Starting seeds indoors requires certain items if you want your plants to grow healthy and strong. A few people are lucky to have the perfect windowsill, but my house lacks that. Most seedlings need a little more direct lighting or less drafts and an indoor greenhouse or seeding table is a great advantage to healthy plants. Healthy plants grow faster and produce better later in the year.
Most of the items you will need can be picked up cheaply or can be foraged for.
You will need: plastic or metal utility shelves, shop lights, fluorescent light tubes, light timer, power strip, plastic, small chains and trays.
These items can be found at a hardware store or home improvement center. I would take a look in your garage, at sales and at an auction for the shelves and lights. I managed to get all my items at the local auction for two dollars.
You’ll want to set up the shelves near an electrical outlet. You may need an extension cord if a power supply isn’t close enough. I also try and put the shelving in a place that is close but not in the way. Right now my setup is in a spare bedroom.
Attach the power strip to the middle shelf near the back. You can use screws or bread bag ties to hold it in place. By placing it on the back of the shelf it is in a place that is close enough to access easily bit not in the way. It is also centered so that each power cord can reach the power strip easily.
Next plug the light timer into the electrical outlet. Figure out the setting you want for the amount of time the lights will be on each day.
Place fluorescent bulbs in the shop lights and attach hanging chains and hooks to the tops of the shop lights.
I use old dog leash chains for the lights. Its sturdy and cheap and an always seem to have an old broken dog chain lying around.
Depending on the shelf width, suspend one or two shop lights from the bottom of each shelf so that the lights are set to shine directly on the shelf below. By using chains on the lights you can easily move the lights up and down on the seedlings. The closeness of lights will help small plants to grow sturdy and strong not straggly and leaning towards a light source. As the plants grow you raise the lights up.
For the top shelf you will want to suspend the light from the ceiling.
Your setup is almost done. Now its time to connect all the shop light cords to the power strip on the back of the shelf. I tie or tape the cords to the shelves to keep them in place.
For safety reasons make sure the power strip is turned to “off.” while plugging in the lights. Turn the power strip back on after connecting the strip to the light timer.
You will want to hang clear plastic sheeting on the outside of each shelf to keep in moisture and warmth if your indoor greenhouse is set up in a cold or drafty basement or garage during winter months. When I start tomato or pepper plants I use clear plastic to give them more heat and humidity.
I use trays under my plants to catch any water that spills.
Check carefully for over watering. You can tell if you over water because the soil is too moist and mildew can form on top of the soil which will cause damping off and kill your plants quickly. (Damping off is when the plant gets too much water and the stem gets weak right where the soil is. The plant will actually fall over if the problem is severe enough.)
I usually water my seedling from below to prevent damping off and will occasionally mist the plant leaves and try to avoid the soil. Water is quickly absorbed into the leaves and plants like that.
When plants are a little bigger I turn a fan on them for small amounts of time. It strengthens the plant and plants need the feel of wind. It will also help prevent damping off.
Seedlings need 10 to 16 hours of light each day. Larger plants need as much or more than 16 hours, especially if they are flowering types. Gardenia, Jasmine and Roses are perfect examples.
I start my heirloom tomato plants, heirloom pepper plants and my rare and exotic flower seeds in a shelving set up like this. In another month I will open a greenhouse and start a few more varieties and pick up the seedling I get from the Amish.
By time spring arrives I have one entire greenhouse full and several cold frames and hot beds.