Sunday, March 11, 2012

Building a Grow Light Shelf for Starting Seeds

Although there is still snow on the ground and a chill in the wind, spring is inching its way ever closer to this little corner of the world and as it does, I get more and more excited about getting my hands dirty.  There is no way any of our seeds can even dream of being planted at this point, as the soil is still frozen and in some cases covered in snow and ice (and that is in the planter on my deck--I still don't have a garden space confirmed yet!).

But a few weeks ago, I started preparing to start some of my seeds indoors, in anticipation of blessed spring.  I just needed somewhere to put them and a light to get them started.  So basically, I still had nothing.  I checked the prices of grow lights at our local gardening supply store and they were way out of my budget.  Then I saw this post about building a DIY lighting system and I thought, I'm sure I can do that too!  I went out to find an inexpensive shelving system but there really wasn't much around these parts for me to get at a low price.  I didn't really want to buy anything new, and the used options were limited.  Actually, I'm sure I could have found something appropriate if I combed the online classifieds, but I was in my car and wanted to get moving on this project.  I mean, there were seeds without a home sitting on a bench by our door!  However, setting out with my sister and son in tow to go shopping on a weekend after the Habitat Restore closed for the day didn't really help on my quest for a strong but low-priced shelving system.  I was back to square one for the time being.

This was just until my dad suggested we build a shelving system for starting my seeds.  A good idea, dad, but that takes the "easy" out of the project somewhat.  I needn't have worried, though, because my dad is as free with his help as he is quick to think up ideas for projects and he recruited himself to my cause.  So he told me to go out and get four six-foot lengths of 1x8 pine boards.  He had a picture in his head of how it would work, so I went with it.  He said to get the lowest quality pine they had because I didn't need it to be pretty, and it would keep the costs down.

So I headed to our local lumber yard and started asking about this wood.  It turned out that all the 1x8 pine was the same quality, and it was pretty expensive ($1.32 per foot, and I wanted 24 feet).  I have never been someone to haggle, but being a mom and living on a budget has changed me to a more assertive person and  I told the guy that I had $20.00 in my pocket and I didn't want to spend more than that if possible.  He said to head out back and ask the guys in the warehouse if they had any pine that had defects and perhaps they'd give me a deal.

I dragged my reluctant sister and enthusiastic little boy (he wanted to see the warehouse) out back and started putting on the charm in my no-fail "I don't know anything about wood but will give you a super big smile" technique and was given my four 6' boards, one at the regular price, and three seemingly fine but discounted at 50% off.  I think he was trying to give me a deal and the wood might have had a scuff or some dirt on it, but I was thrilled.

So the blurry photo (sorry!) on the left is my sales order with the unit price, $1.32/foot for the one "good" piece of pine, and $0.66/foot for the other 18 feet.  With tax, it came to just over the $20.00 I had in my pocket, so I had to use my debit card for the other $2.87, but I definitely wasn't complaining!

I had to wait a while before starting it as my dad was busy with some other commitments, but finally, after what seemed like a very long wait, we got started!

So these images show the beginning of the process, cutting the boards to get them the lengths we needed, sanding them down (one of my important contributions to this project!  The other was sitting my bum on the boards while my dad cut them to keep them still), and gluing/screwing the ends together to form the outside of the shelf unit.  Note my son's cheesy face while he holds two of the pieces--that is the face he currently makes when I ask him to smile.  We're going to work on that.

And here we have a few more steps in the process, including reinforcing the corners with brackets and triangle supports (my brilliant idea), James helping his Grandad screw it together, holes for an adjustable shelf, hooks to hang the grow light on with an extra hook to keep the cord out of the way (love you Dad!  You think of everything) and a piece of extra wood fastened to each end of the shelf to keep it from being a little tippy.  Now a quick note about this picture.  For those of you with keen enough eyes to notice, that supporting piece of wood is made with (gasp!) pressure-treated lumber.  I am currently educating my dad regarding inappropriate uses of pressure-treated wood, among other environmentally sensitive subjects, but he still has some leftover from deck-building projects and it fit the criteria for this purpose.  So we decided to go ahead and reuse/recycle/upcycle this dastardly piece of spruce, and gave it a new home where if would help support the promotion of new, green, beautiful, photosynthetic life.

Finally, the end result (I can't wait to get growing on this custom-made-by-my-lawyer-dad piece of equipment!):

So, it has a fixed bottom shelf, an adjustable/removable middle shelf, and an adjustable light that hangs down from the top.  I hope that my beautiful little seedlings will love it, feel comfortable here, and grow forth vigorously and with enthusiasm!  Will post pics as I get started planting.

Do you have any great homemade systems for starting your seeds indoors?

This post is linked to theHomestead Barn Hop #53 and Simple Living Wednesdays at Our Simple Farm.


  1. A well made rig, I have to say. Love the shots of my sweet nephew "helping out".


  2. Looks like you had a really good helper as well! It turned out great!

  3. Thanks everyone! I can't take much credit for it but I am extremely excited to get it home (it's a little big for our car so still in my parents' basement!) and get growing! :)

  4. What did you plant?

  5. Fantastic job. I enjoy working with my family for our house. And it's a good idea to
    build a grow light shelf for starting seeds. I think it will be the unique view of the house.

  6. This is really cool, I'm glad we came across it. I've been hearing a lot about grow lights, but I have no idea why they are used and what there purpose is. I feel like I now understand a whole lot more about it now. Thanks again for sharing!


I love to get comments and questions, and particularly suggestions!