Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Indoor PVC Seed Starting Shelf

Inspired by many videos of practical farming, I finally learned why much of my past seed starting has resulted in failure. 1) Lack of light & 2) Poor soil media. In this guide, I build a proper seed starting shelf to start my seedlings indoors.

Previously, many seeds I had started lacked adequate light, and started to get really leggy. I had no real sunny south facing window to use. Other attempts used less than adequate desk lamps....

After searching around a bit, I decided to build a seed starting tower with grow lights and all. Using the plans found on this webpage as a guide, I got to work. I modified the plans in a few ways (note: TSflowers website is no longer displaying, the lengths of the cuts are listed below):
  • PVC used was 3/4" Diameter
  • Horizontal Bars (16) cut to 20"
  • Height pieces (12) cut to 15"
  • Leg Pieces (4) cut to 5"
  • Tee to Tee connection pieces (16) cut to 3"
  • Shelf Depth Pieces (2) cut to 7" pieces
  • 3 crosses to make shelves wider, attached in the middle
  • 40 Tees + 12 tees added (for the legs, and cross pieces on the shelves)
  • 1 light fixture per shelf
Be sure to have a location in mind prior to assembling the tower. It measures 54" wide x 18" long x 60" tall.

Measuring out the cuts. I highly recommend investing in a PVC pipe cutter for projects like these.
While cutting out the pieces, I was sure to mark on each cut the length of the piece. This made assembly much simpler.
Assembling the precut pieces
After cutting all the pieces, putting the tower structure together was simple. Once completed though, I noticed that I forgot to cut shelf pieces lengths for the top shelf. Although not necessary as part of my build (plants don't go on the top shelf), an addition two 20" lengths and a 3/4" cross would finish the tower's top shelf. (Update: I went back and did this to the top shelf)
PVC magic!

Watch to see how to assemble it above.

Now with the shelf unit assembled, it was time to add the lights. To illuminate the shelves, I acquired the following items:

3 -- 4' T8 Shop light fixtures
6 -- 4' T8 Shop light Daylight bulbs (6500K) (it's more economical to buy a bulk pack)
Power Strip w/6 outlets
3 Pronged Timer

Carefully attach the fixtures with S-hooks
The lighting fixtures I used came with a short length of chain and two S-hooks a piece. They fit easily around the PVC shelf unit without obstructing anything on the shelf above.

The fixtures were a bit funny too. Prior to installing the lights, the bulb sockets have to be "popped out" so the bulbs can be placed inside.
Lights installed!
For this stage of plant development, blue daylight is best. If you so choose to mix things up, on the lighting fixtures, fit each fixture with 1 daylight bulb (6500K) and 1 warm light bulb (3500K).

The shelf can be equipped to have two fixtures on each height of shelf. I may opt to expand that in the future once I have a lot of plants growing, as one light unit can really only catch 8" or so of shelf real estate (Update: I eventually upgraded to two fixtures per shelf on the top two shelves). It is important to buy a power strip and timer that can handle that many fixtures.

The timer should be set to run for 12 - 16 hours a day. The plants need some darkness too! Expect your electric bill to slightly increase too. You can use a calculator like this one to estimate how much extra you'll be spending yearly.

Now I'm really growing like a pro!

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