Making a Light Box for your Seedlings // dedicated to Public Domain

Spring has arrived! But for those of you who live in finicky Northern climates, it may not be quite time to plant your garden. While the dangers of frost and snow are still inevitable, you can give your plants a head start in their own mini greenhouse.

The purpose of a light box is to give your plants an abundance of light, warmth, and humidity so that their first few weeks of life can be extra productive. A light box is extremely useful for plants like tomatoes, and peppers because they rarely survive an unexpected frost. While there are many benefits to making a light box for your plants, they can often take up a lot of space in your home. If you have a small space to work with, then I have the solution for you!

For this project, you will need cardboard, aluminum foil, masking tape, and a lamp. In order to save space, I used an empty bookshelf in my room as the box, but you may choose to use a regular cardboard box for yours.

foil-lined bookshelf with light (Isabel Heintz)

The first thing you will need to do is empty a shelf of books. Once the shelf is empty, you can begin cutting sheets of foil to cover the interior of the shelf. I secured them in place with masking tape so that there would be minimal damage to the shelf. The foil will make the walls of your box reflective so that the light from your lamp will reach every leaf of every plant.

Next you will need to make a door or front for your shelf. Because you are using a bookshelf, the entire front of your light box will need to be covered. Depending on the size of the shelf, you may want to make the whole front open and close for easy watering. After covering the inside face of the cardboard with foil and creating some sort of door mechanism, tape the cardboard front to the bookshelf. I used velcro to secure the door shut.

I planted tomatoes in my light box, and they did very well. (Isabel Heintz)

Next you will need to make sure your light fits in the box. I just used my regular desk lamp that I got from Goodwill, but there are LED light strips you can buy if you want to give it more of a modern look. There are special UV light bulbs you can use also, but I find that a regular light bulb works just fine. You may also need to find an extension cord if your shelf is far away from an outlet.

Your box is now ready to grow plants! I use a spray bottle to water the seedlings every day until they are big enough to transplant outdoors. Have fun and stay green!