January 30, 2012

Make Your Own Seed Starting Shelf

I recently saw somebody post about an awesome looking seed starting shelf sold by Johnny's Selected Seeds. It comes with the shelving unit, plastic trays for each shelf, light fixtures for each shelf, and four wide-spectrum fluorescent tubes per shelf. This particular model has four shelves...and costs $895 (plus $49 shipping)! YIKES!

I happen to be making my own seed shelf this spring, and I'm going to see how much it costs. The last few years I have started seeds in my basement (and no, I haven't had any midnight raids from the police). However, my basement is about 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the house. With the basement at only 55 to 60 degrees, my seedlings grow a lot slower than they could if they were grown at say, 68 degrees upstairs (which is what my thermostat is set to during the day). Also, I think it will be more fun having the seedlings upstairs where I can see them all the time. This might also help prevent a little watering mishap that happened with my seedling-sitter last year while I was out of town.

Last year I grew seedlings under five, 4-foot shoplights. This year I've upgraded to six, which will light three shelves. However, my shelving unit has 5 shelves, so if I ever want to upgrade to more lights, I have the option.

I will be comparing my seed starting unit with the three-shelf unit from Johnny's, which is $695 (plus $44 shipping).

Here's what I purchased to build my seed starting shelf:

  • $70: 5-Shelf Steel Shelving Unit, 72" H x 48" W x 24" D. I will be using this shelving unit in the off-season for storage in the basement.
  • $60: six, 48" shoplights. I have accumulated six of these over the last 5 years, but they've aways costed about $10 a piece. 
  • $8: three packs 48" Cool-white fluorescent tube (two-pack).
  • $14: three packs of 48" Warm-white (a.k.a. Soft-white) fluorescent tube (two-pack).
  • $3: twelve 1 3/8" eye hooks.
  • $3: twelve S-hooks.
Total Expenditure: $175
Until seed starting time rolls around, this shelf will be used as kitchen storage. I think it will be fun to have the seedlings in the middle of the kitchen!

Two cool-white and two warm-white bulbs per shelf should do the trick!

Fluorescent tubes should be replaced periodically because they get dimmer over time. I bought all new lights this year, which is expensive, but I shouldn't have to replace them for at least two years.


My version: 
  • $178 (could be built for even less money if you already own a suitable shelf and/or shoplights)
  • Combination cool-white/warm-white bulbs may not be as effective as wide-spectrum bulbs, but they are a lot cheaper and have worked very well for me in the past.
  • Lights can be raised or lowered using S-hooks and/or chain
  • Can be used for storage elsewhere in the house when not in use.
Johnny's version: 
  • ~$750
  •  Wide-spectrum bulbs may be more effective for plant growth
  • Adjustable shelf height
  • The shelf is on wheels and can be moved around easily
  • Shelves are not solid, but instead have rails to hold drop-in plastic trays...however, this means that the shelf can't be used for storage during the off-season.
The Johnny's version might be a little fancier, but I think I'll stick with my version for now. Just think! You could build four homemade seed starting shelves for less than the price of one pre-fab shelf! I'll keep you updated on how well my new seed shelf works.

What kind of seed starting setup do you use?

1 comment:

  1. That's a really great idea! Thanks so much for shaing this post. I am going to send it to my DH and see what He thinks! You know, if you wanted to raise your heat, you could wrap your shelf in plasti (having it gathe rint he front, just close it with clamps for easy in and out). Just a thought, since our would like be on our un-heated enclosed porch. :-)


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