Grow Light Special

Props to indoor seed starting for giving me a head start on the growing season (can I get a what what). It has been three days since the seeds were sown, and the seed flat is already bursting with new life. It won’t be long before they are out of the house and on their own, making Mama Nature proud…ah, they grow up so fast!

Until then, I’ll be raising the seedlings indoors under grow lights. The weather here currently consists of cloudy and windy days, making it unfavorable for these tender plant starts to be exposed outside. Not enough consistent sunlight will make them grow weak and leggy, and the wind will just snap them in half (made me cry last year). My grow light setup is relatively inexpensive and consists of the following:

  • Hydrofarm grow light fixture ($30, purchased from Amazon)
  • Two T12 fluorescent light bulbs, 40 W, 48″, 3100 lumens
    (these were on sale at Ace hardware for $5 total when I got them…lights marketed as “grow lights” are just marked up in price and aren’t necessary, my seedlings last year grew just fine with these regular fluorescent bulbs)
  • Aluminum foil (nothing special, just from the kitchen)
  • Appliance timer ($10 from Ace hardware)

The grow light fixture has hooks and chains which make it easy to hang from the utility shelf in the garage. The general rules are to provide seedlings with 12-16 hours of light and to suspend the lights 2-3 inches above seedlings, raising the lights as the seedlings grow taller. The height of these lights is easily adjusted using the chains and hooks on the fixture. With 48″ lights, I can fit two seed trays underneath at a time.

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To maximize the light the seedlings receive, I’m using aluminum foil to reflect light onto the seedlings that aren’t directly underneath the grow lights. I cut four pieces of aluminum foil about 2 ft long and taped them onto the light fixture so they can drape around the front and back sides. Here’s the view with two foil sheets covering the back side:

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The remaining two sheets will cover the front side:

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I’m using two separate 2 ft long sheets instead of one 4ft long sheet to make it easier to lift open when I need to take seed trays in and out:

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The lights are plugged into an appliance timer so that they can be automatically turned on and off when I leave town for a few days. I’ll be gone this weekend so I tested it out today and set it to keep the lights on between 6am to 10pm.

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