Friends of Burlington Gardens
& the Vermont Community Garden Network
enhancing, and preserving community gardens for all
Classic Indoor Garden
for "do it yourselfers"
the Classic Indoor Garden
The indoor garden
pictured above was designed by Friends of Burlington Gardens in 2002
for home and classroom use. Several
Vermont schools are now using these indoor gardens for
Basic plans, materials, and
below. The materials used in the design are generally available at
hardware and home stores. For schools or community programs interested
quantity of these units, FBG offers bulk
pricing on Perma-Nest trays,
tray inserts, and 24-hour timers.
For those interested in purchasing iindoor gardens from FBG, please
click on the link to Vermont Indoor
needed for the Classic Indoor Garden
1 10 ft. long x 3/4" (inside diameter) steel electrical conduit
pipe cut to 92 inches long
2 11" long pieces of 2 x 3 lumber (note: the actual dimensions of
2 x 3 lumber are 1-1/2" x 2-1/2")
2 standard metal shower curtain hooks for hanging light
2 6" plastic cord ties to secure shower hooks
2 1" S-hooks to hang from shower hooks
The fixture in the photo is made by the American Fluorescent
Corporation, Model 234SLESW. If the fixture is not available locally,
it can usually be special
ordered through a True Value Hardware Store. Click on the link to
review the product specs is below:
The American Fluorescent light fixture works very well with the new
32-Watt energy efficient T-8 lights, or you can use the older 40-Watt
T-12 light tubes. There are no sharp edges, and the sockets are
recessed inside the fixture, rather than hanging down. The tubes are
spaced adequately and the reflector is solid without exposed wiring.
The fixture has a 3-prong grounded cord. The electronic ballast in the
fixture does not hum like the magnetic ballasts found in older fixtures.
If you choose to use other light fixtures, be sure that they are safe
exposed wiring or loose sockets. Ideally, the tubes should be spaced at
least 3 inches apart and the reflector should be at least 5 inches wide.
Choices of light tubes vary widely in cost and performance.
1) The least costly arrangement is to use two 40-Watt Cool White
fluorescent tubes. These tubes have a higher concentration of light in
the blue spectrum, which promotes plant growth. The down side is that
seedlings and plants are apt to become leggy. To help alleviate this
gardeners may wish to use one cool white tube and one warm white tube.
The warm white tube will provide more concentration of light in the red
spectrum. To make best use of this approach, seedlings should be
regularly rotated under the lights.
2) 40-Watt Wide Spectrum tubes produce stockier plants and reduce the
need to rotate plants as much
under the lights. Although the tubes are more expensive, they last much
longer and are specially designed to provide concentrations of light in
the red and blue spectrums. GroLux Wide
Spectrum fluorescent tubes by Sylvania are one of the most common tubes
used for seed starting and produce excellent results. As with all
fluorescent tubes, the phosphor coating on the inside of the tubes will
wear off over time, resulting in lower light output. With Wide
Spectrum tubes, it is easy to see when the tubes need to be replaced,
as they will have lost their pink glow. As with any fluorescent tubes,
please recyle the tubes after they have worn out rather than tossing
them in the trash.
3) The new T-8 fluorescent tubes provide higher lumen output per watt,
must be used in a fixture with an electronic ballast, such as the
fixture cited above. An example of a lower cost tube that worked
effectively in our
seed starting trials is the Phillips Universal Alto T-8 tube with green
ends. Home Depot stocks Phillips tubes.
4) Full spectrum fluourescent light tubes strive to provide a higher
light output that is closer to natural sunlight. They are also rated at
a longer life span that cool white, warm white, or wide spectrum tubes.
The tubes are available from several manufacturers, retail stores, and
catalogers. In terms of plant growth, the results in our trials were
comparable between full spectrum and wide spectrum tubes. We did
observe some bleaching of leaves on basil plants when using the full
spectrum tubes as opposed to the wide spectrum tubes.
The trays in the photo above are Perma-nest
Trays which will last 20 years or more under normal use. Other trays or
nursery flats can be used provided that they do not have holes in the
bottoms. The Perma-nest trays are 22" x 11" x 2-1/2" deep. They are
available from FBG along with inserts that allow each tray to hold 18
3-1/2" pots. The inserts also provide a means for bottom watering. See
the Indoor Garden
Order Form for details.
A 24-hour timer is very helpful for regulating
plant growth, especially if you plan to be away for a few days. For
safety, the timer should have a 3-prong plug and receptacle. Do not use
3-prong adaptors with lights or timers.
For bulk orders of 6 or more timers, please
the Indoor Garden
The overall dimensions of the indoor garden
pictured above are 57 inches long x 11 inches deep x 22-1/2 inches
high. The garden may be placed on the floor but it is best situated on
a 6 foot long table, countertop, or book shelf.
plans, dimensions, and tools needed
Note: Links to tools are included as a visual aid. If you have not used
a pipe bender before, it's better to have an experienced person assist
1) Use a pipe
cutter to cut the 10 foot long
conduit to 92 inches.
2) Mark the conduit at 21 inches from one end. This will be the corner
mark for the first bend in the pipe. Then use a 3/4" pipe bender
to bend the pipe to a 90 degree angle. Use a framing square to verify
the angle. The first bend is the
easier bend. Be sure
on the next bend that the pipe bender is aligned with the first bend.
3) Make a mark at 21 inches from the other end of the conduit. This
will be other other corner mark. Lay the conduit and pipe bender on the
floor and position the pipe bender on the corner mark. Lift the pipe
bender into position, ensuring that the pipe bender is in the same
plane as the bent pipe. Use the 3/4" pipe bender to bend the
other end of the pipe to a 90 degree angle. Measure the angle with a
4) Cut the 2 x3 lumber into two pieces 11 inches long. Sand any rough
edges and paint the pieces with white latex primer. Place each piece on
Make a cross mark at 5-1/2 inches from the ends and 3/4 inch from the
sides. Use a 15/16"
wood boring bit and a power drill, or drill press, to drill
vertically down 1-1/4 inches in each piece. A drill press is preferable
5) Tap the wood chips and dust out of the drill holes. Place some caulk
around the inside edge of the holes and on the ends of the pipe. Insert
of the pipe into the holes in the wood base. If your drill holes are
vertical, the pipes are bent at 90 degrees, and the pipe bends are
aligned, the frame should not wobble.
6) Position the shower curtain hooks on the conduit frame directly
above where the light chains will hang down. Close one end on each of
the S-hooks and hang them from the shower curtain hooks. Use the
plastic cord ties to secure the shower curtain hooks. Cut off the extra
plastic from the locking ties.
7) Insert fluorescent light tubes into the fixtures and gently rotate
to lock into place. Using the chain and S-hooks supplied with the light
fixture, gently flip the light fixture and hang it from the chains. It
helps to have another person help you. The fixture should hang down six
inches above the table or counter top.
We hope that this design will help more people
enjoy seed starting at home and in schools. If you have questions or
feedback about the Classic Indoor Garden design, please email Jim Flint.
instructions supplied on this page may be used for educational purposes
or for individual use, but they may not
be reprinted for publication or distribution without the express
permission of Friends
of Burlington Gardens.
For those interested in purchasing a manufactured indoor garden that
can be shipped via UPS, please click on the link to Vermont Indoor Gardens.
Gardens & the
12 North Street #5
generously provided by