How To Build A Low Cost Indoor Grow Light System

If you’re a huge gardening enthusiast like me, you’re always looking to grow the best vegetable varieties for the lowest cost. Buying established plants can really bite into your gardening budget. Plus, just like any living plant, there’s no guarantee it will survive.

The small investment of building your own simple indoor grow light system will save a lot of money over time. Seed packets are less expensive and can be purchased online or at your local gardening store. That way you can justify growing those luscious heirloom tomatoes!

Originally, I set up my system in an unfinished basement area of my home. Everything went well until the mice or chipmunks found the lovely “salad bar”. I quickly decided to set up my grow light system in a corner of my office. If you’re using any space with outside access, you’ll need to protect your seedlings with a cover.

I went with a 5 tiered freestanding metal shelving unit because it is easy to adjust the shelves when needed. I could also easily hang the inexpensive shop lights with S hooks. If you have an old bakers rack, that will work too. The shelving unit was the most expensive part because I chose a larger one. They range from $50-$80. The entire set up cost around $100 which is a lot less than the fancy systems sold online. If I’d used my old bakers rack in the kitchen, it would have only cost $50.

DYI Indoor Grow Light System
DYI Indoor Grow Light System

The price for the indoor grow light system I built will vary depending on where you get it. You can often re-purpose what you have available. You also don’t need to buy expensive lighting. I purchased 4 ft. shop lights for around $11 each and 40 watt Daylight fluorescent bulbs.

Indoor Grow Light System Supplies I used:

  • 5-Tier Steel Freestanding Shelving Unit
  • Shop Light – 4 ft 2 bulb T12 shop light
  • GE 2-Pack 40-Watt 5000K Natural Daylight Linear Fluorescent Tube Light Bulbs  (40 watt T12 fluorescent linear cool white or daylight bulbs)
  • Plug-in Countdown Lighting Timer
  • 6-Outlet Metal Power Strip with Built-in Circuit Breaker
  • Rubber backed mat under the shelving (to prevent leaks on floor)
  • Seed trays (egg cartons, biodegradable planting pots, old seedling trays from the nursery)
  • Drainage trays (old baking trays, plastic trays)
  • Sterile seed starting mixture
  • Plant markers
  • Fish emulsion based fertilizer
  • Seeds
  • I use an old coffee can to hold my seed packets.
  • Watering jug (clean, empty juice containers)
  • Spray bottle
How to Build An Indoor Grow Light System
How to Build An Indoor Grow Light System


Seed Starting Instructions:

  • Grab a copy of my detailed garden planner below for the optimum time to start individual seeds.
  • Wash any used seed trays with soapy water and a small amount of bleach
  • Fill each container with a sterile seed starting mixture, 3/4 full
  • Sow 1-2 seeds in each pot following package directions for depth
  • Keep soil mix moist, but not soaking wet
  • Room temperature should be between 70-85 degrees F to sprout the seeds
  • Grow lights are kept 1-2 inches above plants, raising them as plants grow
  • The lighting should be on 10 hours per day (use a timer).
  • After seeds sprout, the room temperature can be between 55-70 degrees F.
  • The first 2 leaves are not true leaves. Once the 2nd pair of leaves appear, thin to 1 plant per container.
  • At this point you can begin feeding with a fish emulsion based fertilizer once a week when you water. Use 1/2 the recommended amount on the package for young seedlings.
  • 1 week before transplanting, move the seedlings to a shady outdoor spot. If nights are cool, bring them in.
  • Each day increase the sunlight exposure 1-2 hours.
  • Keep well watered
  • Follow my garden planner for the best transplanting time for each vegetable.
  • Some plants will need to be protected by a frost cover.

I’ve created a garden planner PDF with the information you need to easily create your own delicious year round garden. My free planner includes finding your planting zone, first and last frost dates for your specific location, a seed planting time table for over 30 vegetables and herbs, and a garden planner you can print.

Just enter your first name and email below to receive your free copy.

Happy Gardening!

~ Haynes