This time of year, when it seems winter will never end, I start looking forward to is spring when the asparagus shoots start to poke out of the soil, signaling another gardening season! One way I’ve found to help pass the time, is to do a little indoor growing. To grow indoors you need grow lights. Grow lights can be purchased online for a pretty penny, but you can also make them yourselves for much, much less!
With a few tools and basic building skills, you can build a simple frame. The side supports are attached at the tray where the plants sit and with one 2×4 that spans the top. The top piece of plywood is attached by chains which allows it to be raised or lowered to keep the lights close to the plants. Once your frame is built, you just need a hanging style shop light from a hardware store. Make sure to get the kind that plugs in. We bought two and placed them side by side. We also built our frame with the length of the lights in mind. We used scrap lumber and screws that we already had, so we only paid for the lights, the fluorescent tubes (it’s helpful to combine both the cool and warm spectrum lights for healthier plants), and the hooks to attach the chains to the top 2×4.
While seed starting trays are nice, they’re not necessary. You can use old margarine or yogurt containers, just keep them moist and cover with saran wrap until the seeds sprout. Once they sprout, remove the saran wrap and place under the lights, moving the lights up as your plants grow.
There’s nothing like fresh lettuce in February! The light set up is also great for starting plants for your garden indoors. A packet of seeds and some potting soil is much less expensive than buying plants at the nursery, plus it gives you a fun winter activity- reading the seed catalogs and choosing which unique varieties to grow that year.