Stepping up from standard flourescent shop lights

Mountlake Terrace, WA(Zone 8a)

Without going broke.

Right now I am using stantard shop lights with the 2" bulb hangning in a prebuilt slelf system. I am wonderng what I can do to build a better system for these plants, as I need to add a lower rack to it today. for the Christmas movements.

Thumbnail by AnalogDog
Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

Is there a particular reason you want to change? I've always had good luck with shop lights, so unless you want something that's more attractive I don't see any reason not to stick with them.

zone 6a, KY

I am going to be setting up a system very similar to yours. It suits me just fine :).

Ellendale, DE(Zone 7a)

I'm with the crowd; I think what you have is fine. But I can understand wanting to improve the appearance. However, the beauty of the plants under lights more than makes up for their humble situation.

For now, I would attach one more similar light to the bottom section. Then think about moving up to 48" shop lights. I have one, and I love it. It's actually resting on an open 50-gal. fish aquarium (sans water/fish). The plants are inside the aquarium, and the light rests on top. It's a temporary fix 'til I can get the shop light in a better spot. I'll post a pic.

You're doin' great!

(Zone 1)

Can't you just hang another light or two on that lower shelf ... you have plenty of space for additional plants down there.

I have a couple of those same exact plant stands that are currently not in use, although I've been contemplating setting one back up with lights so that I can grow a few African Violets again. In the past I had my shelves set up with these $9.98 lights from Wal-Mart that worked really well so I'm sure that's what I will use again. I wired two lights to each shelf and sat ceramic tiles on the shelves so that the plants would sit level. I had this set up for 2 1/2 years and the plants did fine under those lights.

If I set up my shelves again, the only thing I'll do differently is I will hang the lights using chains, to give me the ability to raise and lower them for plants that might need to be closer to the light source. I used to sit plants on top of tupperware containers and such but I was always knocking things off and making a huge mess so it would be easier to be able to raise/lower the lights as needed.

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Valatie, NY(Zone 5a)

AnalogDog - Here's a way to instantly improve the appearance of your light garden, and reduce your plant-maintenance at the same time:

Upon each shelf, place a 2-inch deep tray. Boot trays work well. Fill the tray with aquarium gravel, or other smallish pebbles. Set the pots directly on the pebble bed. When plants are watered, excess will drip into the tray, and produce a pleasantly humid atmosphere as it evaporates. During winter, more water can be poured directly to the tray, to insure a steady source of evaporation.

And there you go. Easy watering, plentiful humidity, and no saucers to empty. Anyway, that's how I manage my own fluorescent set-up!

Kevin

zone 6a, KY

Lin, your ceramic tile idea is very smart and would look so pretty. I'll have to pick up a couple just to keep smaller pots from falling on the shelves I have now. I was thinking of getting 11x22 perma-nest trays when I do my setup to keep water from dripping down the levels. Are the boot trays more affordable?

Valatie, NY(Zone 5a)

The perma-nest trays are terrific. I have beige and tan ones, and also a few of the horrid green ones. Unfortunately, most outfits offer only the green trays. I use these for the light gardens in my out-of-view study. By out-of-view, I mean no one is allowed in this room except me!

Boot trays from the hardware store cost about the same as perma-nest. Mine measures 36- by 16-inches. I have only seen them in black, but you can paint them, as I have, any shade you wish.

My favorite trays, which I use in my "public" window gardens here, are galvanized. I bought them years ago from Smith & Hawken. They were not cheap. But when painted to match the window frame, they are handsome indeed.

zone 6a, KY

If I can find them, I'll get the boot trays for one of my existing shelves. It's the right size. The cheapest perma's I found were green. So they are ugly? Bummer :). How ugly? Too ugly to spruce up with some acrylic painted daisies or something? I have some old teflon pans that I may use as pebble trays for my sun shelves. I was going to haul them off, but realized they hold water so might as well. Hmmmm..... painting them would be nice.... And with enough weight, I can hang a planter off the handle, lol.... just kidding. Although, I have been getting very creative in how to stack plants. I could expand to other rooms, but right now there are too many small pots, so I keep them where I think to check all the time.

