My engineer husband doesn’t like gardening, but he almost can’t help himself when it comes to researching and inventing things. Hence, I have a new set of grow lights for my birthday this year. I also have some that he made me about 5 years ago, with some metal shelves that he fabricated himself and used some special process to coat with paint, something he was wanting to try; building me greenhouse shelves was a good trial run. These have worked very well, except we noticed it would be nicer to have open, grate-like shelves. So lately, when I found I really could use more lights, we did it this way:
First, I bought shelves like these from Costco. These are very sturdy, and water resistant. The shelf height is adjustable. Some seedling grow very flat to the soil for a while, such as petunias and snapdragons, so other shelves can be made taller for plants that grow straight up, like tomatoes. For those of you who don’t mind dealing with wood and water, or just want a less expensive stand option, this article has some nice instructions.
Next, we made a trip to Home Depot for shop light fixtures. These have a metal finish, which should reflect the light around to advantage. They come with chains and hooks for hanging, but one more piece of chain is needed for each connection. My husband had some other chain left-over from fixing a toilet or something. Such chain can be found by the foot at places like Home Depot or D&B Supply. With pliers, he removed it by links, bent one end of the hook securely around the upper shelve, but left the other end of the hook loose enough to allow for raising the lights as plants grow.
We had flourescent bulbs still. My husband had researched this thoroughly, as well. We put one blue spectrum and one red spectrum in each fixture. A good explanation of options for lights is on this website. Many people recommend a timer. Right now, I just turn them on when I wake up, and then off right before I go to bed. I am going to be looking for a way to support the cords from the lights, so that the weight of the cord doesn’t pull them to one side. Duct tape or twisty ties? Or my husband probably has some bits of wire. (I learned more about greenhouse lights later.)
The cost break down was (rounded):
Shop lights $200 (10x $20 each)
extension cords $20
flourescent bulbs $70 (2 x 10 pack)
extra chain $5
Complete stands seem to be close to $900, but include some solid looking plant trays. The main one I saw for sale held 12 trays, whereas mine holds 10. If I could come up with some narrower trays, I could probably utilize some of the extra space on the shelves. There seems to be enough light coverage for another row of pots. I like that the components of my stand are basic, non-specialized. That means that it should be easy to get replacements if necessary. However, of the light fixtures that I’ve had about 5 years, we’ve only needed to replace one.
I have a greenhouse attached to my kitchen area, so that means I get heat from the house, but I also have a space heater in there for colder days. Since the greenhouse opens up onto the patio, I can take the plants in and out fairly easily when it is time to harden them off and give them more real sunlight.
An April birthday is perfect for a gardener.