Sweet Pea’s Side Dish: How to Build a Grow Light Shelving System for Seeds

DIY Grow Light Shelving System for Seeds

In case you missed my last Sweet Pea’s Side Dish, I talked all about  Starting a Vegetable Garden From Seed. Today’s post is part two of growing seeds indoors! I wanted to share with you my Grow Light Shelving System for Seeds and how I made my own unit for a fraction of what it costs to buy a ready-made unit.

Are you ready to get started! 🙂

What You’ll Need For One Shelf Of Lighting:

*As you can see in the pictures below, I have two shelves of lighting.

Step 1: Assemble the Shelf

Assemble your shelf, or if you already have one, install it where you want to grow your seedlings. It’s best to set up your shelving system  away from cold drafts, excess heat and heavy foot traffic. My shelf is in the unfinished part of the basement. I like setting it up here because I don’t have to worry about spilled water or dirt on my carpets or wood floors. If you would prefer, lay plastic sheeting on the floor underneath the shelves to prevent problems with spilled water, soil and/or fertilizer.

How to Build a Grow Light Shelving System for Seeds

Step 2: Assemble and Hang the Lights

I use three 48″ fluorescent shop lights with two bulbs in each unit for each shelf of lighting. Make sure that you pick a style that suspends from chains. Insert the Fluorescent Plant lights into each fixture. Using the S-hooks and chains, attach the shop lights to the shelf above.  Adjust the chains so they’re about 1 to 2 inches above your plants. You don’t have to turn on the lights until sprouts appear. Once the sprouts appear, remove the clear plastic covering from the seed trays. Turn on the lights, and adjust their height so they’re 1 to 2 inches above the top of the sprouts. Raise the lights as needed to keep that amount of space between the lights and the tops of plants. Remove the seedlings from the shelving unit once you can no longer raise the lights high enough to prevent scorching the leaves.

How to Build a Grow Light Shelving System for Seeds

Step 3: Program Your Timer

After the seedlings have sprouted, the Fluorescent Plant lights should be on for about 16 to 18 hours per day. Program your timer according to its instructions.  I have mine timer set to keep the lights on from 5 AM to 9 PM, 7 days a week.

How to Build a Grow Light Shelving System for Seeds

Step 4: Plug in the Lights

I position my shelves with all the electrical cords aimed toward the nearest electrical outlet. Plug your lights into the surge protector.  Plug the surge protector into the timer. Plug the timer into an electrical outlet.

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Step 5: Watch Your Seedlings Grow!

It’s that simple and doesn’t have to be as expensive as those ready-made indoor growing units! Growing plants from seedlings should be fun. Every late winter/spring I look forward to starting a summer garden. I can already taste those home grown tomatoes! 😀

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How do you start your seeds indoors?  Do you have a grow light for your seedlings?


One Year Ago: Little Sweet Pea’s Birth Story  little sweet pea

Two Years Ago: Snickery Squares Snickery Squares

Three Years Ago: Cowboy Cookies Cowboy Cookies


Electrical plug Image courtesy of jiggoja/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Seedlings Image courtesy of cbenjasuwan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

5 Responses to “Sweet Pea’s Side Dish: How to Build a Grow Light Shelving System for Seeds”

  1. #
    kita — March 11, 2014 @ 10:07 am

    I’m currently wondering how to sneak this into the garage without my boyfriend noticing 😉 We already have shelves that are just holding onto junk we don’t really need… hmmm

  2. #
    Karl — March 11, 2014 @ 3:39 pm

    This is exactly what I’ve done for a couple of years now, and it works very well. The addition of a heat mat with a temperature probe (for tomatoes and peppers, etc.) makes this an ideal setup. Watering can be made easy by using a large (and clean) laundry detergent jug (the type with a push-bulb dispenser and second filler cap) placed on the top shelf with a length of flexible tubing connected to the push-bulb spout – simple and easy, and you can even fill it with compost tea rather than water if you like. Attach a 2′ length of wood dowel to the outlet end of the tubing and you have a handy watering wand that can reach between plants without knocking them when they are larger.

  3. #
    JulianeT — March 18, 2014 @ 2:10 pm

    There are so many ways to be successful with growing food/gardening. 🙂
    Last fall we built a raised bed cold frame on the south side of our cinder block pump house. 3 feet wide, 8 feet long, 2 feet tall, with 2 foot tall plexiglass windbreaks on either end and a hinged top.

    We direct sowed lettuce and arugula in early November (10 + days past our first frost date) and even though we have had one of the coldest and iciest winters where we live in many years, the seeds germinated and grew.
    We have been enjoying our fresh greens for two months now.
    We cut them with a scissors and they keep on growing more. They are SO good! 🙂

    I have a layer of clear plastic sheeting that I use directly over the top edge of the box as another layer of protection from the freezing temps. When we were going to be down in the single digits, I would lay an unzipped sleeping bag over the plastic sheeting, and under the top frame. Must have been cozy- the farm cats spent the night there on those bitter cold nights- and probably helped save the plants from freezing with their body temperature, lol. A win-win situation for sure!

    Now that spring is almost here I am using a few bare spots in the box to nurture along some broccoli, cabbage and kale plants.
    We just had an ice storm yesterday and may have another one next week, so I’m not ready to put those out in the garden just yet. The “cole crops”, brassicas- brussells sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, kohlrabi, mustard greens and kale (there are some others)- prefer cool weather- 75 degrees and below.

    The Box has been a great reminder on days like today when I have to scrape 1/3 inch of ice off my car just to get in it- Spring IS coming!

  4. #
    Melanie @ Carmel Moments — March 19, 2014 @ 3:51 pm

    What a great idea! Wonder if my hubby is up for a weekend project. I certainly hope so. 🙂

  5. #
    Miss Nutralicious — March 21, 2014 @ 2:38 pm

    Last year (and hopefully this year too), I started my vegetable garden indoors by planting seeds that I placed in my naturally sunny window sill. It was easy, fun and eventually delicious! You have inspired me to add ‘grow light’ to my 2014 Fall to-do-list. I’m so excited to have fresh herbs and vegetables growing in my basement next winter! Thanks for the great instructions!

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