One of the most rewarding experiences for a home gardener is to grow their own vegetable or flowering annual plants from seed.

Seed Starting Stand
There is nothing more exciting to a gardener than to see the first sprout of a seedling!

It also can be a huge savings in place of buying plants at your local nursery or garden store each Spring! Not only is it expensive – you are also limited to whatever mainstream varieties they selected to sell – and to whatever chemicals, bug sprays and fertilizers they use in growing and maintaining the plants.

With this inexpensive and simple to build table-top seed stand – you can easily grow up to 4 flats of your favorite plants, ( 288 plants when using the 72-cell flats) – and have more than enough to fill your garden and flowerbeds!

For those that garden on an over-sized scale – you can check out our  DIY seed starting stand plan article – which allows space to grow up to 12 flats.  (see: DIY Indoor Seed Starting Rack)

Seed Starting Stand
The simple table top stand can grow up to four full flats of plants indoors – and can be used on top of any table or any flat surface

Our table top version can be made with scrap lumber or a few purchased 2 x 4’s, a couple of inexpensive flourescent shop lights, and a 4 to 6 screw hooks.  Once built – it can be placed on a table or flat surface (you can even use a couple of saw horses and a board ) – and you’re ready to grow!

The  best part – when your plants are ready for the great outdoors – its simple to take down and store for next year’s growing season.

And on that topic of lighting…

Don’t fret about spending large amounts of cash on high-priced “grow lights” or bulbs with special light spectrums for raising seedlings. They do have a place for certain types of special growing applications – but if your goal is to start and raise vegetable and flower seeds indoors – a couple of good old-fashioned inexpensive flourescent “shop lights” work incredibly well.  Here is a link to the lights we have used with great success :  Shop Lights

Most already have a few around the house.  If not, they can be purchased at your local hardware store for about $10 to $15, and can be used year after year.  As for the bulbs we use – they are standard 40 watt, cool white T-8 T25 lights. We have used the “cheapo” lights (as we call them) for years – and have never had a problem growing strong and healthy plants.

So with that – here is how to build your own table top seed starting rack.  For more information on starting and growing your seeds indoors – be sure to check out our links below to our articles on when and how to start your seeds:

How To Easily Start Garden And Flower Seeds Indoors On The Cheap!

Starting Our Seeds Indoors…Getting Ready For Spring!

Building A Table Top Seed Starting Stand:

Material List

Home grown healthy heirloom tomato and pepper plants -waiting to go into the garden in May
Home grown healthy heirloom tomato and pepper plants -waiting to go into the garden in May

(6) 2″ x 4″ x 24″ pieces
(2) 2″ x 4″ x 28″ pieces
(2) 2″ x 4″ x 48″ pieces
(3) standard double bulb shop lights
(6) small eye screws
(40 to 50) 2 1/2″ nails or screws

Hand Saw, Jig Saw or Chop Saw
Hammer or Screwdriver

Putting Your Stand Together:

Begin by cutting all of the pieces to the required length. If purchasing 2 x 4’s – you will need to buy (2) 2 x 4 x 8’s and (1) 2 x 4 x 10′ to have enough stock to cut from.  All three boards can usually be purchased for around $10 total at your local lumber or home improvement store.  Use standard non-treated framing lumber.

Seed Starting Stand - Step 1Once all of your pieces are cut, set 2 of your 48″ 2 x 4’s  on a level surface – measure in 6″ on each end and make a mark.  Next, connect the two together with your 2 of your 24″ pieces at the 6″ mark using two screws or nails at each joint.

Now its time to put on the legs. At the end of each 48″ piece – attach a 2 x 4 x 24″ piece. Line up the outside edge of the leg piece to the outside edge of the rail.

The flat surface helps to keep the legs flush to the surface when screwing or nailing together. Repeat and install all four legs.

As the last step – screw in three eye screws spaced evenly across each of the 2 24″ cross pieces.  These will serve to hold your grow lights.

Seed Stand Step 2Next – install the 30″ 2 x 4’s to the outer side of each end legs to stabilize the stand – again using two screws at each point.

All you have left is to flip the unit over and find its final place on an old table or flat surface.  

Once it is right side up – use the chains that come with the lights to attach to the eye hooks and hang your lights – and your indoor seed starting stand is ready to grow!

One final note – when using shop lights – keep the bulbs about 1.5 to 2″ above the top edge of the plants for maximum growing – raising the chain as the plants continue to grow. It may seem close – but this allows the plants to grow slowly and strong to the light – and not get stringy.

