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Building a Seed Starting Shelf

I have always coveted the greenhouses of others. While I would love a warm building for keeping tropicals and other plants that won't overwinter here in NWA, what I really wanted it for was seed starting. I LOVE starting seeds and really wanted to expand into selling garden plants in the spring. One of the problems with a greenhouse is, of course, the initial cost. The next problem is controlling the temperature without paying to heat the whole thing. Different seeds require different minimum soil temperatures for germination, and increased electricity costs are just not something I want. The solution became obvious -- build an indoor seed starting shelf system.

When I first started, I got by with a few tiny grow lights on a bookshelf, and that served me well enough to start the basic seeds I needed for my own garden, but since I now sell plants and produce, the past set-up was insufficient. It was time to get serious, so I made my plans. Here is the list of what I purchased:

  • Large adjustable shelf- Basic shop lights are 4' long, so I needed a shelf of the same width. I bought this one from Lowes. You could find one cheaper, but since this is in my office, I wanted it to look nice. This one has adjustable shelves, which I placed 14" apart. When my plants get too tall for these shelves they will get moved outdoors or to a window. I use the space below my shelf for my soil mix, containers and water jug.
  • Four basic shop lights- The only place I could find what I want locally was at Lowes, and I have been really happy with these lights. They were $12 each plus the light bulbs. They come with the chains you need to hang them from a shelf. 
  • S-Hooks- These are for hanging the lights on the shelf, making the lights adjustable. 
  • Containers- I will get into how I start seeds in a future post, but I need a waterproof container for my seed pots since I water from below (watering from above can damage tender seedlings or move seeds). I have about 16 of these dishpans from the Dollar Tree, that are just the right height for my newspaper pots, they hold exactly 16 pots, and make moving and arranging my seedlings extremely easy. 
I consider this arrangement an investment for my garden that will pay for itself over and over each year. I will save by starting my plants from seed, rather than purchasing plants, as well as making a bit of money from my excess plants. It may be cheaper to start plants from seed, a great benefit, but the thing I love most about starting from seed is that I always have the variety I want, rather than being stuck with whatever I can find locally.

I love keeping my seedlings inside because even on the coldest days, my plants are consistently a toasty 60+ degrees so I don't have to purchase pricey seedling mats. I keep the shelf in my office, which reminds me to check them everyday and keep them watered. Most importantly, my family and I get to enjoy the daily growth of our food. We get the first whiff of tomato plants, the beauty of emerging seedlings, and the excitement of the tasty, healthful things coming our way in just a few months.

Do you start seeds?



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The Restoration Garden by Tiffany Selvey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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