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Thread: How To: Build a Plant Shelf

  1. #1

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    Question

    PLANT SHELVING PLANT LIGHT SHELF LIGHTING RACK STORAGE
    Above for search feature

    After dealing with the problem of space for my plants I decided it might be a good idea to publish how I went about fixing the problem since it seems to me anyone with plants can benefit from this information. I donít know if it warrants a sticky or not, but if any moderator sees typos or errors I missed please feel free to fix them [img]http://www.**********.com/iB_html312/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif[/img] thanks. Hopefully at the very least the search function will have made this post available to those who need it (I know I would have liked it if I had access to one before I started).

    ... I can add images if anyone has a place to upload them to.

    Disclaimers:
    Iím using American dollars for prices and that they are of course only what I paid and should be treated as estimates because of inflation and other conditions which may affect cost yadda yadda yadda. Iím also listing the stores that I found the product at. This does not mean other stores do not carry them nor does it mean they always carry them. So disclaimers aside, this guide should help you buy and build a place for your plants that is both elegant and a real space saver.

    The Shelving Itself:
    I was amazed by one brand in particular, Shelving By Design. The shelves are wire, have lovely detailing and come in 3 colors, Chrome, White and Black. In addition to this, they are available in many sizes and should you wish to link them together in the future it can be done. The most practical of the sizes has 5 shelves each of which are 18" deep by 4' long. The total unit stands about 6' tall. This may be too large for you and smaller sizes are available, but because 4' light fixtures are the easiest to obtain it is logical to get the 4' rack. It seems that the exact same racks are also sold in some places under the name of Space Works.
    Again, it comes in Chrome, White and Black and is rated for 350lbs per shelf. Not bad? But wait, there's more! Only $78 for the whole kit!

    The shelving unit I chose was the white 5 tier 4' by 18" unit for $78.

    The racks are easy to put together and I only needed the help of my father once and that was because I didn't want to wack into a glass cabinet in case I lost control of the poles. Note: I am a 5'6" female weighting just 100lbs so it shouldn't be an issue for others. Once the first shelf is on, it's easy sailing, assuming you are tall enough to get the remaining shelves over the poles (I am). A very nice kit indeed... you can adjust the little feet to deal with any leveling problems or replace them with wheels that can also be adjusted for leveling.


    Optional Wheels:
    I wanted my rack to be portable, and to have less impact on my carpet so I got the optional wheel kit sold for the Shelving by Design kits. I got home to discover that the wheels are quite large, but are very high quality and make moving the heavy metal rack surprisingly easy! Wheels are black with chrome hardware only... but who is looking at the feet of the rack when it's filled with lovely plants anyhow?

    I got the recommended wheels for $17.99, but it is likely other wheels would also fit.

    Lighting Fixtures:
    This has proven to be a royal pain. Finding fixtures that fit the standards for plants is not as easy as one would think. Not only are there two ways the fixture can supply power to a light bulb, there are two sizes of bulbs and lots of varieties out there. Hopefully this will be thorough enough so that you won't have as much difficulty as I did.

    First things first, you can choose to have a pull chain or not. It cost about twice as much to get a pull chain and since I intend to use a timer switch to turn my lights on and off, I will be getting the cheaper ones.

    Now the issue of bulb size, you want to get a fixture rated for T12 bulbs. Those are the bigger of the two sizes out there. Remember to get lights that fit your racks, in my case that would be 4' light fixtures and you want them to hold two bulbs.

    I wish it were as easy as that, but there is more to take into account. Youíll want a reflector on your fixture so that as much light as possible is directed towards your plants. You do NOT want anything between your plant and the bulb except for air so if you have a choice between plastic covered and non. Get the cheaper uncovered fixture since you would have to remove the plastic cover on the expensive one anyway. And don't forget that you need a shop light with a cord that plugs in, preferably a long cord. This thing is going to hang from a rack, not your ceiling!

    Let us not forget what the fixture looks like. Now I do not know when shop lights started coming in colors other then white, but they have so you can think about matching your rack and lights.

    If you have the black rack you'll probably want a black light fixture. Okay so I haven't seen a black fixture, but I have seen one that is a metallic steely grey with black fittings and cord. They call it Chrome, but it's just metallic steely. It's made by Lights Of America and sold at most "everything shops" like Meigers and Walmart. There are two models to choose from. The cheaper standard model sells for about $10 and is in a box with red lettering. The more expensive pull chain, super cold weather resistant model sells for about $17 and is in a box with blue lettering. Neither has an energy saver label, and I haven't seen black fixtures of any other kind.

