Starting Seeds Indoors: How to Build a Bulletproof Seed Starting Station with Shop Lights

January 24, 2023

Seed starting station with grow lights on and seedling tray.

Starting seeds can be a tricky business. You've got your little pots, your soil, and your hope for a bountiful harvest, but sometimes it feels like the odds are against you. Maybe your seedlings are too leggy or too damp, or maybe they're just not germinating at all. But don't despair, fellow gardener! We've all been there, and we've got the solution to your seed starting woes. In this blog post, we'll be sharing our foolproof seed starting setup that will have you well on your way to a successful gardening season. So put down that seed packet, grab a cup of coffee, and let's get started!

Know that despite having a real greenhouse on our farm to start seeds, the seed starting station is where we start and grow on our seedlings. It’s ease of use, space savings, and consistent successful results are why it’s our go-to. The rack takes up only 8 square feet but yields 40 square feet in bench space. It’s convenient and cost effective to start seedlings in our home, a space that we are in everyday and is already heated. I’ve been using this system for over a decade.

Various pictures of seed starting at Rooted Flowers

Starting seeds indoors using shop lights is a great way to get a head start on your gardening season. Not only does it allow you to plant earlier than you would be able to outdoors, but it also gives you more control over the growing conditions for your plants. In this blog post, we will go over everything you need to know about starting seeds indoors using shop lights, provide you with a video, printable step-by-step guide, and resources to get you growing.

First, it is important to understand the basics of shop lights. Shop lights are a type of light that is commonly used in commercial settings, such as retail stores and warehouses. They are often used for seed starting because they are relatively inexpensive, easy to find, and provide a high-quality light spectrum that is well-suited for plant growth.

Bottom watering a tray under shop lights in a germination chamber.

When starting seeds indoors, it is important to provide your plants with the right amount of light. Most seeds need a minimum of 14-16 hours of light per day to germinate and grow. Shop lights are a great option because they can be left on for long periods of time without generating too much heat but just enough for the plant needs. This is important because excess heat can dry out your seedlings and cause them to die.

When choosing shop lights for seed starting, it is important to look for lights that will provide the right amount of color temperature for plant growth. “Full sun” plants require about 2000-3000 lumens. We have found that alternating between cool and warm lights work best. 

Note: The wattage, lumens, and sizes can be overwhelming, so we’ve detailed everything in our step-by-step guide below. Once the set up is complete, you won’t be revisiting this. We’ve been using our seed starting station for over 10 years without having to replace any bulbs (and we still have back ups from the original purchase).

A view of the shop light set up at Rooted Flowers indoor seed starting station.

When setting up your shop lights, it is important to position them close to your seedlings. As a general rule, the lights should be about 2-4 inches above the tops of the seedlings. This will provide the seedlings with the right amount of light without burning them. It's also important to adjust the height of the lights as the seedlings grow, to maintain the optimal distance.

It's also important to note that seedlings also need darkness to grow properly. This means that you'll need to turn off the lights for at least 8 hours a day to give the seedlings a chance to rest. Use a timer to turn the lights on and off, this will ensure that your seedlings receive the proper amount of light and darkness.

In addition to providing your seedlings with the right amount of light, it is also important to provide them with the right growing conditions. Seedlings need a warm, humid environment to germinate and grow. The ideal temperature for most seedlings is between 70-75°F.

Seedling tray growing on at Rooted Flowers.

To maintain a warm, humid environment for your seedlings, you can use a seedling heat mat. A seedling heat mat is a flat, electric heating pad that you place under your seed trays. When plugged in, the heat mat will provide a consistent source of warmth to your seedlings.

You can also use a humidity dome to maintain the humidity level. A humidity dome is a plastic cover that you place over your seed trays. The dome will help to trap moisture and humidity around your seedlings, keeping them moist and healthy.

Seedling flats spread out on a bench at Rooted Flowers.

In conclusion, starting seeds indoors using shop lights is a great way to get a head start on your gardening season. By providing your seedlings with the right amount of light, warmth, and humidity you can ensure that they grow strong and healthy. With a little bit of care and attention, you'll be able to transplant your seedlings into the garden and watch them flourish.

In summary, when starting seeds indoors using shop lights, it's important to:

  • Make sure you have shop lights with enough lumens and color temperature range.
  • Position the lights 2-4 inches above the seedlings and adjust the height as the seedlings grow
  • Use a timer to turn the lights on and off to provide the seedlings with the proper amount of light and darkness
  • Use a seedling heat mat to maintain a warm environment, and a humidity dome to maintain humidity levels
  • Use high-quality seed starting soil and harden off the seedlings before transplanting them into the garden.
  • Have the proper size seed starting rack (see guide below)

With these tips, you'll be able to start your seeds indoors successfully and have healthy seedlings that are ready to be transplanted.

Now it’s time to get started on your build! Here’s more information to get you growing: 

DOWNLOAD THE SEED STARTING STATION GUIDE HERE includes step by step instruction, power up diagram, sourcing list, and FAQs.


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