Happy Growing! – Jim and Mary

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21 thoughts on “DIY Table-Top Seed Starting Stand – Start Your Garden Seeds Indoors!

  • January 24, 2016 at 11:08 am

    My husband built a similar set up for me, but smaller. It is a wooden box with with metal side posts to hold the shop light on chains. I should get it out for this year.

  • January 24, 2015 at 10:43 am

    We have a very similar set up, but the frame is made from pvc pipes and joints. The nice part about it is that it can be easily pulled apart and stored when not in use.

  • January 19, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    awesome! thank you so much! so the (2) 2x4x28 you call for should actually be 2x4x30.

  • January 19, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    Hi! I had asked a question about seed starting, but didn’t get an answer. Hope I get one on this question! We think there’s a mistake somewhere because you don’t call for 30″ boards in the material list but you instruct us to attach them as legs. Also, you call for (6) 24″ length boards but only two are used. So, are the legs 30″ high, or are they 24″ high? Not sure if the actual height makes any difference as far as the lights or not. Thanks so much.

    • January 19, 2015 at 7:06 pm

      Cindi – I am so sorry and thank you for finding that mistake! I will have to correct tonight. The legs are all 24″ and the two bottom boards that tie together the legs are 30″ at the bottom. Jim

  • January 18, 2015 at 8:32 pm

    Sorry I meant 24 not 26

  • January 18, 2015 at 8:28 pm

    I know thus sounds trivial but if we use 2 screws we would only need 26 screws
    Based on what you described. I only counted 12 areas to connect

    • January 19, 2015 at 7:12 am

      Todd- actually you are correct – I just had a few in there extra for those of us that mess up 🙂 lol

  • January 17, 2015 at 11:08 am

    I’m a little confused . . . but I’m not a carpenter, and I’m a beginning gardener. Please talk a bit about the drainage. I get the concept of the frame with the hanging lights, and I know these are started indoors; but how do you water the little seedlings if the flats are on a table? … and if there’s “inside” flooring? Sorry if this is too simplistic. Thanks for all the information — love your blog.

    • January 17, 2015 at 11:23 am

      Leslie – no worries at all about the question – its actually a good one. We use the solid trays that come with the flats – and they hold the water from coming through and then they slowly absorb back into the soil between waterings – and keep the table dry

  • January 17, 2015 at 1:09 am

    When is a good time to start seedlings. Like tomatoes peppers and would you by like the seed starters or miracle grow dirt for best luck

  • January 16, 2015 at 6:08 pm

    I forgot a question! Using the lights to start the plants, does this need to be inside in a conditioned space? We have a portable classroom that will one day be our home, but right now it’s not conditioned. We are in N Florida so the temps do drop down rather low at times. Do you think it would be warm enough, or should we set this up in our home?

  • January 16, 2015 at 2:41 pm

    i made one last spring … the concept is awesome … only had one major problem tho … the lights themselves … my plant starts grew out very spindly & leggy … soooo – that tells me the lighting source was not good … the seedlings i started in a south window did much better. SUGGESTIONS/THOUGHTS ANYONE to help me this year?!?!?

    • January 16, 2015 at 3:30 pm

      Make sure your grow lights are only about 2″ above the seedlings. Keep moving them up as the seedlings grow. That should help. If you’re not sure about the bulbs, get aquarium bulbs. Here they are less than $10 a piece. Worth every penny.

      • January 16, 2015 at 4:32 pm

        yes- the lights have to be down right near the plants – we keep ours about an 1 1/2 to 2″ directly from the plants and they grow very strong. Hope that helps! Jim

      • January 16, 2015 at 4:52 pm

        i was hoping to replace just the bulbs … but when i went to the store where i purchased the lights last year / i was blown away by all the various types … all for the same fixture … left me more baffled than ever. thanks

    • January 17, 2015 at 1:23 am

      Also put an oscillating fan (on Low speed) a few feet away from the plants. The idea is not to blow them over, but “challenge” them, so they move a little. They will grow heavier stems in response.

  • January 16, 2015 at 11:42 am

    Could you use pallet wood for this?

  • January 16, 2015 at 8:18 am

    Thanks so much for this timely post! I wanted to try to start from seeds for my Spring garden but wasn’t confident enough. Now, with these plans, even if I don’t get to it for the Spring garden, I’ll be ready for the Fall and beyond! Thanks again!

    Cindi Perron

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