Seed Starting: Easy Setups for Home Gardeners

Glean creative ideas for real-world seed-starting setups, from soil blockers to mini-greenhouses, so you can grow your own vegetable seedlings at home this spring.

| December 2015/January 2016

Growing your own seedlings indoors can save you big bucks, as well as open up a whole new world of crop variety options. When you start seeds at home, you aren’t limited to the, well, “garden variety” plants available at most garden centers. You can order seeds of anything you desire to try — such as disease-resistant, organically bred, regionally adapted or rare heirloom varieties — from the many mail-order seed companies across the United States, and then sprout them yourself.

The range of setups you can use to start your seeds is nearly as diverse as the plants you can grow. We reached out to our readers to find out what seed-starting setups work well for them, and this is a roundup of their ideas. As you get set up at home, keep in mind that using lights will usually work better than placing plants on windowsills, and certain lights are superior for this purpose. We recommend standard fluorescent T8 bulbs because two of them together produce about 3,000 lumens. Even though the glow looks bright to human eyes, 3,000 lumens is only a small fraction of the light a seedling would receive outdoors. Keeping your seedlings within only a couple of inches of these bright lights will make them sturdier and healthier.

Not all the advice here precisely follows the “best practices” for seed starting, but together the tips comprise practical ideas that have worked for resourceful gardeners. For more guidance, check out Best Tips for Starting Seeds Indoors.

1. Multilevel Seed-Starting Cart on Wheels

I built my grow-light stand last year using ash wood from my backyard that I cut on my bandsaw mill. The stand has two levels, and it’s equipped with shop lights and bulbs I purchased at Home Depot. The bulbs are Phillips ALTO T8s, which put out about 2,750 lumens. I’m able to adjust the fixture height to keep the bulbs within a couple of inches of the plants for best results. This stand easily disassembles for storage, and I can also move it around because I built it on wheels. It works so well that I use it to grow lettuce indoors when I’m not starting seedlings. — Edward Hollmen 

2. Multipurpose Grow-Light Bookcase

I start my seeds on a multipurpose unit that functions as a seed-starting stand and bookcase. The grow lights are a permanent fixture of the stand, affixed to the underside of each shelf. When I’m starting seeds, I stack a few books underneath the seed-starting trays to keep them close to the lights, and then adjust the height of the book stacks as the seedlings grow. To build such a unit, first purchase light fixtures, and then compile a lumber list based on the length of your lights and how many shelves high you want your bookcase to be. Find full plans for this structure online. — Cheryl Long

3.Growing Seedlings with Yard Sale Finds

My seed-starting setup resides on top of a bookcase in my den, and it never fails to produce a full complement of seedlings. Except for some cups and compost, I scored all the components at a yard sale. The cost? Amazingly cheap:

12/12/2015 11:16:22 PM

How-To video for one similar to #12 and more recycled seed starting trays like #3 Hope you like them!

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