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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Adding a Third Level of Grow Lights: Building Your Own

Every gardener desires more space. I recently had my basement finished, did the drywall myself, and had a grow-light closet built. It was under my stairs before construction and I had quite a bit of room. Though demoted to a closet, I love it. I needed to build the third level. After transplanting my plants, as always, I have a ton of plants and no warm weather.

This is how my closet looked. There are two levels below it.  I use foil to reflect light back into the seed trays. The third level is going in that empty space.

I added four boards as seen below. Two, in the middle, will support lights and the others will support the drywall surface top. Now drywall isn't the best choice because it can get water damaged if there is a whole lot of excess water. Why did I use it? I have left over from finishing my basement. The timbers are left over too.  How you space the levels is up to you. You want enough space to work. The lights should be set up so you can adjust them up or down as needed.

That is the basic fixture I use. It is from Home Depot or the like. I bought the fixture for under $25 and purchased the brightest basic tubes there in the store. They weren't expensive and I DON'T recommend buying tubes that are for growing plants. You know why? You just get charged double or triple for the same tubes. Just by the brightest lumen output basic tube out there. I've done it that way for years. I have only replaced two tubes so far.

One fixture goes on the back timber. It is supported by tomato jute/string. I put loops on the end of the jute and can easily adjust the light height by attaching different loop levels to the hook in the fixture. Most of the lights come with chains. I seemed to have misplaced mine.

The next light goes in the front. This space requires two lights. The variance in brightness is due some to the bulbs but mostly to me using or not using the flash. I am a gardener, not a photographer.

I put foil down with the reflective side up. My seed trays will get pushed back and the area in foil won't be fully covered by the trays. I want the light to be bounced up and around. You can also see a foil flap way in the back and on the right side. Anywhere the let goes, redirect it back to the plants with foil. Please use the reflective side.

I also have a front flap of foil attached. The growing area is now nicely wrapped, mostly for maximizing light but it does help with warmth a bit too.

The upgraded closet. I put a new shelf on the top too, to store my supplies. You can see different stages of seed growth. The bottom has seedlings in cups. The 2nd level has trays with seedling up and about and the third level is holding my tomatoes I just started a few days ago.

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