My neighbor Lisa called me after reading an article I’d written about building a heating pad for plant propagation. “You are a regular garden MacGyver”, she commented. “You can always fix something with some part you find in the junk in your garage.”
I wasn’t sure whether to be complimented or insulted.
Who or what is that?
My wife and kids quickly set me straight. MacGyver was a television character in the mid-Eighties who defeated criminals and solved crimes using paperclips and chocolate bars. He was “a human Swiss Army Knife with a Boy Scout Handbook for a brain.”
I must have been solving my own problems, too busy to watch the show, during the seven years it aired.
The description seemed reasonably positive so I took Lisa’s comment as a commendation for my ingenuity.
Now I have another MacGyver-esque contraption that might also help you care for your indoor plants.
You see, most houseplants came from a tropical environment. Though they may have been an understory plant in the jungle, many houseplants need more light than we can easily give them in winter. This explains why they become so stretched, yellow and thinly-foliaged indoors.
On a sunny lawn outdoors, the light level may be 10,000 foot candles. On a lightly shaded patio, where tropical plants prosper, foot candle intensity may range from 1000 to 5000. Inside your home, the light level near a window may be 100 to 1000 foot candles.
PVC LIGHT STAND I was an accomplished builder of Tinkertoy(tm) and Erector(tm) models when I was a kid. As an adult, I’ve found that plastic PVC pipe is just as versatile. You can buy PVC pipe and its fittings from any home improvement store. The fittings allow you to join the pipe pieces in almost any configuration.
The accompanying drawing shows the basic structure. The pipe is easy to cut with an inexpensive (and highly recommended) PVC pipe cutter.
3 – ten foot lengths of one-half inch Schedule 40 PVC pipe
6 – one-half inch PVC tees
8 – one-half inch PVC 45 degree elbows
4 – one-half inch PVC 90 degree elbows
small can of PVC glue
1. Cut the PVC pipe into the following lengths:
3 – forty eight inches
2 – eighteen inches
4 – twelve inches
4 – nine inches
8 – one inch
2. Dry assemble the frame, referring to the photograph (or drawing). Use the one inch pipe to join fittings that are closely adjacent.
3. Working slowly, disassemble each joint and use PVC glue to permanently join the fittings and pipe pieces.
4. Hang a four foot long, two tube fluorescent shop light from the top pipe, using the chain that comes with the light. One cool white tube and one warm white tube will provide the proper light for plant growth.
You can leave your plants under the lights all winter or you can move them under it for a week-long “light vacation” several times.
My PVC light stand may not stop crime and it may not be the prettiest indoor garden accessory you’ve ever seen. On the other hand, the light it provides will be welcomed by your houseplants just as much as the ingenious help MacGyver provided each week to humans in trouble.
And, as a courtesy to my editors, I’ve promised not to describe how to make a flamethrower from a garden sprayer in this column in the future.
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