    If you have the white rack (like me) you'll be looking for an old fashion white fixture. I could not believe how hard this was to do. Everyone on the face of the planet seems to carry the black trimmed grey lights by Lights Of America now. After a week and a half of searching I gave up and just got the chrome lights.

    Whatever fixture you decide on, get enough to hang one above each shelf you intend on placing plants on. Because my plant rack is going to be mobile, the top shelf can not have a light hung above it. I will use this space for storage. This means that while my particular rack has 5 shelves, I will only be able to use 4 of them for plants and thus I need only 4 fixtures. If you intend to store a terrarium on one shelf and this terrarium already has its own lighting fixture; the terrarium should count as a light fixture in your total. Aka that is one less fixture you will need to purchase for this set up. In my case, I intend to use the bottom shelf for terrariums, but I do not have any terrariums with good lighting so I will still need a fixture to hang above them.

    Hang the fixtures using the chains that should be included with them. Obviously you'll want to hang them as close to the center of each shelf as you can. You may need to adjust shelf spacing and/or the length of the chains to accommodate different plants. You want your light source to be as close to the plants as possible without actually touching them.

    If youíre really into the lighting, you can probably cram 2 fixtures on each shelf. I prefer the thought of one because it lets me put plants that prefer indirect light a little ways away from the main light source and light loving plants directly under it on the same shelf.

    I got the Lights Of America Solid State fixtures for $9.99 each.

    Light Bulbs:
    Opinions vary, but most people seem to feel the ideal set up for plants is not to purchase fancy plant bulbs, but to get the nice spectrum range via 1 cool white fluorescent and 1 warm white fluorescent bulb per fixture. This is a logical money saver and is used by many professional nurseries in addition to hobbyist. I personally like this idea as some of the fancier bulbs seem to put out a lot more heat and seem more plants roast happily in the heat. Since I will be using 4 fixtures I need 8 bulbs, 4 cool and 4 warm. These bulbs are normally sold in packs of two so I must get 2 packs of warm and 2 packs of cool. If you have an odd number of light fixtures such as 3, you will still need 2 packs of each type of bulb in order to meet the 1 cool and 1 warm bulb per fixture requirement. This is another reason the larger 4' 5 shelf unit is a good choice. For everything you ever wanted to know about lighting and more. I recommend the post by jaie on the subject.

    As far as brands vary I have no thoughts, but remember to purchase 4' T12 bulbs (unless you have smaller fixtures). They are usually 40 watt bulbs sold in pairs. The brand I see most often is Sylvania, so that is what I bought for 4.98 per pair.

    Other Bits and Bobs:
    The above portions of this guide are the easy and obvious stuff you'll need for a plant rack. In this section I'll go over the stuff that is easy to forget and is not technically a requirement, but will make your life easier.

    If you have smaller plants, or just want to reduce the chance of water spills, get something solid to place on top of the wire rack. A board or tray will do just fine. I have no idea what these things cost, I just got stuff out of my garage.

    Get yourself a power strip: If you have 4 lights and who knows what other power cords flying to every outlet and extension cord in your house your going to go buggy. If you want to get extra fancy get one with a surge protector, but whatever you do, just make sure you get one that can:

    A) plug into your wall outlet
    B) accommodates the plug shape of the lights' power cords.

    If you get a strip with a bunch of two prong outlets in it and then discover your lights are three prong you're going to cause yourself some unrequired stress.

    I suggest getting a strip that matches your light's colors, or the colors of you rack. In my case I got a white power strip. Mine was the last of some unmarked mystery power strip so I got a 6 outlet strip for exactly $3.50. Prices are going to vary all over the place, but you should be able to find one that meets your needs for a good price relatively easily.

    If you want to make life even easier on yourself, get an outlet timer. These handy little gadgets will turn your lights on and off on a schedule pre set by you. They come in both analog and digital, but analogs sometimes make annoying sounds so if you have the option, get the digital. Like the power strips, be sure all the plugs and sockets are compatible before you purchase the item. You may wish to buy multiple timers, one for each light. In this case be sure your power strip is long enough because it is likely the timer will partially cover some of the other sockets and make them unusable. However, if you want all your lights on the same schedule, just place the timer between your power strip and the wall outlet... don't get a surge protector strip if you do this, it will probably trip every time the timer attempts to turn on or off.

