Gardens are a big thing in Alaska and getting your garden to grow well in a shorter season is difficult to do. It’s crucial that your seeds get started right as soon as possible and light is your secret ingredient.
If your light is too weak, your seeds will be leggy and weak, falling over on weak stems that sill struggle to hold the weight of the leaves. If the light is too far away, it’s the same thing.
After playing around with different light layouts, I’ve discovered what works great every single time. It only requires 4’ LED strip fixtures, (1) standard power outlet, a 4’ wide wire rack, and zip-ties. This is the ultimate do-it-yourself electrical project that will save your seeds. I guarantee it.
Gathering the Materials
The easiest thing to get for this project in Alaska are the shelving units. They’re available year-round in Lowes, Home Depot, and, sometimes, Walmart. The prices are comparable throughout the year, though Walmart definitely has the best prices when the shelves are available.
The light fixtures are only available online and those prices vary throughout the year. In 2020, I bought the Hykolity 10 pack LED 4Ft shop light for $30 in the summer to prepare for the next seed growing experience. Three months later, that same package was $68.
The 336W high output grow light with high PPFD come in an eight pack, are full spectrum, and have the side shields to keep the light out of your eyes as you’re working in the area. These work great, but full-spectrum (purple) lights are necessary for starting your seeds. Light intensity and warmth are more important.
You want enough lights to have four on each shelf. Two lights are not enough. You will have some seedlings struggling to get light while others are doing better. When seeds are struggling for light, they get what is called “leggy.”
Putting It Together
This is why this is a favorite DIY project. It’s easy to do and one person can do it.
- Build the shelving units.
- Zip-tie the light fixtures to the bottom of the shelves.
Yes. That’s a hand-sketch. However, you can see that all you do is daisy chain the light fixtures once you’ve got them zipped onto your shelf, one wired to the other, and then… you just plug them in. These light fixtures come with enough switched plug-in ends that you can run each shelf individually, if you wanted to. In my case, I chose two because I have a duplex outlet (room for two plugs) right next to my shelf. No need for a power strip or to call the professionals.
One Last Thought
The other key to getting great looking starts that are bushy and strong is to ensure your plants are as close to your lights as you can get them. The first two years, I created a complex pully system to raise and lower my lights. This year, I ziptied to the bottom of the shelves and put the trays on boxes. This method worked the best.
Not all electrical home or life improvement projects require an electrician. We’re not here to tell you to call us every single time, so we don’t want you to feel like that as we’re sharing information.
This is, however, one of those life-hacks that we discovered because we are electricians, and this is something we enjoy playing around with. We hope you enjoy! Get those seeds started! Get them well-lit and warm, and we look forward to seeing amazing pictures of your lush and wildly green gardens this summer.