new plant shelf – ready to go

Starting Seeds

pose with shelves
shelf 2 boxes

I had a lot of suggestions from gardeners about their seedling shelves. The best deal seems to be the assemble it yourself. This is a 35″ wide x 54″ tall x 18″ deep metal shelf system with 4 shelves ($67.54). I have 1 shop light fixture ($8.97) hanging with adjustable chains on each of three shelves to start. Each fixture holds with two 40W 48″ fluorescent bulbs. I can expand and use the forth shelf later if I need more space. Each shelf holds two planting trays, lengthwise. They hang over the edges a bit. I bought a mix of Grow Light bulbs ($9.99) and full spectrum bulbs ($6.47). Together with a plastic floor mat, it cost about $165 and is very sturdy.

Here’s a commercial set up for comparison. The Delux version has 8 bulbs for 8 trays ($439.95 not including shipping). Mine has 6 bulbs for 6 trays now and room to go to 8 bulbs and 8 trays.

I looked up some information on lighting:

From “Cool white bulbs are a good source of blue and yellow-green light, but are a poor source of red light…. Plants grown under cool white bulbs will be stocky or even slightly stunted. Warm white bulbs emit plenty of orange and red light, but less light in the blue and green spectrum. If you are growing seedlings under 2-bulb fluorescent fixtures, you can usually achieve a good color balance by combining one cool white and one warm white bulb….Full-spectrum fluorescent bulbs produce a balance of cool and warm light that replicates the natural solar spectrum. These lights are excellent for seedlings.”

Also, from here: “Seedlings thrive with 15-20 fluorescent light watts per square foot.”

I figure I have 80 Watts per 3 square foot shelf – about 25 watts per square foot, if I keep the lights low to the plants.

15 Comments. Leave new

  • Wow, that’s quite a gadget! Maybe one day I will have a set-up like that. Right now I don’t have any kind of heat lamp. This is only my second year of gardening, and my first attempt this year at starting from seed indoors. We’ll see how it goes!
    And look at that coyote! I hear them a lot out at my mom’s house (we are in Southeastern Ohio), but I have never come that close to one.

  • Thanks for the reminder to buy replacements. It sure is tempting to use last year’s light bulbs. Cheaper and a lot easier too. The plants would hate me for it.

  • We just put our first seeds into our indoor starter. Your blog and a couple of others have prompted us to give it a try this year. Thanks for the great updates – and the online planting calendar!

    I’ll probably save building a lighting system like that for our second year 🙂

  • That’s a clever system you created! I’ve been looking at the premade units and they are very costly. This is something I could do myself. Thanks for sharing!

  • Interesting. I was reading that “more is better” for these (and since I just built a seed starting shelf myself) put up three lights per shelf, which was what would fit comfortably across each one.

    It would be interesting to see if having one shelf with one light and another with two lights makes that big a difference?

  • It looks just great! Skippy looks very content 🙂

    Take care / Tyra

    ps I’ve have now started with my tomatoes.


  • Didn’t Skippy pose nicely!

  • Jenn, My understanding is that as many as you can fit is what will work best.

  • my setup looks *exactly* like that. Right down to the brand of shelf and the lights sticking out the ends on the angled chain. I love those wire shelves for utility places in my house. Plenty sturdy, but not too bulky or expensive.

    The only difference is I have have two light fixtures (for a total of four bulbs) on each level. I found it was easier to have more lights than to constantly try to turn things to keep them from bending towards the center.

  • ellipsisknits, Thanks for the info about your lights. I’ll go ahead and put two fixtures above my first shelf of seedlings and see how they like that.

  • Nice light setup, you should have no problem fitting all your plants under those lights. What a deal on the lights, 10 bucks per light is really cheap.

    I have been watching tiny farm blog set up their seedling room at their new farm. Now that is some operation.

  • Hi! I have a very similar unit that I have been using for a few years with great success. I bought my shelving unit at Sam’s Club. I believe it is 4 ft long. I have enough space for 2 sets of shoplights. I use warm and cool bulbs in combination. This way is so much cheaper than buying a prefit/pre-done unit!
    Good luck! I will look forward to hearing about your successes!

  • Thanks for the info. I just bought all our stuff today, the exact same as you.
    This is our first year of gardening. I’ve been following your blog for awhile and taking notes. Thanks so much!

  • Hi Kathy,
    First off, love, love, love your blog. I check it daily. Second, we are headed to the local hardware store to buy the components to build a seedling shelf like yours in the morning and after reading the comments about your shelf I was wondering if you ended up using 1 or 2 light fixtures per shelf. Thanks!

  • I have two per shelve. You will need all the light you can get. Two works perfect. Start with them all the way down next to the soil and as the plants grow, move the lights up keeping them an inch or two from the seedling tips. I actually let the onions grow right into the lights.


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