One of my 2021 gardening goals is to start EVERYTHING I grow from seed. To be able to accomplish this goal I need a seed starting station to house all the seedlings, keep them warm enough for germination, and provide light at the proper height to avoid leggy plants.
You can set up a seed starting station anywhere in your house really. It doesn't have to be as big as you see here, or it could be bigger. There are so many options online for shelving and lights that you can find something for any type of space. You can even repurpose shelves you already have.
For years I had mine on a metal rack in my laundry room. This year I decided to move the seed starting to my garage for more space. (and so I would stop getting dirt on everything!)
I use a metal shelf unit that you can find in stores like Home Depot, Lowes, Walmart, Target or order from Amazon. The wire shelving allows you to hang lights from the bottom of the shelf above, and raise and lower the lights on chains as your plants grow. These shelves are also the exact right width to accommodate the 4ft shop lights I use. Just make sure that whatever shelving you get that it can fit the size lights you have or vice versa.
I don't use fancy or expensive grow lights; instead I use fluorescent shop lights from Lowes. I put in one cool and one warm bulb (T8s) in each fixture. I hang two of these shop lights from each shelf.
This year I ordered new seedling trays and I am loving them. They have a clear insert with 12 cells which allows you to see root development. Bottom watering is easy with its tray and the lids have humidity controls. The kit I purchased came with 10 of these trays so I have a capacity to grow 120 seedlings at a time. The kit also came with planting tools and small plant markers that are a perfect fit even with the lid on. (In years past, labeling has been problematic for me as nothing seemed to fit under the plastic domes)
Here you can see the root development on the swiss chard
I especially like being able to move containers around since they have just 12 cells per tray. Different vegetables grow at different rates and I will typically have the lights higher or lower in certain areas. I can move individual trays to the right height light area.
Heat mats are another thing you need to consider. For years I didn't use them, and it was fine since the seed station was in my house. When I moved my seed station to the garage, I knew I would need seed heating mats to achieve proper germination and seedling growth. There are lots of options with fancy temperature controls, but I have found that a budget mat from Amazon is working very well for my situation. Most seeds prefer a temperature between 65F-85F for optimal germination. Just remember that once you take off the humidity dome/covering, the soil will dry out much faster on the heat mat. I have turned off the heat mat for my broccoli and swiss chard once I took the domes off.
I have my shop lights hooked up to inexpensive timers which work just fine, however, if I had it to do over again, I would purchase power strips that have built in timers. This would bypass the need for these extra timers completely. You want your seedlings to get 16 hours with the lights on and 8 hours with the lights off every day.
However you decide to set up your seed starting station, you will get a great jumpstart on the growing season by starting your plants inside. Another benefit of starting your own seeds is your ability to grow a much greater variety of plants than you would if purchasing transplants from the nursery.
Let's get dirty growing something!!
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