How to Set Up an Indoor Seed Starting Area

by Michael Nolan on 27 January 2014 · 21 comments

in Gardening, Sweepstakes

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.

How to Set Up an Indoor Seed Starting Area

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.

How to Set Up an Indoor Seed Starting Area

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.

timerNew 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.

Now for the good stuff…

Congratulations to Hana from Schaumburg, Illinois for winning this giveaway!

Our friends at the Seed Keeper Company have graciously offered to send of their Seed Keeper Home Farmer seed storing kits to a lucky MEG reader for free!

Enter to Win a Seed Keeper Home Farmer seed storing kit!

The Seed Keeper Home Farmer includes:

  • plenty room to accommodate larger seed collections. 
  • A-Z Dividers full of great veggie gardening information
  • monthly Dividers to plan seed starting, plantings, pruning times
  • contents stay upright and in place with the sturdy Keeper Card using a hook & loop system, like Velcro.  Reposition Keeper Card as your collection grows.
  • hinged lid that clip-locks in front
  • wooden plant stakes
  • garden pencil
  • seed sorting dish
  • seed saving envelopes
  • “What Did I Plant?” Labels
  • wooden garden ruler
  • and a 5-gallon grow bag! Nurseries and other companies use grow bags for their plantings. The black BPA-free biodegradable grow bag attracts heat keeping the contents inside warmer than in the ground. Tomatoes, peppers and many other plants love to grow in warm soil.

How to Enter

To enter, comment on this post telling me what you hope to grow this spring and why you need a Seed Keeper Home Farmer.

The Rules

  1. This sweepstakes is limited to persons in the continental United States.
  2. Only one entry per person will be accepted. Attempting to defraud the contest by entering under multiple aliases may result in disqualification.
  3. All entries must be received by 11:59pm eastern time on Sunday, February 2, 2014.
  4. A winner will be selected from all qualified entries on Monday, February 3, 2014 and the winner notified and announced on Tuesday, February 4, 2014.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Shawna Coronado January 27, 2014 at 9:57 am

Love this idea! I hope to grow more herbs in vertical wall gardens so that I can expand my herbal cocktail garden. My home garden has turned into a farm. So I like the Home Farmer idea. :-)

Beth Jones January 27, 2014 at 9:58 am

This year I hope to conquer the tomato problem I’ve been having… and grow LOTS of herbs. I can grow basil like a mofo. :)
I need this because I’m planning on doing a lot of heirlooms and save the seeds. Hope to be self sustainable to a large degree on my gardening, and I need help with organizing, ALWAYS!

LaJuana January 27, 2014 at 10:01 am

I’ll be growing all sorts of veggies since that’s all I eat. Greens, tomatoes, eggplants, squash of all sorts, okra, onions, garlic plus an assortment of flowers. I’ve never had good luck with starting seeds early and would love to try your way! I actually have some of the metal shelves so I’m one step closer to making it all happen! Thanks for the information!

Dawn Kelly January 27, 2014 at 10:25 am

Mr Michael!

I love you set up for seed starting. It’s completely, dead simple.

Also adaptable depending on what people have for space. Those shelves can be two high instead of four and they also have the square tower version as well.


Debra Kennedy January 27, 2014 at 10:49 am

Now that I save a lot of my own seeds in addition to the packs I buy, I could use a seed saver! The paper bag thing isn’t working anymore! Every year, I add a couple of new kinds of tomatoes to my garden, in addition to my favorites. I’m gonna have to rig up a bigger seed starting area, and this one looks perfect!

Lisa January 27, 2014 at 11:12 am

It is time to dust off my garage setup and get growin’. This is always a hectic time with last years seeds, seeds collected throughout the year, and new seed packets coming in. It would be great to have a place to put them all.
I feel so disorganized.
Thanks for the inspiration.

Lynn Burris Ferda January 27, 2014 at 11:50 am

I’m a veggie gardener, through and through! I’ll be growing tomatoes and peppers, of course, along with all kinds of greens– spinach, lettuce, kale, arugula– you name it. I’d love to have a chance to try the Seed Keeper Home Farmer.

