by Amber

DIY Compact Indoor Garden… Cheap

Short on space? Low on cash? There are ways to get a simple indoor garden setup that will fit your space and a tight budget. And it will fit on a table top, cabinet, dresser – wherever you find it possible to squeeze it in.

DIY: Cheap Grow BoxSure, you can try growing lettuce, cilantro, basil, peppers and tomatoes in a sunny window. Just don’t expect great results year around, and if a excessively cloudy spell comes along your crop could get pretty dismal. Plants that provide food need tons of light to get exuberant about life. Not just on one side, but bathing them completely. Which is why everyone who does well at growing food indoors talks about grow rooms, grow boxes, and grow tents. If you don’t have a lot of expendable money those will likely just be a someday dream.

Here’s a clever idea, and the guy gives you complete step by step instructions. It’s not totally enclosed, but will give you far better success than a window or a grow light that can’t be bounced back. Check this out, and then I’ll give you a couple of tips to make it even better for not much more money invested.




For starters, only the cabinet was about $30. The light fixture and bulbs will run you more, and those aren’t actually CFL grow lights he’s using so the light will be pretty weak from a plant’s point of view. And even though the bookshelf came with a white finish, it’s not high gloss. This means that between the surface of the interior not being able to bounce back all of the light, the light power he does have worked out is reduced. This is what I would do to improve this compact indoor garden design if I were going to use it myself:

Bright Wing CFL Fixture

  1. Spray paint it high gloss white to up the reflective quality of the interior. Let it cure for a week or two before putting plants in it.
  2. Get a better light! This is a very small grow space, but to rock and roll your harvest (not to mention having fast growing plants) a CFL grow lamp is best. If you only want to grow herbs and greens a fixture that runs 125w bulbs might be fine, but if you get one that will handle both 125w and 200w bulbs you can always increase the amount of energy your little garden has. This Bright Wing reflector system will run up to a 250w bulb and if you shop around you’ll find it for under $35. The bulbs are extra.
  3. Add an inexpensive light timer so your plants have the right amount of daylight hours.

It would be great if you could run 2 CFLs, but they wouldn’t fit inside a 30″ wide bookshelf case. If you decide to build one of these for yourself, remember to turn the plants so that the side on the opening doesn’t start getting hungry for light. Maybe 3 times a week, or every other day.

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The garden played a starring role from spring through fall in the house Amber was raised in. She has decades of experience growing plants from seeds and cuttings in the plot and pots.