DIY Seed Starting Shelf

I will admit, my previous year’s endeavors into seed starting have left me less than thrilled. I have never been able to produce plants that have produced fruit. My first year with a garden, I had just moved into my new house and didn’t have time to start seeds, so I bought plants from Lowes, and they grew just fine. My second year, I tried to start some seeds, however when I wanted to harden them off, the chickens got to them. This year I am determined to help my seedlings thrive! I decided in January that instead of just starting seeds in the window-sill as I had done before, I was going to make a starting shelf for them. I found a tutorial on Pinterest that was most helpful, however it was a larger scale than I was wanting. I used this article as a blueprint and adjusted it based on my needs. My shopping list is below (see linked article above for step by step pictures):

  • Three tier shelf (mine is ~24”x12”x30”-ish)
  • Two, 2-bulb shop light fixtures
  • 12” (minimum) chains with which to hang the fixtures
  • Wire caps
  • Electrical tape
  • Two cool white and two warm white fluorescent bulbs to fit shop light fixture
  • Two trimmed power cords
  • Four twist-on wire connectors
  • Outlet timer

Everything was purchased at Home Depot. I really had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t realize when I bought the light fixtures that you had to wire them yourself!! That was very intimidating, but admittedly not all that difficult. I brought everything home and set up my shelving unit. It fits perfectly in my spare bedroom under the window, so plants on the top tier (generally where I place seeds that haven’t sprouted yet) can get some natural light as well.
I removed the shop light fixtures and first divulged a way to hang them with the chains I bought. That was probably the most difficult part. I ended up wrapping the chain around the shelves and using wire to hang the fixture from the chain above.  Before actually hanging the fixture, you need to wire it to the trimmed power cord. White to white and black to black, twist the corresponding wires together and then cap them with the wire connectors. Once they were capped, I taped them with electrical tape as I am TERRIFIED of electricity and didn’t want the caps to somehow come off. I replaced the fixture’s cover and hung the fixture up on the shelf. Repeat for the second fixture.

Then, I placed one warm and one cool light bulb in each fixture. I’m not sure if anyone else has ever done this before, but while researching I learned that plants need the full spectrum of light to properly grow. Warm bulbs have the warmer spectrum of tones such as reds, oranges, and yellows. Cool bulbs have the cooler tones like blue and green. I figured putting one bulb in each fixture would allow for maximum spectrum absorption for the plants. So far it has been working very well. After the bulbs were in place, I tested each light. When I knew they were working, I plugged them into the outlet timer and set it for 10 hours of light each day (7 am to 5 pm). I made sure that the first full day I ran the shelf, that I was home so I could monitor closely for any excess heat or malfunctions (because like I said earlier, I’m terrified of electricity).
 All has been working well. I did put some plastic wrap on my shelving (since they’re slotted wire) so that any water that may drip off of the seedling trays did not drip down into the light fixture. I’ve been running this system successfully for over a month and I am VERY happy with the results. I’m not entirely certain what my total bill was, but if I remember correctly it cost about $40-50 for the whole setup. Much cheaper than buying the $60-80 grow light setups from Lowes or Home Depot.

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