Introduction: Inexpensive Seed Starter
Over the past few years the family has started seeds for our garden. We have tried a few different enclosures from store bought, to floating the starting tray in our fish tank. (it works if you don't sink the tray with the filter) The biggest hurdles were light and temperature. Our house has a programmable thermostat and in front of the door wall is the sunniest but not the warmest.
So last year after killing off the first set of seeds, I made a seed starting box, with lights, air flow, and heat (from the lights). The plants thrived.
Here is how its made...
Step 1: Materials
1 Sterlite clear plastic container.
3 temporary bulb holders (home depot rubber coated) UPC # 0 78477 83939 1
3 CFL 13w light bulbs (do not use other types the heat would create a dangerous situation)
2 wire nuts
1 cord end (I got this one off a dead microwave) a short extension cord work well also
3 band ties
double sided tape
piece of bubble wrap the size of the bottom of the container
hole saw (the size of the bulb holders) 1 1/2"
Step 2: Drill Light Holder Holes
Lets get started
A few words of caution:
If you are not comfortable with electrical wiring, please consult an electrician. You use this instructable at your own risk. Wiring lights is not difficult however if done wrong can be dangerous. Using standard incandescent / or halogen light bulbs will over heat the starter and could be dangerous
Chuck in your hole saw (1 1/2") in the drill and drill 3 holes in the lid of the bin. The holes have to be close enough together that the wire ends of the sockets touch with enough slack to connect the cord.
Step 3: Install the Lights and Wire
Once the holes are drilled you can install the light holders socket facing the inside (photo 1) and place a band tie around the light to stop it from falling back in the hole (photo 2)
(Legal notice : IF you take on this project you do so at your own risk. Exposed wire can cause injury. IF you are not comfortable with electrical wiring please consult an electrician. Do not put tension on the electrical cord as wire nuts are not designed to take a strain load)
(Photo 3) Wire, use red wire nuts to wire all the white together, then wire all the black together. Since the holders don't have a ground it will just hang free.
Wrapping these connections with electrical tape will give a bit of added protection if a nut comes loose or a wire is exposed.
Step 4: Wiring Explained
Well at least for this project..
There are notes on each picture.
Cut off the female end of the cord.
Strip back the insulation 6". This will reveal 3 wires (assuming you used a cord with a ground) black, white, and green.
Strip back 1" of insulation from the black and white wires for the cord.
Strip back 1" of insulation from the temporary bulb holder black and white wires.
Twist all the black together.
Twist all the white together.
Trim back the copper wire to 1/2 to 3/4".
Twist on a wire nut clockwise to each set of wire.
Step 5: Line the Bin
Adding reflective foil to the bin helps the plants use all the light produced by the bulbs and light up your house at night. Cut a strip of foil the height of the bin and wrap it inside and cut to length.
Keep the foil in place by using double sided tape between the foil and the bin.
Cut a piece of bubble wrap the size of the bottom and place bumpy side up. This will provide a drain if you over water and insulate against a cold floor.
Step 6: Punch 4 Vent Holes in the Bin
To keep airflow I added 4 holes in the bottom of the bin. 2 at the bottom of each end. This allowed me to control the amount of heat the bin retained. Crack the top and the heat rising out of the bin crates a vacuum pulling fresh air in the bottom.
Use the same hole saw used on the lid for the lights, leave the reflective material in place and cut slits up either side to create a flap. You can close the flap if you want more or less airflow.
Step 7: Add Light Bulbs and Pots
I used 60 watt florescent bulbs. It seemed to give enough light and not cook the plants. When the plants got large I raised the lid with yoga blocks and added larger bulbs.
I close the lid until the plant got around 2 inches tall. Keep an eye on the moisture. They need to stay damp when sprouting, If they are too wet when growing they may form mold. Use starter soil and clean all your pots from last year.
This project should be plugged into a GFI protected circuit.
Enjoy your garden, and good luck.