Build a Grow Light System for Starting Seeds Indoors

You can assemble your own inexpensive grow light system that will serve well for starting seeds indoors or growing an indoor garden.
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I look forward to starting seeds indoors under lights each spring. Growing your own transplants offers a number of benefits. It is less expensive than purchasing nursery seedlings, there is a greater selection of seeds available in comparison to the standard plant varieties at most nurseries, and it provides a little gardening therapy during the winter months when the ground is under a layer of snow.

In order to grow healthy seedlings, you will need some supplemental light. When I first searched online for growing stands for starting seeds indoors, I quickly discovered that they cost way more than I wanted to spend. A two-shelf unit with 4-foot fluorescent lights was well over $400. If you have the money to splurge on a grow light system, this 2-Tier Garden Grow Light Kit from Gardener Supply is a dream.

I was unable to afford such a unit this required some creative thinking to figure out a less expensive option for starting seeds indoors.

You can assemble your own inexpensive grow light system that will serve well for starting seeds indoors or growing an indoor garden.

I shopped around for a wire-shelving unit that would accommodate a 4-foot shop light. I wasn’t able to find one locally, but I did find some 23-inch 3-Tier Shelving Units. Two of these units placed side by side are the perfect size to hang two 4-foot shop lights across each shelf. The shelves are 13-inches deep and two standard seedling trays fit perfectly on each shelf. Plus there is room for two shop lights on each shelf if more light is needed.

These 3-Tier Shelving Units can be found in big box stores or online or here. Be sure to select units that measure around 23in x 13in x 30in.

The shop lights I use are your standard 4-foot fixtures found in big box stores or online for around $20. These come with chains and a couple s-hooks. You will need to pick up extra s-hooks to hook the chain to the wire shelving. The power strip with a timer is also available in big box stores or online.

Here is how I built my seed growing area for starting seeds indoors:

You can assemble your own inexpensive grow light system that will serve well for starting seeds indoors or growing an indoor garden.

How to Build a Grow Light System for Starting Seeds Indoors:

Components:

3-Tier Shelving Units
2 4-Foot Shop Lights
4 Fluorescent Light Bulbs
1 Outlet Strip with Timer
4 Extra S-hooks

Procedure:

  1. Assemble shelving units per instructions. Since these shelves are adjustable, make sure they are at the same level for both units.
  1. Locate your seed growing area near an outlet. Place the shelving units side by side. I situated the shelves on a little used workbench, but they could also be raised up on a folding table to make it easy to tend to the seedlings.
  1. Use the chains and S-hooks that came with the shop lights, plus the extra S-hooks to hang the shop lights from the top and middle shelves. Plug the lights into the Power Strip Timer. Plug the timer into the outlet.

Tips on Lighting for Healthy Seedlings:

  • Check the packaging of your 4-Foot Shop Lights to be sure you are buying the correct bulbs. Some require T12 and some T8.
  • Fluorescent tubes come in cool, warm, or full-spectrum. Full-spectrum fluorescent bulbs provide a balance of cool and warm lighting that represents natural lighting. Cool white bulbs provide blue/green spectrum while warm white bulbs provide red/orange spectrum. Full-spectrum fluorescent bulbs were more difficult to find locally so I use the standard cool white bulbs. Most seedlings and greens do well with cool white bulbs.
  • Fluorescent tubes lose intensity over time with continued use and should be replaced every two years with fresh bulbs. I continue to use the older bulbs in other shop lights around the basement.
  • Seedlings require at least 12-16 hours of light each day. I set my Power Strip Timer for 16 hours on, then 8 hours off.
  • Keep the lights about 2-inches above the seedlings. Adjust as the plants grow.



I hope I have encouraged you to assemble your own inexpensive grow light system that will serve well for starting seeds indoors. Once you have your Grow Light Shelving System, it is fun to experiment with growing some edibles indoors during the winter months. Visit How to Grow an Indoor Garden to see what will grow under lights during the winter.

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15 thoughts on “Build a Grow Light System for Starting Seeds Indoors

  1. ~Rachel Arsenault Post author

    Geo, You should be able to find 4 foot Shop Lights easily at any big box home improvement store like Home Depot or Lowes. Power strip timer too. If not, these items can be ordered online and delivered to you.

    Reply
  2. Maureen Thomas

    I built a seed starting station a couple of years ago, best gardening tool yet. After years of not enough window sills and little seedlings getting cold, and leggy and sickly. Looking through catalogs and seeing the price of these things, I went to Sam’s Club and bought a metal shelf on wheels,9 I can roll it out the door if I want to. I have 2 shop lights per shelf, 4 bulbs per shelf. ( Home Depot) I use the regular lights, the Grow lights are expensive and draw more power. set a power strip up on a timer, I don’t see a difference on my power bill. Keep the tops of the plants just under the lights. I hang the foil car windshield shades (Thrift stores) all around to keep in the warm air and reflect the light. I can put 4 trays on each shelf and have 3 shelves set up. Very easy to set up and a fraction of the cost. All you really need to harden off plants is put a fan on them.

    Reply
  3. Andrew

    I’m planning on growing all winter, so I’m looking for tray that is about 4 inches and will fit on the shelf. Does anyone have any ideas? The window sill boxes flair too much at the top to be able to fit side by side on the shelf.

    Reply
  4. Bipasha

    I have never used grow lights, but instead use a minimum of 6500K temperature lights. I live in the inland northwest where temperature remains sub zero for 3-4 months, and I have an indoors tropical garden that thrives during winter – thanks to the grow lights.

    Reply

Thank you so much for your comments. I love hearing from you!