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Lighten Up

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Bringing beautiful color and plant diversity to your garden doesn't have to mean dashing off to a string of nurseries to buy scads of plants.  How about a trip to the the basement, storage closet, a warm garage, sun room or spare bedroom?  Converting a place at home to your own personal propagation range is not that hard at all.  Just be certain to include grow lights.

As much as viable seed sown into fast drain potting mix in sterilized containers are necessary for success, it all sort of falls apart without a good light source for young seedling upstarts.  Grow light are another essential component.  And not some high tech 'thingie' either.  Take a look at how I set up mine;

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My potting bench is in a store room in the basement of my building. The bench top is an old solid core door attached to cast off kitchen cabinets. The light I use is a 48

1 My potting bench is in a store room in the basement of my building. The bench top is an old solid core door attached to cast off kitchen cabinets. The light I use is a 48" long shop light.

6' lengths of zinc plated chain rated to hold up to 50lbs (much more than the weight of the light fixture) are looped around an insulated water pipe and held in place with easy-on-easy-off 'S' hooks.

2 6' lengths of zinc plated chain rated to hold up to 50lbs (much more than the weight of the light fixture) are looped around an insulated water pipe and held in place with easy-on-easy-off 'S' hooks.

The same type of 'S' hooks are at the end of the chain and go through notches on the top of the light to suspend it over the bench. This makes raising and lowering the light easy.

3 The same type of 'S' hooks are at the end of the chain and go through notches on the top of the light to suspend it over the bench. This makes raising and lowering the light easy.

If you have a flat floor, use a level to ensure fixtures are straight and evenly hung.

4 If you have a flat floor, use a level to ensure fixtures are straight and evenly hung.

My floor is not at all level, so I used a tape measure to get both ends at an even height from the bench surface.

5 My floor is not at all level, so I used a tape measure to get both ends at an even height from the bench surface.

The light is suspended approximately 6

6 The light is suspended approximately 6" above the bench. It should be about 1" above the seedlings throughout the time they're indoors.

The electrical hook-up includes a surge protection bar with 6 outlets (allows for adding more lights if needed), a heavy duty timer to control the light exposure length. Additional sockets can be added as well.

7 The electrical hook-up includes a surge protection bar with 6 outlets (allows for adding more lights if needed), a heavy duty timer to control the light exposure length. Additional sockets can be added as well.

The surge bar is mounted to the wall using Velcro strips and plugged into a three prong, heavy duty extension cord.

8 The surge bar is mounted to the wall using Velcro strips and plugged into a three prong, heavy duty extension cord.

The timer is plugged into the bar so it can shut the lamp off and turn it on according the the set schedule. Most seedlings need 12-14 hours of light a day.

9 The timer is plugged into the bar so it can shut the lamp off and turn it on according the the set schedule. Most seedlings need 12-14 hours of light a day.

Full spectrum florescent tubes provide the best possible 'natural' light experience indoors. That's how you end up with a rosey glow like this. All done and ready for action. Now where are those seeds...?

10 Full spectrum florescent tubes provide the best possible 'natural' light experience indoors. That's how you end up with a rosey glow like this. All done and ready for action. Now where are those seeds...?

Comments (2)

  • This is the most beautiful picture. More details please! Where was it taken?

  • Author Comment:

    It is the rock garden at New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, NY, truly magical and worth the trip. Go here for hours and directions.

    http://www.nybg.org/

    The photo was taken for a story we did at Martha Stewart on making your own herbarium, or methods for pressing and preserving plant specimens. It is lovely, shot by Chris Baker.

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