Seed Starter/Indoor Planting Shelf




About: I like fishing, boating, and gardening as well as learning interesting ways to do things. This site is perfect for me because I like to "fiddle".

Nothing real difficult about this, and I have seen others do similar shelves, but I added something that I have not seen yet and hopefully it will spur others to think about modifications to their indoor seed starters and kitchen herbs shelves.

The entire project cost a little over $150, but over half that was in the shelf because my wife would not let me get a cheaper one since it was going inside the house where company would see it.

Totals were roughly:
  • $80 for shelf at Lowe's
  • $30 for 3 T8 light fixtures at Wal-mart
  • $20 for 6 T8 6500k bulbs at Lowe's (actually came in 12 pack for $40, but I only count price on what I use for the project)
  • $20 for rope light at Lowe's (make sure it incandescent, not LED - could probably be found cheaper online)
  • $5 for mechanical timer at Lowe's

Now, let's get started!

Step 1: Heat Lighting and Shelf Assembly

Start off by taking the shelf out of the box and getting all the pieces handy. Fortunately, the rope light I bouthg had zip ties. If yours does not, you may want to consider getting some.

Take the bottom shelf and place the rope light underneath it. Putting it under the shelf will allow your seed starter trays to sit on top of the shelf with no additional spacers needed and no uneven bits. Zig-zag the rope light back and forth, making sure your electrical cord is close to the side you will be plugging in to (for convenience later). Now, zip tie the rope light to the underside of the shelf. Once completed, finish assembling shelf.

Step 2: Add Plant Lights and Finish Up

Easy enough, right?

What I did was only put lights on my top 3 shelves (not the very top, but attached it to the bottom of the top shelf). I use the very top of my shelf for some storage items (potting mix, trays, etc). I did not put a light on the starting tray (bottom one where the rope light is affixed to) because starting seeds do not need light until the emerge from the potting mix. Once they emerge, I move them up to the next shelf.

The light fixtures should have come with small hooks and chains to connect them to the shelves. Set them at your desired height, usually a few inches above your plant foliage, and plug them into a surge protector (multiple outlets).

Now, set your timer per the instructions, and plug in your surge strip into the timer.

Important: Plug in your rope light directly to the outlet so it never goes off. You will want the extra heat when starting your seeds, unless of course, your house is 75-80 degrees, in which case you will not need it. I must have heat because my house stays in the high 60's.

Comments, Suggestions, Questions?



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    5 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Ok. Great. that helps so much. I may need to copy your design. Thank you.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Greetings. Thanks for posting this. It is very helpful for a non-handy lady like me. I see that you used only one rope light? What if heat is needed under all of the shelves? I guess I am asking why did you only put rope light under one of the shelves? Thanks.

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    I only use the bottom shelf for seed starts. All the rest of the shelves were used for growing after the seeds were started. The rope light helps to give a little extra heat (5 degrees or so) to get the seeds started. Once seeds are started, I move them up a shelf to start new ones. :)


    5 years ago

    Hi there, Excellent Instructable! I am curious though, how you irrigate. Do you water from the bottom utilizing the wicking process? Or do you have some type of automatic drip system in place? Thanks so much!

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    These are all wicked. I have seedling trays sitting inside of gardener's 1020 flats without hols. I add water to the tray and it is wicked up.

    Excellent question - thanks :)