Powder Springs, GA(Zone 7b)

I'd get a new stand to accommodate the standard fixtures you have now (48 inches) or get 36 inch lights to fit the stand. Also get some tie wraps to tie excess power cables to the legs and the outlet strip to the stand as well. I agree with Wintergardener on some trays. I get aluminum trays (cheap and throwaway) instead of perma-nest trays (cost more and easily breaks if you aren't careful). Gravel does help (humidity and aesthetics) but is also a trap for falling debris (looks bad and is a bed for fungal and insect growth) which is hard to get it all out of the gravel.

zone 6a, KY

Hmmmm, Lin's ceramic tile in whatever catch tray would be easy to clean, still hold the plants above water, stop dripping, and look nice if it was propped up off the bottom a little, thinking tuna cans :). I plan to have a 48" shelf so I can use standard light. But sometimes we have to make do with what is available. I would be using the extra length of light that analogdog has to light up a hanging basket and a floor plant :). Also, with the adjustable shelves, you can put your first shelf up off the ground a little and get some growing area under too, so you gain a "shelf" using the floor. I do that for canning storage. Great for potatoes and stuff, too.

Valatie, NY(Zone 5a)

I should think that acrylic daisies would vastly improve the green perma-nest trays! Thalassa Cruso (anyone remember her?) referred to the shade as "poison green." Still, there are myriad indoor gardeners and commercial greenhouses who use them. I find the perma-nests to be very durable, and easy to move during shelf-cleaning time. I have not had a problem with fungal or insect growth, but I can understand hcmcdole's concern.

This message was edited Dec 15, 2009 8:28 PM

Land of OZ, CT(Zone 6a)

I remember Thalassa Cruso--loved her! ^_^

Cleveland, OH

Has anyone used the T5 high output bulbs for indoor plant lights? I have a basement greenhouse and was wondering if they were worth the difference in cost.

Powder Springs, GA(Zone 7b)

If you are buying wire shelving, beware of the units at Target. I bought four after Xmas and the first box had one leg that wouldn't stay together and another leg that looked mighty suspect. I didn't bother with the other 3 boxes and took them all back. I went to Sam's and bought the heavy duty ones there. I guess the moral is sometimes you get what you pay for.



Thumbnail by hcmcdole
zone 6a, KY

How much were they, hcmc? I have bought the units from Lowe's, but I'll have to check where they are made before I'd buy again. They charge $80 for a 18/48/72, and you can buy wheels for it for like 20 (gouge).

Powder Springs, GA(Zone 7b)

$90 - six chrome shelves with casters (same size as you mentioned). I typically only use four shelves so I have 8 left over. I just need to order some posts now so I can have two extra units.

I also made five wooden ones in years past - 8' L X 6' H X 2' D, two shelves and the floor as a third shelf for around $50 for each unit (less lights).

Thumbnail by hcmcdole
zone 6a, KY

That looks like a really good deal with the extra shelf and castors for 10 less than mine cost :). Now if only I knew someone with a Sam's club membership. Thank you.

Powder Springs, GA(Zone 7b)

Sam's (and BJ's) had the same units for $75 two to three years ago. The prices continue to go up.

I started all my shelves back in 2005. It has come a long way since then (I continue to get more plants either buying or propagating so shelves are always behind).

Thumbnail by hcmcdole
zone 6a, KY

I know, my plants are moving me out of the living room with all their leaves smacking my legs as I go by. And I still look at plants every time I go out. I like your setup. The metal stands look a lot better than mine. They do fill up too fast. I thought I would have plenty of room for this year, and then Lowe's had a 75% clearance on plants. What's a girl to do?

Ann Arbor, MI

Analog,

I've also been in the process of upgrading my light set up. After a lot of looking, one thing I found that I really, really like is a T5 Jump Start light fixture. It's a small, fairly reasonable, relatively attractive and very lightweight. I got mine from ACF Greenhouses which had the best price that I could find

http://www.littlegreenhouse.com/accessory/lights2.shtml

Not increadibly cheap ($40/45 with the bulb), but if you're looking for an upgrade, these are really nice. I've had a a light cart with full-spectrum fluorescent (T12) bulbs for years. The T5s are much brighter and cooler so you don't get the leaf burn you'd get from other fixtures. While the T12's are fine for most of my plants, I've noticed that my succulents & cacti are growing much better and coloring up nicely under the T5s. I know you've got cacti/succulents as well, so I thought you might be interested.

