Monday, January 24, 2011

Frugal Gardener: Build a Light Stand

Thinking of buying or building a light stand to start your veggie, herb, or flower seeds this spring, so you can select the varieties you want and save a few bucks in the growing?

How much do you want to spend?  $460.95?  $324.95?  $229.95?  $143.90? $ 60.00?  $17.98?  $9.74?  Nothing?

To check out common possibilities, I paged through what’s probably America’s most popular seed catalog, Burpee. Burpee has a variety of light stands—single and double deckers—available in price from $460.95 to $143.90. All utilize 48” shoplights and include cool-white or wide-spectrum fluorescent bulbs. A Burpee customer for many years, I’ll assume quality is top of the line. Got the $$$ but not time to build your own, go Burpee.

If you want to save some dollars, build your own. A recent weekly email from the Vegetable Gardner website, which is affiliated with Fine Gardening Magazine, included a link to Greg Holdsworth’s article, “DIY PVC Grow Light Stand.” Greg gives a list of what you need and then tells you how to make an adjustable light stand, all illustrated by 12 numbered photographs. He estimates cost of PVC and hardware, including a 48” shop light and bulbs, is $60.00

Want to save even more? All you need is a 48” shoplight and a place in a warm room to hang it. I just checked availability of 48”, 2-light, utility fluorescent shoplights at Lowe’s online and found two available, one at $17.98 and one at $9.74. Of course, you would have to buy two cool-white fluorescent bulbs, which cost just under $7.00. To be fair, let’s add the bulb costs to up the barebones shoplight possibilities to $24.98 and $16.74. Still, those prices are a long, long way from $460.95. Smile, you Frugal Gardener.

And how can you set up your light stand for nothing? Go out in the garage or shop and take down a shoplight and use it for a month or so as your light stand. Or borrow one from a neighbor or friend.

The photo at left shows you how for many years I used two shoplights to start seeds in our utility room, right next to our furnace, where even in these days of cut-back temperature settings, the seed-starting setup stays about 72°F, just a couple of degrees below the optimum temperature for starting tomato seeds. I now use a double-decker light stand that friends gave me a couple of years ago when they were “cleaning house,” but frankly my old shoplight setup on the luggage shelves next to the furnace worked just as well.

To link to the Holdsworth article, “DIY PVC Grow Light Stand,” CLICK HERE.

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