Building A Seed Growing Rack On The Cheap!

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building-a-seed-growing-rack

It’s no secret that it’s been a crazy Spring. Even here in North Texas, it’s supposed to be down into the 30’s one night this week. Take it from someone who has lived here a long time – that’s rare but not unheard of! So it’s not too late in the season for starting seeds indoors. Another advantage to starting seeds inside is if you’re like me and have limited space, while other vegetables outside are on their way out but maybe not quite finished producing, having seedlings ready to go the moment you pull the old plants out can make the transition easier and more seamless. Yet another reason to start seeds indoors is for a fall garden. In Texas, you can grow at least something almost twelve months out of the year. However, it’s too hot in August and September to plant seeds. The soil needs to be cooler for the seeds to germinate. If you want a fall crop of vegetables that need to be harvested before the first freeze, the answer is to start your seeds indoors and then plant seedlings when the soil is cool enough for the plant to thrive (think tomatoes). Here is how I made an easily affordable seed growing rack.

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Acquire a shelving unit.

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As you can see I bought this one from Target for around $40.00

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You’ll need four 4ft shop lights. I paid about $12.00 each.

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This takes 2 fluorescent bulbs which run about $6.00 for a pack of two. Fluorescent lights are a good choice because they don’t get hot like my light bulbs. They are not the only choice but in this case, they provide the most bang for the buck.

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You’ll need to purchase a bag of S hooks from a home improvement store. I bought these for about $2.00

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Hang the S hooks in the middle of each self.

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The light fixture came with a chain for hanging. Hang the chain on the Shooks.

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Here’s another shot of the chain and how it’s hung from the S hook. Since I’m using fluorescent lights the plants have to be close to the lights to grow. As the seedlings grow I can move the light up using the chain.

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Hang the lights.

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As you can see the lights hang over the edges of the shelves because they aren’t custom made for the shelf unit.

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Place the rest of the lights on the self-unit.

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Place the plugs to the lights in a power strip. I had this one so I did not have to purchase one. You can buy them for $5.00 to $10.00 at a home improvement store.

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Place the power chord plug into a timer. You can skip this step if you like but if you’re like me and have a busy schedule, having to remember to turn the lights on and off every day is a pain. Also, you’re trying to simulate the sun so consistency is important.

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Add seeds! Not all plants thrive under fluorescent lighting.  However, here you see tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelon, okra, several kinds of squash, a ton of herbs and more doing just fine under fluorescent lighting. If there is a vegetable that you just have to start indoors without fail you might want to do some research on lighting but for a cheap prepper growing shelf, this works just fine.

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Here’s a full shot of the seed growing rack. I do not have heating mats under my seeds. I keep my house warm enough that I had no problem with seed germination. The shelf unit is against an inside wall and that keeps it warmer than it would be against an outside wall. Of course, we live in Texas which can get cold but rarely stays below freezing for days on end. So it might freeze every night but it does warm up in the day time which helps the heat in the house. For those that live in more northern climates heating mats might be something to consider.

Step by step directions for building a seed growing rack.
  • Bama Girl says:

    Great job! I love the rack! Thanks for sharing! Blessings from Bama!

  • Kate says:

    You can buy fluorescent plant lights at any local aquarium shop

  • Don says:

    I like the wire rack. That’s great. Might want to make sure it’s grounded.
    My hardware store carries the sun spectrum bulbs in bulk fairly cheap. There’s a difference between the bluer and more red, but i don’t remember when you use either.
    I’ve been collecting VHO T5 fixtures for a while, they’re fantastic but expensive in the US. very efficient.

    • Dennis says:

      Buy one ‘warm white’ bulb and one ‘cool white’ bulb for each fixture. They are at opposite ends of the light spectrum so you get a more natural full spectrum of light.

  • Rick says:

    You can improve the effiency by wrapping the sides in heavy duty aluminum foil for retaining warmth, and dstribution of light. Light is essential. I made a cheaper version by picking up a “baker’s rack” at an auction. This is the kind of racks found in schools and cafeteria’s in which you place your food tray on. It was on wheels. I used the food trays for the shelves, a a few 2 foot grow lights and I set it up like this. It worked great because the last week before replanting, Iw as able to wheel it in and out of the porch to harden the plants outside.

  • karen says:

    I was wondering the logistics of watering with the lights right under. I assume you are careful of course. what would you suggest for when I have my littles helping watering, take the plants to the sink and water there and then back on the shelves?

