Introduction: DIY Grow Light and Grow Strong Seedlings
Buying seedlings is the greatest cost in gardening for me. Because I live in the weather where it has very long Winter and very short Spring. The guaranteed frost free date is around June 1st. If I start seeds in ground at that time, there won't be enough time for growing and harvest will be scarce. I tried to grow seedlings. At first years my seedlings were slender and droopy, not like the ones you'd see in stores. After that I did research and study to grow sturdy seedlings just like the ones in garden stores. In this Instructable, I will show you how to make grow light and grow your own strong seedlings year after year so you can save money on buying seedlings year after year if you live in s similar weather as mine.
Various plant seeds
Note: This article contains affiliate links as references for the same or similar products used in this project. If you click on the links and make purchases I could receive a small amount of commission from the affiliate company with no extra cost to you.
Step 1: Make Your Own Grow Light Box
I got a Sterilite stackable storage drawer system which is 17" D x 14" W x 19 3/8" H and can hold 24 seedling pots I make with brown paper lunch bags myself. You can purchase a system with different dimensions depending on your gardening scale. (photo 1)
The front of the drawers come with holes. So I decided to make holes on the back to promote convection and air circulation inside the drawers. First I drew circles on the back sides of the drawers where I will make holes (Photo 2, and 3).
Second, I used a stencil cutter (photo 4) and made holes at places I just drew (Photo 5).
Third, I taped the fronts and backs of drawers from inside so paint won't get inside the drawers and spray painted the drawers blue (Photo 6, and 7). The drawers were originally translucent white. Seeds kept in the darkness during the initial incubation period sprout faster. That's why I painted the drawers a deeper color. Also during the growing stage, a deeper color blocks the lights glare on our eyes of who live in the house.
Step 2: Install Grow Lights on Box Lid
Pry off one of the drawer lid (photo 1).
Step 3: Prepare Seedling Pots
Either buy biodegradable seedling pots, or make brown paper bag seedling pots using a waste bottle as in the first video(photo 1) or make origami brown paper bag seedling pots as in the second video(photo 2).
Step 4: Germinate Seeds and Grow Yong Seedlings
Moisture your potting mix with appropriate amount of water according to the instruction on the bag(photo 1).
Fill 24 pots to 1/4" to the top(photo 2, 3).
Sow 1-3 seeds(I lately use only one seed) in each pot(photo 4).
Keep the drawer with the pots in a warm place and in the dark with the soil moistened all the time at this stage before the seeds germinate.
As soon as the the seeds sprout and break the soil(photo 5), remove the pots that have sprouted to the other drawer with the growing lights(photo 6). Keep the growing light on for at least 12 hours a day. It is also very important to keep the growing drawer in a cool place at this stage. I keep them in basement. Poor light(seedlings search for light) and warm temperature(seedlings shoot up fast) at this stage guarantee slender, weak seedlings.
Depending on seed varieties, not all seeds germinate and grow at the same rate. So the two drawers system works really well. One drawer in the warm and dark place for pots before germination. The other drawer with growing lights in cool place to grow seedlings after germination.
Step 5: Adjustment When Seedlings Grow Bigger
For the storage system I use, after some growing time, some seedlings grow tall and very close to the lights. I used 4 pieces of cardboard(photo 1) to make a drawer with no bottom(photo 2) to block the lights glowing when they are on and place the box in the top drawer place and raise the lid with growing lights to the top(photo 3, 4). This way it gives seedlings plenty room to grow before transplanting to the ground.
Step 6: Harden Seedlings Before Planting
To harden the seedlings, a week before transplanting, move the pots outside preferably in the morning in good calm weather day and train them in natural sunlight for 1 hour on the first day, two hours on the second day ... until they are used to 6-7 hours of natural sunlight a day(photo 1).
During this week, you will notice seedlings are growing even stronger, their colors become darker and look really healthy(photo 2).
Step 7: Transplant, Protect, Water, Harvest and Enjoy
Transplant the seedlings on an evening when it doesn't forecast storm or scotching hot days for the next couple of days.
Protect your plants from backyard animals, rain and draught storms. Water them two times a week when it doesn't rain. Physically remove bugs or use chemical spray to fight bug damage.
Harvest and enjoy. In the last several years, I have been growing vegetables in my backyard which reduced grocery trips significantly in the summer. In the last few years, I have grown every seedlings I use in my garden. Hope this Instructable is helpful to you.
Please vote this Instructable for Gardening Challenge contest if you like it. Thanks.
Runner Up in the