Grow Bucket - Small & Compact Vegetable Starting Station




About: Don't take the world to seriously relax a little and enjoy the ride.

Living in Canada is great but it also means that you have to deal with a long winter which can make the gardening and growing season short especially in some more northern areas of the country. A great way to get a head start on your vegetable garden is to germinate and grow seedlings indoors instead of starting from seed outdoors when it finally gets warm enough. Now this is easier said than done, there are many factors that make growing your vegetables inside tricky. Some of which are; light availability, humidity, wind conditioning and proper soil drainage, not to mention having a place to let your seeds grow in peace.

I have only 1 south facing window in my house and I had been using the window ledge to get some herbs and other things growing but I also have a cat and well,,,the cat enjoys destroying my newly sprouted seeds. many times I would come home from work and see soil on the counter and the seedling ripped out of the soil. Even if my cat left my seedlings alone, the winter months only provide so much light in the day which limits the growth of any new seedling.

I decided that I would make something that would fix both problems as well as improve the growing conditions and really give my herbs, tomatoes and lemon tree a solid head start before going outside.

In this instructable I will show you how to make a self contained LED Grow Bucket that is very easy to make and uses very little power consumption.

**Disclaimer - you can use this grow bucket to grow anything you want but if you plan on growing items that may not be vegetables it would be a good idea to check your local laws to see if you need a medical license to grow certain things. I do not condone the growing of any plants medicinal or non medicinal with out the proper paper work***

Now that being said grow anything you want!! I love the process of watching things grow I am currently growing;

  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Avocado
  • Lemon
  • Tomato

Materials Needed

For Bucket:

  1. Bucket and Lid
  2. Extension cord cheap 6'
  3. Power bar a decent power that will turn off if anything gets shorted (safety)
  4. Duct Tape
  5. Windshield sun protector
  6. 2 LED lights 6w =50w light output
  7. Ceiling light fixture and light box to insulate the wired connection
  8. Fasteners (crews or nuts and bolts)
  9. Computer fan 80mm
  10. 12v wall adapter
  11. Electrical tape
  12. Timer - for lights
  13. Growing containers - I found them at Walmart
  14. Potting Soil

For Filter:

  1. PVC pipe
  2. 1 Pair Pantyhose
  3. Carbon - found in aquarium section of a Walmart
  4. 1 pencil holder
  5. 1 can pizza sauce
  6. Lots of electrical tape
  7. Hot glue

Tools Needed

  • hand Drill
  • Sharp knife or blade

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Step 1: The Light

For the light source I used 2 LED 6watt bulbs that produce the equivalent of a 50 watt of light each but for a fraction of the energy cost.

This step is pretty easy you are basically creating a ceiling light that attaches to the bucket lit. make sure to use metal components to make sure all wiring is properly insulated.

First attach the round light box to the lid with some machine screws. Then wire the light up according to your local building code..I'm not an electrification so I just used the extension cord and cut the female end off then wired that to the light fixture. I made sure to insulate all connections and I checked the light to make sure it worked before installing it.

Make sure that your cord is coming out of the top of the bucket to the bucket lid sits properly when finished.

After the light is working properly you can then add the power bar to the outside of the bucket. I just taped it on with duct tape which was very simple and quick.

Important - make sure to use a power bar that has a safety built into it. Meaning that is for some reason there was a short in the wiring it will trip the power bar and turn off immediately

Step 2: Locking in the Light

Because plants crave light and will preform better with as much light as possible I wanted to maximize the light in the bucket. To do this I used a car windshield sun deflector to 1 keep the temperature of the bucket up (LED have little to no heat) and 2 to maximize the light reflection inside the bucket.

First measure the height of the bucket and cut your deflector to that size. Then secure multiple pieces of duct tape to the back of the deflector and then firmly secure it to the outer edge of the bucket. Next trace the bucket bottom with a sharp knife which will give you the perfect piece for the bottom.

After the deflector is secure you can add the planting tray to see how it will fit and look. Make sure your planting tray has holes in the bottom for proper drainage.

Step 3: Ventilation

Having proper air movement is crucial for your vegetables because it helps develop a stronger root systems as well as prevents any mold issues some plants can get. To do this I used a small 80mm computer fan I got from a computer supply store. The computer fan only uses 12v of energy so its very efficient in achieving the proper air circulation in a small space with out high energy costs.

