So I plant a large garden each year, and the last couple of years I've started from seeds. There are several reasons to start your veggie and flower plants from seed:
1. There is a MUCH larger variety of plants and veggies by going with seeds.
2. It's much cheaper over time. You can usually buy 30 or more seeds for less than the cost of one plant.
3. It's fun.
4. It's an excuse to think about spring while there's still frost on the ground.
5. Did I say it's fun?
This isn't an instructable on starting seeds (althouh I should do one), but rather how to build a choose a grow light and build a stand. You can use this to grow indoor plants that need a lot of light year round, or do what I do and use it to get your garden plants like tomatos and peppers a head start. Now, if you are using it to start plants, you'll want to make this adjustable. The reason for this is you want to keep the lamp very close to the plant. Ideally you'll keep the bulbs an inch or two above the top of the plant, and move the light up as the plants grow. A SOUTH FACING WINDOW IS NOT ENOUGH LIGHT FOR MOST ANNUAL PLANTS!!!!!
This is a very cheap setup, but it will work for years. The stand itself cost me about $8.00, and the fluorescent light will run you about $20.
Step 1: Choose Your Lamp
I recommend a 4' long shop light style flourescent lamp with at least 2 light tubes. 3 or 4 tubes are better, but not necessary if you keep your light setup close.
I also recommend narrow T5 or T8 bulbs. They are more efficient than the fatter T12 bulbs, and they also give a more natural light.
Ideally you will get a bulb in the 4000k to 6000k range because it gives a full spectrum light. GE sells bulbs labeled "kitchen and laundry" that are 5000k that are about 5 bucks for a two pack. You can use the fancy grow light bulbs, but they're not necessary.
The light fixture I use is the cheapest 2 T8 bulb fixture that Lowes sells. You can buy these at any home improvement store and most big box stores (Wal-Mart runs decent sales on these during spring/summer).