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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

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

  1. Sara Davis // March 24, 2014 at 9:21 am // Reply

    This was my Saturday morning project and it came out great! I followed your instructions to the letter and couldn’t be happier with my new seed growing unit. I have one of those expensive jobs that I got from a greenhouse supplier and I like this one much better because the plants are more accessible. This is also a VERY sturdy unit. I plan to use all three shelves for growing. When I come across an extra 27″X4′ piece of plywood, I’ll screw it to the top for storage space. I put three lights in per shelf instead of two and have the trays running front to back instead of side to side. This increases the growing area considerably. It cost me about $70 for the materials, not including the lights, which I already had. I am always scouring garage sales and Craig’s List for shop lights! Thank you for such a great design and clear instructions! My next project is your pallet compost bin!
    Sara

  2. I made this out of recycled wood and used pallets for the shelving… it turned out great! Feel free to check out the pictures I took on my Facebook page. Thank you again for the information :)

  3. Michelle, thank you so much for the advise to save money on materials! I’m sure other readers will find that info useful! The funny thing is, you posted the suggestions while I was at Home Depot buying the lumber! :)
    I went for it!!! I added a couple steps of my own: I used left over stain on the frame. Now it’s a beautiful chocolate brown. I’m also using left over white primer on the shelves. We think the bright white will reflect the light a little. I’m also adding heat because this will be in our cold garage, with an idea I found here: http://www.vegetablegardener.com/item/11658/diy-heat-mat-speeds-seed-starting
    (Oops! Added another $40 in cost).
    I’m working my way through the project while it’s raining outside. The DIY’er in me couldn’t let this project go just because of a little extra expense :). My other justification (besides bragging rights) will be that I can start plants for my friends and family once our first batch is done. Thanks for the great idea and detailed instructions! I’m having lots of fun putting this together.

  4. Great idea ! I plan to build this in a few weeks. Going to add casters to be able to move around if needed – we have more than one large picture window that can be used for light.
    Thanks for sharing. Sam

  5. I saw this post a couple days ago and I’ve been obsessively planning the project since… We bought our first home last January. We spent around $1,500 buying supplies to landscape our backyard, including the cost of sod. We are super excited for spring to come and have lots of plans to add to our yard. One project is adding a shade garden. Remembering that we paid $5-$20 per plant last year, I thought starting seeds now would help save. Seems to be a false dream so far.
    After doing the math I’m finding that the shelving unit (with lights) alone will be over $100. Then add the cost of 8 trays – around $68. Since we’ll be housing the shelf in the garage, I’ll have to do a diy soil-heating project, probably another $50. Then the cost of a good bag of starter soil and the seeds, $20.
    Now I’m starting to wonder if I should venture this far into starting my own seeds.

    • You are wise to count the cost, Vanessa. IS it possible to find scrap lumber at a building site? I have done that, ask the builder and see if you cant take away free waste materials. Lighting might be had at a Thrift store on the cheap. You may have to hunt a bit, but might be worth it if you have time. You might even find an old metal shelving unit that could be put to use. Use what you have: an old side table or picnic bench or some bricks and boards. You could also consider what you really need and discover that you dont need so much. Start small and work up. Use egg shell halfs on a styrofoam egg tray and start a dozen or two plants in that. The shells can be smashed gently to plant and feeds the plants a bit of extra calcium. Try 3-4 egg cartons with a packet or two of seed. Start small and dont let the fancy stuff overwhelm you. Best wishes on your indoor plant starts!

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