Monday, January 5, 2009

Indoor Growing Setup - My New System II

In the last installment I told you that I bought a new blue grow light. I want to put it in the laundry room where my old system was. The laundry room has a nice bank of windows facing southeast. There are deciduous trees outside, but in the spring there is still a lot of light. I don't want something permanent or complicated since I haven't a clue as to how long I'm going to still be in this house. More importantly I don't want to buy anything. I just want to use something I already have.

The laundry room windows are about 4' off the ground and I want the shelf for the plants to be at that height to get the best light. I might have artificial light, but that is no reason to waste the natural wide-spectrum light.

I looked around the house, in the basement, and in the garage for something I could use to put my flats on. I finally found the perfect shelving unit. The only flaw was that my kids were using it for their D&D equipment in the playroom. I know my kids are adults now, but they are still in college and store their stuff here. I'd have to find a place to put it.

The shelves however are perfect for me. They are wooden and actually two units stacked on top of each other. They are only 16" deep. But I had a plan. I took two shelves from the inside and put them across the top perpendicular to how they usually go. To make sure the shelves were stable near the window end where they stick off the unit, I stacked a couple of paperback books on the windowsill. I now had a totally stable 32"x32" working surface. But where would I put my kids stuff?

There are other shelves in the playroom, including three long ones that I took over years ago for my National Geographic collection. The magazines start at 1949 and go to 2006. This is about 18 linear feet of magazine. That would be a perfect place for the kids stuff. I no longer use the magazines. I've been wanting to get rid of them for ages, but just haven't taken the time to do it.

I listed them on freecycle and a day later a science teacher from Lexington asked for them. The perfect home. She came on Saturday to pick them up. Now my house is even more decluttered. I'm happy and she has nice reference material.

I had just a couple of problems left to solve. Plants grow best in strong light. My old system just had some white boards to reflect the light back onto the plants. I debated a white surface or a mirrored surface. The mirror reflects more light, but can cause hot spots. White colored surfaces don't reflect as much light but they are safer. I decided to try the mirrored surface this time. My reflector is very simple. It is just three sides of a cardboard box with aluminum foil taped to it. In the photos below the left one is how it will be set up when the plants are growing. In the photo to the right the reflector is turned around so you can see it better. This is not a particularly pretty setup with the cardboard box, but I could make it pretty by putting photos on the back side.

So I have a shelf to put the plants on, a light to grow them with, a reflector to maximize the light and I already own a light timer. All this cost just $50 for the light and a couple of cents for the aluminum foil. The only thing left is just a way to suspend the lights over the shelves (and maybe a small fan). Should I put hooks in the ceiling? Should I put plant hanger brackets in the wall? Or do I build something to put on the shelves that will hang it? I'm at a dilemma. I'd rather not put holes in the ceiling and I'm feeling really lazy and don't want to build anything. I'm guessing 18" plant hangers from the wall will work, or maybe I'll wander through Home Depot looking for answers. Or maybe one of my readers has a good idea? Whatever happens, I'll need the system to start my onion plants before the end of January.


  1. Now, that's a good idea! I've never thought of doing a reflective setup in that manner, in front of a window. That will work pretty good, I bet.
    About hanging your lights...I think I would go with the plant hangers mounted to the wall, with some jack chain for easy height adjustment.


  2. I agree with EG, plant brackets, especially as it looks like you already have 1 installed.

    Where did you find the LED light fixture? Did I miss that?

    ps: The ginger tea is great, give it a try I bet you'll love it too. I'm wishing I'd brought ginger to work with me today.

  3. Daphne,
    My vote is for plant brackets, too. I think your setup is awesome!! I would love some feedback on your light after you've tested it out. I think for now, I'm going to try the full spectrum SunLite. I am only experimenting this year, so I am not starting a crazy amount of seeds. But, if all goes well, I may want to do more next year. Your posts have been really informative. Thank you so much for sharing the information!!

  4. Nice setup, it puts my energy hog metal halide light to shame.

  5. Well plant brackets win. I'll have to go out and get some this week. BTW what looks like a plant bracket in the photo is really a hanger for the ugly curtains we trashed when we repainted the walls two years ago. I loved the look (the light really) without the curtains so they've never been repalced.

    Thanks for all the positive comments. I'll let you know how the seedlings grow this spring. I'm crossing my fingers that I don't get leggy seedlings along the edges.

  6. This is totally fascinating - thanks for sharing your setup. I tried raising seedlings just with the natural light on my sunporch for a couple years but they were really leggy. I may need to declutter some more and get creative to find a spot I can install a grow light. Keep us posted on your results!

  7. JessTrev: Well you are already on your way to decluttering. Maybe your space is just a freecycle away.