Do it Yourself – Self Watering Seed Beds & Grow Light Frame

The last frost date is fast approaching and its time to get the tomatoes, peppers and greens going for the garden. But, going to be away for a couple of weeks! What to do?

It turns out that self watering seed beds and grow lamps are pricy. So If you want to save some coin for seeds and other garden bits, read on. We don’t get a lot of sun on the back of the house, so grow lamps are essential.

I reclaimed some light fittings from my old Vancouver art studio and purchased LED bulbs from Canadian tire for about $15.99 each. I used some old 2×4’s from my last garden enclosure, and T-bolts from the bed I built last year, but didn’t need after my most recent move and hey presto, a lamp stand that can be taken down easily and stored when not in use.

I had bracing pieces from the old garden fence that had 45 degree angles cut at the ends. They’re approximately 2 feet long. Taking 4 of them I made the feet, threading the t-bolts through each and the bottom of the vertical post. clamping the three pieces together to drill the 1/4inch hole makes sure that the bolt will slide through smoothly. The T-bolts pull the, together tightly, and make it easy to take apart and store for next year.

The measurements are in this basic drawing. If your table is longer or shorter you can easily adjust the length of the crossbar. I built this for the cost of the bulbs, everything else was salvaged from previous projects including the screw and T-bolts! It was approximately $45.00+tax which was cheaper than a single grow light without a frame anywhere in town!

Self watering seedling trays

These are super simple. Like May people I use the hexagonal seed starting trays that have 72 holes for starts. They come with a tray to stop water leaking out and usually also have a clear box lid to keep the heat in.

I cut up a pool noodle that I don’t use anymore to lift the seedling layer off the bottom of the tray, then cut up a piece of lighting grid (slightly smaller than the size of the tray) to ensure the seedlings are well supported and so the felt (see next step), will lie flat. these grids are available at most hardware stores and cost anywhere from $12.00-$28.00 depending on the size. I trimmed the grid using a chunky pair of kitchen scissors.

Pool noodle lifts grid and felt out of the water. You could use something else, like left over pvc pipe from a bathroom project or upturned jars
Trimmed lighting panel to keep seedlings level and supported

The next step is to cut your felt. You can use proper capillary felt for gardening which is available at garden centres and online. I cut mine to the width of the plastic lighting grid, and added 2.5 inches extra length at either end so that the felt dangles down into the tray. This is essential for the felt to soak up the water.

Lay the felt flat over the grid and them fill the tray and soak the felt with water. Then place the seedlings on top. The bottom of the seedling tray makes contact with the felt, but is not sitting in water. Then as the soil starts to dry out it automatically soaks up the water it needs from the felt to keep the seedlings watered while you’re away, or if your simply busy and don’t have time to check the, everyday!

Seedlings sitting on self watering seed tray

So while I’m away my seedlings will be getting 16 hours of light a day (the bulbs need 4 hours off for every 8 hours on), and they will stay watered, so I am on target for repotting seedlings and planting out when I get home!

Have you used something like this? Any recommendations or changes you’d make to this design? I’m still learning woodworking, and happy to hear tips and tricks.

Grow – Eat – Repeat!

Published by looprice

Priest, artist, writer, accidental comedian!

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