Before spring arrives, I will start seeds of cool-weather
loving plants, even though, because of the mild temperatures this winter, my
fall-planted vegetables are still alive.
My lettuce looks brown, and my spinach is speckled with holes, but the
plants will probably recover if I cut away the damaged leaves. The collards, Swiss chard, and cabbage are
beautiful, and the cabbage is even forming heads.
This week, I will start seeds for cool-weather loving
plants, such as broccoli, spinach, and lettuce inside under lights for a spring
crop. My husband, Scott, and I built the
grow lights that I use to provide a warm, safe place to start seeds. Making a set of grow lights is a perfect
project for a winter day.
To make grow lights, you will need lumber (figure out how
much you will need based on your measurements), nails, and hooks from which you
will hang the lights. We got three
fluorescent shop lights to provide adequate illumination across the width of
the seedling flats. Stores sell
expensive lights specifically designed for plants, but they are unnecessary for
|My grow lights|
To replicate my frame, make a frame wide enough to hold a
nursery flat, or with an interior width of about 22 ½ inches. Make the frame long enough to accommodate the
lights and four nursery flats; mine is about 4 feet, 3 inches long. Add two posts on each end and a beam down the
middle of the frame, and make two arms across the beam to hold the lights. The arms are about 22 inches off the
floor. Screw the hooks in at the
appropriate place on the arms, and hang the lights from the chains. I use an old shower curtain under the grow
lights to protect the floor from water, and I place the lights on a timer for
12 hours of light a day.
When I first plant the seeds, I hang the lights as low as
possible; as the seedlings grow, I raise them so the lights are just above the
foliage. Fluorescent lights give off
very little heat so they will not scorch the foliage as long as they are not
actually touching it. I use a heat
mat, which is a waterproof pad that provides the seedlings with bottom heat to
help them germinate quickly, under the seed trays if the weather outside is
very cold. It helped my heat loving
plants grow well, but it made my cold-tolerant plants, like broccoli, grow too
Grow lights make the process of starting seeds easier
because I don’t have to move my seedlings around the house as the sun moves to
make sure they have adequate exposure to light, and because I don’t have to
take them outside for sun until the weather is consistently warm. Seedlings, like all baby creatures,
appreciate consistent warmth, moisture, and food, and keeping the seedlings
under grow lights helps them thrive. For Seed Starting Supplies
, search online or visit local garden centers.
If you don’t want to build your own grow lights, try one like the one below.
If you want a mini-greenhouse, try this one: