Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Assembling Indoor Seed Starting Shelves

Welcome Donna, K, Lisa, Shelli Farr and flwjane. Thanks for following!

seed starting shelves 3
As I mentioned earlier, our neighbor Jim was kind enough to install some electrical outlets in our basement. He did such a wonderful job. (Thanks Jim!) As a result, I able to assemble my indoor seed starting shelves this past weekend. Tonight, I plugged in my lights for the first time. It was exciting to see them all lit up - surely a preview of what's to come! Not a very sophisticated setup I have to admit but I'm pretty confident it will do the trick. I have two shelves fitted with lights right now but will add a third one when it becomes necessary. Also, I made sure to leave extra space between the 4th and bottom shelf to accommodate taller plants.

seed starting shelves 4
Here is an itemized list of what I bought and how much I spent on this project:

Chrome wire shelving unit - $80
4 ft shop lights (4) - $20 ($80)
Energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs (10-pack) - $24
Mini-greenhouse and heat mat - $32
Power strip with timer - $20
S hooks - $3

As you can see, this set up was not entirely cheap to put together (by my standards). And when I add a 3rd shelf of lights, it will cost me another $50. I have to remind myself that this is an expense I will not have to bear every year and that such start-up costs will pay off in the long run.

seed starting shelves 5
The shelves on this unit are 18 inches deep, which I'm guessing will fit a fair amount of transplants. I suppose I could have just bought one over-sized shop light for each shelf but I ended up buying two in order to ensure greater light coverage. (And unfortunately, my local home improvement center did not have a great selection of plug-in shop lights.)

So what you do think? How does this compare to what you have? And is there anything that I'm missing?


  1. This looks great! I can imagine those shelves full of small green transplants!
    How much electricity do those lights use? I assume they need to be on for at least 10 hours each day.
    This year (and last also) I have grown all my transplants next to a window, so it’s not as sophisticated, but I’m sure it will work.

  2. Thanks so much for this post! I've been toying with the idea for a while but needed a little guidance. How many hours a day will lights be on? I just saw shelves on sale, I'll get busy!

  3. Thomas, your set up is wonderful! Much more sophisticated than mine -just one shop light over an old table here in my office and the front windowsill!

  4. Looking good, Thomas! Much chic-er than mine with the pretty chrome shelves. I have my timer on from 6 AM to 10 PM since the light from the window is dicey this time of year. I keep the seeds in their greenhouse covered in a dark cloth with no lights until the sprout, then uncover and turn on the lights.

    Just remember to plug the heat mats into an outlet or powerstrip without a timer! You want that baby on all the time until the little seeds grow up some!\

    This is going to be so exciting for you and I can't wait to see the progress!

  5. Those chrome wire shelving units are the best in my opinion. Your set-up is ace.

  6. That is just about exactly the setup I have! Although I transferred mine to above the washing machine so they can get the "vibrations" when they were several weeks old! I have another of those wire shelving units on my deck right out the back door so it is really accessible for hardening off and I can't forget to bring them in at night. I didn't see a heat mat, but you will need one especially if you are in a basement. Not every seed needs it but tomatoes love it and it's essential for peppers. I started 100 seedlings last year but only needed one mat. I staggered their plantings since you only need the mat until they germinate, then I move the next tray onto the mat. My stuff is down from the attic and I can't wait to set it all up, even if it takes up more space than I have, lol!

  7. That is similar to mine. I like having the double light strips because you have more flexibility with altering the height of the lights to suit the plants.

    Part of my basement is heated (or can be), but I refuse to pay for heat for seedlings. Plus, I don't have a utility sink down there.

    I am dreading the shelf set-up in the bedroom, but we will being assembling sooner rather than later! I better get my Johnny's order in!

  8. Thanks for all of the wonderful feedback everyone. I'm planning on setting the timer to have the lights on 14 hrs a day, though I'm sure they would benefit greatly from 16. I have one heating mat, which I think will be sufficient looking at my sowing schedule. My basement is heated whether we like it or not since it's on the same heating zone as the 1st floor of our home. I can't wait to get started on the soil blocks this weekend! Just need to get a couple of more ingrdients.

  9. It looks great. Currently I only have one shoplight for seedlings, but it was really tight last year. Plus I had to take my onions out when I started the others (since they can't handle seeing long days when they are young). I really want two lights this year. So I'll have to go buy another one.

    The only thing I've got that you don't is a fan. I like Erin's solution to put it on the washing machine. That is funny. But the plants need some kind of movement when they grow. Alternatively you can pet them. That also works. I did that last year with my onions before I had my fan up.

  10. Daphne, that is so funny. I wondering what Erin was alluding to. I did not know that seedlings needed some "good vibrations". I'll have to dig out one of our extra fans.

  11. I really like the versatility of the shelving, which allows you to change the growing height. It can get pretty expensive, but definitely worth it.

  12. We have those exact same shelve (6 or 8 of them) and I was going to get rid of them, but now I am thinking I should keep them for when I get my garden going. I won't use them this year as I haven't got the beds in yet, but definately next year. All I would have to invest in is the lights and s hooks.
    Also please do use the fan it will help you grow hardy seedlings.
    Good Luck. All gardening is expensive when started, but pays off over time.

