The Grow Zone Project (How-to and costs)

Any homesteader will tell you that the number of projects is never ending. That’s probably the best part for me. I love building things, researching them, and coming up with new ideas on how to put them together. Our Grow Zone Project was no exception. Here is a quick peak at the final product.


Last year the Blackwell Gardener (Christina) asked me to put together a set of shelves to grow our seedlings on. I know a bit about wiring so I put a set of two four-foot tube lights on four separate shelves. We had some of these kicking around so I re-purposed those for the grow zone. The results were not great. I had cords running all over the place and we had to remember to plug the lights in every morning and unplug them every night. Two lights was not enough to encourage good growth and the standard bulbs I used were not the right ones to encourage leaf and stem growth (more on that later). This year I decided to do things differently.

Christina needed more room this year to start more seedlings for ourselves and some extras in case anyone wanted to buy some. We started by purchasing a second shelf unit from Canadian Tire ($130 on sale). The next step was to move from two bulbs per shelf to four. We needed to buy additional light fixtures and thought we would check out the Habitat Restore here in Sarnia. Luckily they had some for $20 for each shelf ($20 x 4 shelves = $80). To hold the fixtures in place I drilled holes through the fixtures and ran zip ties onto the underside of each shelf (pictured below). This proved to be a lot easier than wire! I then started running wire into each of the fixtures. When I did this I wanted to make sure it was as safe as possible so, everything is grounded, I used proper fittings to secure the wire, and I used 14-2 wire ($30).

For the first shelf unit, I ran all the wires down one of the corner posts and into a junction box at the bottom.  Then while talking with a very kind employee at Home Depot, we came up with the idea of putting each shelf on it’s own switch ($26 – shown below). That would serve as my junction box and allow us to turn each shelf light on and off as needed (save on power where we could). We also plugged both shelf units into our Christmas lights timer to help with having to plug and unplug every day.

Lastly I picked up the bulbs. Since each shelf needed four bulbs, we needed 16 bulbs per shelf unit at $6 a piece ($6 x 16 bulbs = $96). While standing in the aisle at Home Depot (I was that annoying guy on his phone) I researched the best bulb and found out that the best bulbs are Daylight (5000 wavelength) or Natural Light (6500).

Some things to consider:

  1. We are currently using T12 bulbs which are the least efficient. When these bulbs are worn our we may replace them with LED.
  2. This shelf unit is NOT water resistant. We know we have to be careful, but it may be a good idea to put a layer of plastic on top of each of the light fixtures.
  3. Currently the lights are stationary. We are seeing how that goes and may make them adjustable. For now it seems to be working well. The plants are stretching toward the light a bit, but there seems to be enough power with 4 bulbs per shelf.

That was it! Two lighted shelf units for a grand total of $362 each. That’s not bad compared to a 3 shelf unit from Veseys for $800 plus shipping. The added bonus of getting to build something was icing on the cake!


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