Last year, I tried to grow tomatoes and herbs for my garden from seed by placing seedling pots on my sunniest windowsills.
It did not turn out well.
My tomatoes were leggy; my basil was floppy. Even though I kept nearby indoor lights on during the day, and turned the plants daily, my seedlings just weren't getting enough light.
Though fantasies of a greenhouse window in my kitchen (or an attached greenhouse installation over my patio that would also serve as a four-season sunroom and possess retractable blinds) have danced in my head ever since then, the more practical solution was of course to build a grow-shelf in my basement.
It looks kind of spooky, doesn't it?
Anyway, it's not as complicated to build as it looks. The shelf itself is a simple pine storage contraption from Target with adjustable shelves. I've lined the shelves with styrofoam to protect the wood from moisture — the same styrofoam the shelf itself came packed in.
The lights are simple 2 ft fluorescent shop lights purchased from Home Depot; I paid a little extra to get super-efficient Energy Star models. My husband helped me wire the lights to a plug; some shop lights come with a plug wired already, though, so shop around for those if you're an electrophobic mad plant lab builder.
I've hung the lights on adjustable chains so that I can change their height as my plants grow, and I've made reflectors out of repurposed cardboard and aluminum foil to direct the light back toward the plants.
Then I put the whole thing on a power strip plugged into a ten dollar timer; this way I can have the lights come on at dawn without actually having to remember to go down and turn them on in the morning before I've had my caffeine.
Of course, you can buy yourself a fancy manufactured lighted plant stand on the internets if you want, but where's the fun in that?