Sunday, March 14, 2010

Seed starting station

At this year's Northwest Flower and Garden show I saw Willi Galloway, of Diggin Food, demonstrate how to make a seed starting station out of an Ikea bookshelf. Inspired, last night my husband and I made a station of our own. We put it in the unfinished part of our basement, where a little bit of water on the floor won't hurt a thing.
This is how we made it:
1st we assembled the metal rack we purchased.

Here is a picture of our dog, Guthrie, sniffing the new rack

2nd put together the light fixtures we purchased. We purchased a shop light fixtures that are 4' long with a 12" wide reflector, perfect for channeling light directly over two flats of seedlings. Shop lights are also really easy to use, because they are designed to be hung with chain, which is perfect for our purposes, since chain and S-hooks make it really easy to adjust the height of the lights.

3rd, using chain and S-hooks, we hung the light fixtures from the wire rack.  According to Willi Galloway, lights should be about 2 inches from the tops of the seedlings. This is the chain that came with the light fixture, but we purchased extra #14 jack chain just in case. We also purchased 1/2" S-hooks, which we needed.

4th, we plugged everything into a timer and set it to 16 hours of light per day.

5th, I planted some seeds and popped them under the lights.

Things to consider:
1. Set up a fan to circulate air over the seedlings. Not only is the fresh air good for plant growth, but it will also help to make the seedling stems more turgid, by simulating wind. An oscillating house fan works well, since it can also be used in other parts of the house during the warm months.
2. If you are reusing pots and 6 packs like I do, make sure you sterilize them with a 4 parts water to 1 parts bleach solution. This helps to prevent certain plant diseases like 'damping off'.

Materials used:
Metal rack (3 feet wide, about 7 feet tall)
2 shop lights
4 32-Watt T-8 florescent bulbs
12 S-hooks
#14 jack chain
surge protector


  1. Hi Kate, I was curious how much the rack was. I'm re-purposing an old bookshelf but I'd like to get 4' lights this year instead of the 2' lights I have and I can't do that with the wooden shelf system since it's not that wide and the lights can't go outside the walls of the shelf. I like what you are using since it's open and flexible.

    Also I've found that if I see damping off begin I spray the seedlings with teddy bear tea. There is something in the chammomile that seems to protect them. I don't have bleach in the house.

  2. Hi Sustainable Eats. That's cool about the teddy bear tea. I'll have to try that. Of course if you don't like bleach you can always use good old fashioned soap and hot water... or the top rack of a dish washer (bottom rack might melt plastic).

    The wire rack I purchased was about $65.00. I actually have a number of these racks that I use for storage in my basement. I really like how easy it is to adjust the height of the different shelves. Here is a url for the one I used for the seed starting station:

    I find that shelves like this often pop up on craigslist, which is a great way to both save money and recycle.

    If I had infinite $$ and space, I would have gone for the one the next size up (wider than 4'), since the 4' shop lights hang over the edges of my shelving system, which is 3' wide.

    I believe each of the shop lights ran about $25 a piece. I think that the wide reflector is a really good attribute to the ones I got, as it channels almost all the radiance towards the plants.

    Good luck with the modifications, and thanks for reading!