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How To Build An Indoor Seed-Starting Rack – Cheap!

We start almost all of our seeds on our home built seed starting rack

We start almost all of our seeds on our home built seed starting rack

For the last few years, in the late winter months, our dining room table transforms into our seed starting area – or as we like to call it – our mini garden. We actually had it down to a science, using a few inexpensive shop lights to grow our plants healthy and strong. The mini garden set-up unfortunately also rendered the dining area useless for the 6 to 8 weeks it took to germinate and grow all of the ornamental pepper and garden plants we use.  Not to mention, some strange looks from company wondering what we were “growing” in there under the dim glow of flourescent lights :).

Our seed-starting rack stand - room for over 500 seedlings!

Our seed-starting rack stand – room for over 500 seedlings!

So, for this week’s DIY segment –  we thought we would design and build our very own lighted seed-starting rack. The rack will allow us to move the entire seed starting operation out of the dining room – and into an unused portion of our basement.  It also allows us to double the seeds and plants we can start indoors in less space – from the 4 flats we could start on the table, to a full 8 flats.

We wanted it to be simple, strong, and of course, as always – cheap!

Using just nine simple  2 x 4 x 8 pieces of lumber, a single sheet of particle board and 4 inexpensive double-bulb shop lights – this can be made from scratch for around $50 to $70. Even less if you happen to have some old shop lights or scrap lumber laying around!   It will accommodate up to 8 full size seed trays on the two growing shelves – and can grow up to 576 plants if using the 72 pack cell inserts.

There is even shelf space at the bottom to store gardening supplies – or if you are really ambitious – another layer of plants!  The best part of the project – it can be assembled with simple tools in less than an hour or two. In our case –  we cut, built and assembled it in the time it took to watch the Houston Texans take our Cincinnati Bengals out of the playoffs! It’s also strong and can double as a great storage shelf when not in use the rest of the year.

Here is how we built it:

Once you have your 3 rectangles assembled - screw in the four 6' vertical boards to the bottom shelf first

Once you have your 3 rectangles assembled – screw in the four 6′ vertical boards to the bottom shelf first

Materials List:

(9)  ea. 2  x4  x8’s
(4) ea. Hanging Shop Lights
(1) 4′ x 8′ sheet of 1/2 strand board or plywood
(50) 3″ screws
(8 to 12) 2″ screw hooks

Tools Needed:

Circular or Chop Saw
Screw Gun
Tape Meassure

How We Built It:  

(We have included extra photos at the bottom to help show the building process)

Start by cutting all of your pieces:

You will need to cut the 2×4’s into the following sizes:
4) ea. 6′ long
8) ea. 4′ long
8) ea. 2′ long

Taking the 4′ x 8′ sheet of plywood or strand board, cut three pieces, each 27″ x 4′ wide – these will become the shelves of the stand.

Next - attach the sceond rectangle wood square to the top of the 4 6'support legs

Next – attach the second rectangle wood square to the top of the 4 6′ support legs

The actual building process is a snap – especially if you have two people for an extra set of hands. We normally use construction adhesive when we build anything for extra durability – but we forewent that on this project in case we ever want to disassemble and relocate the shelves.

Start by building your 4 rectangular shelf supports from the 4′ and 2′ pieces.  Create a rectangle by placing two 2′ boards flush at the ends of two 4′ boards.  Drive a single screw in the middle of each connection to create a solid rectangle.  Repeat until you have all four rectangles assembled.

Next, we will assemble the bottom shelf first. Take one of your 6 foot boards and place it flush on the end of the outside edge of where the 2′ and 4′ pieces meet. (see pictures)  Then – making sure your 6′ board is straight in the air at a 90 degree angle – we screw it in place with a total of 4 screws.  We put 2 screws that sink into the 2′ board and 2 more than sink into the 4′ board. Repeat for the other 3 “legs” and you are on your way to your plant stand.

Next – we screw in one more of the rectangles the same way – this one at the top – flush with the top of the 6′ boards. Once you have this screwed in – your stand will start to become very stable.

Attach the final two shelf rectangles for your two shelves.

