Seed Starting: A New (to me) Approach

Oh seed starting! You are the first bit of gardening I get to do every year. I love its frugality, seeing the whole process from the very beginning, and being able to grow varieties I know I can’t get in local nurseries.

When we first moved here my set up was on folding tables with portable lights in one of our guest rooms. They certainly stayed warm enough, but the inevitable mess fell on carpet making cleaning difficult and made guest hosting a bit more challenging than strictly necessary.

Last year we tried a nook in the basement. We ran a space heater in the area and used tarps to section it off. Despite the heated seed mats and these other efforts, it was a abysmal failure. Weak seedlings, low germination rates- it wasn’t great.

That means something new!I did a bit of research to see if we could easily purchase what I was looking for. The answer was yes, but the price tags were no. The one below is $1,400. Madness!

But the internet is always full of loads of clever folks and many have used those basic wire racks you can get from any big box store for less than $100. Why I didn’t think of this sooner is beyond me, but better late than never!

Knowing I already had two large 4′ long grow lights, I wanted to be sure we could maximize growing space. This meant the standard wire shelving units, being 36.5″ wide wouldn’t cut it- too much valuable light would be wasted hanging over the edges. Thankfully Target came to my rescue though as they sell an extra wide unit for $75 and the width is 47.6″. Close enough for me!

This means we can use all of our existing equipment- lights, heating mats, and trays without wasting space. We chose our upstairs guest bathroom for a) the warmth/natural light, b) easy to clean floors, c) easy access to water from the tub, d) a door that can stay closed 24/7 to shut out inquisitive and destructive (albeit adorable, see below) felines, and e) an already a perfect spot for this unit (its an unreasonably large bathroom).


Of course Rich had to do all the work as I’m still the One Armed Bandit- but he is as excited about this new set-up as I am.

He then installed the heavier, bulkier light on the bottom for stability and ease of use for the bulk of new seeds. The long but thin light in the middle where we can adjust it for taller plants. Lastly, two small 12″ square LED lights on the top for smaller trays of perennials.

I purchased another light to really maximize the utility of the space and put it on the top tier as it is very lightweight.

The extension cord and timer are safely out of the way and the general function of the room is not diminished. Plus the top shelf gives boatloads of storage to keep it all looking tidy.

We are both hopeful that this set-up is going to work well and be our go-to for years and years to come. I’m already really excited about how compact it is and how well our gear fits on it.

What do your see starting rigs look like? Are you getting as antsy as I am?

Ooh, and I’ll take this chance to remind you all of one of my favorite online tools, Margaret’s Seed Starting Calendar at A Way To Garden. This thing is so easy and so helpful and it will churn out most of your necessary dates based on your average last frost. Give it a try!

Happy Seed Starting!

6 thoughts on “Seed Starting: A New (to me) Approach”

  1. Looks awesome- and really hits you about the cost saving potential here when you think of how many 4” pots would fit in that space and how each of those pots can be $1.99 to $3.99 in garden centers!

    Liked by 1 person

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