So I plant a large garden each year, and the last couple of years I've started from seeds. There are several reasons to start your veggie and flower plants from seed:
1. There is a MUCH larger variety of plants and veggies by going with seeds.
2. It's much cheaper over time. You can usually buy 30 or more seeds for less than the cost of one plant.
3. It's fun.
4. It's an excuse to think about spring while there's still frost on the ground.
5. Did I say it's fun?
This isn't an instructable on starting seeds (althouh I should do one), but rather how to build a choose a grow light and build a stand. You can use this to grow indoor plants that need a lot of light year round, or do what I do and use it to get your garden plants like tomatos and peppers a head start. Now, if you are using it to start plants, you'll want to make this adjustable. The reason for this is you want to keep the lamp very close to the plant. Ideally you'll keep the bulbs an inch or two above the top of the plant, and move the light up as the plants grow. A SOUTH FACING WINDOW IS NOT ENOUGH LIGHT FOR MOST ANNUAL PLANTS!!!!!
This is a very cheap setup, but it will work for years. The stand itself cost me about $8.00, and the fluorescent light will run you about $20.
Step 1: Choose your lamp
I recommend a 4' long shop light style flourescent lamp with at least 2 light tubes. 3 or 4 tubes are better, but not necessary if you keep your light setup close.
I also recommend narrow T5 or T8 bulbs. They are more efficient than the fatter T12 bulbs, and they also give a more natural light.
Ideally you will get a bulb in the 4000k to 6000k range because it gives a full spectrum light. GE sells bulbs labeled "kitchen and laundry" that are 5000k that are about 5 bucks for a two pack. You can use the fancy grow light bulbs, but they're not necessary.
The light fixture I use is the cheapest 2 T8 bulb fixture that Lowes sells. You can buy these at any home improvement store and most big box stores (Wal-Mart runs decent sales on these during spring/summer).
Step 2: Cut your pipe and pieces
You'll need a 10' piece of 3/4" pvc pipe, a 10' piece of 1/2" pvc pipe, 4 3/4" caps, 2 3/4" slip fit Tees, and 2 1/2" slip elbows.
There are different types of PVC pipe, and they are different thicknesses. I bought the el cheapo standard 3/4" pipe. Don't buy the thicker schedule 40 3/4" pipe, it is too thick for what we'll be doing! I did buy the schedule 40 1/2" PVC, thickness won't hurt us. Just to be sure you've got the right stuff, make sure the 1/2" pipe will fit inside the 3/4" pipe.
PVC pipe is very cheap, a 10' piece of pipe should run you less than $2.00, and the fittings were less than 50 cents apiece. You don't need to spend the extra money on pipe that's safe for hot water, drinking water, etc.
Now, cut four 6" long pieces of 3/4" pipe, two 9" long pieces of 3/4" pipe, and a 48" long piece of 3/4" pipe. Cut two 10" long pieces of 1/2" pipe and a 52" long piece of 1/2" pipe.
I used a compound miter saw for this, but it's not necessary. A simple hack saw or hand saw will work fine.
Step 3: Drill holes
Now drill a hole all of the way through each of the 9" long pieces of PVC 2" from the top. I used a 9/64" drill bit, but other sizes will be fine. You'll need to find 2 nails to fit through the hole. As long as the nail is at least an inch long, and the hole you drill is large enough for the nail to fit through it you'll be fine.
Take your 10" long pieces of 1/2" pipe, and drill a hole all of the way through the pipe every inch down the pipe. You should have 9 holes total per pipe.
You don't need a drill press to do this, a regular drill is fine. I just like to find excuses to drag out my big power tools :)
Step 4: Put it together
Now just slip all of the pieces together. There is no need to use any type of glue, although you could if you want to. I choose not to because I can take it apart to store when I'm done with it for the year.
Take the 6" pieces and slide into the T so they are parallel. Put the 9" piece in at the top of the T so the hole is pointing up. Cap off the ends. You do want to use the caps, it keeps the entire apparatus from rocking once it's together.
Put the 90 degree elbow on the 10" pipe and slide it inside the 9" pipe.
Slide the 52" pipe inside of the 48" pipe (Although the 48" pipe isn't completely necessary, it does make it more sturdy). Now put the elbows onto the end of the 52" pipe.
The pictures are worth 1,000 words here.
Step 5: Finish it up
Now put the 10" piece of pipe inside the 9" piece so it stands up. The light should come with chain to hang it up. Loop it around the pipe so it hangs.
Now put the nail inside the holes. As the plants grow, you'll pull the nail, lift the light higher off the ground, and insert the nail into a different hole.