How To Make Grow Lights For Indoor Plants

how to make grow lights for indoor plants

Starting seeds is an essential part of the gardening process. There's nothing that compares to watching your seeds grow into healthy seedlings year-round, ready to be planted. Unfortunately, various outdoor factors such as lack of water, varying temperatures, and soil moisture fluctuations affect plant growth and flowering.

That's where growing indoor plants with proper lighting comes in. Starting your seeds in the house under grow lights is relatively inexpensive and offers a perfect start to all types of plants. Not to mention, you'll improve your seed germination and plant survival rates.

Whether you've got some experience in seed starting or you don't know where to begin, this definitive guide will help you make grow lights for indoor plants.

Getting Started With DIY Grow Lights

The top reason most gardeners get interested in DIY grow lights for indoor plants is to save money. But it'd help if you got the right grow light for your plants.

Remember, sunlight comes with the complete spectrum of light which includes all colors of the rainbow. Like plants growing outdoors under the sun, indoor plants grow best in full-spectrum lights. So your bulbs should produce a balance of warm and cool light, replicating the natural solar spectrum.

Choose Either LED Or Fluorescent Grow Light

Both produce full-spectrum light but LED grow lights are better for your wallet and the environment. They have the bright, full-spectrum light seeds craving to enhance photosynthesis, stimulate more robust root growth, and ensure peak growth. What's more, they're super-efficient as they only use half the electricity and last longer than fluorescent bulbs.

If you prefer fluorescent light to LED, you should know that red and blue light are the two vital light spectrums. Red spectrum light promotes growth, but too much of it leads to weak plants. On the other hand, blue spectrum light regulates plant growth, ensuring that all plant parts from the branches to the roots take the right size, shape, and density.

Generally, there are two fluorescent bulbs ideal for your indoor plants; the cool white bulb, which offers yellow, green, blue spectrum lights, and the warm white bulb, which provides orange and red spectrum lights.

So, if you're using fluorescent grow lights, choose alternating warm and cool fluorescent bulbs. That way, you'll mimic nearly the entire sun's color spectrum, thus growing healthy seedlings.

Besides being cheaper, assembling your LED grow light or fluorescent light enables you to maximize your setup efficiency. You can put as many or as few lights, depending on your ideal electricity costs.

In addition, making your own lights comes in handy if you don't have ample space. It's much easier to fit DIY grow lights in small areas than most grow lights on the market.

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Parts for Your Grow Light System

Below are the parts you need to put together your grow light setup. Note, this information is for two different-sized arrangements using the same materials. The second option is simply a miniature version.

First alternative: Big system (74-in H × 48-in W x 18-in D)

The large grow light system consists of six shelves, but you can't place your lights above the top shelf. Therefore, you only have five shelves to put your seeds. This system is perfect if you want to grow many plants simultaneously or grow seedlings for a large garden or an edible landscape. 

Second alternative: Small system (30-in H × 48-in W x 18-in D)

Technically, the small grow light system has three shelves. It's ideal if you're growing plants for a small garden or you only plan to grow a few plants (less than 100) at the same time.

Materials:

  • 48" multi-tier steel shelving unit
  • Open oval chain
  • 10-outlet power strip
  • 20 S-hooks
  • Zip ties

Lighting: 3 LED lights 48" 64W full-spectrum LED light strip

For fluorescent lights, you'll need 10 48" fluorescent shop lighting housing

A rack: It's wise to use metal wire shelving when making your grow light stand. Because they're versatile, you can use them for storage after the seed starting season.

How to Install Grow Lights

Installation requirements vary depending on the type of bulb used and the space in your indoor garden. But these basic steps will help you get started.

Build a light rack

Light racks help you support your bulbs over the indoor plants at the appropriate height. Unless your plant remains at the same size throughout its entire lifespan, you need to raise the rack accordingly as the plant grows to maintain the optimal distance. You can accomplish this by hanging your light fixtures with metal chains and S-hooks or through a pulley system.

Add other necessary materials

Besides the lights, hooks, chains, and shelving unit, you need other crucial materials to make your grow light system more efficient. They include:

Timer

Although each type of plant is a bit different, your indoor plants will do fine with approximately 10-14 hours of light per day. Just ensure you switch your lights off during the night. A digital timer can help you monitor the lighting and turn off the lights at the right time. 

Seedling heat mat

Seedling heat mats are essential when starting heat-loving vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.

Extension cords and power strips

Power strips play a very crucial role when making grow lights for indoor plants. After plugging all your lights into the power strip, you'll need to plug the strip into your timer.

That way, they'll turn on and off at the same time. Depending on how you set up your system, you may need extension cords to ensure all your lights reach the power strips.

Is a DIY Grow Light Worth Your Time?

Making a DIY grow light for your indoor plants allows you to start the gardening season early and grow hundreds of plants for less money. What's more, you get to choose interesting varieties and enjoy your heartiest and healthiest seedlings. 

However, keep in mind that this project takes a lot of perseverance and patience. Make this the year you grow more unique varieties, have fun starting your plants at home and save money. 

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