    In my case, I don't need separate lighting schedules so I'll just get 1 timer. You can usually find timers conveniently next to the power strips at most stores. The timer I chose was the Timex electronic 7 day timer. Probably a bit fancier then necessary at first glance, but it was its high capacities that interested me because I am going to be hooking four 80 watt light fixtures into it. It also is white and matches my rack. This was $16.97.

    Last but certainly not least, be sure to get wire ties of some kind and try to get colors that match your rack and/or wires. While it may be tempting to skip the tedious process of carefully running your cords along the edges of the shelf by tying them nicely along the wire rack, you'll be sorry if you don't. The cords can easily become tangled and irritating to deal with. Even if your ties are just left over twist ties from the garbage bag box you owe it to your investment to properly tame the electronics and prevent any accidents from occurring.

    So now you should have a wire rack with a solid surface set on each shelf, presumably hung with shop lights containing 1 warm and 1 cool bulb each whose cords are tied to the back of the shelves and which all meet up at a power strip which is plugged into a digital timer which is in turn plugged into the wall of the house that Jack built... err uh sorry, laps of cognitive awareness there.
    What are you waiting for? It's time to go get plants to fill it with! Have fun and good luck with your own little indoor garden.
    ____
    Shopping List (highlight and choose print selected text):

    QUANTITY - ITEM - PRICE - FOUND AT

    1 - Shelving by Design 5-teir Wire Steel White/Chrome/Black Shelving Unit 74"H x 18"D x 48"W - ~$78.00 - Lowes

    1 - Space Works 4 Casters With Bumpers Industrial Wheels - ~$18.00 - Home Depot

    1 - 6 Outlet Power Strip - ~$3.50 - Meijers (a super store)

    1 - Timex electronic 7 day timer - ~$17.00 - Lowes

    1 - pack of wire ties - < $2.00 - Just about anyplace

    2 - Sylvania Consumer Choice Cool White Plus Fluorescent 40 watts 48" pack of 2 - ~$5.00 each, $10.00 total - Lowes

    2 - Sylvania Designer ģ Warm White Plus Fluorescent 40 watts 48" pack of 2 - ~$5.00 each, $10.00 total - Lowes

    4 - 4í Lights of America Solid State Shop - ~$10.00 each, $40.00 total - Meijers, Wallmart

    Total coast: ~$176.50



    There is no item greater in value than life, for without life value would cease to exist.
    My Grow List

  2. #2

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    That's awesome Darcie! Sounds like quite a project! If I ever build one, this sounds like the down to earth kind of style that I need!

    SF

  3. #3
    Nepenthes Specialist nepenthes gracilis's Avatar
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    I think it does merit a sticky. Very nice presentation to beginners and advanced growers if they want a small indoor collection. I'll do a revision for any spelling errors as you requested.

  4. #4
    cool85k5's Avatar
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    Hi,what is the shelf spacing of this unit?Is it adjustable?I built my grow shelf from 1" sch 40 pvc pipe,with the cost of pipe,fittings,wood for the shelves and lights....$100.00 [img]http://www.**********.com/iB_html312/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif[/img]



    Jerry

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    Yah, it's totally adjustable in 1 inch incraments.... Thanks Nep G.
    There is no item greater in value than life, for without life value would cease to exist.
    My Grow List

  6. #6

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    As for matching colors of shoplights to the rack, using a matte spraypaint on the outside of the hood works like a charm.

  7. #7

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    Hey Darcie do you reckon you could put in a pic for us??
    thanks
    Olly
    A Chinese Proverb:
    Do not want others to know what you have done? You should not have done it in the first place.

  8. #8
    Capslock's Avatar
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    Olly, Here's a pic of an almost identical setup. This is how I grow most of my plants. I'm using some different light hoods, but you see in the picture that the shelf below this one uses the fixtures Darcie described. I got the pull-cord fixtures for $8.99 each. One other thing I did is tape some mylar to three sides of the rack to increase the light. This really helps!



    Capslock

    PS: Nice work, Darcie!
    Malo Periculosam Libertatem Quam Quietum Servitium

    My photos are copyright-free and public domain

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