This time of year, when Christmas is over, the next thing I look forward to is spring, when the asparagus shoots start to poke out of the soil, signaling another gardening season. My excitement makes for a long winter- one way I’ve found to help pass the time, is to do a little indoor growing. To grow indoors you need grow lights. These can be purchased (one online store has some simple ones priced at $299) or made (for much less).
With a few tools and basic building skills (it really doesn’t take a lot) you can build a simple frame. The side supports are attached at the tray where the plants sit and with one 2x4 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 simple 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 (and 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 2x4. I think we spent less than $30 total.
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 January. The light set up is also great for starting plants for the 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.