Archive for February, 2011

Frugal Gardening: Lighted Plant Shelf

I Got The Fever

60 degrees two days in a row,  the sun shining brightly outside  brings this addict face to face with the irresistible  urge to put “just a few seeds” into tiny pots. In a couple weeks these “tiny pots” give way to multiple  larger pots, needing more light–MORE ROOM………….but it is too cold to put them outside.

Yep! I got to get a light shelf!

Never fails!!  Last year I promised myself, never again will I give into the late winter   urge to plant a few seeds in early February.   Spring weather will not settle until late March.   No tomato seeds will be planted till 2nd week in March, at least.

Yeah, right!  LIAR!

Check  catalogs.  Larger grow light units are not an item a frugal gardener (more honestly–a penny pinching old skinflint) is going to plunk down $150 -$600  (not including shipping and handling in many cases) for.

I subscribe to the theory:  economy is the mother of invention; if I want a grow light unit this is certainly going to have to be true.

Judicious shopping and a little time produce:

  • 48″ x 18″ x 64″ high unit with 3 shelves ;each with a  double light shop light fixture); each shelf will accommodate 4 standard 11″ x 22″ trays
  • top storage shelf
  • bottom area with a  covered 36″x21″x20″ high covered storage unit that pulls out serving as a work surface, plus an out of the way 9″x17″ trash can

 

Plant light advantage– baby plants on part of one shelf

Folks,  floor space less than 2′x4′–  18 square feet of growing space –  all that storage space priced about $200.

Considerable savings compared to commercially available units.     Check it out! 4 shelf unit — 74″x27″x23″ – 2 standard trays per shelf– no storage area.   The price tag–about $500!

My shopping list:

  • 1ea  74″x48″x18″ wire storage shelf unit (rated to support 350lbs/shelf)
  • 3ea  48″ double tube shop lights with reflector hoods  (for T-8 tubes)
  • 6ea  48″ fluorescent T-8  fluorescent tubes
  • 1ea  multiple outlet extension cord
  • 1 ea  indoor light timer single outlet
  • 1 ea 36 x 21 x 20 covered plastic storage container/wheels
  • 1 ea 9″x 17″ plastic trash can
  • 3ea 12″x12″x 8″ plastic pull out storage drawers
  • 1ea  7″ x10″x 8″  plastic 2 drawer storage  unit
  • 1 ea bag of plastic ties

Assembly could not be easier

1.  Remove shelf unit from carton and assemble using 4 of the shelves ( helper simplifies things, but I assembled without help)

Snap the support ring onto each post with top of ring 21″ from floor; slip first shelf onto  the 4 poles locking into position over rings;

Measure upward 16″ from top edge of this shelf locking support ring at 16″mark; Repeat step installing 2 more shelves.  Top shelf will be about 65″ from floor; leaving a space to put storage bins; or a 5th shelf.

2.   Unpack shop light fixtures; hang 1 fixture under each of 3 shelves using hooks and chain provided attaching to center bar of shelf;  make sure cord of each faces the same end of shelves.

For neat appearance pull electrical cord of top unit straight down and fasten to lower cord with a plastic tie, repeat with next 2 cords fastening against shelf with tie so the cords bundle hangs straight.

Use plastic ties to securely attach extension outlet strip to bottom shelf frame.

Plug light fixture cords into outlet extensions;  Extension plugs into the timer, set for 10 hours of light , then plug timer into  wall outlet.

Voila’!  For around $150  a fully functioning plant light unit

To add storage space add a 36″x21″x20 covered plastic wheeled storage container which fits neatly on the floor under first shelf  (easily pulls from under the unit for  use as  flat work surface); a small 9″x17″ trash can goes beside the storage container.  Above top shelf installed 3 plastic 12″x12″ drawer units plus one 2 drawer 7″x10″ unit (all these units are about 9″ high).  Secure  all units to shelf frame with plastic ties.

I will use pots and containers I already own to start garden plants,but should I want covered containers, aluminum roaster baking pans/covers from the grocery store  make excellent inexpensive terrarium type growing units.  They come in all sizes;   side by side 11  3/4″x 9 1/4″x 2 1/2″ roaster pans fit perfectly on 18″ wide shelves of my light unit.

This, of course, adds to cost of the home crafted unit but it is still a HUGE difference compared to commercial units and for my purposes works just a well.

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