for a number of years we have been growing our own transplants at home. kind of strange given the fact that i have access to a greenhouse at work, but i’ve never wanted to take advantage of work, and frankly when i’m done working for the day, i don’t want to stick around and plant my own transplants. i also find it a little confusing to try and keep track of my own plants at work, and having them at home separated just makes it easier.
we have cobbled together makeshift lighting stands to grow them on for a number of years, but this year i wanted to get serious and went to the task of putting together something a little more intentional. it was also a chance to switch from t12 lamps to t8, which are both 30% more energy efficient and slightly brighter, they also last much longer without losing their lighting output.
i looked at a number of designs, some of which were made of metal and wooden shelves that one would buy, but i decided that for best use of space building my own custom sized shelf made the most sense.
i always start plants in the basement because it doesn’t have much light to compete against, it’s actually better to have only the fluorescent lights than a combination of them and daylight. i even go so far as to block the light off the windows. it just confuses the plants.
our basement is funny, half of it is short, like only 7 feet tall, the other half is more normal sized. it would make sense to put the lighting rack on the side that is taller so you can fit in more shelves, but the shorter side has the boiler, hot water heater, and the bulk of the steam pipes. it’s much warmer, and i decided to build the rack on that side.
since it’s short on that side and i wanted to make sure i made plenty of space for plants to grow to full size, i only made it three shelves high.
here you can see the frame. sorry for the blurry quality of the photos, there are low light level in the basement. this is made from 2×2 material, actually ripped from 2×4′s total number of 2×4′s = 4. then i added shelves 22 inches wide made from 1/2 inch plywood. these are 22 inches wide so that four flats will fit on each shelf. one sheet will yield enough material for the three shelves.
next was the t8 lamp install, they get installed with chains and hooks, so that they can get raised as the plants get taller. in every effort to reduce costs i installed 24 watt bulbs which cost less to run, but since i was concerned about less light, i took a page from weed growers and got a roll of mylar to reflect the light back onto the plants. in this photo you can see the mylar on the side installed, there is also mylar on the underside of the shelves to reflect the light down.
mylar is tough to work with since it comes on a roll and doesn’t like to lay flat, but with the left over piece of plywood and a big t square i was able to cute and measure relatively easily. in order to affix the mylar on the big sides i used sticky piece of velcro. it makes it easy to take off and put on when watering. as you can see a good amount of light is captured. not sure if it will be enough to offset the lower wattage light.
cost breakdown -
four 2×4′s = 10.80, one sheet 1/2″ plywood = 16.26, six t8 light fixtures = 119.82, twelve 24 watt bulbs = approximately 60 dollars, one roll 25′ mylar = 29.97. total cost = 236.85. thanks to a grant from the charter one foundation the cost doesn’t come out of our pocket.
certainly not cheap, but less expensive than building a greenhouse. it’s more than big enough for all our transplant needs and we are also growing some transplants for others to sell. this should help cover the cost for building the shelf. i’m hoping that next year i’ll be able to grow more transplants to sell and make a little more money for the house. this year i’m working out the kinks and figuring out just how much it cost to grow the transplants and be able to charge a fair price.