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How to Set Up an Indoor Seed Starting Area


This weekend I set up my indoor seed starting area.

There are many ways to create an area to start seeds indoors (and I have tried most of them), but this system has been the easiest and most cost-effective method I’ve found, which is why my setup is making a return appearance exactly as I used it last year. As the old adage goes, if it ain’t broke…

I start with a 5-shelf shelving unit purchased from a major home improvement retailer. You can find similar units in most areas for a reasonable price, and some also come with caster wheels for added mobility (mine did not). You will need a shelving unit with at least 4 shelves to recreate my setup.


Next I add my light source. In this case I use basic, inexpensive shop lights available at any hardware or home improvement center. They come with chains and hooks to hang them, which work perfectly with the open shelving. This will also allow you to raise and lower the lights as your seedlings grow.


A quick note about light bulbs:

You have probably seen specialty “Grow Light” bulbs in stores and online that are marketed to seed starters. While they do work, they are a completely unnecessary expense for the average home gardener. I have been starting seeds indoors for over 20 years with standard 40-watt fluorescent bulbs and my plants do just fine. You can read more about how plants use light here.


New seedlings require a lot of light. I give mine 14 hours of light every day, and because I don’t want to have to be tethered to my house 7 days a week, I use a simple timer to turn my lights on and off at a predetermined time. (Mine is set to turn on at 5pm and off again at 7am).

There is only one more component to my basic home seed starting setup, and while optional I do find that it is quite helpful and I think you will too.

A fan can be particularly useful in the last week or two before your seedlings are ready to go outdoors. Simply setting a fan on low speed helps to strengthen tender seedlings and better prepares them for their life outdoors where winds are unpredictable and can often damage seedlings that are not accustomed to them.

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Katie Rose January 16, 2015, 1:27 am

    I am going to have to rework my seedling space this year, again! Thanks for the tips! I will have to try it! My mom did this in the ’80’s and her old grow lights are just regular fluorescents, I had no idea this worked till she told me! Great post! 🙂

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