It's no secret that it's been a crazy Spring. Even here in north Texas it's supposed to be down into the 30's one night this week. Take it from someone who has lived here a long time - that's rare but not unheard of! So it's not too late in the season for starting seeds indoors. Another advantage to starting seeds inside is if you're like me and have limited space, while other vegetables outside are on their way out but maybe not quite finished producing, having seedlings ready to go the moment you pull the old plants out can make the transition easier and more seamless. Yet another reason to start seeds indoors is for a fall garden. In Texas you can grow at least something almost twelve months out of the year. However, it's too hot in August and September to plant seeds. The soil needs to be cooler for the seeds to germinate. If you want a fall crop of vegetables that need to be harvested before the first freeze, the answer is to start your seeds indoors and then plant seedlings when the soil is cool enough for the plant to thrive (think tomatoes). Here is how I made an easy affordable seed growing rack.
Acquire a shelving unit.
As you can see I bought this one from Target for around $40.00
You'll need four 4ft shop lights. I paid about $12.00 for each.
This take 2 fluorescent bulbs which run about $6.00 for a pack of two. Fluorescent lights are a good choice because they don't get hot like my light bulbs. They are not the only choice but in this case they provide the most bang for the buck.
You'll need to purchase a bag of S hooks from a home improvement store. I bought these for about $2.00
Hang the S hooks in the middle of each self.
The light fixture came with chain for hanging. Hang the chain on the S hooks.
Here's another shot of the chain and how it's hung from the S hook. Since I'm using florescent lights the plants have to be close to the lights to grow. As the seedlings grow I can move the light up using the chain.
Hang the lights.
As you can see the lights hang over the edges of the shelves because they aren't custom made for the shelf unit.
Place the rest of the lights on the self unit.
Place the plugs to the lights in a power strip. I had this one so I did not have to purchase one. You can buy them for $5.00 to $10.00 at a home improvement store.
Place the power chord plug into a timer. You can skip this step if you like but if you're like me and have a busy schedule, having to remember to turn the lights on and off everyday is a pain. Also, you're trying to simulate the sun so consistency is important.
Add seeds! Not all plants thrive under fluorescent lighting. However, here you see tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelon, okra, several kids of squash, a ton of herbs and more doing just fine under fluorescent lighting. If there is a vegetable that you just have to start indoors without fail you might want to do some research on lighting but for a cheap prepper growing shelf this works just fine.
Here's a full shot of the seed growing rack. I do not have heating pads under my seeds. I keep my house warm enough that I had no problem with seed germination. The shelf unit is against an inside wall and that keeps it warmer than it would be against an outside wall. Of course we live in Texas which can get cold but rarely stays below freezing for days on end. So it might freeze every night but it does warm up in the day time which helps the heat in the house. For those that live in more northern climates heating pads might be something to consider.