Light Box System

The Plant Light Box is a low-cost alternative for growing Fast Plants® and other plants. It is ideal for small classroom experiments or group projects, and is designed so students and teachers can build their own.

Instructions for Building a 2-crate Plant Light Box System

These Light Boxes use two stackable plastic file crates that are cut, lined with aluminum foil, lit with a high efficiency fluorescent bulb, and stacked (after plants are tall). Each Light Box of this type can hold 12-15 small Bottle Growing Systems or 7 Deli-container Growing Systems (or 2-liter Bottle Growing Systems) or 1 Quad Growing System.

Note: Most file crates have slight differences in how they are manufactured; however, we have used all sorts of crates with success by making a few changes to these basic assembly procedures.

For each 2-crate Plant Light Box, you will need:

  • Two stackable plastic file crates that measure 17 1/4" x 14 1/4" x 11 1/2" (sold at an office supply store). Notice that we like to use crates that have either a solid bottom or a solid plastic spot in the center of the long sides because this is where we will attach the light.
  • Aluminum foil roll, 12" wide
  • Double-stick tape
  • Clear tape (e.g. Scotch Tape)
  • Hacksaw-type handsaw
  • Scissors
  • Tin snips (optional)
  • 40 or 42 watt compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) – this is a 150 watt equivalent high efficiency bulb "cool white" if available)
  • Drop work light (an extension cord and light socket can also be used; however, extension cords are not allowed in many schools)
  • Drill and 1" paddle drill bit or sharp pocket knife for cutting a 1" hole in the plastic crate for the light fixture
  • Plastic zip ties

Assembly Instructions:

Step 1
Notice which is the longest side of your style crate that has a solid place in which to hang the light (may be the bottom, as pictured here).
Step 2
Using a hacksaw blade, cut out only ONE of the longest panels from each of the two crates, making it so the two crates can stack with a single opening (see picture above).

Tin snips can be used to cut the lighter ribs.
Step 3
In ONE crate only, cut a 1" hole for the light bulb in the center of the long side that was not removed.

This can be done with a 1" paddle drill bit.
Step 4
Secure the foil with double-stick tape on the back side.
Step 5
Line the inside of the two crates with foil.
Step 6
Make a hole in the foil where the 1" light bulb hole was cut in the one crate.
Step 7
Gently screw the 150-watt equivalent, 40- or 42-watt CFL
bulb into the hole from inside the crate.
Step 8
Remove the cage from the drop light.
Step 9
Thread the drop light onto the bulb from outside the crate.
Step 10
Use this single crate Light Box during the first 7-10 days after planting to keep the light very close to the fast-growing seedlings.
Step 11
Stack the two crates together and connect them with zip ties when plants are tall enough to need more room.
Step 12
Make a foil curtain to reflect light back into your Light Box by reinforcing a sheet of aluminum foil with scotch tape.
The curtain can be folded or rolled shorter for use during the first week when only the top crate is used.

Other Images

Finished Cardboard Light Box
A completed cardboard light box growing Fast Plants®.
2-crate Construction
A light box made out of 2 horizontal crates without foil lining. Shown with an alternative light fixture.
Cardboard Light Box with Deli Containers
A completed cardboard light box growing Fast Plants® in deli containers.
2-crate Light Box
A completed 2-crate light box growing Fast Plants with bottle containers.

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