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Need to figure out a grow-under-lights system

Posted by foodfiend_gardener 6a (My Page) on
Thu, Jan 5, 12 at 20:04

I won't go into the mistakes I've made previously, but I do know what I want to accomplish this go-around.

Starting from scratch.

During the winter our farmhouse is cool (upstairs 65 during the day, 60 overnight; basement about 5-8 degrees cooler). None of the upstairs rooms have enough natural light to start seedlings without using artificial lights.

A lot of space is not needed, but I would like a freestanding unit (no table-top available). I want to start 3-4 dozen tomato/ pepper/ eggplant seeds, and I would also love to have the ability to grow fresh herbs during the winter and also overwinter plants like rosemary.

The systems which I jerry-rigged previously have been less than satisfactory aesthetically (which really wasn't a problem in the basement), but nothing really seemed to work well at all.

I was all set to buy a unit, aluminum or steel, nice ribbed trays underneath the plants, ability to raise and lower the light fixtures easily, perhaps with a pretty plastic zippered cover to retain heat... then saw the prices. Oy.

What do you all use? I am fairly good with assembling things, and I would feel better if my husband could do it but there's already a list for him that is rather ignored.

Should I keep looking for a premade unit? If so, any suggestions?

Or should I try to "construct" something (I still have the fixtures and some broad-spectrum grow-bulbs)?

Where would be the best place for this, in an upstairs room or in the basement? Would I need heated germinating mats? A cover for the unit to keep in the light-bulb heat?

It almost seems like too much to deal with, but I would like to grow some heirloom tomatoes and peppers that aren't available in stores, and also have fresh herbs during the winter.

Any, and I do mean ANY, advice on some or all of my questions would be appreciated. Thank you!!!

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Need to figure out a grow-under-lights system

Investing in a grow tent would allow you to have a climate controlled area, place to hang lights and fans. You can keep a heater outside the tent with a turn on temp of 60f, the heaters are cheap found anywhere. I suggest to keep it neet and tighty with one 400w Metal Halide. If you cant find a close by hydro shop, then making a table and a light above would be your next best bet. Make sure everything is safe. Safety first!!!

Good luck. :)

RE: Need to figure out a grow-under-lights system

Agree with grow tent, especially if you plan to go into a cold basement. A grow tent is not expensive, and will give you a microclimate you can control. For herbs and seedlings, some T5HO lights will suffice and supply some daytime heat without having to vent like HID's. If you want to fruit tomatoes or peppers you will need a powerful LED or HID light, but a few T5HO's will be plenty for herbs and seedlings.

I prefer heat mats to using space heaters, as they heat the root zone which is more sensitive to cold then foliage, and uses less power. Most herbs don't mind the cooler temps, but the tomatoes, and especially the peppers will want warm soil and will need heat mats even once the plants get larger.

You will also need small fans to move air around and through the tent.

RE: Need to figure out a grow-under-lights system

I would say the grow tent is good but seedlings need to be hardened off (my personal opinion) this way they can cope with temperature change sinc you wont be having the lamps on 24/7. I would say grow tent with a space heater for at night or a water source that heats up and cools down slowly over the night.

RE: Need to figure out a grow-under-lights system

I use a 5 tier shelf system from Lowes with 2 4' shop lights on each level. I tend to use the top for storage.

I believe the shelves in the link are +/- the same ones I use.

I put them together with seedling sizes in mind rather than all the shelves being a uniform distance from one another. As the seedlings grow I use a combination of upside down trays to raise the seedlings along with raising and lowering the lights which are suspended by chains on each level.

While I would love to raise and lower the lights via a window-blinds-like pulley system I haven't figured out where to get such a contraption (let me know if you have this one figured out).

I have the lumber guys cut a sheet of plywood to form a solid shelf at each level - this also helps to keep spills from dripping directly onto the lights on the level below. Make sure to tell the guy cuting the plywood that he doesn't have to cross cut - this way one sheet will work for the entire unit - otherwise they cross cut for strength and you end up needing an extra piece.

I cover the sides of the units with mylar runners blankets purchased at Walmart for next to nothing - they last forever or until I eventually step on and pull at the same time resulting in a big tear.

When I start getting stacked up with seedlings I turn the trays perpendicular to the shelf unit - I have the short end of the seedling tray facing me. The ends tend to stick out a little over the edge of the shelf but a lot more will fit on each level. I rotate the plants once in a while since the outside plants will get less light.

Your temps, especially with heating mats for germination, should be fine. Perhaps you can reverse day/night and use the lights at night and go 'dark' during the day. The lights, with the mylar blocking will raise the temps for the seedlings above the normal night temp and the day temps will, effectively, be the night for the plants.

Good luck.


Here is a link that might be useful: 5 Tier Shelves

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