    As I ask I remember your buckets and your rocks, I think that would be best combo for my kids.
    thank you
    k

    • Jennifer says:

      Hi Karen,
      With little ones helping you might try a spray bottle, at least at first when you are just trying to keep the soil moist. After that then just a watering can with a long spout so it’s harder to spill. Yes, I love those rocks in the bottom of the tubs because I can spill a bit of water and not worry….:)

  • bauer says:

    Hey Karen, you may try bottom watering! Look into it.

    Great post, thanks for the inspiration!

  • Nadine says:

    I slip aluminum foil between the fixture and the bulbs to spread the light across the seed trays better.

  • John L says:

    Here is something else to add to the cheap seed station. A heater, or heat mat, is a must. The commercial mats are just too much, especially considering the saving you can get at Big Lots. A couple of months ago, I purchased four(4) 18ft incandescent rope lights there for $7.50/each. That was a steal. But I just went to their site, and they are on sale for less than 2$ each. WOW!

    Here’s what you do. If you are using 1020 trays as I am set up, you can tale a good piece of 1/4″ plywood and cut it to go under two 1020 trays front to rear. Take 3/4″ strips of pine/plywood, and stable/nail them to the plywood, but space them so you can weave the rope light back and forth between the wood strips. Begin at a back corner and weave them to the front, where the circuit will end. Once you have it all worked out, place your 1020 seed trays on top and plug in the lights. The heat from the lights will warm up the soil and seeds will germinate much quicker.

    This fellow shows how it is done: http://www.vegetablegardener.com/item/11658/diy-heat-mat-speeds-seed-starting

  • Lady Lee says:

    Great post. I am about to set up a growing rack indoors and will use your instructions. Thanks!

  • Very creative! Aren’t seed starting shelves an absolute must? I sure think so. Thank you for sharing your work.

  • KatrinaE63 says:

    Maybe this is a dumb question – but – how do you “ground” this growing rack?

    I’m making this for my husband’s birthday over the weekend, and realize that water + electricity is a bad, bad idea.

    This will be going onto a concrete-slab basement floor in an unfinished room, if it helps.

    Thank you!

  • Asa Demessie says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I recently bought a similar shelf, mine is 4 ft wide and my lights fit perfectly. This is my first time doing seeds for container gardening. I’m excited and grateful for all the help I’m getting from social media, books and videos. I pray we all have a successful growing and harvest season. #plantbasedpreacher

  • WolfRyder says:

    I have used this setup at home since reading about it in when you first published your article. I’ve not had to replace the lights in all those years. It works great!! I usually start way more plants than I can ever get set out, so I just start a lot and gift the extras to friends/family/whomever wants them. It works great!

  • katherine says:

    hey, this is awesome! thanks for bringing this to my attention! Do you use a particular plastic tray for the bigger plants in the second shelf?

  • Sues says:

    If I have extra lighting in my Fla room is that a good place to set up my rack or will that be too much light. thanks

    • Jennifer Osuch says:

      Hi Sues,

      It’s really hard to tell without know how much light. What I would do is set it up where you want. Then only turn on the lights when needed. If you have a lot of natural light, you can take advantage of that, just be sure it’s not too cold for what you’ve planted.

  • Debby says:

    It is so worth it! I didn’t home school, took up gardening instead. Improving every year!
    Here’s my story- I have huge picture windows facing south and north, both with heat vents under them. I have a greenhouse- 3’x5′. I fill it with seedlings and roll it from window to window according to sun. However, this year I have a south facing sunroom. Walls are all glass. One screen panel and a storm door which we used often last year to take some heat out in July & August. We live in Manitoba, Canada. My questions are -is sunlight better than other light, direct sunlight different than through a window, if my plants get 12 hours sunlight through a window, would they still benefit from a indoor light system? My sunroom is GREAT, we have not had outdoor temps higher than 7 C, if the sun is out, my sunroom can rreach 24 C. Thanks for any help and good luck to you! Keep smiling! Cheers!

    • Jennifer Osuch says:

      Hi Debby,
      If your plants are getting 12 hours of sunlight on a windowsill or in a sunroom then you shouldn’t need an indoor light system. If they are stacked on a shelf then that might be a different story as they would not be receiving direct sun.

  • Jay says:

    Hi Jennifer
    Great article with apt photos.. thanks for sharing such hands on experience..

  • Beverly says:

    Thanks, Jennifer… I absolutely love this. I remember Josh demonstrating something similar (or the same) a few months back and I was intrigued. I definitely plan to do this (as soon as I can make space in this small house). Thanks again! ❤

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