For a long time, I’ve wanted to have my own grow lights to get a jump start on my garden! I have tried getting seeds going in sunny windowsills, but with mixed results. This year I decided to get something set up in my garage. As I have a small garden, I didn’t need anything too big or complicated. I also didn’t want a system that would cost hundreds of dollars to put together or be too tricky to set up.
I’m pleased to share that my set-up only put me out about $100 and I was easily able to get it up and going in about an hour’s time! I wanted to share you how I did this and what items I used in case you were interested in doing something similar.
Here are the exact items I purchased on Amazon:
Jump Start 4-Foot Grow Light. This kit contains the light stand, light fixture with bulb, and 6 foot grounded cord. The light fixture can be easily moved up or down, depending on the height of your seedlings. It’s currently priced at just about $65 on Amazon and includes free shipping. It has an average 4-star rating after 500+ customer reviews.
Germination Station with Heat Mat. This is currently priced about $31 on Amazon and is frequently sold along with the grow light pictured above. To germinate, seeds often need heat as well as light.
7-Day Timer. I decided to buy this 7-day timer for about $15 because I know that may days are often harried and busy and I didn’t want to rely on my memory to turn on and off those lights every single day! This little timer only took me about 5 minutes to set up (I’ll explain how later in this post) and it gives me the peace of mind that I’m not wasting energy! I also was pleased to discover it has an two outlets – so I’m able to plug in BOTH the lights and the heat mat into it.
Check it out: this thing is so easy to set up, my 7-year old son and my puppy put it together. (Just kidding!) Pretty much, you just snap the pieces together. The only somewhat “tricky” part involves clipping the light fixture in, but even that isn’t tricky enough to write home about.
You can adjust the height of the light fixture easily by pulling and then securing the cord from the middle. Plug it in, and it’s ready to go! I would say this took roughly 10 minutes to set up, and I am not a handy person by any stretch of the imagination.
Now this light is big enough to easily accommodate two of these germination stations, but I decided one would suffice. As these seedlings grow, I’ll want to pot them up. Leaving some space under the lights will let me do that as they outgrow these little cell spaces!
I took some masking tape and ran it along the outside of the planter so I could mark what I’m growing in which cells. We ended up planting two kinds of kale, butterhead and loose leaf lettuce, strawberry spinach, french sorrel, lemon balm, basil, and alyssum. I only planted what I intend to move into the garden in 3-4 weeks’ time! It didn’t make sense to me to start plants like cucumbers or melon now as I don’t plan on moving those out into the garden for about another 10 weeks. I’ll likely start those once I’ve moved some of these late spring veggies out of this germination station.
In case you’re curious about some of the varieties I’m growing this year, please see my 2014 garden plans post.
Here’s my favorite method for watering freshly-planted seedlings: a spray bottle! You can pick one these up at the dollar store. I find that this keeps the soil nicely moist without creating a huge puddle and then risk having the seed shift around.
So I had read on the Amazon reviews that this 7-day timer was tricky to set up. I usually have very little patience for figuring stuff out, but I can assure you: it’s easy! You know what my secret is? I actually read the instructions. (Shocker, I know!)
If you end up purchasing this unit, let me quickly break down what you need to do:
1) Press the small reset button at bottom right. You’ll need a sharp object to do this. A pen worked just fine for me.
2) Set the clock. Press clock + hour at the same time until the correct hour displays, making sure to note AM/PM. Then, press clock + minute to set the minute display. Finally, press clock + week to set the correct day of the week.
3) Set your desired program. This handy timer has the ability to set up to 8 different programs! I decided to keep things very simple and have the lights go on every day at 6am and off at 10pm (16 hours total per day). To do this, hit PROG. What you enter at this point will be when the lights come ON. Hit the “Week” button and keep pressing it until the desired days of the week pop up for you. When I pressed Week, the first option was Mon – Sun, exactly what I wanted. Next, select the hour and minute. Press PROG again and what you enter now will be when the lights turn OFF. Once again, set Week, Hour, and Minute. When you hit PROG again, you’d be able to program additional settings. Why would you want more than one program? If you a schedule like having the lights on for 6-10am, then off, then on again at 2-6pm. Or perhaps one schedule for Mon – Fri, and another for the weekends.
While the timer is completely optional for the set up, I think it was 15 minutes well spent! I won’t have to try and remember to turn my lights off and on, which means I won’t be wasting electricity or forgetting to make sure my seedlings get critical light time!
Eventually, I’ll want to put up my light system on wire shelving, much as Erica at NW Edible has done in her beautiful seed growing set up. For right now, I just have it setting on a board in my garage. (Basic, I know!)
So there you have it! I will share more of how I use the grow lights in upcoming gardening posts. In the meantime, perhaps you’d like to read some other popular gardening posts I’ve published to the blog?
- How to Decide What to Grow in your Garden
- Simple Greenhouse Set up for $100
- 19 Items for your Garden you can buy at the Dollar Store
- 13 Uses for Free Buckets in your Garden
- Simple Way to Keep Cats out of your Garden
- Growing Food in $1 Burlap Sacks