Do you want to start garden seedlings indoors? In order to grow healthy seedlings and plants indoors, you will need some supplemental light. Here is a simple and affordable grow light system made from easy to find equipment.
Growing plants indoors is an enjoyable project for any gardener. Whether you want to grow herbs inside, start your garden seedlings, cultivate an indoor vegetable garden, or provide supplemental light to your houseplants during winter, this inexpensive DIY grow light shelf will help you raise healthy plants.
Benefits of Growing Your Own Plant Seedlings
Growing your own garden seedlings offers a number of benefits:
- It is less expensive than purchasing nursery transplants.
- There is a greater selection of seeds available in comparison to the standard plant varieties at most nurseries.
- You have full control over the quality of the plants. When you grow your own transplants, you know that they are well cared for and raised without unwanted chemicals.
- 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 and plants indoors, you will need some supplemental light. When I first searched online for growing units 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 3-Tier Garden Grow Light Kit from Gardener Supply is a dream.
I could not afford such a unit, so this required some creative thinking to figure out a less-expensive option for starting seeds indoors. After shopping around, this is the DIY grow light shelving system I assembled. I have used it for over 10 years!
Equipment for a Building a Grow Light Shelf
You can assemble your own inexpensive grow light system that will serve well for starting seeds indoors and growing an indoor garden. Here is what you will need:
I looked for a large wire-shelving unit that would accommodate 4-foot shop lights. I wasn’t able to find a large shelving unit 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. Be sure to select units that measure around 30 inches H x 23 inches W x 13 inches D.
If you want a larger grow light shelf, this 6-Tier Shelving Unit will more than double your growing space.
Shop Lights: The lights I use are your standard 4-foot shop light fixtures found in big box stores or online for around $30. 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.
Bulbs: Florescent bulbs come in cool, warm, or full-spectrum. Full-spectrum 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 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. You can also mix and match a cool and warm bulb for a wider spectrum artificial light Just be sure to rotate your trays every few days so your plants receive the benefits of both as they grow. Check the packaging of your lights to be sure you are buying the correct bulbs to fit your light fixture.
LED Grow Lights: Also consider the new LED grow lights, which offer full spectrum lighting ideal for growing seedlings and plants indoors. The pricing on LED lights has come down significantly over the years. Be sure to select the correct sizes for your shelving unit.
Power Strip with Timer
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. The power strip with a timer is also commonly available in big box stores or online.
Plastic Gardening Trays
You will need trays or containers to help prevent water from dripping. These black growing trays measure about 20 x 10 inches and one tray fits perfectly on each shelf. These trays are perfect for seed starting using cell packs or recycled containers. I like to double them up for a more secure tray that can be moved around without flexing. You can also use recycled produce trays or small plastic storage totes.
How to Setup Your Indoor Grow Light System:
This DIY indoor grow light system is a simple and affordable setup that is perfect for starting seeds for your vegetable garden, growing vegetables indoors, and providing light for your indoor herb garden. Here is how to put together a grow light shelf using easy to find items:
Step 1: Gather your Components
- 2 3-tier shelving units
- 2 4-foot shop lights plus bulbs if needed
- extra S-hooks
- power strip with a timer
- 4 Plant growing trays
Step 2: Assemble the Shelving Units
Follow the instruction that came with your shelving unit and put them together. Since the shelves are adjustable, make sure they are at the same level for both units, and you have plenty of space for the plants and the light fixtures.
Step 3: Setup the Growing Area
Locate the shelves near an outlet. Try to select a place away from heavy traffic, pets, cold drafts, and excess heat. 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.
Hang your lights from the top and middle shelves using the chains and s-hooks. Plug the lights into the power strip timer and plug the timer into the outlet.
Place your plastic gardening trays on the shelves, set your timer, and start growing seedling, herbs, and edibles indoors. Keep the lights about 2-inches above the plants and adjust the level as the plants grow.
Step 4: Grow Something
Here are gardening and growing tips to get you started:
- 10 Steps to Starting Seedlings Indoors
- Using Soil Blocks for Growing Seedlings
- 7 Herbs to Start from Seed
- How to Make a Seed Starting Schedule
- 10 Reasons to Grow Your Own Organic Food
I hope I have encouraged you to put together your own inexpensive grow light system that will serve well for starting seeds indoors. It is also fun to experiment with growing edibles indoors during the winter months. Check out the following articles for indoor gardening:
Good planning is key to a successful vegetable garden
Whether you are new to growing your own food or have been growing a vegetable garden for years, you will benefit from some planning each year. You will find everything you need to organize and plan your vegetable garden in my PDF eBook, Grow a Good Life Guide to Planning Your Vegetable Garden.