To power the fan I used a 12v wall adapter that I also bought from a computer supply store. I cut off the barrel jack that it came with and wired that to the fan making sure all my wiring was correct and testing the connection before installing the fan. Make sure you know what way the air is blowing to ensure your fan isn't accidentally removing air from the grow bucket instead of providing ventilation.

After you have wired the fan correctly you can install it to the bucket about half way up the side. I used a marker to mark the drill holes and area I wanted to cut out for air flow. I then used a small extra piece of windshield protector to create an air tight gasket around the opening.

Step 4: Carbon Filter

With any indoor vegetable garden there is the potential for smells. The small isn't very strong but can have a slight mustiness because of the continually wet environment. To avoid this I made a carbon filter which will pull any undesirable smells out of the air. Making a carbon filter is also very cheap and easy to do:

Get you hands on some activated carbon which is located in the aquarium section of Walmart. It is used for fish tank filters.

Next get a small pencil holder, Small can of pizza sauce, PVC pipe and some panty hose. Now empty the contents of the pizza sauce out (save it or make a pizza) and drill multiple holes into the empty pizza sauce can. Now place the can into the pencil holder and see how it fits. Add some carbon to the pencil holder to raise the pizza can to be level with the top of the pencil holder. Place the pizza can ( I taped mine so it wouldn't damage the panty hose) into the panty hose then back in pencil holder and push the pantyhose into the pizza can. Add the carbon to the middle of the pizza can on top of the panty hose. Now you can pull the panty hose up and the carbon will fall off the off the panty hose then around the sides of the pizza can filling the pencil case all the way up.

Cut a small piece of windshield protector to seal the top then fold the pantyhose around the entire pencil case and pizza can securing the carbon in place.

Refer to the pictures to see how its done.

Once you have the filter part completed you can then add the PVC pipe and attach it to the lid of the bucket. The PVC pipe I used was a lot smaller then the pizza can so I used electrical tape to make a proper seal.

Step 5: All Done!

Light - check

Ventilation - check

filter - check

heat - check

Soil - You need potting soil not top soil but its easy to get at any garden center. Potting soil has proper drainage for container planted vegetables.

With this set up, you have now covered all the essential things your vegetables need to get a good head start regardless of where you live and the temperature outside. This system only uses small amounts of energy and can be placed anywhere that has a power source. Its small and 100% portable. Set up a timer on the lights to make it even easier. All you have to do is water.

What happens if my vegetables get bigger??? well that's easy Though I am only using the bucket to get my tomatoes about 6" tall then they will be going outside. If you are growing something that is larger or you started to early then all you have to do is buy another bucket and and cut the top off about 1" under the bottom lip this then can be placed on top of your growing bucket raising the light up 5". do this as many times as you need to. Also save some of the windshield deflector and attach that the bucket tops to insure optimal light reflection.

The seedling the pictures is a Lemon Tree I germinated from a lemon I bought about 1 month ago. Its so fun to see your vegetables grow

Good Luck and happy Growing.

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    34 Discussions

    Corasaurus Rexlglira

    Reply 3 years ago

    Yes I believe so I have never made something like this before so I don't have a ton of experience but so far the LED's are working great.

    FrancesT15Corasaurus Rex

    Reply 3 years ago

    I like this idea. I think that all you need is a few more buckets without bottoms to add to the planter bucket to keep the plants growing tall. Match the buckets so they will stack together. You can add as many buckets as your want to grow trees this way as well. When it is warm enough your plants will have strong stalks and be larger.


    3 years ago

    This is a great instructable, but I thought it would be a good idea to go into more detail about the type of protection you should have on the power supply. A standard power bar with a surge protector will NOT be sufficient to make this safe. A surge protector only protects the devices plugged into it, and isn't what you need when plugging things in around water.

    What you really would need is a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlet, like the ones in your kitchen or near your bathroom sink. Because the author is Canadian, I'm posting a link to a proper portable GFCI from the home depot Canada website, but you can find these at any hardware store or electrical supply store. Failing that, plug it into a GFCI outlet in the kitchen or bathroom, to be safe.

    All in all, great instructable! Let us know how the plants work out!

