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Updated on March 12, 2010

Make an inexpensive grow light

Are you an avid gardener like me? Are you already anticipating the arrival of your seed catalogs? I know I am. Do you drool over the big grow lights and trays for starting seedlings but like me don't have that kind of cash? I am going to tell you how to have a 3 or four shelve grow light for a fraction of the cost of the ones in the gardening book. I build my grow light for about a $150. That was a few years ago so it may be a little more expensive.

The first thing you need to do is buy the frame work. Not handy no problem, there is nothing to build. Just go to any store that sells stand along wire shelf units, K-marts, Meijers, Wal-mart, Lowe's or Home Depot are a few that I have seen this type of shelving in. There is one thing that you have to remember, you want the shelves that have a depth of 18 inches. Any smaller and your seedling trays won't fit. I got the biggest one that Lowe's carried and it cost about $80. It had four shelves and the shelves were 18 inches deep. They had smaller ones but I wanted to start a lot of seeds.

Once you get it home and out of the box, the fun begins. Some how instructions never seen to translate into English very well. So have fun, this is the hardest part of the whole thing. Decide how far apart you want your shelves. I gave a lot of height to my bottom shelve so I could over winter some of my geraniums. If all you want is to start seeds 12-15inches between each shelf should do. Getting the shelves on the stand, in the place that you want them all the while trying to make sure that it is level. Whew, that's done.

Now that your stand is up it's time for the lights. The lights you use are those cheap shop lights that you see in hardware and home supply stores. Mine cost between $10-$15. There should be two lights per shelf, so 8 shop lights all together. If you try to get by with just one per shelf, the seedlings wont get enough light. You will also need 2 power strips to hold  the plugs. Some of the shop lights come with chains to hang some don't. I always buy enough chain at the hardware store so there is 2 chains per light.  Each chain is 12 inches long.   The chains can be raised or lowered as needed.

Using the chains simply hang the shop lights from the shelf above, plug them into the power strips and there you have it. A perfectly serviceable Grow light or a fraction of what they charge in the catalogs. Oh you will also have to purchase the fluorescent lights, you can even get ones that duplicate the sun.

So here's your list:

  • freestanding wire shelf unit with a depth of 18 "
  • 8 shop lights if you are want to light 4 shelves
  • 2 power strips.
  • 16 12" pieces of chain for hanging the lights.

I had so much fun starting my seeds that I now have two.

In my cellar

The light stand with shop lights
The light stand with shop lights
My new light stand before lights
My new light stand before lights
With this rack new light stand could have four tiers
With this rack new light stand could have four tiers
There are fluorescent light bulbs that mimic the sun.
There are fluorescent light bulbs that mimic the sun.

Pictures of light stand in my Cellar

Here are some pictures of my light stand. It is a little worse for wear. As you can see, I keep it in the basement. Because of a car accident, this is the first time I have not been down there in over a year. But at least you will get the idea of what it looks like minus the dirt and the spider webs.


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    • Sandyksk profile image

      Sandy Jauregui 

      8 years ago from Sanger

      Oh yes...I'm thinking I can mount the light under the cabinets, and I used to have a plant light that was only 24", so I'll have to go see if they still have them, it was at Orchard Supply Hardware. Thanks again, for the great ideas! :))

    • reddog1027 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Sandyksy, one of this hubs readers used smaller shelving, the kind for the bathroom towels and shorter fluorescent lights. They said it worked just great and was just right for their apartment. They actually have a picture in their blog this is the name but I am not sure if it works.

      Kate & Jens Urban Garden - Our Garden Diary - Not Quite Ready for Planting....

    • Sandyksk profile image

      Sandy Jauregui 

      8 years ago from Sanger

      I miss my cellar! I would have two, too, if I still had it! I'll have to come up with something, maybe in my utility that I have the top of the dryer, AND the washer, I bet that would be a great place! Thanks for the inspiration! :))

    • MyMastiffPuppies profile image


      8 years ago

      Wonderful hub! I love to have fresh tomatoes all year and I just started planting indoors this year. I think it is a great idea and I am all about using what you have to make it work. I live in the country so I can plant outdoors but weather limits how long my garden lasts. This is a great way for people who live in the city or in an apartment. Thanks for sharing!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Really interesting I will come here again

    • reddog1027 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Thank much for the link up Jen. The seed starters may not look as shiny and sleek like the ones in the catalogs. But making your own sure beats the cost of those fancy ones.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks for this! I ended up including a link to this page in our blog, "Kate & Jen's Urban Garden." I used the technique to build a small seed starting station inside my apartment. Worked like a charm!

    • Bob Ewing profile image

      Bob Ewing 

      8 years ago from New Brunswick

      Good idea, thanks.

    • reddog1027 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      It's one of those ideas of mine that just floated up in the magic eight ball that is my brain. For year's I drooled over those high end ones in the catalogs. Then it dawned on me. all they were were metal shelve with fluorescent lights=wire rack from Lowes and stoplights. Make sure to try the plastic shoe boxes to start your seeds in. I learned that from Martha Stewart. And yes we will have to swap snow stories.

      Make sure that you keep me up to date on what you are planting and how things work out.

    • Wealthmadehealthy profile image


      9 years ago from Somewhere in the Lone Star State

      WOW! WHAT A DITZ I AM....Been trying to figure out how to get seed started up here early enough to get them all to produce and I actually make a lot of stuff, but this never crossed my mind!!! You are a plant magician!!! Thank you SOOO Much for writing this Hub!!!

      Have an awesome day and we will have to converse this winter about how deep the snow is and how cold...I am in northern MN LOL Have a good day!!!


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