For several years now we’ve tried to start most of our own vegetables (and lately flowers) for our garden from seed. In the past we’ve used a plastic folding table and while it worked, it also took up a lot of space and wasn’t the most attractive thing to look at. So I thought that I would build a rack large enough to hold all of our seed trays, heating mats, and grow lights.
Step 1: Cutting MDF Shelves
I started by cutting the shelves and top from a 1/2” sheet of MDF. In order to fit our four seed trays on a single shelf along with our 4’ lights, I made the shelves 24” deep by 47” wide. I left the top 49” wide (MDF sheets are actually 49” x 97”) so that it would extend a little over the tops of the legs, though to make it even easier the shelves and top could all be left the same size.
Step 2: Cutting Shelf Frames and Legs
For the shelf frames and the legs, I decided to use pre-surfaced pine boards from Lowe's to avoid having to use the jointer or planer. To ensure that the matching parts were identical lengths, I used a stop block for the frame pieces and for the legs I cut them to rough size first and then made a final cut through both pieces at the same time.
To save a little money I did buy 1x8 boards and rip them to size at the table saw, but if you don’t have a table saw you could simply buy 1x3 boards. Once all the parts were cut, it was time to assemble the frames.
Step 3: Assembling Shelf Frames
I kept the frame assembly simple and used pocket-hole screws to attach the short rails to the long rails while making sure everything remained as square as possible.
After finishing the frames I clamped down each piece of MDF to its frame and sanded the edges of the MDF flush.
Step 4: Beveling the Shelves
To protect the front edge of the MDF shelves and top, I decided to cut a small 45° bevel along the front edge at the table saw.
Step 5: Preparing to Paint
It was then almost time to paint, but I first cut several small blocks from an old 2x4 to raise the MDF pieces off the floor.
Step 6: Priming and Painting
To prevent any bleed-through of grain and knots on the pine parts, I decided to use a shellac-based primer for everything. It’s pretty runny, but applying two coats with a 4” foam roller was fast because of its quick drying time.
After a quick sanding and wiping, I applied two coats of latex paint to both sides of the shelves and top as well as the frames and legs.
Step 7: Assembly Hardware
To make it easier to assemble and disassemble the rack if need be, I decided to use 1/4" bolts, washers, and nylon lock nuts. Note that round-headed bolts would work fine and would avoid needing a counter-sink bit -- my store just did not have enough in stock. I also purchased some small right-angle brackets to attach the MDF shelves to the frames.
Step 8: Drilling for Assembly
I marked off where the holes on the legs should go and then drilled the holes at the drill press table. I then drilled counter-sunk holes in the legs.
After marking off where the holes in the frame needed to go, I drilled those by hand.
Step 9: Attaching Shelf Brackets
Before moving everything into the house for assembly, I attached four right-angle brackets to the tops of all the frames.
Step 10: Attaching the Shelves to the Frames
To attach the shelf tops I laid them face down and then aligned the frame so that the rear and side edges were flush. Then I made a small mark for the screw locations using a Philips head screwdriver and moved the frames back out of the way.
I carefully pre-drilled small holes for the screws using a piece of tape on the drill bit as a depth guide. Then it was just a matter of moving the frame back into position and using some small screws to hold it in place.
Step 11: Attaching the Legs to the Shelves
To attach the legs to the frames, I started at the top and just used a screwdriver and socket wrench to secure it to the leg with a bolt, washer, and lock nut.
I then just worked my way down to the middle and bottom shelves and then attached the front left leg before finishing up with the right legs.
Step 12: Completed Assembly
And with that, it was finally finished and ready for some lights and some seeds.
Step 13: Heating Mats and Thermostat
Step 14: Lighting and Seed Trays
For lights, we’ve been using a pair of T8 fluorescent shop lights with a timer, but we’ll probably switch to brighter T5s next year.
We also like using the heavier duty seed trays as they don't bend when weighted down with dirt and plants.
Step 15: Seedlings
After 5 or 6 days on the heating mats, most of the seeds other than our peppers had germinated and it was time to remove the covers.
Step 16: Completed Seed Growing Rack
Hopefully they’ll continue to do well and in a few weeks we'll be able to transplant them into the garden. If you’re into gardening leave a comment below and let us know what types of things you’re growing this year!
Step 17: Rack Materials and Hardware
Step 18: Seed Growing Materials
Step 19: Tools Used
Step 20: Plans
PDF and SketchUp plans for this project can be found at our website.