DIY – Grow Light

When we purchased our house in the fall of 2009 I had high hopes for a garden when spring/summer came. Well…. nothing I planted ever grew which I attributed to my “black thumb.”

Turns out, I just didn’t know what I was doing. Lazy gardening is poor gardening.

Summer of 2012 rolls around and a very pregnant woman with a little boy and a little girl stop by my garage sale. Turns out, they live down the street and her daughter is the same age as my older daughter. Bonus: Her husband is an avid gardener. Not only did I make new friends that day, but I got a garden mentor!

So, last summer I started my first official garden. It didn’t work so well, the leaves in the tree near the garden grew too thick and I didn’t have a ladder tall enough to thin it enough. Needless to say, my garden suffered. We did get a handful of tomatoes and a bell pepper or two, but nothing remarkable.

Last year I also started my own seeds in the house to get a jump start on the growing season. I have a south facing bay window that I used to start them. It worked alright, but they certainly didn’t thrive in those less than ideal conditions!

So this year I asked for a grow light for Christmas.

And I did not get a grow light for Christmas. 😦

So I did what any cheapskate would do, I took to Google and YouTube to find out how to make my own!

I found this amazing YouTube video and thought, I can do that!

However, I sure wished the directions were written out.

I can’t take credit for the video, but I wanted to share his good tutorial and show you how I did it.

What you  need:

  • Metal furnace duct work – $3.96
  • Threaded rod x 2 (mine are 1/4″ – the larger they are, the stronger, however the whole fixture is super light.) – $1.70 (99c each)
  • Nuts (I like wing nuts) – 77 cents for a pack
  • Dual  light fixture – $3.69
  • Extension cord – $1.17
  • 100-200W CFL Bulbs (mine are 100 wat replacement Full Spectrum lights, “Evolution” brand.) x 2 – $8.58 ($4.99/each)
  • Chain (to hang from rack) – $6.70 ($3.90/each)
  • Key rings (to attach chain to rods) – $1.98
  • TOTAL COST = $25.75
  • I purchased all of my materials from Menard’s during their 14% off bag sale so these are the discounted prices.

Step 2: Drill the hole and insert the light fixture.

Putting it together was pretty simple. You’ll need a drill and a safe surface to drill into, as well as wire cutters.

Step 1. Gently flatten out the duct work so it’s not a circle.

Step 2. Lay it on a flat surface and find the center (it doesn’t need to be perfect) and drill a hole. This is where you’ll insert the light fixture so it has to be large enough to fit through.

Step 3. Next you’re going to drill the holes for the rod. Try to make them roughly the same. I didn’t measure and just eyeballed it and it’s fine.

Step 4. Thread one of the rods through the first hole. I put wingnuts on each side of the duct work – so one on the outside, one one the inside. A total of 8 wingnuts for the whole fixture.

Step 5. Once the rods are in place it’s on to the electrical work. Take your extension cord and cut off the end of it (the part that you plug something into, obviously, you’ll need the outlet part to plug in your grow light!) Strip the casing off the wires and twist the wires together. Secure with a wire caps.

Thread the wires through the top of the fixture. You’ll also want a nut to hold this in place. I could not find one large enough so I added washers to keep it sturdy in place.

Step 6. Attach your chain to the rods and hang from your desired location. I hung mine from the curtain rod in my office closet. NOTE: The rods were far too long and stuck out a LOT so I had my husband take a saw to them and cut them down. If you do this, don’t cut it too far, in case you want to open the duct work more.

Step 7. Plug in and start growing your seedlings!

It may not be the prettiest grow light, but it gets the job done!

Step 3: Drill the holes for the rods.

Step 4: Insert rods, don’t forget to put both wingnuts in the middle of the rod before you put the rod through the second hole!

All that’s missing is the chain to hang the light up!

Gardening: New Veggie Garden for 2014

When deciding where to put my first ever garden, I took my neighbors advice and put it in the spot where the previous owners had had their garden. I’m told they had bountiful harvests of tomatoes and carrots and everything else. There was already a raspberry bush in the area! Well, it’s been at least 6 years since the previous owners did anything with that garden area and the trees have grown up since then, causing a lot of shade to hit it. My veggies are growing, but I don’t think they are growing as well as they should. Therefor, for 2014 I have decided to move my garden to the sunniest location in the yard. My only concern with this location is that, as you can see from the photo, the brush pile is just to the left and we have bunnies who like to live in there. I don’t want to put up a fence next year, assuming The Little One will stay out of the garden!, but I may have to just to keep out the bunnies.

Big sunny spot near the fence line by the neighbors garage.

This new garden spot is right next to the other neighbors garage. I’ll need to cut back the brush next to the fence and then I also plan to attempt to grow beans and peas and sweet pea flowers using the fence as a trellis. Eventually I’d like to grow my own grapes, but I don’t think 2014 will be the year for that. Getting started was probably the hardest part of this whole ordeal. Breaking through the tough grass roots. The first shovel I had wasn’t quite sharp/pointed enough, so I had to switch to the other one and once I switched it was MUCH easier.

Getting started!

Half hour of digging! One row done! LOTS more to go!

I spent about half an hour digging today in the hot, hot sun. We managed to dig one row of the grass out (and by we I do mean me, with the kids only slightly getting in my way!) We had to take a break at that point because it was about 1,000 degrees outside. OK, the weather app on my computer says it hit 81, but in the noon sun it sure felt a lot hotter!

Sitting in front of the fan with our ice water! Whew it was hot!!!

Once we’d cooled off enough I opted to go back out and dig some more. The Big One decided to stay inside where it’s cooler. I ended up getting POURED on while I was out digging. It started as a gentle sprinkling of refreshing rain water and soon turned into a downpour. It felt wonderful, but the downpour plus the thunder…. I went in at that point! Two rows of digging completed! And I’ve got to say, the wet soil sure makes it easier to dig up the grass!!! Oh, and because I won’t be planting anything until next spring (the exception being some Wild Lupine seeds I will be collecting on vacation and planting in the fall) I’m simply digging up the grass and flipping it over. The grass will compost nicely and feed the soil. I also plan to do some trench composting over the summer in this area to help feed the soil as well.

Next spring (or maybe in the fall?) I hope to get some pavers or cinderblocks and build a little border around the edges. I will also dump some compost in the spring and plant directly in piles of that.

Until next time!