Michael Cook January 27, 2014 at 11:58 am

We started our tomatoes, peppers, herbs, and greens under lights this past weekend. I’d love to have a setup as neat as yours, but for now it’s just on the dining room table that we rarely use. Sadly, our seed packets are just in a box – would be SO much better organized in a custom Home Farmer bin!

Chris Campbell January 27, 2014 at 12:24 pm

I got my tomatoes and peppers started from seed. Looking forward to getting them in the raised beds in a couple of months.

Cyndia Montgomery January 27, 2014 at 7:27 pm

I’m going to be growing more of the specialty greens and other veggies that are expensive and hard to find at the store. Beautiful purple carets and potatoes, plum tomatoes, and herbs! Lots if herbs!

jenn b. January 27, 2014 at 7:29 pm

New varieties of tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, marigolds, and zinnias will be in my garden this coming season. I am branching out from my usual favorites to see if I can add a few to the list! I’m starting more from seed than ever before and the Seed Keeper kit might just keep me organized…maybe.

Rob Mulligan January 27, 2014 at 7:41 pm

My wife and I are planning on starting our first veggie garden this year. We have three kids and the reasons are numerous. (Education for our boys – one is still pretty young, better food, and fun) We plan to grow tomatoes, corn, lettace, cakes, pumpkins, beans and hopefully some strawberries. This kit would be a great to start our new garden off with. Thanks Rob

Denise Fedor January 28, 2014 at 8:14 am

I saved seeds from my own favorite tomato plants for the first time last fall. I am SO hoping they germinate! I have to start my own plants as I now have a large garden, and NO money for starter plants. Hoping to save more types of seeds this year. This would help keep me organized!

yasee January 28, 2014 at 10:47 am

We will try to grow lots of veggies. We just moved into a house, so we will be expanding our garden and will be actually growing in-ground this year! THis would help me with organizing my seeds, right now my seeds are in shoe boxes and ziploc bags!

Angela January 29, 2014 at 8:46 am

I wish I had more room at home to really take on seed starting for my home garden. This growing season, however, I will be managing a school garden at an elementary school in Detroit, and we are hoping to sell at a market at least once this summer. It’s a beautiful garden, and we have lots of people excited about it, but in any school setting, it’s important to be as organized as possible to not let anything fall by the wayside. I love the idea of the Seed Keeper Home Farmer! I’m planning on growing as many greens as possible, especially collards.

Carmen January 30, 2014 at 8:12 am

Working in a community garden this year with all the produce going to Plant a Row project run through our local MG program! We’ll have tomatoes, okra, greens of all kinds, squash, herbs, beans and lots of other goodies!

Lisa January 31, 2014 at 11:01 pm

Hi, My name is Lisa and I am a growaholic! Every year I say I won’t plant as much. Maybe I’ll cut back so I can take it easy a bit. Well every year I plant more and more. At this rate I wonder if I will have any grass left in a few years. lol But I do share quite a bit with those in need so all’s well that ends well. I am planning on expanding my habitat gardening area with plants to attract even more bees, butterflies, insects and any other little critters that come along with gardening. Hmm…why I need a Seed Keeper Home Farmer…well because I am currently storing my seeds in a shoe box and that just isn’t organized. :0)

Lisa February 12, 2014 at 3:47 pm

Just curious who the lucky winner was.

Michael Nolan February 12, 2014 at 4:54 pm

Sorry about that. I have updated the post with the winner’s info. Thanks!

Tammi M February 28, 2014 at 1:58 pm

One question. I’m working on this set up right now in the utility room in my basement. It doens’t get too cold down there, probably around 60 degrees, but some of the flowers I’m planting prefer around 70 degrees or so for germination. The question is….. do the flourescent lights generate enough heat to keep the soil warm? Or do I need some other sort of heat source?

Michael Nolan March 1, 2014 at 1:04 pm


I would not rely on the light as a reliable temperature enhancer, since it shouldn’t be on 24/7. You might need an alternate heat source, but not a very strong one.

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