Inexpensive lighting for over-wintering?

jazzbubbah(6b RI / 5b NY)October 20, 2005

I need to bring in my various plants for the winter. Unfortunately, our move to Rhode Island meant the loss of a wonderful sun porch. So, I'm looking for a kind of a stand with lighting for 8-10 plants of varying sizes.

I've never owned a shelf like this. I -believe- the products are called "light carts" or "light stands". The ones I've found are fairly expensive, ~ $500-$600 for three or four shelves and flourescent lights.

I'm considering buying a set of wire shelves, short shop-lights and attaching the lights under each shelf. This may not be ideal, but it should work.

Are there other, better options? Can someone suggest a product and vendor?



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nygardener(z6 New York)

Can you tell us more about the kinds of plants you're growing, their size, and the amount of natural light?

    Bookmark   October 20, 2005 at 10:22PM
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shrubs_n_bulbs(z8/9 UK)

Custom plant carts are expensive. If you aren't fussed about appearance, any set of shelves with fluorescent shoplights under them. Don't necessarily get the cheapest lights you can find. The main cost is electricity so get an efficient T8 light. Plan on some system for adjusting the distance between plamnt and light, which might be as simple as standing the plants on another pot to raise them up. An essential accessory is a plug-in timer to turn the lights on and off.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2005 at 8:33AM
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jazzbubbah(6b RI / 5b NY)

NYGardener -

Sure. They're nothing fancy. They include a large fern (fronds over 4'), three begonias (incl. a large metallica), two cacti, multiple ivy (swedish, devil's, etc), snake plants, and one or two others I can't think of off the top.

I had hoped that the large fern would go on the floor below a light, and the others would fit onto a shelving unit.

I don't think my needs are unusual, which is one of the reasons I had hoped I could find something relatively inexpensive.

Shrubs -

I had thought of hanging the light via chain, which allows some adjustment. I already have an old plug-in timer, tho' a new one might be in order.

I've not purchased T8 lighting before, just older shop-lights. Are they as commonly available?



    Bookmark   October 21, 2005 at 10:22AM
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shrubs_n_bulbs(z8/9 UK)

The good news is that all your plants, except the cacti, are happy in quite low light conditions and will do very well under a shoplight. I have several ferns and ivies that are in dark corners without lights and they thrive.

The cacti will not be so happy. Make sure they stay cool and dry so that they are dormant. If they try to grow under dim light they will become distorted and unhealthy. They can even be overwintered in the dark at about 40F as a last resort, although a cool bright porch would be better.

A chain is a very good solution, many people hang their lights or the whole shelf on chains.

T8 lamps are easily available in the box stores. I strongly recommend them, the T12 is really obsolete technology now. If you wanted a more intense light, perhaps for year-round growing of the cacti, you could look at T5 lamps but I find they are still very expensive.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2005 at 12:40PM
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jazzbubbah(6b RI / 5b NY)

Oh, I forgot to answer re: natural light. The best lighting in the apartment comes from a set of windows facing west. There is decent early morning and late afternoon light, but a nearby building that blocks a fair bit of the mid-day light. Full multi-bulb lighting seemed necessary.

So my idea of wire shelving and shop-light seems to be the winner. That's fine, it should work well.

As for the cactus, it's too late. It didn't have enough light during its early years, so it's tall and a little bit 'distorted'. I haven't had the heart to chuck it.

Thanks for the help. I'll take the suggestion about the T8, my old light is almost surely a T12, so new, more efficient lighting would be a good thing.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2005 at 2:30PM
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nance(6 KY)

You might want to check this out for a stand. I use regular shop lights with mine

    Bookmark   October 21, 2005 at 10:03PM
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It is kind of crude but I just bought one of those big plastic shelving units(like u have in the garge), used small lengths of chain wrapped around the ends of the shelves and fastened to the lights.Also small snap hooks on the chains to adjust the lights up and down.Only drawback is the lights are longer than the shelves and some light is wasted.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2005 at 7:15PM
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jazzbubbah(6b RI / 5b NY)

Thanks to all who posted replies to my request for help choosing a plant stand/cart.

I've put together plant stand using a 4-shelf Nexel wire rack and six Commercial Electric 732-334 lights. The lights are affixed 2 per shelf, on the under-side of the shelf above.

So far, it's working very well, and all the plants seem to be in good shape.

(The lights all have the Sunpark SL15 ballast, so I may try to overdrive one per shelf. But, I may leave things as they are, since it seems good. Time will tell.)

    Bookmark   November 24, 2005 at 6:09PM
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john_z(Z 7b Ga.)

Jason, I use InterMetro shelving in my growing room, and particularly like their adjustable shelf heights, ability to hold heavy weights, and they are mobile for cleaning the floor beneath if you pay a bit extra to buy the wheels (optional). Just key in InterMetro-shelving on your web browser and you'll get a number of sites.

I bought several of them when there was a $99 special here in Atlanta at The Container Store. They are 4 ft. long X 18 inches deep X a bit over 6 ft. high. Fluorescent lamps 4 ft. long are easily attached to the metal rods/wiring (correct term?) above them - similiar to a "baker's rack" but much thinner.

If you pay more than $120 I think you are being ripped-off.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2005 at 8:36PM
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