How To Build an Indoor Seed Starting Setup

Several years ago, provoked by Spring fever and taunted by the sight of seed starting flats and racks of seeds in the local home goods store, I decided that I would grow seeds indoors. I cleared a corner of a little plastic shelving unit by a sunny window in my mud room, watered down the little Jiffy seed starting pellets I’d purchased, added seeds and hoped for the best. A week later I was amazed to see seedlings sprouting. A month later, I was saddened to see that my seedlings had grown tall and droopy and looked weak, despite my best efforts to sustain them. A few tomatoes survived to be planted outside, but they were never very healthy and I don’t think they ever produced blooms, much less fruit.

What had I done wrong?

It’s All About Light

A little research was all it took to help me realize where my seed starting experiment had failed. My sunny window wasn’t enough to get my seedlings to thrive–they needed much more light. The reason that they’d grown tall and spindly was because they were reaching for the distant light shining through the window, desperately trying to generate enough energy to grow. I decided that if I wanted to try starting seeds indoors again (and I did, because what better way is there for a gardener to chase away the late-winter blues than to sprout green things indoors?) I would have to devise a system to generate light and lots of it. I did more research, and came up with a system that has worked well for me now for a couple of seasons and cost far less than the seed starting setups you’ll find in catalogs.

Here’s what I did… Continue reading