Jan

Waterville, VT(Zone 4b)

I've been running HO T5s now for three years and they are BY FAR the best plant lights you can use for most house plants. They are three times as bright as the old style T12s and for most applications work much better. They can penetrate up to 3 feet into the canopy of taller plants. I have flowered plants that I could never have dreamed of flowering with the old style shop lights. They are expensive up front, but the tubes are no more expensive than the old style tubes, and the bulbs do not dim much over time like the big bulbs. I run over 1000 watts of these lights and the results are pretty impressive.

Greensburg, IN(Zone 6a)

I have a three shelf plant stand. I made a plastic cover for it that kept the humidity in and bugs out *S*, I made the front panel in two halves and overlapped in the center so I could get to the plants for watering, works great. no picture as my camera is "lost' somewhere, most likely at my sons house.


Doris

Newfield, NY

doris,wish you had a picture.would love to see your setup

Greensburg, IN(Zone 6a)

My setup is pretty much like plantladylin + the plastic cover, I have three shelves with lights, and one shelf without for plants that no longer need the light.


Doris

Newfield, NY

hcmcdole,i would to see more pictures of your plant rooms.

Powder Springs, GA(Zone 7b)

Hey Doridunn,

Here is an example of two of the 14 or so chrome shelves. I am now running 80 shoplights.

Thumbnail by hcmcdole
Powder Springs, GA(Zone 7b)

And two of the five wooden shelves. (8 foot long, 2 foot deep, 6 foot high - cost around $50). Bulky, heavy, hard to move but cheap and fairly sturdy.

Thumbnail by hcmcdole
Mountlake Terrace, WA(Zone 8a)

My setup is like LadyLyn's without the window. I would like to get the lights to reach the top of the shelf above, and have a 4 shelf with the light from the cieling next winter plants grow so much better under lights untl I get them outside. in the spring, and its not yet warm enough.

Newfield, NY

hcmcdole,thank for showing your picture.i have only three shelfing unit.two shop light.thinking about buy led light soon.how do you water all the plants?

Powder Springs, GA(Zone 7b)

I have about 12 five gallon buckets and 10 or more three gallon jugs (all of these are from kitty litter containers/buckets). I fill these from the basement shower (a long hose with the shower head off) and place them about the four rooms. I use a dipping water pitcher (a pitcher with an open top so I can dip it in the buckets or pour from the containers without too much spillage). The other watering cans with a small hole may be okay outdoors to fill with a hose but indoors they are a real pain.

I broke my only dipping water pitcher yesterday and had to use a large plastic cup to dip the water out. That took a long time so I just bought four new dipping water pitchers today at Home Depot (one for each room). I water most things every other day now that things are starting to grow again and fill almost all the containers once a week.

Newfield, NY

is you plants a hobby or a business?do you have any christmas cactus?

Powder Springs, GA(Zone 7b)

It's just a hobby. I have one Xmas cactus and one Easter cactus.

My biggest interest is begonias.

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Newfield, NY

i have no luck starting begonias.i have 75 diffent color of christmas cactus and three easter cactus.do you do trading?

Land of OZ, CT(Zone 6a)

Lovely begonias! I have no trouble keeping them during the warm months, but it is a big struggle keeping them going through the winter--they just don't seem to like my environment in winter.

Cleveland, OH

I just bought a T5 HO mirrored fixture and four 54 watt 6500 Kelvin bulbs from a place called Alladin's lights in Twinsburg Ohio. Had to wire the plug on the cord but it was so much cheaper than the other setups I've seen offered. Works great in my basement greenhouse. Already have my cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers sprouted. I really got the setup for my Synsepalum Dulcificum (Miracle Berry) plants to make it through the winter here in Ohio. I have a small heater on a thermostat that keeps the green house at 80 degrees +-2 degrees. It stays nice and humid.

Clinton, CT(Zone 6b)

Hcmc, do you have the 'New York Swirl'? I love that begonia!

Powder Springs, GA(Zone 7b)

Yes, I do. Just got it earlier from Logee's this year.

Clinton, CT(Zone 6b)

Thats where I saw it! I'm thinking of getting one. I have lots of shade in my house! It's by far the coolest begonia ever!

Powder Springs, GA(Zone 7b)

Lots of cool begonias out there.


Here is a neat one - 'Bertha'.

Thumbnail by hcmcdole

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