With my plans for my mini garden in place, and the awesome weather we have been having this year, I decided it was time to start my seedlings. Last year, I planted everything directly outside in late May, which turned out basically no harvest. The plants were nice to look at, but there was nothing to eat. This year, I really want to be eating the vegetables and herbs I have worked hard on growing.
The problem is that to start seedlings indoors, you need a warm place with lots of light. Either that or lots of money for a grow system. Unfortuantely I don’t have either. I did some research, both in Designing the New Kitchen Garden and on the internet, and I came up with a solution. In the book, Jennifer Bartley recommends suspending neon shop lights over the plants by attaching it to a wire shelving unit. I don’t have the wire shelving unit, and I definately don’t want to fork over the $100-$200 to get one. Plus, space for us is always an issue. So, I decided to attach a small shop light to the top of a cheap, large plastic tub instead.
The light I used is an 18″ single neon lightbulb with a simple metal fixture. I got a bulb called “sunlight”, which has a pretty wide spectrum. The fixture plus the bulb was about $20, and the tub was less than $10. My light did not have a plug attached…apparently it was made to connect directly to the wires in your ceiling. However, I found the plug part I needed at the hardware store. If you do this, make sure to find out whether or not your light fixture needs a grounding wire or not. If it does, you will need to get a plug with a grounding wire. I talked to one of the store’s workers and he was able to explain it all to me. Another thing you will need if you attach a plug is something to cover the exposed wires after they are attached. You can also ask a sale’s associate about this.
To attach the fixture to the top of the box you will need three holes. One for the power cord to go through, and two for screws. Usually the light fixture will come with some screws. If not, pick a couple up at the hardware store. You may need to open the box to determine what size screws you will need.
Measure the distance the two screws need to be from each other, and measure that same distance on the top of the box. Mark with a Sharpie. Then either drill or cut holes. The holes for the screws should be small (smaller than the head of the screw), and the hole for the plug should be large enough for it to get through. It does not have to be pretty.
After that, all you have to do is feed the wire through the hole and screw into place. The light will be hanging from the top of the inside of the box when you are done.
Place your plants in the bottom of the box. They can be as close as 2″ away from the light.
Later, I plan on lining the inside of the box with foil to maximize the amount of light that goes directly to the plants.
I am still in the process of keeping a close eye on the box, just to make sure it doesn’t get to hot and melt. I left it on over night, and when I felt it in the morning it was warm, but not hot. I would recommend keeping a close eye on the box for the first few days. I will keep you posted on how my little seedlings develop!
**Please keep in mind that I am not an electrician and therefore this box may not be safe. Please be careful when working with electrical wires, and consult an electrician if you do not know what you are doing.**