The 2010 Extension Master Gardener Training will be held in Garden City beginning Feb. 3. These classes are scheduled on Feb. 3, 10, 17 and 24 and March 3, 10, 17 and 24. Sessions will last from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Finney County Extension Office, 501 S. Ninth St. Applications are being accepted by contacting any of the 26 southwest Kansas county Extension offices. Cost of the training will be $85, which includes a three-ring binder and other training materials. Registration is due by Jan. 28 at any southwest Kansas Extension office.

Anyone with a sincere interest in becoming a certified volunteer and sharing horticultural-related topics and information to others is encouraged to apply. This is a great training for those who are willing to improve their skills and knowledge of horticulture topics and like to work with people.

Topics covered during the 40 hours of class training will include: basic botany, soils/water/fertilizers/compost, vegetables and fruits, ornamental plants, indoor plants and flowers, plant disease and insect diagnosis and management, pesticide use and safety, turfgrasses, tree and shrub care and landscape design.

Contact me at 272-3670 at the Finney County office.

Newer indoor lights available

Most of us use fluorescent lights in our homes, shops or to start young vegetable and flower plants during the spring or to grow certain houseplants all year long. Traditionally, we have used fixtures with T-12 lamps suspended a few inches above the tops of the plants. However, there are newer lamps that may be a better choice for some indoor gardens. These are known as T-8 and T-5 lamps. The number after the "T" refers to the diameter of the lamp in eighths of an inch. Therefore, a T-12 lamp is 12/8 or 1.5 inches in diameter and are what most people are familiar with. A T-8 is 8/8 or 1 inch in diameter, and a T-5 is 5/8 of an inch in diameter.

So does a smaller diameter mean less light? Not at all. In fact, the T-5 is the brightest of the three. A T-12 lamp puts out 1,500 to 1,700 lumens for a 48-inch lamp. This lamp has a life of between 10,000 and 20,000 hours. The T-8 lamp produces 3,400 lumens and has a 40,000-hour life expectancy. The T-5 is rated at 5,000 lumens but lasts only 30,000 hours. Well, actually 30,000 hours is a long time. If you had your lamps turned on for 12 hours every day, it would take almost seven years to reach the 30,000-hour mark.

Another advantage for these newer lamps is they use less electricity per lumen. Our traditional 48-inch T-12 is rated at 40 watts, the T-8 at 32 watts and the T-5 at 54 watts. This sounds too good to be true. Are there drawbacks? Of course there are. First, you cannot use your existing T-12 fixtures but must use fixtures made for the type of lamp you buy. For example, a T-5 fixture that holds four lamps could cost up to about $200. About $60 of this cost is the four T-5 lamps included in the deal. A three-bulb T-8 fixture with the three bulbs included costs about the same ($200) but would not produce as much light. However, the T-8 lamps use less electricity per lamp and last longer. If you have done the math, you have noticed these lamps are not cheap. The T-5 lamps may cost up to about $15 each and the T-8s run about $20 per unit. The question becomes, is it worth it? If you have a single fixture and are satisfied with your results, then probably not. If you have a more extensive setup and/or want your plants to be stockier, then this might be of value.

Remember that the closer the fluorescent lights are to the top of plants, the greater the intensity. It's like standing in a shady area versus in direct sunlight. Most young seedling plants need very bright light (close, within two to three inches) rather than dim light (light fixture farther away). Seedlings grown under high light intensity will be short and stocky. When the lamps are placed higher above the plants, the light becomes more defused, and results in weak, spindly, stretched out seedlings.

For more information or assistance on this or other topics, please call the Extension office at 272-3670, located at 501 S. Ninth St.