Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Growing seeds-Built a light stand

The house I am living in is typical for the US that it is not situated on the lot for using the movement of the sun in consideration for optimal light in the house or solar gains. Typically they seem to plot the houses on the land just to be able to have the front door facing the street. At least it seems like that to me.
In Germany, no matter where I lived we always had large windows with deep windowsills, facing south or southwest, just the perfect place for your house plants or starting your seeds.
I never had a place in the US where I had a window with the proper lighting for house plants or window sills which actually can fit a planter. It is hard to grow your vegetables in such conditions.
In North Carolina we had a laundry room/mud room which had a long wall. To grow my seeds we put wire shelving on the walls, attached shop lights above which worked pretty good and it kept the dirt out of the house.

This house I have now has no room inside the house to grow my plants and no window which lets the proper lighting in. But I have a sun room that even it faces the wrong way, (only the small side faces partly to the south) at least it has room for my plantings. Unfortunately it also has old single pane windows, which let all the cold air in, so during the winter it does not warm up very much, only in the afternoon it starts warming up a bit, but then later in the day the sun is again on the wrong side of the house. The first year I moved in here I got all excited about finally having a sun room that I bought a bunch of  house plants just to have them all die on me when the winter came, when it went below freezing outside, it can get very cold in there.
It is not a good place to start seedlings, with no warmth and not proper lighting.
Sometimes you wonder why people bother to built a sun room if you can't keep hardly any plants in it and it is too cold or too hot most of the year, even for people, to sit in there.

I needed more light in there but light tables, the ones you can start seedlings on are a bit expensive.
Years ago I saw in a magazine a table built with PVC pipes, so this is what I decided to make. It was easy to built, most of the material I already had and I could make it myself, and because it is made with cut pipes I could make it any size which fit my space and needs.

I made the lower part double wide, to be able to fit more trays on one level. This way I can move the plants better around as they are growing. The trays sit on Plexiglas shelves which just are laying across the pipes. They could be screwed in to be more solid in place, but I never bothered with that. It works fine as it is it is easier to change my setup. The upper part I made extra high, to be able to keep the plants longer under the lights as they get taller. And the bottom shelve, even it is double wide I am using only single wide Plexiglas sheets. This way I can put big pots on the floor, which would be to heavy for the Plexiglas sheets.
You can glue the pipes together, but I never did myself and it is holding up fine. Even if you decide to glue the pipes I recommend not to glue the upright longer pipes in, this way you can always take the table apart for storage, or if you decide to make a section higher you can switch out pipes. 
The beauty of working with the PVC pipes is that you can make it as big or small as you want it too be and as long you don't glue together it is always changeable.

My table is about 4 feet wide x 18 inch deep and 6 feet 5 inch high and to make my table this is what you need:
You will be using 3/4" PVC plumbing pipe
Material list. 6 End caps, 48 T connectors, 19 4-way connectors,
8 Elbow connectors
Pipe lengths of upright pipe sections:
You'll need 27  3-1/2" length pipe sections, 9  12" length pipe sections,
9  19" length pipe sections,
6  30" length tube sections
Pipe lengths for the depth of the table:
14  3-1/2" length pipe sections, 12  7" length pipe sections
Pipe lengths for the width of the table:
28  2 feet length pipe sections

Then you also need either a hack saw or a PVC pipe cutter, PVC glue (optional), 4 Plexiglas shelves 24" x 20" deep, 2 Plexiglas shelves 24" x 10" deep, 4 shop lights with the light bulbs and chains with S-hooks you use to hang the lights up with.

Now all you have to do, cut and assemble your growing table, start with the bottom and work your way up to the top.

                       Here you can see how the light tables leg part is assembled.
                      See how the plexiglas shelve is sitting only on the back side
                      of  the table.
                      This way I can put larger pots on the floor in front.

Notice how the PVC tubes the shop light is hanging from are set in a bit from the front and back.This gives the table more stability and also positions lights just right above your plants

                              Another view for the lower part of the table

Here you can see a bit how the next level of the light table is put together. If you wanted to, you easily could add another light to the front of this table or even make bigger plexiglas shelving for the bottom shelf.

Here the plexisglas sheets are sitting across the whole depth of the table at the middle level.
Again notice how the pipes the lights are hanging from are set in from the front and back a bit.
The chains to lower or shorten are just simply wrapped around the pipes.

Here you can see the lamps suspended from the pipes.The plexiglas sheets are laying again across the full depth of the light table

The upper part of the table. Here I use only one light. If you wanted to, you
could make it as deep as the lower part of the table. I have two pipes
connected together for the height of the upper part, because after I wanted
to keep my perennial chili peppers overwinter on this table I found I
needed the light to keep them happy, but I did not have the height.
So I just added some more pipe to it.

A view of the middle part with the 4 way connectors.These are the pipes the lights are suspended from.
These pipes make a great storage area above the lights for the unused planting trays.

                       View of the left side of table.
                      Light suspension pipe and shelf supporting pipes

                               Another closeup of the middle section

                             So here is the whole table again.
It really is quite easy to built and so easy to customize to your liking. It is just like building with the kid toy 'Lego'. Make it bigger or smaller.
The whole table without the shop lights which I still had from my previous light table probably cost me about $30 to $40, quite inexpensive compared to the light tables you can buy.

Maybe I should have washed the dirt off my table before I took the pictures, as I looked at the pictures I could see quite some dirt on there. But hey, it is a planting table it will get dirty. Right?

disclaimer: Not to be shared with the Dervaes Family of Path to Freedom Website. Thank You 


Bethany said...

AWESOME job!!!!!! Love it. Thanks for all the pics. I have a smaller PVC one for the table but am wanting a bigger one like this. Great job!

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