Initial setup

Here is how I cobbled together this seedling system by using things already on hand.

This only has to last for a few months. If I get another season out of this, I’ll be surprised.

I already started my pepper seedlings. They seem to take the longest to grow.




Material list.

  • 1 cardboard box
  • 1 mylar (survival blanket from Chinamart
  • Elmers glue diluted 1:1 with water
  • Sharp knife
  • scissors
  • 2 scavenged light bulb holders and 2 CFL light bulbs
  • 1 timer
  • 2 wire nuts
  • Plastic cups
  • Paper towels (the good kind)
  • Cardboard pieces
  • Stapler
  • Yogurt cups
  • 2 twist ties

First thing I did was cut the box so it would lie flat. This makes it easier to evenly spread the glue with a piece of scrap cardboard. Then, lay the mylar on top. You’ll have to trim the mylar with scissors. Let everything dry for about 1/2 hr.

Then reassemble the box and use staples to hold it together.

Next, figure out how you want to place the light fixtures in side the box, and then cut one slit per light on the top so you can run the cords thru these slots. Use the wire nuts to join the wires. Poke 4 more holes on top of the box and use the twist ties to hold the bulbs flat against the top of the box.

I did add a couple of vents on top of the box to dissipate heat and humidity. Whether or not that was necessary I don’t know. But it can’t hurt. But I do keep them well watered.

Other than that, you can figure it out.

Now for the cups. I did something different this year, in order to prevent the plants from becoming root bound. It’s called “air pruning”.

I used a knife and (carefully) stabbed 4 equally spaced slits neat the top of each cup. Then I took scissors and cut 1/2″ strips off the sides of the cups, cutting diagonally, not straight down to the bottom.

Then, I lined the inside of the cup with 1/2 piece of paper towel to make a sort of a “grow bag”. The easy way to do this is to take a new cup as a form, and wrap the paper towel around that. Then slide the cup/paper towel into the cup in which you cut out the strips. Then remove the form cup and the paper towel should be formed along the inside of the planter cup. Soil will hold the paper towel in place against the sides of the planter.

This way, as the roots move down towards the bottom of the cup, they will eventually come into contact with these slits that are open to the air, and it will prune the roots.

I used some empty yogurt cups with the bottom cut off, and stapled them to a piece of cardboard. I place the planted cups in these yogurt cups in order to keep them from accidentally tipping over .


I leave the lights on from 6 am – 8 pm by using a timer. But I could probably use better light bulbs. I’ll have to wait and see on that.

  1. I’m stealing this, mostly. I’ll make some mods here and there to suit my needs. It’s tough starting seeds indoors if you don’t have a spot where they will get enough light. They get “leggy” if they don’t get enough direct light.

    “But I could probably use better light bulbs. I’ll have to wait and see on that.”

    I would recommend it. I’d go to a local nursery, or I guess even Home Depot, hardware store, etc., and get full spectrum grow lights, or whatever grow lights replicate the sun. They’re not cheap to run, but the CFL’s have a pretty narrow frequency range, shifted towards the ultra violet end of the spectrum. Plus they’ll provide some heat, as well. That, of course, may require re-positioning them. I would think (uh-oh, lol) one grow light positioned in the middle would be adequate. The shiny surfaces inside the box should bounce it around just fine.


    • ” I’ll make some mods here and there to suit my needs. ”

      That’s the cool thing about gardening. I do the same thing. I dont’ like to copy people exactly. I just use their ideas and improvise.

      I was worried about them getting leggy, but that isn’t happening (yet). They have good color and they are starting to get their “true” leaves.

      I used the bulbs because that is what I had on hand. I’m doing this as cheaply as I can, within reason. I know for a fact that I could come up with a top notch expensive system, but I like the idea of cheap food too much. Ben Franklin was right. A penny saved really is a penny earned. I think it was Franklin that said that

      I wanted to make everything as compact as I thought reasonable. I wanted the lights as focused as I could get them, and I run them 14 hours a day. I don’t really see the point of letting too much light dissipate in a room like I’ve seen with some grow light systems.

      I thought about using a string of colored xmas lights to add various freqs, but I don’t know if that would even help.

      And, if it doesn’t work, there’s still time to germinate some more seeds. The only things that take more time are habenero peppers. Other ones took only about a week using the damp paper towel / ziplock bag method,


  2. “I was worried about them getting leggy, but that isn’t happening (yet).”

    As long as they have a good, strong and direct source of overhead light, they won’t. They get leggy because they’re looking for light.

    “I think it was Franklin that said that”

    Yep, “Poor Richard’s Almanac”. I look at it a little differently. I try to build something that will last for years, but on a skin flint’s budget. The way I see it, if I need to make something every year, even with mostly items on hand, there’s still an amount of time to be factored in, as well as some expense. If I build a grow box for ~ $20, and it will be useable for five, six, or more years, it pays itself off, and that $20, across several years, adds very little cost to the produce I’m growing. JMO.

    As long as your seedlings are a healthy color, and they’re developing properly, I guess I wouldn’t change the lighting, and as long as you don’t have issues in the future, I’ll use CFLs as well. Cheaper to run, and they run cool.

    One question, though. Why buy a survival blanket when you most likely have aluminum foil in your kitchen? In a smallish, enclosed space, I would think heat retention would be adequate with foil.


    • I didn’t buy the blankets recently. I have a few that are left over from when I was into prepping for SHTF. Now I don’t worry about SHTF gear, since gear is heavy, knowledge is light. And ammo is REALLY heavy.

      Besides, these cheap blankets might last a night if I was lucky. The military “casualty blankets” are better anyway.


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