Attach the final two shelf rectangles for your two shelves.

Now, we just simply repeat with the final two rectangles, screwing them in to form the bases for the growing shelves. For our set-up, we set our two shelves at 23″ apart – this allows us plenty of room to adjust the lights up and down with chains as the plants grow, and lets our plants have plenty of room to grow big.  As another option you could also evenly space the two middle shelves and actually grow on the bottom shelf as well for 3 growing areas.  For us, two is more than plenty – and we will just use the bottom shelf as for storage items.

Next, slide in the 3 27″ x 4′ shelf boards you have cut from the plywood or strand board to make your shelves.  Simply drive a few screws into the support frame to secure.

Once you have all of your shelves in, its time to hang your lights. Simple screw hooks work great here.  A small pre-drilled hole will help you screw them in.  We install 2 hooks on each side – spaced evenly on the 2 foot end bars.  Most of the inexpensive shoplights at the big box stores will come with a small chain and S hook for the light – just install and your set.  To make ours even easier to operate – we are going to install a small power strip on the side, allowing the lights to be turned on with a single flip of the switch.

There you have it – an inexpensive seed-starting stand!  If you want more information of starting seeds – you can see our article from a few weeks back – How To Easily Start Seeds Indoors

If you would like to receive our weekly DIY and Gardening Posts – be sure to sign up to follow our blog via email, Twitter or Facebook in the right column.

–  Jim and Mary

Shared on Savvy Southern Style, Gnowfglins

Close up of the rectangle shelf supports attached to the post.  We attach 4 screw on the outside of each shelf  angle support to add extra strength to each

Close up of the rectangle shelf supports attached to the post. We attach 4 screw on the outside of each shelf angle support to add extra strength to each

Four screws are driven in to the outside of each post at every shelf corner

Four screws are driven in to the outside of each post at every shelf corner

Side View of the shelf supports

Side View of the shelf supports

Measuring Down For The Shelves

Measuring Down For The Shelves

Use a level to make sure your shelf supports are level when attaching

Use a level to make sure your shelf supports are level when attaching

61 Comments on How To Build An Indoor Seed-Starting Rack – Cheap!

  1. Kansasgrower // February 22, 2015 at 7:43 am // Reply

    You can improve this design a bit by adding plywood to the back and sides and swing up or down doors on the front. Then paint everything on the inside in flat white latex paint for light reflection. Your plants will benefit from the extra light.

  2. Hello! I’m new to growing plants indoors and have loved all the great information you have! One question I have-when using the 72 cell treys, can the plants be left in those cells till they are planted outdoors or will they need to be transplanted to larger containers before being planted outside? The cells seem rather small to hold a tomato plant or pepper plant. If they do need to be transplanted to larger containers could you give advice on the size of containers to use and how/when to transplant the plants without shocking them? Thanks!

  3. I built this rack as soon as I saw your post. We over-winter Geraniums in the basement and this is just what I needed. Naturally, I made a few modifications:) I made the cross pieces 1′-9″ instead of 2′-0″. I cut the plywood into (4) 2′-0″ pieces and used one for an additional (top) shelf. Then I hung lights from the ceiling and put plants on the new top shelf. I used 3 shop lights per level and turned the flats sideways, fitting 4 per shelf under the lights. This gives me 16 flats in 2’x4′ of floor space, including the storage shelf you have at the bottom… I use it for seed germination with heat mats and lights. This is a really great design!

  4. You never mentioned the length of your chains for the shop lights.
    The 9 inch chain provided with the light is not near enough. The hooks are inset
    At 6 inches. It appears I need around 16 to 18 inches. The fixture height is 3 inches.
    Do u remember the length that u used.

    My lights appear to be the illustration with the lights on the bottom shelf on a bit of an angle.

    • Todd – I used extra s hooks at the top to lower it a bit more with the chains – especially in the beginning when the lights had to be at their lowest. I just measured the chains that came with ours and they are around 12″ – so they have maybe since made them smaller. You could easily add an extra s hook at the bottom to to get you to the height. I hope that helps! Jim

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