...sometimes even a single feather is enough to fly. (Robert Maclean)


Do-It-Yourself Grow Light Shelves

We decided to try to start some of our own seeds this year, for three reasons:

- to get our garden growing a little earlier
-  to hopefully stop spending so much money every year from buying transplants 
- and for fun, of course!  

I looked and looked through a bunch of gardening catalogs,
and several of them offer seed starting "grow shelves."
If you want to accomodate more than two trays,
the shelves start at around $350 and go on up to $600.
(Not to mention shipping charges are usually extra due to size and weight, etc.) 

Luckily my girlfriend talked me out of taking the easy (and most expensive) route,
 and I decided to figure out what I could put together...
hopefully making it as good, if not better.

I found a commercial-grade 6-shelf, 4' wide chrome shelving unit at Home Depot for $100.
Each shelf supposedly will hold up to 600 pounds!
While assembling the unit, I realized there are some real pros to this version
(and I couldn't think of any cons):
- I can re-arrange the shelf spacing anytime I see fit.
- I can add more trays and lights if I want to expand. 
For now, since we're newbies, I thought I'd just try two light shelves. 
I could easily double up by using two more of the shelves in the future, if my heart desires. 
That still leaves two shelves free for supplies, books, etc.
I chose to put the trays length-wise for now, but f I wanted to,
 I could re-orient them
and put 5 trays on a shelf,
but they wouldn't get quite as much concentrated light... 

Experiments will tell how important that truly is. 

The shelves are wire-rack style, so they're easy to hang s-hooks from.
Which are handy for hanging utility lights with, and that's exactly what I did. 
I found 48" wide heavy duty utility shop light fixtures at Home Depot.
They're not cheap, at $50/each, but they're sturdy and seem like they'll last. 
Each fixture holds 4 bulbs.
That's a lot of light, baby!
And I bought a pack of 10 cool white  T8 bulbs for $25.  

There's plenty of room at the bottom for storing our miscellanea:
seed trays, tray inserts, misters, soil, our handy blocker, soil thermometer, etc. 

Under each tray I put a seedling heat mat.
You can get them at Amazon
If you don't already have your trays and inserts and humidity lids,
I suggest these Germination Stations
(For only $2 more, you get the mat and all the other stuff.)

The utility lights come with an outlet on one side so you can link the heat pads right in, easy, without a ton of extension cords hanging around.  

Speaking of cords, I decided to try out a power strip with a timer
so that I won't have to go turn the lights on and off every day...   It
 only set me back $17, so if it works, it's well worth the peace of mind.

There's room on the top of the shelving unit for our reference books and most importantly,
all the seeds!!!
I have a basket filled with seeds, some I harvested and saved from last year's garden (and CSA!). 
Some are 2-3 years old from seed catalogs, so I'll try some as an experiment and see what happens.

And some, of course, are from this year's ambitious catalog shopping. 
I always go more than a teensy bit overboard. 
I'll just have to make a bigger garden!


So, altogether this shelving project cost:
$225 + tax. 

I can germinate 4-10 seedling trays with this current configuration.

That's half what I would have paid if I had bought the one I liked from a garden catalog.

That price doesn't include
- the s hooks, which I had on hand
- the seed mats, the trays and inserts and power strip...
those are all extras, not included with the catalog versions. 

 It's hard to tell how nice and concentrated the light is from this shot,
but take my word for it.
If you were a little seed, filled with promise...
with a nice warm heating pad, some organic soil,
 gently misted water... and these lights?
Yes, yes, you'd want to put down your roots and grow!

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