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let there be light

Ok so the class of 2009 are well and truly germinated, one week after planting the seeds. To help speed things up i used a heat mat from a reptile aquarium (check out our post on speeding up chilli seed germination) to provide the seed trays with a constant source of heat.

I germinated the seeds in the cellar but as the first seeds sprouted a few days ago not only do they need heat, but also light. In fact I’ve noticed a few of the seedling stating to droop slightly despite having moved the trays onto the window sill. Unfortunately i don’t have a south facing window so need to supplement them with some artificial light.

Cheap Grow Lights

The most effective, tidiest and cheapest solution i have found is to mount a couple of small fluorescent tube lights on a piece of mdf board. I have cut the board to fit snugly over a cheap  chest from the local diy store, into which i place the seed trays. This will last until the seedlings are about 4 inches high and ready to go outside once the last frost has past.


You can buy a lot more expensive rigs for growing plants however this whole set up probably cost less than £20 and works very well. A trip to your local b&q will supply you with everything you need. The fluorescent tubes I use are the “cool white” variety as they kick out less heat than the regular ones which can scorch the delicate seedlings..

The type of light these tubes kick out is only really helpful to young seedlings so unfortunately you can’t really use this set up for all year round indoor growing. If that is your plan then you’ll need to invest in some more specialist kit i’m afraid.

What i am planning on doing is moving the seed trays on to the windowsill during the day and back into the light box at night. As they’ll be receiving light pretty much 24-7 i expect to see some pretty quick growth.

The cool white tubes do not kick out too much light which is great. In fact, combined with the box the temp in the trays is a few degrees warmer than room temperature so the ungerminated seeds should still have a good chance of making it. In the past I have had seeds take up to 5 weeks to germinate so am not too worried that only about 50% have sprioouted to date – they were only planted 1 week ago.

Update: I’ve heard of a few people using desktop florescent lamps like these to great effect if you are only growing a small number of plants at a time. I’ve not tried them personally but I see no reason why they wouldn’t work if you only have a few seedlings.

14 comments… add one
  • William Bleakley June 30, 2014, 1:33 pm

    Hi – great site.

    Would setting up some sort of solar powered system for the polytunnel work for providing extra light – on the assumption that it was warm enough? That is the solar powered lights charge up during the day, come on at dusk and last through part or most of the night?

    Small solar powere lights are very cheap nowadays.


    • The Chilli King July 6, 2014, 3:05 pm

      Hi William,

      I’ve not though about this possibility to be honest. However I’ve found it’s best if chilli plants get at least 6 hours of darkness at night. Assuming the poly tunnel is positioned well (so gets plenty of direct sunlight) any solar generated power would probably be better off used for heating, particularly at night time. That said I’m happy to be proven wrong so feel free to share if you do try this!

  • Matt March 11, 2012, 9:09 pm

    Could you please tell me the watt of the cool light florescent bulb you use in the light box..?

    I am looking on B&Q website but a bit lost with the range available!
    Many thanks in advance!

  • Bret April 4, 2009, 5:00 pm

    Check use out



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