof extension option comes to an abrupt end, when I can’t position the roof any higher.

    Chiliplants grow really fast, but I can’t put them outside just yet. Where I live, I need that extra month before it’s possible. During that time, I need to keep the plants under the light. Therefore I need to be able to position the roof a tad higher than I am able to today. The posts are simply too short.

    I simply need a pair of extra iron posts to extend the roof positioning.

    Or a set of extra long iron posts (1 meter +).

    I can’t find a set of two extra iron posts. I have borrowed 2 from another station. Now I have to use two folders to support the light roof, while another station is extendable.

    Luckily the upright posts are hollow, so you can insert two bamboo sticks to support them,
    so that the second set of posts don’t slide away.

    It’s probably not a challenge for most people, but just wanted to say…..

    1. Interesting, thanks Guspath. I can see why that’s a big limitation of the grow light. I am interested in alternative products. I think there is a market for more consumer friendly grow lights that are better suited to growing. As you say, this one isn’t flexible for lots of situations.

  5. Hi Jack,

    I am thinking of getting one of these to keep my succulents and cacti happy indoors. Do you think it would be suited for that – have you tried it on houseplants?

    You mentioned you were going to try growing cacti from seed with it – any luck?

    Cheers,

    Kat

    1. Hey Kat!

      It probably would be good as a boost for cacti and succulents in the winter, the only problem with it is that for the light to be effective it has to sit about 3 – 7cm above the plants. This might be tricky with different sized plants?

      I would definitely say that this is only a temporary solution for such plants, in the summer they will need full on direct sunlight.

      I never did get around to growing cacti from see in it, though I would like to give them a go this year.

      Jack

  6. Thanks for the review. I too read the slightly negative reviews elsewhere and was concerned about the up-down movement, but the unit I purchased (GBP 28, second hand) has rubber rings and so far it doesn’t seem to be a big deal. Apparently at one time (before or after this version I do not know) there has been a screw-in and out system. The seller of this unit in as far as I can tell very good condition, was very close-by and as retail in Canada is GBP95+ I am giving it a try, despite the mixed reviews and possible height adjustment issue.

    I really appreciate the warnings about the wicking mat mold issue. What I notice is that it takes considerable time to suck up the water. An hour isn’t enough. Maybe mine is beyond its lifetime after one season?

    I have contacted Garland about replacement mats. Or is something generic available?

    Hermes in Canada

    P.S. I am starting seeds for culinary and aromatic plants to transplant in later spring to outdoors

    1. Sounds like a fantastic selection to grow from seed! Yes, I don’t think the grow light is too bad really. It does what it says. Some limitations but it’s good until someone makes something more practical.

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