Are you looking to get a head start on the coming season? Do you want better success with germination? Do you want to grow vegetable or flower varieties with a longer growing period than your frost free season? If you said yes to any of these questions a seed starting rack would be great for you! A seed starting rack gives you the opportunity to start many plants early enough to make the most of your season. When you use the right materials you can grow beautiful and healthy seedlings inside your home while the weather outside is less than ideal.
I was looking to achieve all those things, get the most out of my season, grow varieties that needed more than my 165 day season, and I needed help germinating more seeds. So I started searching the internet and I was shocked to see how expensive some already assembled racks could be. Like this from Johnny Seeds for over $1000 American!). I had also seen some make shift racks from the farmers I follow on social media so I was sure I could make one for cheaper. After some searching I was able to put together a rack for $220 Canadian. It’s not dirt cheap but much better than the expensive alternative and will last you many years!
What you will need:
1x 4 foot wide shelves (6 shelf rack on amazon $100) - To save more money you could make your own with scrap wood hanging around as well. I have also seen people do the same with the black resin racks but you are usually limited to 3ft width and shorter racks.
1x 4 pack of 4ft LED fixtures (amazon - these fixtures came with chains and s-hooks, if you get fixtures that don’t include them then you’ll need to add those to your shopping list.)
This is what those will get you:
1 Year Review of This Design:
I found with the fixture in the middle the plants on the far edges of the trays would stretch towards the centre. I tried to compensate for this by moving the trays around multiple times through the day. Another way to compensate for this would be to add another fixture for each shelf.
I updated my design for my next rack to adjust for this problem. I purchased single tube LED lights with enough to put 3 per shelf. They were connected by a small strip of wood on a chain to easily adjust the height. What is nice about this design is how customizable it is. Most of the time I have trays will a few different types of flowers. Some grow faster, and taller than others and I am able to tilt this fixture so its further away from the tray on one side and closer on the other.
Let’s talk lights 💡
When doing my research I kept reading how you don’t need anything fancier than a fluorescent shop lights and how LEDs are too expensive. A lot has changed, I had such a hard time finding reasonably priced fluorescent lighting (here in Canada) and I found LED actually has become the more economical choice, not only for the fixture but also on all the saved electricity costs to run LEDs. When choosing fixtures there are two values you need to keep in mind:
Kelvins: is the unit of measurement describing the light temperature. For seed starting you want to have a value between K 5000-6500.
Lumens: describes how much light output you are getting from the fixture. The lower the lumens the dimmer it will be. The optimal Lumen range is 2000-3000.
There are many options out there for 3 and 4 feet shop lights every hardware store carries them as well as online stores like amazon. There are many advertised as "grow lights" most of which are full spectrum fixtures. You do not need these to start plants. If you are looking to grow plants from seed to harvest inside then you will need to invest in those. But for starting seeds they are not necessary for your operation.
Starting your seeds early is a huge benefit for getting your plants started early enough to make the most of your growing season. I hope this information helped in your research to getting your perfect set up! Share your set up in the comments below!
Happy growing my friends,