After several unsuccessful years of trying to grow certain orchids that need high light, I decided I either would either get serious or quit altogether. I did not want an ugly system as I use our living room and would be looking at it constantly. I also needed to create a greenhouse effect since we live in Upstate NY and our house gets cold in winter. After lots of research, and finding nothing quite ideal, I jumped in and ordered the components listed below and could not be happier. The table is 5 feet long, the light system is 4 feet wide, using 4, 48 inch high density fluorescent lights. It's fairly attractive, easy to maintain, and within months my cattleyas were producing sheaths and have had several bloom. In fact, this summer I did not move them outside since they were doing so well. We don't have air conditioning and they were quite happy sitting in the warm, humid temps, with our ceiling fan going. As I write this, every cattleya I own has sheaths so I'll have flowers throughout winter. The necessary items are listed below. Most were purchased on Amazon. Total cost was just under $400.
Step 1: Necessary Items Are Listed Below
The necessary items listed below. Most were purchased on Amazon. Total was just under $400.
Lifetime 5-Foot Folding Table – Pearl. About $120
Hydrofarm JS10059 4-Feet Jump Start Stand for Plants. About $60
Agrobrite FLT44 T5 Fluorescent Grow Light System, 4 Feet, 4 Tube. $90, but now $120?
Apollo Horticulture GLRP18 Pair of 1/8" Adjust Grow Light Rope Hanger w/ Improved Metal Internal Gears $9
VIVOSUN Durable Waterproof Seedling Heat Mat Warm Hydroponic Heating Pad 48" x 20.75". $36
VIVOSUN Digital Seedling Heat Mat Thermostat Controller 68-108℉. $20
For the humidity Trays:
10 Plant growing trays, 20”x10”. $22. (Only need 4, but flimsy so doubled them.)
Plaskolite 4 ft. x 2 ft. Suspended Light Ceiling Panel. $12 at Home Depot
· Unless you prefer to leave it white, you will need black spray paint suitable for to paint plastic ceiling panel grid.
· Table cloth of your desired color.
· Sheet of clear plastic 4’x 8’. I got it off a role at ACE hardware. Covers the whole system to maintain humidity and temperatures. $12
Step 2: Hanging the Lights
Hang the lights off the frame preferably using a pulley system. Initially I had the light too close to the plants and they all turned red within a month, telling me they were getting too much light. Then I had it too high, and now I seem to have found the sweet spot.
Step 3: Warming Mat and Humidity Trays
I placed the warming mats and humidity trays. Living in the northeast, I need to keep my plants warm when we reduce our house temperature at night or leave for the day. So during winter, I keep the warming mat on 24 hours and turn it off in spring.
The plant trays I bought seemed pretty thin, and to avoid a water disaster I opted to double them. I've now been able to use the same trays for a year, cleaning them every 3-4 months. I use vinegar as lime builds up from our hard water. I never get it the lime completely off, but it's not visible once assembled. One gallons fills each tray about halfway. Mold became a problem during our warm summer, but putting just a few drops of bleach per gallon of tray water eliminated that issue.
The humidity tray grid (leaned against the right side of the table in the last picture) came from Home Depot, and is designed to be a ceiling light cover. It was white, and my husband volunteered to spray paint it black. We let it sit 2-3 days per paint can instructions, and to my surprise, it's lasted a year without chips.
Step 4: Thermostat
I attached the thermostat probe so it is at the level of the base of the leaves. I leave it on constantly with the base on the floor for quick glances. Having the thermostat was critical in determining when to have my heating mat on, and when I needed to remove the plastic overlay as it became too warm in summer.
Step 5: Watering
Using this system, I can do my midweek watering of those plants that like it wetter right on the humidity trays. For full weekly waterings, I prefer to do them all at the kitchen sink.
Step 6: Greenhouse Plastic
These images show the plastic sheet draped over the system from the side. When it's new, the plastic is nearly invisible from the front. It has to be lifted to water the plants, otherwise, I leave it down most of the time in winter, and remove it for the summer.