With our seeds sprouting rapidly and having containers scattered on window sills around the house, we decided to create a growing station for our hundreds, and potentially thousands, of seeds for our garden. While a grow system is not all together necessary, I like organization and the assurance of proper care. Also, grow lights and grow systems are a controlled environment, rather than the crazy, unpredictable, extreme Oklahoma weather. I must admit though, the bathroom had the best results in producing plants because of the humidity from the shower and the south-facing window. But, alas, those wee shoots have a more permanent place to call home until they can be planted outside.
As with most people interested in gardening, saving money is a huge plus. That being said, we did not want to spend a lot of money on a professional grow system or something pre-made. I know that there are cool gadgets like grow mats, hydroponic systems, and fancy lighting units. In reality, I simply want something that grows my plants.
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We spent less than $200 which is a steal for a grow system and it has worked for two years now. How did we build it? With a basic wire garage shelf, standard 2-bulb fluorescent light fixtures, a few bulbs, and some chains.
- A wire shelving unit. There are lots of options online (and quite honestly the best prices are online too) But the wire option was the best for this purpose because we could easily attach a light fixture to each shelf and we could put these in whatever configuration we wanted. We got one that was 18″ deep and 48″ across. This allowed me to orient my plant trays in either direction and matched the length of the light fixtures.
- 4 fluorescent lighting fixtures
- 4 plant / aquarium fluorescent bulbs
- 4 daylight/standard fluorescent bulbs. High output and blue lighting is what I found to be best so this was to save some money and not but all plant and aquarium bulbs. You are more than welcome to buy all expensive bulbs, but my purpose was to optimize reduce and reduce cost.
- Coco coir (Peat moss is not a renewable resource and therefore is a less sustainable option even though it is biodegradable)
- Potting equipment. For sustainable options, view a previous post here)
Not only have we not spent an arm and a leg (many 24″ legitimate grow lights without the bulbs are around $120), but it has also been a fairly easy process. You can assemble one of the shelving units in about 30 minutes or less and then hang the lights on in another 30 minutes. Though I started out putting it all together, my husband did all the assembling for me (thanks Chris!). To do the job right he shortened the chains on the lights and as you can see from the picture below,we manipulated the shelves from where the instructions wanted us to orient them. We measured where each light would fall and where each tray would sit to know exactly where to place each shelf before we got it all done.
Either buy one of the fluorescent units and hang it somewhere in your house, or even just buy a basic standard size grow lights meant for plants and place it in a lamp near the little seeds you are trying to grow. There are so many options, it just takes a little creativity.
Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 4 children living in Boston, MA and believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!