Raise the Roof... and the Floor
In a prior article on indoor greenhouses, Casey Jones Fraser mentioned rising grow tents off of the floor. If you don’t know how to construct such a sturdy stand, check out these instructions on how to elevate your entire garden in an afternoon.
Even if your indoor garden doesn’t involve a grow tent, you’ll probably need a table at some point. A garden table needs to be sturdy and the exact size for your space, especially when dealing with valuable plants and equipment.
Metal stands are available in the hydroponics industry, but they are often expensive. So, if you need to raise your flood tray and are on a budget, you can use these instructions to design and build your own custom table that is capable of supporting hundreds of pounds.
Tools and requirements
For tools, you will need a drill and some bits. Lumber and screws are the only materials required. (Also, if you don’t own a circular saw, get your lumber cut at the hardware store for a nominal charge.) For the stand I’m going to “build” in this article, I need four 8-ft. two-by-fours and a 4-by-8-ft. sheet of 3/4 in. plywood.
A small amount of experience is preferred over none, but you still might be able to get through this project if you have never built anything before. Always ask a professional for help if you need it. Oh, and don’t forget your safety goggles (damn sawdust)!
The basic steps
First, measure the object that will be supported. For this article, I am trying to rise a grow tent that measures about 54 in. wide by 30 in. deep. To make sure the tent won’t get knocked off the edge, I will design the table with the slightly bigger footprint of 60 in. by 32 in.
Second, consider the items (reservoir, chiller, supplies, etc.) that will go under the rack you are building. For most reservoirs, 2 ft. is more than enough clearance, so this may be a good height for your stand. Also, check the ceiling height.
To start constructing a stand with the above dimensions (60 in. wide by 32 in. deep by 24 in. tall) pre-cut the two-by-four boards into pieces as follows:
Rear: 2 x 60 in.; 4 x 21 in.
Left side: 2 x 33 in.; 2 x 21 in.
Right side: 2 x 33 in.; 2 x 21 in.
To build the side frames, connect the two 33-in. two-by-fours—which act as top and bottom boards—with the two 21-in. planks. Similarly, the rear frame has the two 60-in. two-by-four boards as top and bottom planks, with the four 21-in. boards placed upright in-between the top and bottom.
For all frames, mark the locations of each upright on the corresponding top and bottom boards so you will know where to drill your pilot holes (before drilling, to make sure the upright locations line up on both the top and bottom planks by setting them next to each other).
Once the back and side frames are built, trace them on the sheet of plywood. Measure an extra 3 in. of plywood on one edge for the side frames. This extra flap of plywood will allow you to connect the sides to the rear frame, creating a more solid support for the table. Cut out the plywood pieces and screw them onto the frames, and connect the side frames to the rear. Then, measure and cut the plywood top, and add it to the base.
Your heavy-duty hydro stand is now complete.
A word or two about materials and design of your plant stands
Be sure to get decking screws for this garden project because you might need to change the dimensions or dismantle the table at some point. Decking screws are much less likely to rust or strip out, so deconstruction and reconstruction will be less frustrating.
Other materials for this project should always be of a quality that suits your specific situation. You might wish to use pressure-treated wood, but standard studs work great for this project and are much cheaper. Also, the plywood used for the back and sides can be quite thin (3/8 in.), but the top sheet has to support your garden, so make sure you get the thickest plywood you can for this.
Speaking of plywood, you might think that the sheets on the back and sides of the table are unnecessary, but that is not so. When you build a wooden frame with two-by-fours, the plywood backing secures the entire unit into place and prevents the parallelogram effect (a slipping or leaning that can lead to the entire structure collapsing, especially when hit by a sudden force).
Why raise a grow tent off of the ground?
There are many advantages to lifting your garden off of the floor, the most important of which for hydro gardeners is a cooler reservoir. Water temperatures should be kept near 72°F, and this is much easier to do when the reservoir is kept directly on a cold concrete floor instead of in the tent, where it is under the hot, penetrating rays of an HPS lamp.
Since many growers use chillers to cool reservoirs in hot summer months, it becomes easier to chill the water without adding heat directly to the plants (chillers expel hot air) when the reservoir is separated from the garden space.
Also, with the plastic grow trays now placed on the floor of the tent, there is plenty of room to raise your bright grow light. Even with it at 18 in. or more above the canopy, there is still enough spare room to hang a carbon filter and an inline fan. As a result, taller plants can be grown, so you might see an increase in yield. Also, if your plants were burned by the light before, this step will definitely improve your results.
These are only a few of the advantages of building your own garden frames. If temperatures and space are an issue in your garden, try making your own heavy-duty table. The conveniences will more than make up for any effort or cost.