STARTING SEEDS INDOORS CAN GIVE YOU A JUMP on the season and let you get your hands dirty while it’s still freezing outside. But indoor seedling starting systems can be costly, especially if you need enough space to start more than just a few plants.
In this video post, I’m going to show you how to build your own high-quality seedling starting unit at a pretty reasonable cost. There’s no question, you can build your own for even less money than I’ve spent, especially if you’re not “handyman-challenged” like I am.
Although it’s not the cheapest way possible, my plan for the unit is reasonably priced, easy and fast to assemble. The three main components are grow lighting, heating and shelving.
Sellers of greenhouses claim that you can’t have too much light for your plants, so you should buy the best possible lights. On the other hand, most people who’ve posted on the Internet about seedling starting have said that basic shop lights will do.
I made the mistake of purchasing fluorescent aquarium plant lighting for my shop light fixture. I won’t do that again. Basic fluorescent lights cost less and are good enough.
In addition, I opted for a very inexpensive light timer. Some people don’t like to put their grow lights on timers. They figure that, without a timer, they’ll be forced to visit their plants at least twice a day to turn the lights on and off. That’s one way to help ensure that your plants are getting enough water, etc.
Often, the best possible germination rates occur when the seed starting mix temperature is between 70 to 75 degrees. If your growing space is on the cool side, you can usually have much better success if you add a little heat to the seed germination process. I purchased a seed starting mat from Hydrofarm. As an alternative, see this post by David LaFerney on his site called The Door Garden that shows how to build a great heating unit from rope lights.
An easy way to suspend the lights over the seedlings is to buy chrome shelving, which is waterproof and reasonably attractive. Another way to do this is to stack a table on top of another table and suspend the shop lights using screw-in hooks. I opted for the shelving.
Here’s my complete list of items that I used for my seedling starting unit and the approximate cost:
- Shop Lights from Home Depot ($20)
- Heating mat from Hydrofarm ($28)
- Chrome Shelves ($40)
- Chains and “S” hooks (already had them) for suspending the lights
- Tarp (already had it) for protecting the floor from water
- Some type of fireproof insulating material for under the heat mat
- Trays and plastic milk jugs for holding the paper pots with seedlings
- Light timer (already had it, but probably cost $10)
Here’s a video showing you how to assemble the unit.
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