Photo by Melody

Build And They Will Grow

By TC Conner (tcfromkyMarch 22, 2007

Waiting for that first hosta spear to break through, or the first signs of daffodils, crocus, and hyacinth to appear can be agonizing. Ease the agony by starting seeds indoors.

Gardening picture When March arrives a lot of zone 5 gardeners get an early start on the growing season by sowing a few of their favorite annual flowers and vegetables seeds indoors. And it doesn't take a lot of fancy equipment to accomplish this goal. Use these easy to follow directions to make your own grow-light shelving. This project only takes a couple of hours to complete and you'll be making two grow-light units which will allow you to start four flats of seedlings.


  • One 1x12 board (a 12 foot length will make two shelves). Cost - $21.00.
  • Two fluorescent two-tubed shop lights (48 inches long). Cost - $8.00 each.
  • #16 Jack Zinc hanging chain. Cost - $3.27.
  • 2 1/16 inch screw hooks (five to a pack). Cost - 94¢.
  • Concrete blocks (or other suitable supports). Cost - $1.06 each (four will provide support for two grow lights).
Total cost - about $44.00, plus tax.


  • Tape measure
  • Crosscut handsaw
  • Drill and bits
  • Gripping pliers
  • Safety goggles and leather gloves

My shelves are 5 feet 4¼ inches long. You can use this measurement, or choose the best length that works for the space you have. Purchase shorter shop lights if you are limited for space. Cut your shelving to length with the handsaw.

Measure in 10 inches from each end of the shelf and mark the center. You can pre-start a hole using the drill and a small bit, making sure your bit is smaller than the diameter of the screw hooks: if you're using a 1/16 inch screw hook, use a 1/64 inch bit to drill a starter hole. If you're using soft wood, you can probably screw the hook into the wood without drilling a starter hole. Use constant pressure as you screw to keep the hook straight and use the pliers if needed.

Place your shelves on top of the concrete blocks and hang your shop lights from the hooks, using the chain. Some seed-starting gurus recommend using one warm white fluorescent tube and one cool white tube. This provides a good blend of light color.

Hang the grow-lights two inches above the surface of the seed-starting mix after you have sowed your seeds. After germination, and as your seedlings grow, raise the lights periodically to keep the fluorescent tubes a constant two inches above the seedlings' topmost leaves. For convienence, an electric timer may be purchased. Keep the lights on twenty-four hours a day until the seedlings emerge; afterwards, set the timer to allow 16 hours of lighting per day.

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  About TC Conner  
TC ConnerI live and garden on 3 acres in western Pennsylvania, but I cut my gardening teeth on the red clays of south-central Kentucky.

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