  13. Top drawer set up Thomas! I have a somewhat similar set up - just do not use the wire shelving units. I have a smaller shop light stand set up that is my overflow area when my starts overwhelm the larger light set up. Usually in February through March I am at the peak of my volume of seedlings and need the extra overflow area.

  14. Nice setup, I don't have shelves, my grow lights are in a spare bedroom on top of a table, can't wait to start seeds, please let us know how your soil block gadget works out for you.

  15. this looks so great!! I can't wait to see all of the little seedlings....

  16. I did this set up last year first time and it looks great!

    I kept my lights on from 8-8 everyday, sometimes 8-10. I didn't have a timer.

    Good luck. I'm still holding back a few more weeks :)


  17. That's an excellent setup! Mine sits on the floor, which is rather inconvenient. But I've had it for years and it's still working just fine so it stays.

    You may not have to use the heat mats all the time, especially since the room isn't cold. Right now I've got various brassicas, beets, and a few other things under lights without the heat and they are very happy. They are doing much better than my last attempt with the heat on. I'll use the heat to start my peppers, tomatoes and eggplant because they want the heat to germinate. Once they've germinated the heat goes off.

  18. Very nice set up! My excuse for not starting seeds has always been that i don't have enough window space (small house, the side with the sunny exposure of course is also favored by the cats for sun bathing). I probably could have set up shelves like those in the basement before a new hobby took over any vacant floor space. Now i will just have to 'fess up to being a lazy gardener/busy person who only puts out a half dozen or so plants anymore!

  19. Very nice set up Thomas. Lots of space and nice and clean looking. I have thought about getting a shop light or two this year. I will have to see if I run out of room.

    I have been using a 400watt Metal Halide light for quite a few years now. Mainly to overwinter plants though but it works equally well for seed starting too.

  20. Hey Thomas, get cracking' on perfecting your soilblock routine will you, my stuff will be here any day now!

  21. Hi Thomas! Thanks for greeting me! I adore your blog! Thank you so much for keeping up with it and having one! I have lots of questions!
    What transplants are you going to start out with? What are you going to try and do to control Damping Off? How large are your growing areas? You use mainly Heirloom seeds, correct? Are you also an Organic gardener? You are in New York, zone 5 correct? And one last little thing, You have a very nice sidebar with Interesting Videos I have one more to add if you think it is good enough it is called Synergistic Gardening. I believe it can be found on the Google Video site and it is by a French Lady. Oh! And if you don't already own this book the Root Cellaring book by the Bubels is Awesome! Check out this post: http://subsistencepatternfoodgarden.blogspot.com/2010/01/basement-full-of-garden.html

  22. Wow nice set up...and although expensive to begin with, it will last throughout the seasons and really pay off I am sure. You are so organized! I never thought about doing something like that in the basement.

  23. Thomas..nice set-up....i'll be anxious to watch this from the beginning....looks like fun...love it.....

    thanks for stopping by Farmhouse..always good to see you, my friend


  24. Donna, those ARE a lot of question! I will try and give you a proper response this weekend. Unfortunately, it's off to bed I go for now.

  25. Wow, seems like nice setup you have going :)

    We're looking at getting something (functionally) similar with fluorescent lights, probably only using rearrangable(sp?) wardrobes and hanging the lights from them, above the temporary beds.

    I guess you have separate heating depending on type.

    // Kash

  26. Wow, what a gorgeous setup. How does it compare to mine? Hahaha. No comparison. I'm experimenting this year with starting seeds here in coastal southern California in flats on top of the chicken coop roof, which is the only part of our yard that gets any sun this time of year. All I can say is that my flat of mesclun has sprouted, but it's no where near as pretty as your setup. My plan is to just cut the mesclun directly from the flat. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

  27. Hi Thomas Wonderful blog, it was great to 'google' (zone 6 and seed starting) and find you. I'm on blogger too: my focus...living simpler lives...seed starting, baking from scratch, gardening, family life and my vintage collectibles shop bringing you inexpensive (new to you) treasures from the past. I would appreciate a follow by you and your followers.

    I started my seedlings successfully for the first time in 18 years last February. Meaning I used to do it in Feb (as a project) with my young children and get to the spindly seedling stage before they all wilted and died. At that time it was just a fun project and in May I went and bought my seedlings from a nursery. Well not anymore. Last year I grew my veggies from seed in my basement. A similar (but not as nice set up as yours). I used grow lights for the first time and sure enough it was a seedling jungle down there, so incredibly exciting. Of course my youngest is a teen now and the project wasn't on her priority 'to do' list so I did it much of it myself but I cannot tell you the joy it brought...meditative actually. I had just lost my mom and that was my spiritual time.

    We had a VERY RAINY June last year. My tomatoes weren't as prolific as I had expectd but my herbs and lettuces were incredible. I have a small plot and I too will be blogging about my accomplishments and failures. Hopefully we can all learn from each other.

    God Bless Tom, I'll be checking your blog regularly. I'm going to post this on my blog as well so new folks can follow you too.

    Follow me at www.footbridgecove.blogspot.com

  28. I did it!

    Thanks again for a great post, Thomas!


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