Light Stand for Seed Starting

– Posted in: Hardscaping and Projects, Seeds and Seed Starting

Many people try to start some seeds and grow them on in a window sill. Unless you happen to have a really deep window sill in a south facing window, growing seedlings in this manner rarely proves satisfactory. The seedlings don’t get enough light and grow pale and leggy. You can grow far more seedlings of much better quality if you grow them under lights. And you don’t need one of those fancy get-ups that you see in the seed catalogs. It’s possible to make one yourself with average woodworking skills for quite a bit less money. This seed starting light stand is one of the best designs I’ve seen for making your own stand with ordinary fluorescent shop lights. My brother made it for his wife, modifying it so that it held two fixtures on each level.

My husband made a stand for me several years before this article appeared in Fine Gardening, using plans that I had found in an even earlier issue of FG. But I like this better, and if I can ever think of a reason why my present stand is no longer adequate, I’ll use this design for a new one. But I don’t think I’d ever go back to the window sill way of starting seedlings. (Garden Gate developed a stand made with PVC pipe, but it’s not accessible from their website. If you have a stash of back issues, you might want to look it up.)

If you don’t already have the shop lights, I advise not skimping on them. The bargain basement ones have reflectors that are too narrow and cords that are too short, leading to much aggravation. And they require a 3-prong cord, hence also requiring a 3-prong extension cord. Thus, if you buy the cheapest shop light, you will have to buy a not-so-cheap extension cord, and you may find you spend more in total than if you had gone ahead and bought a higher priced shop light to begin with.

A timer to turn the lights off and on automatically is good to have, but remember you can’t get the cheapest of these, either, again because of that 3-prong requirement. Every two or three years I stop by a local greenhouse and buy a huge bag of Pro-mix off of them at their cost, saving me money over what I would pay at a big box store. If you browse through the Seeds and Seed Starting archives, you will probably glean a few more hints (and a lot of moaning and groaning about excessive seed addictions).

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

When dealing with frost it is always best to be paranoid. In the spring never think it is too late for one more frost to come. And in the fall never think it too early.

~Rundy in Frost

Comments on this entry are closed.

ron t March 16, 2006, 6:47 am

how many hours of full spectrum light do you all recommend for seed stating in the NYC area?

Chan S. March 2, 2005, 1:54 pm

Sounds like my set up is similar to Cherie’s. It starts with a chrome shelving unit (on wheels, so that it can be rolled away to a corner of the basement after seed-starting season’s over) with modular shelves. (The chrome shelving units have come down *a lot* in price in the past year or two.) I use lightweight link chain from the hardware store–you can use pliers to open up the last link and hook it onto the chrome shelving, then use cup hooks to hook fluorescent light sticks onto the chains (which are raised or lowered to different links as needed)–I use 3 strips per shelf. The light cords are plugged into an extension cord strip, which is plugged into a timer (both of which were inexpensive). I haven’t had to use a heating mat since my basement is heated–my germination problems tend to be with seeds that require chilling or lower-than-room temperature.

Cherie March 2, 2005, 9:41 am

I am basically a lazy person and although the wood built stand is great, I feel my solution fit my needs and only took me about 1 hour to ‘make’. I purchased, on sale, a heavy duty metal stand with compressed board shelves. Then I screwed cuphooks into the bottom of each shelf, from which to hang shop lights. This allows me to raise the lights as the seedlings grow. I too use ordinary florescent lights, one cool and one full spectrum from each unit. There are two units hanging from each shelf. I also used an inexpensive power strip, timer and purchased a seedling heat mat. This has it’s own temperature control and was probably the most expensive item. My total cost was around $100 and I was able to do it quickly. So this is another option for those without carpenter skills, tools or time.