    [Source: I'm an electrical engineering technology student, and I work in the electrical department of a hardware store]

    6 replies

    Reply 3 years ago

    Even easier option is just to go with 12v LED bulbs and 12v fan and just run the whole setup from a 12v power pack a safe distance from the unit, then your only dealing with 12v dc and its super safe. LEDs will take about 12 watts max for both and the fan maybe 2 watts so powwr pack can be small say 12v 1.5 to 2 amps will do it (18 to 24 watts).
    Also to increase available space use LED stick on panels or strip lights stuck to underside of the lid and youll have about 3 to 4 inches more grow space :-)

    Corasaurus Rexawakekiwi

    Reply 3 years ago

    This is a wonderful comment thank you and I will look into getting the
    proper outlets I really wasn't sure how to wire it property but I wanted
    it safe I thought the power bar would be sufficient so thank you for
    the advice. I am in Landscape Architecture I can properly design a
    storm water retention basin with exact flow rates and ground water
    infiltration percentages but I don't know much about electricity!!

    gravityisweakCorasaurus Rex

    Reply 3 years ago

    GFCI protection is very important when you are using electricity around water. Basically it knows if the electricity is going somewhere its not supposed to (like through your body) and stops the flow if this happens. You can also buy extension cords with GFCI protection if your outlets do not. Good luck! Thanks for sharing your instructable!

    awakekiwiCorasaurus Rex

    Reply 3 years ago

    just use any 12v power packk that you might have about or do what i do and go to your local recycling depot and pickup an old powerpack.
    A suitable one would be a 110-240 ac to 12v dc power pack used to charge a battery drill or anything that outputs 12v DC.
    For example in this pic.. 1 or 2 amps will be enough for a small grow bucket..
    Watts is volts times amps, so 12v x 1 Amp is 12 watts.. fan will use about half or 1 watt, and the LEDs will be maybe 6 to 10 watts depending on what 12v LEDs you use..
    If you need more light then use say a 5 amp (60 watts) power pack, and that will give you plenty of extra power for lots of lights.
    So you just cut off the plug and then wire up the lights and fan using a simple 12v car fuse holder for protection of the components. Theres no danger of fire or electrocution with 12 volts at a few amps.. most modern LED bulbs have a protection circuit built in anyway so a fuse isnt really nessesary. (i never use them).. a multimeter ($10 bucks) is always useful to check polarity of the wires (positive and negative).. but modern LED bulbs are 12v AC anyway so they dont care which way round you put the wires.. the fan will have a red and black wire (and maybe a third wire you can ignore) the red is positive, black is negative.. easy peasy!

    power pack.jpg

    Reply 3 years ago

    In the UK GFCIs are known as RCDs (Residual Current Devices). RCD adapter sockets which plug into a UK 13amp socket are widely available for use with lawn mowers and power tools. Current protection is provided by the replaceable fuse in the 13 amp plug on the cord connected to the GrowBucket. It should be changed from the 13 amp one usually supplied to 3 amp. For best results Daylight LEDs should be used rather than Warm White.

    The UK supply voltage is 240V. alternating current.

    Corasaurus Rex

    3 years ago

    Update. All the plants I moved from the window are doing great in the grow bucket


    3 years ago

    1.) Plastic pails are available in sizes up to 7.5 gallons if you know where to look.

    2.) Try putting the fan over the filter outlet. 120 volt fans are available.

    3.) A container of water makes a great thermal fly wheel. Some minnow buckets are plastic bead board and could be foil lined. The outer bucket is 6 gallons.

    1 reply
    Corasaurus RexJohenix

    Reply 3 years ago

    Very interesting thank you for your comment. Definately some things to consider


    3 years ago

    Well done! However, It looks like you could have done a little more grammar and spell checking. Simple errors like these detract from the work.

    1 reply
    Corasaurus RexNotI1

    Reply 3 years ago

    I completely agree. I wrote this very quickly and well I should have proofed properly. I have gone through it and fixed as much as I could. If you see any more errors I will fix them no problem. I am really good at drawing and design but I could use some work in the grammar department. Thank you for your comment and I am glad you liked the ible

    Akin Yildiz

    3 years ago

    you can gain much more space by upgrading to thin LED lights, however they must be custom wired.. very nice concept, thank you for sharing.


    3 years ago

    Good idea!! You should also try out an old glass fishtank and use the special type of floresent tube they use in those tanks, (the lavender colored once?? They work like magic.


    2 replies
    Corasaurus Rexwilliewerkie

    Reply 3 years ago

    Thank you very much

    A full spectrum bulb I think you mean and I actually just ordered one to try and see if there is any difference in growth rate. Once I place the current seedlings outside i"ll try the full spectrum light on new plants and compare. I don't have a fish tank but I like the idea. I really just wanted something extremely compact I could keep on a work bench out of the way and could actually move around if needed to basically anywhere with an outlet.